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Hair loss types: Alopecia areata self-care

Dermatologists give this sunscreen tip to their patients with hair loss:

With patchy hair loss like this man has, a spray sunscreen may be easiest to apply. A lotion or cream often works best for bald areas.

Man with patch of alopecia areata on his beard

Alopecia areata can affect many areas of your life. These self-care tips from dermatologists may help you feel better:

  1. Consult a board-certified dermatologist. Dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating the areas of the body that alopecia areata can affect — the hair, skin, and nails.

    A board-certified dermatologist can tell you if you have alopecia areata and provide treatment to slow the hair loss and help regrow your hair.

    Your dermatologist can also help you select the right hair and skin care products for your sensitive skin.

  2. Be gentle with your hair and your scalp. Gentle hair and scalp care are essential. Dermatologists recommend the following for their patients who have alopecia areata:

    • Use a soft-bristled brush and wide-tooth comb to gently style your hair. These styling tools are less likely to pull on your hair.
    • Avoid hair and skin care products with harsh chemicals. On your scalp and any area where you’ve lost hair, harsh chemicals can do more harm than good. Products to avoid include hair dyes and hair care products that contain fragrance or alcohol. Look for fragrance-free products.
    • Let your hair dry naturally instead of using a blow dryer or other dryer that uses heat.
    • Wear loose hairstyles. Tight hairstyles like ponytails and cornrows can pull on your scalp, causing further hair loss.

  3. Protect bald or thinning areas from the sun. Dermatologists recommend that everyone protect their skin from the sun, regardless of skin tone.

    When it comes to sun protection, dermatologists also recommend that anyone with alopecia areata pay close attention to areas with hair loss. Balding or thinning hair on your scalp increases your risk of sunburn.

    To protect your scalp, dermatologists recommend that you do one of the following:

    • Wear a wide-brimmed hat or wig when outdoors.
    • If you don’t cover your head, apply sunscreen to your scalp. Use a sunscreen that offers SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum protection, and water resistance. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours and after sweating or any time your head gets wet.
    You also want to apply sunscreen to all skin that won’t be covered by clothing while you’re outdoors, paying close attention to areas with hair loss.

  4. Safeguard your eyes if you’ve lost eyelashes or eyebrows. Our eyebrows and eyelashes work together to protect the eyes from sweat, rain, light, dust, microorganisms, and many other things.

    If you lose eyebrows or eyelashes, the following can help protect your eyes:

    • Wear a hat, sweatband, or glasses.
    • Use artificial eyebrows or artificial eyelashes.
    You may also want to talk with a board-certified dermatologist. It’s possible to regrow eyebrows and eyelashes. Your dermatologist knows about treatment options that can help.

  5. Protect your nostrils if you’ve lost your nasal hair. The hairs inside your nostrils trap dust, germs, and other small airborne particles. If you lost the hairs inside your nose, applying a small amount of petroleum jelly just inside each nostril can help trap these small particles. You can apply this daily, or as needed.

    Use only petroleum jelly that comes in a squeeze tube

    This helps to prevent you from unintentionally transferring germs that could be in a jar to your nostrils.

  6. Shield areas with hair loss from cold temperatures. Hair loss on your scalp, inside your ears, or in your nose can make you extremely sensitive to the cold. Keep warm with hats and scarves. Wearing a wig can also help.

  7. Learn how to manage stress. People with alopecia areata often experience unexpected hair loss and regrowth. Many people say that before a cycle of hair loss starts, they often feel stressed out.

    Learning how to manage your stress with a technique that works for you, such as meditation or yoga, may help reduce cycles of hair loss.

  8. Get emotional support. Alopecia areata can be stressful and cause some people to feel lonely, sad, or anxious. If you have these feelings, help is available.

    A good place to look for support is the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF). According to NAAF’s website, this organization “was established in 1981 with one clear goal: To offer support to individuals affected by alopecia areata.”

    To find the ways that NAAF offers support, go to Get Support.

  9. Keep appointments with your primary care doctor. People with alopecia areata have a higher risk of developing some diseases like thyroid disease, atopic dermatitis, or lupus erythematosus. Seeing your primary care doctor can help your doctor diagnose a disease earlier. The sooner a disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to manage.

If you don’t have a dermatologist, you can find one who specializes in hair loss at Find a Dermatologist.

Getty Images

Korta DZ, Christiano AM, et al. “Alopecia areata is a medical disease.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018;78:832-4.

Lee S, Lee H, et al. “Comorbidities in alopecia areata: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Feb;80(2):466-477.e16.

Nguyen B, Hu JK, et al. “Eyebrow and eyelash alopecia: A clinical review.” Am J Clin Dermatol. 2023 Jan;24(1):55-67.

Sperling LC. “Alopecias.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008: 517-9.

Written by:
Paula Ludmann, MS

Reviewed by:
Elizabeth M. Damstetter, MD, FAAD
Arturo Dominguez, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 8/30/23