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Jada Pinkett Smith shares her alopecia experience publicly, empowering more women

Breaking the stigma of women and hair loss
Posted at 10:22 AM, May 25, 2018

This week, Jada Pinkett Smith is engaging in a new conversation that's been difficult for women to talk about: hair loss. But it impacts millions of women, and instead of dealing with it alone, she wants to empower women to talk about it openly.

One woman knows exactly what she's talking about. Almost every day DeAnn Payne picks out her wig the way many pick out clothes.

It's something she's been doing for the last seven years, since being diagnosed with alopecia.

"I'll pick up an outfit now say 'Okay, I'm going to wear this wig,'" Payne said. "And my husband will say, 'That that one doesn't match that outfit.'"

It's easier to laugh about it now, but when it first happened that was the last thing she wanted to do.

"It was traumatic," Payne said. "To deal with it. To deal with your own feelings because I love my hair."

Payne's hair had always been long, but in 2011 it started falling out, and about two years later it was all gone.

"I was devastated," Payne said. "Yeah, I I didn't know what to think."

As hard as it was to process what was going on outside, she said what was happening inside was even harder.

"Now what I can do? And is is ever going to come back? And how are people going to see me? I don't want people to see me," Payne said.

It's a struggle many people often go through alone. That's why Payne said seeing someone like Jada Pinkett Smith sharing her struggles publicly is so powerful.

"I was in the shower one day and then just like handfuls of hair just in my hands," Pinkett said on her show Red Table Talk. "And I was just like, 'Oh my God am I going bald?'"

"People are going to see what she has," Payne said. "This, and is willing to come out and to tell others about it. And so I can be ok with this. It's not just me."

As many as 6.8 million people in the United States are affected by Alopecia, a common autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss on the scalp, face and sometimes other areas of the body. There are several types, including scarring alopecias, which are irreversible, and non-scarring alopecias, which are more common.

"Many of the non-scarring alopecia are reversible depending on the reason that they exist," said Dr. Michelle Draznin, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente.

Draznin said non-scarring alopecia can caused by different issues like your autoimmune system, thyroid and even stress.

"It's really hard on people particularly women because I think it's not super socially acceptable to have hair loss in women," Draznin said. "And it can feel very very vulnerable. The good news is, that usually goes away."

Even if her hair doesn't come back, Payne said she can and will live a productive life. A message she's glad to see others sharing.