What's behind Jada Pinkett Smith's hair loss?

Jada Pinkett Smith pretty much has it all: a gorgeous, star-studded family (including a marriage to Will Smith that has proven to be true relationship goals), a career that's spanned decades, and age-defying looks, but of course, nothing is perfect, and there are challenges that go on behind that scenes that we don't always see. However, Jada has been open with her life story, often getting candid about herself and her relationship with her husband and kids, and thus proving that celebrities deal with the same issues as us regular folks. In 2018, the actress opened up an intimate dialogue about her personal life when she launched Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch alongside her mother and daughter, giving fans a look at the relatable issues they face as a family.

In a May 2018 Red Table Talk episode titled "Body Confessions" that revolved around the things women don't like about their bodies that aren't easy to change, Jada confessed that she was wearing a turban in an effort to hide the fact that she was losing her hair. Why the sudden hair loss? Keep reading to learn more about how Jada Pinkett Smith is contending with this challenge. 

She debuted a new haircut in January 2018

New year, new Jada? The actress took to social media at the beginning of 2018 to debut an edgy short cut. "Then came 2018," the actress wrote, suggesting the cut was a way for her to shed the past and move on in the new year, as many people do.

Of course, this wasn't the first time we'd seen Smith's hair so short. Her short 'do was actually a throwback to her '90s pixie look. The tabloids also compared her cut to a style she rocked in the late '80s, praising her for bringing back the look. Even her husband, Will, showed public support for his wife's new hairstyle, slyly uploading a video of her to his Instagram page. "I love her new cut," the former The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star wrote in his caption of the clip, in which he promised her he wasn't showing her off — even though, as we can see, he definitely was. "I had to show y'all."

But there was more to the haircut than we initially thought.

Smith revealed the real reason for her turbans

In February 2018, Jada Pinkett Smith uploaded a selfie in a turban to Twitter. "When turbans become your new obsession," she wrote. However, during her Red Table Talk confession, Smith revealed another reason behind her newfound fascination with turbans.

While a turban is a traditional piece of headwear for African-American women, the actress revealed that her head wraps aren't just a fashion statement. Instead, she was wearing them to hide a medical issue. "I've been having issues with hair loss," she said, explaining how scary it was to discover that she was rapidly losing her locks. "I was in the shower one day, and then just handfuls of hair just in my hands," she recalled. "It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear." Pinkett Smith also revealed that her hair loss was the real reason why she cut her hair short in January 2018, explaining that she'd hoped the layers in the asymmetrical 'do would help hide the changes she was experiencing.

Her hair loss affected her identity

Many women find hair to be a crucial component of their appearance — not just when it comes to how a person presents themselves to others, but also in how they feel about themselves. Black women, in particular, maintain a special relationship with their hair. "Just about everything about a person's identity could be learned by looking at the hair," journalist Lori Tharps told BBC News in 2015 during an interview about hairstyles in African history. In other words, to start rapidly losing such a huge part of oneself can be heartbreaking and scary.

For Jada Pinkett Smith, the sudden hair loss threatened her self-esteem. "My hair has been a big part of me. Taking care of my hair has been a huge ritual," she explained during a Red Table Talk discussion. "And then one day to be like, 'Oh my God, I might not have that choice anymore.'" She explained that she'd had a lot of pride in her hair, which had always naturally been thick and healthy.

She shared a diagnosis

Unfortunately, despite getting "every kind of test there is to have," Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that no one is really sure what's behind her hair loss. Fortunately, she at least received a diagnosis: alopecia. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, alopecia is an autoimmune skin disease that affects nearly 7 million people in the United States alone. The NAAF describes three different types of the disease. One is alopecia areata patchy, which is the most common, and causes a patchy baldness. The next is alopecia totalis, which is total scalp hair loss. Finally, there is alopecia universalis, or total hair loss on the head, face, and body.

Despite its prevalence, there is currently no cure for alopecia. Part of what makes alopecia so hard to treat is that there is no one main cause. According to the NAAF, scientists have yet to discover whether the "triggers" that kick off the hair loss happen inside the body, outside the body, or a combination of the two. However, the NAAF states that the hair loss isn't always forever. Because hair follicles remain alive, the hair can grow back — even for those who've lost more than half of their hair!

More than just physical effects

The worst part of alopecia is not always the hair loss in and of itself but rather the damaging mental effects that often come along with it. According to a 2005 study, the psychological consequences of alopecia can include anxiety and depression. Because hair is such an integral part of a person's identity, it makes sense that suddenly losing it could affect someone's mental health. What's more, according to the study, "the failure to find a cure can leave patients very distressed."

In her Red Table Talk confession, Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that she's doing her best not to let the condition get her down, and she has been focused on putting it into perspective. "The Higher Power takes so much from people. People are out here who have cancer, people who have sick children. And by golly, if the Higher Power wants to take your hair? That's it?" she said. "It really did settle me."

Is alopecia curable?

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, there is currently no proven cure for alopecia. However, the foundation claims that it is treatable. "The main goals of treatment are to block the immune system attack and/or stimulate the regrowth of hair," the NAAF website states. Dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco told Prevention that some people find help with corticosteroids and even Rogaine. Dr. Fusco also said stress reduction is a critical part of alopecia treatment.

As for Jada Pinkett Smith, she took to Instagram to share the treatment method she's trying to slow the effects of her alopecia. In the video, she thanked all of the people who've reached out to her concerning her hair loss and promised that she's taken their thoughts into consideration. She also revealed her chosen course of action: "I'm getting my little steroid injections and they seem to be helping but not curing."