Alopecia causes and signs as Louis Theroux shares health update

Stock picture of Louis Theroux on the red carpet. He has been sharing his experiences of alopecia. (Getty Images)
Louis Theroux has given an update on living with alopecia. (Getty Images)

Louis Theroux has been praised by fans after sharing an update on his experiences of alopecia.

The documentary maker, 53, previously shared on Instagram how the condition appears to be impacting his eyebrows and has now revealed he has tried a something new to replace the eyebrow hair he has lost.

Having undergone microblading to replace the loss of hair on his eyebrows, Theroux told of his joy at having his "old face back".

Alongside a series of selfies shared to Instagram he wrote: "I realise there are much bigger things to worry about in the world but… a while ago I shared that my eyebrows had basically disappeared due to alopecia.

"I received a lot of nice messages, some suggesting I try 'microblading', a form of temporary tattoo. So that’s what I did!"

The investigative journalist went on to say he'd had two sessions, each of a couple of hours.

"I’m happy to have my old face back," he continued. "The new brows are neater and more shapely than my 'real' ones were. But there are a couple of wisps of my remaining hair in there which help make them look more natural."

Theroux also gave an update on the hair loss on his head.

"More gaps - or 'lesions' to use the technical term - have appeared on my scalp," he wrote. "I have photos of those which I may share at some point or I may not - they are a bit weird and depressing to look at tbh. Life goes on. I am happy and healthy in every other way and I feel very grateful."

After sharing his latest alopecia documentation, Theroux was applauded by users for helping to "normalise" treatment of the condition.

"They look awesome, this is great for normalising options for people with alopecia," one fan wrote. "Especially men who may think microblading is a very female thing."

"I have the same condition - it sucks but I think you’re really brave to normalise it," another agreed.

Last year the broadcaster told his followers he "probably" has alopecia after sharing that he has experienced hair loss in his beard.

In an Instagram post, Theroux shared a series of photos highlighting how his facial hair has changed in recent months. In the accompanying caption he told his 763,000 followers: "So this is what my beard grows like now due to what I think is probably alopecia. Basically I get a little triangle of stubble around my mouth and some more at the sides."

What is alopecia areata?

According to the charity Alopecia UK, alopecia areata is believed to be an autoimmune condition, which often starts with isolated patches of hair loss.

The patches, commonly in one or more coin-sized areas, are typically found on the scalp and/or across the body including the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes or body hair, including pubic hair.

"In alopecia areata, cells from the immune system (a specific type of T cell, known as NKG2D+ T cells) gather around the hair follicles," the charity explains.

"These cells attack the follicle, stopping it from producing more hair. The exact way in which this happens is not yet understood.

Theroux isn't the only one to document his experiences of alopecia, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gail Porter have also spoken openly about their own hair loss journeys.

Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gail Porter have also documented their experiences of alopecia. (Getty Images)
Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gail Porter have also documented their experiences of alopecia. (Getty Images)

What is alopecia barbae?

Alopecia barbae is a specific form of alopecia areata, in which hair loss affects the beard and moustache.

"Usually, it comes on suddenly and you begin losing beard hair in small circular patches," explains Anabel Kingsley, brand president and trichologist at Philip Kingsley.

While alopecia barbae can occur only in the beard area, it can also happen alongside hair loss in other areas, such as the scalp.

Alopecia barbae usually causes beard hair to fall out in small circular patches. If more hair is falls out, the circles can begin to overlap.

According to Alopecia UK, hair around the edge of the patches sometimes turns white.

What are the symptoms?

In some people alopecia barbae can appear gradually, while for others it can come on quite suddenly.

One of the first symptoms, according to Gillette UK, are small bald circular patches in your beard that gradually get larger in size.

The skin around these bald patches may also start to feel itchy or painful before you start losing your hair and some people can experience skin irritation, inflammation and redness in the patchy bald areas.

Man suffering from Alopecia areata. (Getty Images)(Getty Images)
There are a number of different forms of Alopecia areata. (Getty Images)

Treatments for alopecia areata

According to Alopecia UK, there is currently no cure for alopecia areata, however, there are a variety of treatments to try, although none are guaranteed to work.

Many people experience spontaneous regrowth without treatment and treatments are more likely to be effective in milder cases of alopecia areata, with small patches of hair loss.

Common treatments for alopecia areata include corticosteroids (designed to dampen down the immune response) and topical immunotherapy (to distract the immune response).

There are also some cosmetic treatments including beard transplants, with one Harley Street surgeon reporting a spike in beard transplant enquiries recently.

Harley Street surgeon Dr Asim Shahmalak from Crown Clinic claims he has had a 25% rise in bookings in recent years.

Dr Shahmalak said: "A proper, full-grown beard has been the ultimate definition of masculinity for centuries. But the sad truth is that many men in Britain struggle to grow beards, sideburns and moustaches. They have significant gaps in their facial hair and the end result can look patchy and unconvincing."

Dr Shahmalak claimed more men are turning to surgery to get their facial hair bolstered with hair transplants so that they have a fuller beard with no gaps.

Male hair loss and alopecia: Read more