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• The term alopecia broadly refers to hair loss from any cause, including normal aging.
• Some types of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, are an autoimmune disease, a type of illness that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks part of the body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
A medical condition that causes hair loss sprang into the spotlight after the March 27 Academy Awards, when comedian Chris Rock made a joke about the shaved head of actress Jada Pinkett Smith. After Rock’s joke, actor Will Smith, Pinkett Smith’s husband, walked onstage and slapped him.
Soon after, some social media users expressed skepticism that the hair loss is due to an illness.
"Alopecia isn't a medical disease; it's an aesthetic one," read a March 28 post on Facebook.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Some types of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, are an autoimmune disease, a type of illness that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks part of the body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Pinkett Smith has alopecia areata. It’s unclear whether Rock knew about Pinkett Smith’s condition, the Associated Press reported.
Alopecia areata is "a disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, often on the scalp or face, but sometimes on other parts of the body," the AP reported. "Sometimes hair falls out in chunks and only partial baldness results. Sometimes hair grows back but repeated bouts of baldness can also occur."
It is not life-threatening, but there is no cure.
The statement that alopecia "isn't a medical disease" contains an element of truth — the term alopecia broadly refers to hair loss from any cause, including normal aging. But the claim ignores critical facts: Some types of alopecia are an autoimmune disease.
We rate the claim that alopecia isn’t a medical disease Mostly False.
American Academy of Dermatology Association, "HAIR LOSS TYPES: ALOPECIA AREATA CAUSES," accessed March 30, 2022
Associated Press, "Pinkett Smith’s hair loss from alopecia at center of spat," March 29, 2022
Facebook post, March 28, 2022
IMDb, "G.I.Jane," accessed March 30, 2022
Mayo Clinic, "Hair loss," accessed March 30, 2022
New York Times, "What Is Alopecia?," March 28, 2022
USA Today, "What causes alopecia? Here's what Jada Pinkett Smith has said about the condition," March 28, 2022
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