Hair Loss and Skin Conditions

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | June 2017 | Last updated: April 2021

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is the most common form of eczema and causes an itchy, scaly rash on the skin. It is most commonly diagnosed in infants and young children, although it can begin in adulthood. The areas of skin affected vary based on the age of the person. In infancy, the most common areas affected by atopic dermatitis are the face and scalp. Atopic dermatitis may cause hair loss, particularly due to the scratching that occurs, but the effect is usually temporary.1,2

What is alopecia?

Hair loss is also known medically as alopecia and may appear as thinning, bald patches, or complete baldness. There are many different reasons and causes for hair loss. Dermatologists specialize in treating diseases that affect the skin, hair, and nails and can best assess what may be causing hair loss in an individual patient.

What conditions cause hair loss?

Some of the common conditions that may cause hair loss include seborrheic dermatitis, tinea capitis, alopecia areata, traction alopecia, or psoriasis. Hair loss may also be a sign of another disease or condition, like anemia or malnutrition.2

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is the common name given to seborrheic dermatitis (or seborrheic eczema) in infants. Many infants develop cradle cap, which forms red, scaly, greasy, or crusty patches on the scalp. It usually resolves on its own within a few months.2

Can ringworm cause hair loss?

Ringworm, or tinea capitis, is a fungal infection on the scalp that primarily affects children. Despite its name, it is not caused by a worm, but the rash has a ring-shaped pattern and creates a raised, scaly border. Ringworm is highly contagious and may be spread among children through direct contact with other children or animals, or in sharing a brush, comb, hat, pillow, or toys. Tinea capitis often causes broken hair or hair loss. Treatment is required to stop the infection and stop the contagion. The recommended treatment for ringworm in children is an antifungal medication.2

What is alopecia areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on the scalp, face, or sometimes on other areas of the body. It can occur in people of all ages and ethnicities, and one study has found that having atopic dermatitis may increase a person’s risk of developing alopecia areata. As an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells. Researchers aren’t sure what triggers the immune system to attack healthy hair follicles but believe it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are a variety of treatment options for alopecia areata, and the hair can regrow.3,4

What is traction alopecia?

Traction alopecia is hair loss caused by prolonged traction or tension to the hair follicle. Tight ponytails, braids, and chemicals (such as those used in perms or chemical relaxing) can all cause hair breakage, especially when experienced for a prolonged period of time. The prolonged tension of some hairstyles can damage the hair follicle, leading to hair loss, which can become permanent. A survey by the American Academy of Dermatology found that almost half of all African-American women have experienced hair loss due to traction alopecia. Management of traction alopecia involves changing hairstyles and practices to reduce the tension on the hair. Treatments are also available that can promote hair regrowth.2

Can psoriasis cause hair loss?

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition the causes skin cells to build up and appear as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells or scale. Psoriasis plaques most often appear on the scalp, knees, elbows, lower back and feet. Psoriasis on the scalp can cause hair loss. The plaques from psoriasis are often itchy and painful, and they can crack and bleed. There are several treatments available that can help manage the condition, but there is currently no cure.5

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