What is alopecia? A look at condition at center of Will Smith’s attack on Chris Rock

Alopecia is a collection of conditions, all of which cause hair loss in both men and women

Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith appear in the audience at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) (Chris Pizzello)

The internet is buzzing Monday following Will Smith’s decision to slap Chris Rock following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith the comedian made as he was presenting at the 94th Annual Academy Awards.

“Jada, can’t wait for G.I. Jane 2,” Rock said, referring to Jada Pinkett Smith’s nearly bald hairstyle.

This prompted Will Smith to walk up on stage and slap Rock across the face.

Jada Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she has a condition called alopecia areata which causes hair loss, according to CNN.

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Alopecia is actually a collection of conditions, all of which cause hair loss in both men and women.

Alopecia areata, specifically, is an autoimmune disease which means that the hair loss associated with the condition is a result of the body’s own immune system attacking normal cells within the body.

A Harvard study published in August 2020 shows about 2/3 of women will experience some kind of hair loss in their lives. A 2018 study found that Black and Hispanic women were at a higher risk of developing alopecia areata.

The different types of alopecia include:

  • Alopecia totalis causes a person to lose all the hair on their body. This type of alopecia starts with losing patches of hair before going completely bald.
  • Androgenetic alopecia is also known as male-pattern baldness but can happen in men and women.
  • Diffuse alopecia usually affects younger women and the hair loss is sudden.
  • Postpartum alopecia causes women who have just given birth to experience some hair loss temporarily.
  • Traction Alopecia is hair loss caused when someone pulls the hair follicle too tight, destroying their hair shafts.

Some types of alopecia are permanent, while in other cases, the hair can grow back.

Jada Pinkett Smith is not the only public figure who has dealt with alopecia out in the open.

Rep. Ayanna Presley (D-Mass.) revealed in January 2020 that she has alopecia which caused her to lose all of her hair. The congresswoman had become known for wearing her Senegalese twists prior to her hair loss.

Presley actually tweeted her support for Will and Jada Pinket Smith following the incident at the Oscars, but later deleted the post, according to Rolling Stone.

“#Alopecia nation stand up!” Pressley wrote online. “Thank you #WillSmith Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults. #Oscars Women with baldies are for real men only only. Boys need not apply.”

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.