A woman stands backwards with her hands clutching her bald head.

My Experience With Atopic Dermatitis and Alopecia Universalis

When I lost all my hair over the course of three weeks, I questioned every aspect of my life — trying to find a cause, which might lead to a cure.

That was six years and a few wigs ago. Alopecia universalis means no more plucking eyebrows, no shaving legs. It is an autoimmune disease, like atopic dermatitis, and they sometimes go hand in hand.1 At the time, I didn’t connect the two, thinking, hoping, that there had to be another, easy to cure, cause.

Was zinc to blame?

At the time, I was taking a supplement prescribed for my vision, as I have macular degeneration. This supplement had a very high zinc concentration, and I had recently discovered I was zinc sensitive, so I told myself that zinc was the culprit. Zinc was known to help immunity. Just stop taking the one with all that zinc, and presto, my hair would grow back. But it wouldn’t take this long to clear it out of my system. Or perhaps I had been using some kind of hair care product that I was unknowingly allergic to. So then, not using any at all should make a difference. Or was my diet wrong? Maybe I needed more biotin or Vitamin D. All these thoughts were researched and tried, with no success.

My hair in in a disappearing cycle

My primary care doctor had given me many options to try. The dermatologist said there was nothing left to try, confirming it was an autoimmune condition, the same as my atopic dermatitis. My hair might grow back but would probably fall out again. Six years later, I have to agree, she was right. I’ve had a few thin clusters of baby-fine, pure white hair appear, only to disappear before becoming noticeable.

I have a greater appreciation for hair loss

I now have a greater appreciation for those men who are losing their hair. I can wear wigs in different colors and styles, but most men are just shaving off the rest of their hair. Being bald means the head gets cold in barely cool temperatures and sunburned when it’s too warm for a cap. Would you believe there are ball caps available that have hair sewn just around the bottom edge?

Irritation from wigs may trigger an eczema flare

Wigs may look natural, stylish, and always “done,” but there’s a big downside when you have sensitive skin. Even the better ones can be hot, itchy, and sometimes contribute to an eczema flare. Which then gets irritated more by the wig, beginning a vicious cycle. Thank goodness this doesn’t happen too often, and since I’m retired, I can wear scarves or just stay home when the eczema flare is too uncomfortable to cover with a wig.

A transforming space

Having said all that, there are new developments in the pipeline for atopic dermatitis, including both oral and topical. One study claims the atopic dermatitis space will completely transform over the next decade due to intense clinical activity.2 I’m now wondering if one of these new drugs could help eczema, it might also help me grow hair?

There’s still so much to learn. Have you found your atopic dermatitis may be connected to some other condition?

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