Alopecia Barbae: Causes of Facial Hair Loss & Beard Thinning

alopecia hair loss face beard

Photo credit: Wiki Commons

Alopecia barbae is a discreet type of hair loss that targets facial hair. It is a subset of the autoimmune condition alopecia areata.

For centuries beards have been popular with lots of men. Some men wear beards as a symbol of masculinity, while others do it to change their looks. Most men that grow beards, whether long or short, commit to it as it can take time to grow out. They plan to keep the facial hair for a while, but unfortunately for some, this is not always possible.

If you hear someone talk about hair loss, you most likely think of an individual with a receding hairline or thinning on the scalp, but you should know facial hair can also be affected by Alopecia Barbae. As men age, it is not uncommon for men to lose facial hair.

Alopecia Barbae Hair Loss in Men & Women

One condition that can cause the loss of facial hair is known as Alopecia Barbae. It is an autoimmune disease called alopecia. The hair follicles are attacked by the immune system which weakens the hair follicles to a point that hair is no longer able to grow. You may have heard of Alopecia, as it refers to hair loss on the scalp. The same happens with facial hair. As with Alopecia Areata, Alopecia Barbae often causes patches of hair loss about the size of a quarter or even larger. Alopecia Barbae can often be temporary but, in some cases, it can be permanent.

Stages of Hair Growth in Men & Women

No matter where on the body you have hair, all hair goes through a defined hair growth cycle. Hair loss is normal and happens to everyone as part of this hair growth cycle. It is when factors come into play that causes more hair to be lost than what is in the growth cycle that hair loss becomes noticeable over time. There are four stages of hair growth, and this applies to hair anywhere on the body including the face:

  • Anagen Phase: Known as the ‘Growth Phase’ or ‘Active Phase’. In the stage is when the cells in the root of your hair are most rapidly dividing so more new hair is formed.
  • Catagen Phase: This follows the Anagen Phase of your hair cycle. It enters a short transitional phase known as the Catagen Phase which cuts individual hairs off from the blood supply and from the cells that produce new hair.
  • Telogen Phase: In this third stage of your natural hair growth cycle. This is the resting period when strands remain in their follicles but are not actively growing.
  • Exogen Phase: This is the final stage of the hair growth cycle. In this stage, individual hair strands are released from their follicles and fall out. Now the whole process can begin again!

Your facial hair growth follows these stages of hair growth. Because of this cycle, you will naturally lose a lot of beard hair on a daily basis. However, you will not be losing these hair follicles forever and not all hair loss will happen at the same time.

Other Causes of Facial Hair Loss

Other than Alopecia Barbae, some men may have a drop in testosterone and DHT. Facial hair growth is triggered by these two hormones. This is why facial hair growth can begin during puberty. Some men naturally have lower levels of these hormones, and this can cause less facial hair growth. Another cause could be triggered by excessive dieting or nutrient deficiencies. Eating foods rich in collagen, keratin, and biotin is important for healthy hair growth. The lack of these nutrients in your diet can weaken your hair follicles and cause hair loss on the scalp as well as on your face.

Beard Transplant for Beard Hair Loss

For men that have beards that are thin or have developed patches of hair loss, there are options. The first and foremost step that needs to happen, is for you to see a dermatologist or hair loss specialist that can examine your skin in the areas of thinning. This will allow them to better understand the cause of your hair loss. If you are a candidate for a beard transplant this is one way to thicken up thin areas or fill in patches where hair no longer grows.

There are two methods for beard transplants: Follicular Unit Extraction (also known as FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). While the methods are different, the one thing in common is that the hair must be taken from a donor area to be transplanted in thinning areas. This is typically taken from the back of the head as the hair in that area is closest to facial hair.  A more in-depth discussion of types of hair transpl