My alopecia journey has been like a yo-yo: ups and downs, swings and roundabouts, zero hair to full growth to nothingness once more. I’ve gone from quick regrowth after Nioxin to having a teeny patch, then watching that bald spot claim my head again. But over the years I’ve learned how to stop alopecia areata from spreading; or at least, how to minimize damage.
In this post, I share my tips with you!
Emma’s ‘not a doctor’ disclaimer
Hi there, I’m an alopecian, I’m not a doctor! Any advice I give is based on my own research and personal experiences. This site is however reader-supported. When you buy through external links, I may earn a tiny affiliate commission. Learn more here.
Alopecia areata, or patchy alopecia, is just one form of this autoimmune condition. It ranges in severity – from a small patch to near-complete hair loss (like I have) – depending on how big your patches are.
Although alopecia areata is often genetic, there are usually more causes behind it. As my full post explains, these triggers include:
Alopecia areata varies from person to person. That’s what makes it such a tricky thing to treat; and it’s why I’m against the ‘blanket cures’ offered by many dermatologists.
In my experience, you shouldn’t prescribe a dose of harmful steroid injections or a harsh topical cream without looking at the root cause of the problem. Yes, hair loss is the effect but what about the cause?!
LA Says: That’s why I’d always address the above triggers first, to see how you might take a holistic approach to treating your alopecia patches. Then you could follow up with products to support healthy hair growth and an optimal scalp environment. More on those products in a sec!
I’ve said it plenty: there isn’t a miracle cure for alopecia. But there are ways to reduce the extent of hair loss, or even kickstart a round of growth. The below tips worked for me in the past; they may or may not work for you. (And if something else works for you, feel free to share it in the comments!)
If I notice my patches getting bigger again, I’m likely neglecting one of these steps. So I make my way through the checklist to stop that spread!
This might be the biggest game-changer for someone with alopecia areata: that you can potentially stop hair loss, or get it growing back, with the food you eat. It’s also one of the trickiest things to do, which is why I’ve never stuck to an AIP diet on a long-term basis!
As I explain in this post, what we consume has a HUGE effect on those of us with autoimmune issues. So any inflammatory foods – gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and peanuts being the most common – can trigger an autoimmune response, resulting in hair loss. When I went off these foods, my shedding stopped within a couple of weeks, I had more growth after a month and things continued to improve until I fell off the wagon.
I ended up stressing so much about what I could/couldn’t eat, I felt an AIP diet was doing me more harm than good. But there are less restrictive versions you can try, or simply cut out certain foods for a short period to see if this can stop your patches spreading.
The supplement industry is an intimidating place. It’s extensive, and expensive, and we’ve no idea if what we’re taking is doing us any good or if they’re just placebos packaged by big-pharma who prey on vulnerability.
I’ve often thought this, as I shelled out a small fortune on supplements – but when I went to a functional medicine doctor and got specific tests on my gut microbiome, I saw the benefits of taking the right supplements for me. For instance, I couldn’t process B vitamins from my food properly, even though I was eating plenty of spinach, kale, lentils and beef. A decent B complex was what I needed, to absorb these nutrients. The FM results helped me with other vitamin deficiencies and with a hormonal imbalance I had, too.
I don’t think everyone needs a truckload of pills to function. BUT if you can’t absorb the nutrients from your food, or if you have an autoimmune condition, or if you’re not hitting your daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals, taking something extra is probably a good idea. At a minimum, try fish oil (or a vegan equivalent), magnesium and Vitamin D to boost your skin ‘n’ scalp health. Oh, and a good probiotic is a must for easing inflammation, after certain foods or medication.
It’s a lot, I know. So rather than taking 5-10 different supplements at different times of the day, you could find one that covers all bases. Folexin is just one of these all-encompassing pills: check out my full review here.
Inflammation doesn’t just come from a food intolerance, or as a response to illness or viruses. It can come from work stress, family obligations, environment…even from something as good for us as exercise!
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you shouldn’t exercise. Moving around is great, it gets our endorphins going, puts us in a better frame of mind and keeps us physically fit. And I’m reluctant to talk about ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’ exercise – it’s more like doing the exercise that best fits you in a given situation.
In general, high-impact activities aren’t a great idea for someone experiencing an inflammation flare-up or acute stress. Because they raise adrenaline levels and the hormone known as cortisol, which can trigger an autoimmune response (in this case, hair loss).
So it’s better, if you’re feeling anxious or wound-up, to try a grounding, soothing form of exercise: like swimming, walking or yoga. It doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself – but focus on something where you can breathe deeply and calm your nervous system again.
I’m always banging on about the practices of yoga, meditation and mindfulness. They’ve made a massive difference in my life; not just in slowing down the rate of my hair loss, but in helping me accept myself as I am! So if you’re watching your patches spread and fretting more than ever, try one of these stress-relievers. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day.
I’ve used a couple of products to stop my patches spreading – more on those in the next bit. I’ve also made my own treatments in conjunction with these products. Maybe it’s the placebo effect or maybe it’s the act of massaging my scalp every day that stimulates circulation…in any case, when I remember to apply these treatments, I’ve seen results pretty quickly!
I write about more natural treatments in this post and cover some of my favorite oils for hair growth here.
While I love using a natural approach and it’s worked for me at various points, I’m not consistent enough to have seen full regrowth! I’ve noticed a decrease in shedding, I’ve even gotten white vellus hairs back in my patches. But I’ve never managed to keep up a nightly routine for long enough.
Still, if you’re a more dedicated DIY type than me, this could be a great way to stop your alopecia areata patches from spreading!
This ties in with the mindfulness aspect I mentioned, and it’s maybe why I haven’t been as consistent with treatments as I should have. Because once I accepted my hair loss, I felt a huge sense of relief. And it really helped me to not keep checking the mirror, in the hopes I’d see regrowth.
When I was doing things like onion juice massages, I’d peer at my head at every opportunity, wondering whether I’d seen more growth since the day before or had it – gasp! – gotten worse. So I made a conscious effort to avoid these check-ups. To just let alopecia do its thing. And I felt much lighter as a result.
It’s easier said than done, I know. But try not to stress about your patches too much: that’s not going to help your case! Instead, get on with living your life…and maybe use that mirror-gazing time to keep a daily gratitude list instead. Then you can remind yourself about all the things that you do have, instead of focusing on the hair you don’t.
There are no quick fixes here. But if you’ve tried my 5 tips for stopping your patches spreading and feel you need extra help, I’d highly recommend these products. I’ve included a short summary, a shortcut to the product itself, plus a link to my full review on Lady Alopecia.
For those days when you just can’t deal with your patches and want a quick cover-up. Two options: disguise your bald spots with blendable hair fibers or try an entirely new look with a funky colorful headscarf.
I’ve been wearing the ‘pirate’ and ‘turban’ styles myself for years and found such beautiful materials in my hometown of Hoi An, Vietnam, that I decided to make and sell my own.
I hope these tips help you stop alopecia areata from spreading. But if there’s anything I’ve missed, which you’ve done to prevent patch creep, please let me know! Share your experiences in the comments box.
I know how tempting it is to peek at those patches every five minutes. But try to resist the urge because stressing about growth or shedding is not what you need right now! The hair-growth cycle will resume when your body’s good and ready. In the meantime, look after yourself – body and mind – as best you can!
Love and hugs,
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Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!
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