Beard Alopecia: Causes and Treatments

Beard alopecia, technically Alopecia barbae, is a specific form of alopecia areata that targets the beard. This condition can occur independently or in conjunction with scalp alopecia. Although it is a benign disorder that doesn't lead to severe physical consequences, it can have a substantial psychological impact on the affected individuals.


Beard alopecia primarily affects male individuals, with a higher prevalence among younger individuals aged between 30 and 40.

Causes of Beard Alopecia

Alopecia barbae is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it is caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles, disrupting their normal activity and preventing the hair from growing normally. The exact reasons behind this occurrence are not fully understood, and various hypotheses have been proposed, including the potential presence of a genetic component along with other factors such as malnutrition, iron deficiency, and infections. However, these hypotheses have not been definitively confirmed or rejected.

It is worth noting that individuals with other immune system disorders are at a higher risk of developing beard alopecia and other forms of alopecia areata.

Symptoms and Manifestations

The primary symptom of beard alopecia is the loss of beard hair in localized, rounded areas. These hairless patches can occur anywhere on the beard, including the mustache area, neck, chin, cheeks, or sides. Typically, the condition begins with the appearance of a single patch, which gradually expands and may be joined by other patches.

A man with patchy beard due to alopecia.

Before or shortly after the development of the hairless patches, individuals may experience itching or burning sensations, possibly coupled with mild skin inflammation. In some cases, hair may regrow in the affected areas, but it often lacks its initial color, appearing white instead. Consequently, a seemingly benign disorder like beard alopecia can have significant psychological implications for many men, potentially impacting their social lives.

Associated Conditions

Individuals with beard alopecia, being an autoimmune condition, are more likely to have other autoimmune diseases. Therefore, it is not uncommon for individuals with this disorder to also have other conditions such as atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, psoriasis, Crohn's disease, asthma, or thyroid disorders.


In many cases, beard alopecia may resolve spontaneously within a few months. However, the condition can recur, leading to a continuous cycle of hair regrowth and loss. In some individuals, the condition may not reappear for years, only to return unexpectedly.

If beard alopecia doesn't resolve by itself or if it becomes psychologically distressing for the individual, medical intervention may be necessary. However, it's important to note that not all individuals respond to therapy in the same way, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Pharmacological treatment can promote hair regrowth but does not cure the disorder, which can recur after days, months, or even years. The treatment can only alleviate the symptoms of alopecia but cannot permanently eliminate the condition.


Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that suppress the activity of the immune system, making them useful in treating autoimmune disorders like beard alopecia. These drugs can be administered either locally or systemically. The first therapeutic approach usually involves intralesional administration of corticosteroids. However, corticosteroids for topical use are not among the best therapeutic strategies as they often cause folliculitis, especially when used for extended periods.


The effectiveness of minoxidil in treating beard alopecia is still under debate. While it appears to be useful in some patients, it does not seem to have significant therapeutic effects in others.

Laser Therapy

According to some studies, phototherapy performed with different types of lasers can induce hair regrowth, sometimes complete, in the areas affected by the disorder. However, further research is needed to establish the efficacy of this treatment approach.

In summary, beard alopecia is a benign yet potentially distressing condition that can impact an individual's psychological well-being and social life. While there is currently no cure for the disorder, various treatment options can manage the symptoms and promote hair regrowth. It's crucial for anyone experiencing symptoms of beard alopecia to seek medical advice to discuss the most appropriate treatment options.

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