“As a black woman, the personal is political,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., says. “My hair story is no exception.”

Known for her Senegalese twists, Pressley tweeted that she is sharing her journey with alopecia areata “to create space for others.” She has been losing clumps of hair since last fall and decided to embrace her baldness, a move that has been inspiring other women dealing with hair loss.

“Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease, causing hair loss on the scalp, face and sometimes on other areas of the body,” according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. “In fact, it affects as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S. with a lifetime risk of 2.1 percent.” 

However, African Americans have greater odds of developing alopecia areata, compared to other groups, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Here is Pressley’s story:

3 Types of Alopecia Areata

“Currently, there is no cure for alopecia areata,” NAAF states. “But the good news is that even when your disease is ‘active,’ your hair follicles remain alive. This means that your hair can grow back again — even after a long period of time and even if you have more than 50 percent hair loss.”

  1. Alopecia areata patchy — The most common form, with one or more coin-sized hairless patches on the scalp or other areas of the body
  2. Alopecia totalis — Total loss of the hair on the scalp
  3. Alopecia universalis — Complete loss of hair on the scalp, face and body

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