What Can Cause Beard Hair Loss?

A man growing a beard.
Article Details
  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Beard hair loss is a fairly common condition that may be initiated by several factors, including trauma, certain drug therapies, or significant stress in one’s life. The most common cause for it is a medical condition known as alopecia areata, or simply alopecia. Associated with a shift in the body’s hormonal balance, alopecia can affect hair anywhere on the body. Treatment for beard hair loss is usually centered on promoting hair growth, especially since there is no cure for baldness affecting any part of the body.

Individuals who have sustained facial trauma, especially to the jaw and chin, may experience a loss of beard hair. Significant trauma can permanently damage the hair follicles contributing to an inability to grow hair. The regular use of some medications, such as anticancer drugs, can cause a loss of facial hair. Extreme stress may also contribute to a temporary loss of facial hair. Instances of recurrent beard hair loss, however, are usually related to alopecia.

As with any suspected case of alopecia, several tests may be performed to confirm a diagnosis. Men experiencing beard loss are asked to offer a complete medical history and undergo a complete physical examination. Depending on the severity of hair loss, a skin culture and hair samples may be taken for laboratory analysis. It is not uncommon for some men to undergo testing to rule out conditions that may contribute to beard, or facial, hair loss. A skin biopsy is frequently performed to confirm a diagnosis of alopecia areata.

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Classified as an autoimmune disorder, there is no known cause for the onset of alopecia areata. With this form of alopecia, the immune system attacks the body’s hair follicles. Since the condition is not confined to a central location, patchy hair loss can occur anywhere on the body, including the face. It is speculated that genetics may play a role in triggering the overactive immuno-response. If hair loss occurs over the entire body, the condition is then known as alopecia universalis.

Beard hair loss can be initially subtle. As alopecia areata progresses, the hair loss becomes more noticeable and occurs in patches. The size and shape of the residual patch is entirely dependent on the extent of hair loss. Some men who normally have strong fingernails may even exhibit matted, brittle nails prior to any significant hair loss from the beard.

In most instances, corticosteroid medication is given to inhibit immune system activity and diminish beard hair loss. Although suppressing immunity will help curb hair loss, it will not stop or cure it. Topical creams may be applied to the affected area to promote hair growth. It is important for those who have lost beard hair due to alopecia to understand that even if the facial hair grows back, recurrent hair loss is a very real possibility. Even though some of the lost beard hair may return, permanent hair loss can occur.

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