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Alopecia Types & How to Treat Them

Vicky Davis

Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 10/21/22

Have you noticed more hairs than normal on your pillow, hairbrush or in the shower drain? It’s normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day as part of your hair’s natural, multi-phase growth cycle, all without losing any hair over the long term.

However, if you’re shedding more than this on a daily basis, it could be a sign that you have a form of alopecia. 

Alopecia is a clinical term for hair loss. It can occur for numerous reasons, from a combination of genetic and hormonal factors to issues such as chronic stress.

Most hair loss in men is caused by androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. However, a large range of other forms of alopecia could also cause you to either temporarily or permanently lose hair. 

Luckily, most forms of alopecia can be treated, either by changing your habits, using medication or both. 

Below, we’ve listed the different types of alopecia, as well as the symptoms you may experience from each one.

We’ve also covered the numerous evidence-based treatment options that are available for each type of hair loss.

Androgenetic Alopecia (Male Pattern Baldness)

What it is: A receding hairline, bald patch around your crown or a horseshoe-shaped pattern of hair loss.

How it’s treated: Medications like finasteride, which blocks DHT, and minoxidil, which promotes hair growth, can help to reduce the severity of this form of hair loss.

Androgenetic alopecia is an extremely common type of hair loss. When it affects men, it’s often referred to as male pattern baldness. 

Androgenetic alopecia is by far the most common type of hair loss in men, with an estimated 50 percent of all men affected by the age of 50. 

If you’re one of the many men affected by androgenetic alopecia, you might notice the following symptoms: 

  • A receding hairline, giving your hair an M or V-shaped pattern

  • A bald patch around your crown (the area at the top of your scalp)

  • Diffuse hair loss that gives your hair a thin, low-density appearance

  • Severe hair loss that primarily affects the front and top of your scalp

  • A U-shaped hair pattern, with hair only on the sides and back of your head

These symptoms can occur gradually over the course of several decades, or rapidly during your 20s, 30s, 40s or later in your life. 

Androgenetic alopecia can also affect women, causing female pattern hair loss. In women, this type of alopecia usually causes thinning around the part line.

Hair loss from androgenetic alopecia is caused by a genetic sensitivity to a hormone referred to as dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

If you’re prone to male pattern baldness, DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp and harm your hair follicles. Over time, this damage can stop your hair follicles from being able to produce new hairs properly, resulting in thin hairs that are unable to penetrate through your skin.

Our guide to DHT and male hair loss explains how dihydrotestosterone works and its effects on your hair in more detail. 

Hair loss from androgenetic alopecia is typically permanent. However, treating it early can help you to stop further hair loss, retain the hair you still have and, in some cases, even regrow hair in areas of your scalp with noticeable thinning. 

Treatments for male pattern baldness include:

  • Finasteride. This oral medication prevents your body from converting testosterone into DHT. It’s highly effective at preventing hair loss, but needs to be used daily to maintain your hair and prevent further shedding.

  • Minoxidil. This topical medication stimulates your hair follicles and often improves the growth of your existing hair. Like finasteride, minoxidil needs to be used every day for consistent, long-term results.

We offer both of these medications and other treatments as part of our Hair Power Pack, which is available online after an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

Androgenetic alopecia can also be treated through surgical procedures, such as hair transplant surgery.

Surgery to treat male pattern baldness can produce impressive, lasting results, but it’s typically expensive, and the results can vary based on the extent of your hair loss and the quality of the procedure. 

Our complete guide to male pattern baldness goes into greater detail on androgenetic alopecia, its symptoms, treatment options and more. 

Alopecia Areata (Spot Hair Loss)

What it is: A form of autoimmune hair loss that causes patches of hair loss to develop on your scalp and/or body. 

How it’s treated: Medications that control inflammation, such as corticosteroids, often help to treat this form of alopecia. Minoxidil may promote regrowth of hair. 

Alopecia areata, or spot hair loss, is a hair disorder in which your immune system attacks and damages your hair follicles. It often causes your hair to fall out in small patches.

Alopecia areata usually affects your scalp, but it may also lead to patchy hair loss that affects your beard, eyebrows and body hair. 

Experts believe that alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition, meaning your immune system targets, attacks and damages your hair follicles.

Other diseases, such as vitiligo, psoriasis and thyroid disease, are all known risk factors for this form of hair loss. 

If you’re affected by alopecia areata, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Patchy alopecia that develops in round areas on your scalp. These patches are usually small, around the same size as a quarter.

  • Hair loss that affects your beard. Referred to as alopecia barbae, this form of alopecia areata only affects your beard and facial hair. 

  • Total scalp hair loss. In some cases, alopecia areata can cause complete hair loss that occurs across your scalp This form of severe alopecia areata is typically referred to as alopecia totalis.

  • Complete hair loss across the body, face and scalp. This severe, rare type of alopecia areata is referred to as alopecia universalis.

Currently, there’s no cure for alopecia areata, nor are there reliable treatments for everyone with this form of hair loss. 

However, some treatments may help to reduce inflammation and assist you in regrowing hair in areas affected by alopecia areata. These include:

  • Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and change your immune system, are often used to treat alopecia areata. These medications may be injected into affected skin, applied topically or taken by mouth in pill form.

  • Anthralin. This topical, tar-like medication, which is also used to treat psoriasis, is used directly on areas of skin affected by alopecia areata, then washed off the skin after 30 to 60 minutes.

  • Minoxidil. Topical minoxidil may stimulate hair growth on the scalp, eyebrows and other areas affected by alopecia areata. Minoxidil is often used with topical corticosteroids and other medications to treat this form of hair loss. 

Mild cases of alopecia areata often improve without active treatment, especially if the underlying autoimmune disorder is managed. As this condition stabilizes, you may notice your hair growing back over the course of a few months. 

However, for more widespread hair loss, it’s still not exactly known just how effective any type of treatment may be. 

Telogen Effluvium

What it is: A form of temporary hair loss that develops when severe stress, an illness or certain types of medication interrupt your hair’s growth cycle.

How it’s treated: Changing your habits or treating the underlying cause of telogen effluvium will usually stop this form of hair shedding. Minoxidil may help to promote hair regrowth. 

Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss that’s triggered by physical trauma, psychological stress or other types of unexpected shock or change. It can occur after infections, hormonal changes, or as the result of a crash diet or nutritional deficiency.

Certain medications, such as beta-blockers and retinoids, may also cause or contribute to this type of hair loss.

Hair loss from telogen effluvium happens when hair follicles enter the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle prematurely. 

If you’re affected by telogen effluvium, you may notice diffuse alopecia that causes your hair to look thinner across your entire scalp.

Because it takes time for hairs in the telogen phase to fall out, you may not notice any hair loss for two to four months after the event that triggers this type of hair loss, meaning your hair may remain its normal density before falling out spontaneously. 

Telogen effluvium usually improves on its own over the course of several months. It may take up to six months for your hair to start growing back. 

Although research on its effects is limited, minoxidil may help to regrow hair that’s fallen out due to telogen effluvium.  

When this type of hair loss is triggered by stress, anxiety or a specific medication, changing your habits may help to make telogen effluvium less severe and improve your hair growth. 

For example, taking part in therapy may help to reduce feelings of stress or anxiety, helping you to limit hair loss caused by psychological stress. 

Our guide to stress-related hair loss goes into more detail about telogen effluvium, its symptoms and steps that you can take to avoid this type of alopecia.

Traction Alopecia

What it is: A form of hair loss caused by tension on your hair follicles, usually due to an overly tight hairstyle. In some cases, this hair loss can be permanent.

How it’s treated: When mild, making changes to your hairstyle and care habits can reverse this form of hair loss. When severe, hair transplant surgery may be required. 

Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss that’s caused by continuous pulling on the roots of your hair. It’s most common in people of African descent, especially amongst people who wear their hair in tight braids or other hairstyles that put pressure on the hair root.

Hair loss from traction alopecia is usually reversible when the disease is treated during its early stages. However, long-term traction alopecia can potentially cause scarring and often results in permanent hair loss.

Treating traction alopecia depends on the stage of the disease. Early-stage traction alopecia is often treatable by reducing pressure on the hair by avoiding certain hairstyles, styling products, hair treatments and habits. 

Chronic traction alopecia is usually more difficult to treat. For some people, hair transplantation can restore hair to areas of the scalp with thinning. 

Other research suggests that minoxidil may be effective for restoring hair in people affected by severe traction alopecia. 

Tinea Capitis

What it is: A fungal infection similar to ringworm and athlete’s foot that can affect your scalp and hair follicles, causing hair loss. 

How it’s treated: Most of the time, antifungal medications can treat this type of infection and prevent hair loss from getting worse. 

Tinea capitis, or scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection that can affect your scalp. In some cases, the infection can make its way into your hair follicles and hair shafts, resulting in patches of hair loss across your scalp.

Some hair loss from tinea capitis is temporary. However, when the tinea capitis infection causes inflammation, it can lead to permanent hair loss.

In certain cases, tinea capitis can spread from your scalp to other hair follicles on your face and body, including your eyebrows and eyelashes.

As a type of fungal infection, tinea capitis is usually treated with antifungal medications such as griseofulvin, itraconazole and fluconazole.

Sometimes, treatment may also involve antifungal shampoos. This type of hair loss usually gets better over the course of four to eight weeks as the infection is treated and your hair follicles are able to recover. 

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Cicatricial Alopecia (Scarring Alopecia)

What it is: A type of inflammatory hair loss that involves scarring and permanent damage to the hair follicles throughout your scalp. 

How it’s treated: This type of alopecia is treated with anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics and other medications.

Cicatricial alopecia, or scarring alopecia, is a group of hair loss disorders that involve permanent damage to your hair follicles and the development of scar tissue.

Cicatricial alopecia can be primary or secondary. In the case of primary cicatricial alopecia, your hair follicles are damaged by inflammation that develops beneath the surface of your skin. The follicles are then replaced by scar tissue, causing permanent hair loss.

In secondary cicatricial alopecia, an external injury or non-follicular biological process, such as a burn, infection or tumor, damages and destroys some or all of your hair follicles.

Cicatricial alopecia can cause a range of symptoms, including scaling, redness, changes in your skin’s pigmentation, pustules and a smooth texture to affected areas of your scalp, often without any visible hair follicles.

Compared to other forms of hair loss, cicatricial alopecia is rare. A range of treatments are used to manage inflammation and treat this form of hair loss, including anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics and corticosteroids. 

Postpartum Alopecia

What it is: A form of telogen effluvium that occurs after pregnancy, likely as a result of changes in hormone levels or the physiological stress of giving birth. 

How it’s treated: This form of hair loss usually improves on its own with time, but minoxidil may be helpful for stimulating hair growth in the short term. 

Widely known as postpartum hair loss, this form of alopecia can develop in women after giving birth. It’s a form of telogen effluvium that happens when hairs simultaneously enter the telogen phase, usually within a few months following pregnancy.

Like other forms of telogen effluvium, postpartum hair shedding typically improves with time as hair follicles return to their normal pattern of growth. 

Hair Shaft Abnormalities

What they are: Conditions that damage the shaft of your hair, causing broken hairs and visible areas of thinning on your scalp.

How they’re treated: Treatment for hair shaft abnormalities can range from therapy to different forms of medication. 

Most forms of hair loss affect your hair follicles -- the small, tunnel-shaped structures inside your skin from which hair grows. 

Hair shaft abnormalities are conditions that cause hair loss by damaging the shaft of your hair -- the visible part that extends beyond your skin. Instead of the entire hair falling out, this type of alopecia may cause your hairs to break, resulting in brittle hair and visible thinning.

One potential hair shaft abnormality is trichotillomania -- a hair-pulling disorder in which you may experience a recurring urge to pull out your hair. This form of alopecia is typically treated using psychotherapy.

Another hair shaft abnormality is loose anagen syndrome, a type of alopecia that mainly occurs primarily in young girls two to six years old, but can also affect boys, too.

People with loose anagen syndrome might have hairs that aren’t firmly attached to their follicles during their anagen phase, allowing them to fall out easily as they grow longer.

Loose anagen syndrome can cause hair loss once your hair reaches a certain length, or due to friction from everyday items such as a pillow or hat. Most of the time, this form of alopecia gets better on its own during adolescence.

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Hypotrichosis

What it is: A rare genetic condition that affects hair growth, causing sparse scalp hair that tends to begin during infancy.

How it’s treated: There’s currently no effective treatment for this hair growth condition. 

Hypotrichosis is a rare condition that causes little or no hair growth on the head, face and other parts of your body. This form of alopecia is usually present from birth. It can also develop after birth, with affected people experiencing hair loss early in childhood.

Hair loss from hypotrichosis can affect the entire body (generalized hypotrichosis) or be limited to just your scalp (scalp-limited hypotrichosis). It’s a hereditary condition that’s linked to certain genes and genetic mutations.

Compared to other types of alopecia, hypotrichosis is uncommon. Currently, no treatments are available for this form of hair loss.

Can Alopecia Be Cured? 

As you can see, there are several conditions that are under the alopecia umbrella, and unfortunately, we don’t know enough about the mechanisms that underlie these conditions to have a “cure.” In other words, the damage of most alopecia conditions is chronic at best, irreversible at the worst. 

Just because there’s no alopecia cure, doesn’t mean your condition is hopeless. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

Androgenic alopecia, for instance, can be addressed with a combination of topical and oral medications to inhibit the hormones that kill off your follicles. In some cases, they can even reverse recent hair loss.

Medications like minoxidil (brand name Rogaine®) and finasteride (brand name Propecia®) offer the potential both to stimulate follicle regrowth and to control hormone imbalances, respectively. 

Traction alopecia is best treated by stopping whatever habit or process is causing the damage. That might mean leaving your man bun down or working on hair-pulling habits with a therapist. 

Alopecia areata is the most difficult to treat — while stimulating hair regrowth is an important part of the process, the autoimmune issues need the care of a professional, and treating the problem likely will mean more than just treating the symptoms.

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The Bottom Line on Treating Different Types of Alopecia

Whether you have androgenetic alopecia or alopecia areata, dealing with any form of alopecia can be a stressful, frustrating experience that seriously affects your quality of life. 

Because there are numerous different types of hair loss, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to understand what’s causing your hair loss, as well as what you can do about it.

Most types of alopecia can be diagnosed with a physical exam and hair pull test, allowing your healthcare provider to let you know what you can do to stop shedding and stimulate growth.

This could mean using evidence-based hair loss medications, such as finasteride or minoxidil, to protect your hair follicles from damage and promote a healthier hair growth cycle. 

Alternatively, it might mean treating an underlying medical condition that’s affecting your scalp health and causing you to lose hair.

Not sure where to start? Our full guide to the best treatments for thinning hair goes into detail about your options. You can also take part in an online hair loss consultation to find out more about what could be causing your hair loss, as well as your most effective treatment options. 

14 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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  4. Lepe, K. & Zito, P.M. (2021, November 15). Alopecia Areata. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537000/
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  7. Al Aboud, A.M. & Crane, J.S. (2022, May 8). Tinea Capitis. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536909/
  8. Filbrandt, R., Rufaut, N., Jones, L. & Sinclair, R. (2013). Primary cicatricial alopecia: diagnosis and treatment. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 185 (18), 1579-1585. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3855115/
  9. Cicatricial Alopecia. (2016). Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cicatricial-alopecia/
  10. Piérard-Franchimont, C. & Piérard, G.E. (2013). Alterations in Hair Follicle Dynamics in Women. BioMed Research International. 957432. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3884776/
  11. Itin, P.H. & Fistaol, S.K. (2005). Hair shaft abnormalities--clues to diagnosis and treatment. Dermatology. 211 (1), 63-71. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15983439/
  12. Pererya, A.D. & Saadabadi, A. (2022, June 27). Trichotillomania. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493186/
  13. Dhurat, R.P. & Deshpande, D.J. (2010). Loose Anagen Hair Syndrome. International Journal of Trichology. 2 (2), 96-100. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107966/
  14. Autosomal recessive hypotrichosis. (2013, April 1). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/autosomal-recessive-hypotrichosis/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.