March 8, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty

Natural Treatments for Alopecia Areata

Home remedies may help your hair, but don’t expect them to cure the autoimmune disease

bottles and jars of natural lotions and essential oils

If your body attacked your hair follicles in a way that left patchy bald spots and random hair loss on your head and body, odds are you’d look everywhere and anywhere for a potential remedy.

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That was pretty much your only option for years in the United States if you had hair loss from alopecia areata. (Fast fact: There was no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for alopecia areata until June 2022.)

Today, many people still seek out natural treatments to try to manage the autoimmune disease and its effects. Here’s the question, though: Are any home remedies worth trying?

We asked dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD, to weigh in.

Do home remedies work for alopecia areata?

Don’t bet on finding a solution to alopecia areata just sitting in your kitchen cupboards or medicine cabinet. It’s not that easy.

“Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease and an immune system issue,” says Dr. Piliang. “There’s little evidence to show that natural treatments are effective in actually treating the condition.”

Now, some touted “natural treatments” are harmless and may even offer a few health benefits. But others may bring unwanted complications.

Let’s take a closer look at a few common at-home options.

Aromatherapy scalp massage

Various clinical trials suggest aromatherapy using essential oils and scalp massage may have value as an alternative treatment for alopecia areata. Botanical and natural ingredients that show promise with aromatherapy include:

But is aromatherapy a definite cure for the condition? Hardly. Researchers emphasize the need for more study on the topic. But the findings fit with a growing trend of using natural ingredients in dermatology.

“It seems perfectly safe to try — and there is some evidence that suggests it might help,” notes Dr. Piliang.

A ‘kitchen’ approach

You could fill a grocery basket with food items linked to the care of alopecia areata. The shopping list includes:

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There’s no question that each offers potential benefits for your hair and skin if rubbed on or consumed, notes Dr. Piliang. They might work to reduce inflammation, for instance, or help stimulate increased blood flow.

“But these products are not going to treat your alopecia areata,” she says. “They may deal with some side symptoms a little bit — and even that’s questionable — but they’re not addressing the condition.”

Dietary changes

It’s no secret that nibbling on carrot sticks is better for your overall health than gobbling down fast-food French fries. Ditto for chomping on an apple instead of an ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie.

Simply put, eating a well-balanced diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein benefits your whole body — including your hair, which needs vitamins and minerals to grow well.

“But we don’t have data suggesting that diet can limit alopecia areata,” clarifies Dr. Piliang. “What you eat may help your hair hold up better, but it won’t stop the immune response.”

She cautions against adopting a restrictive diet in hopes of resolving alopecia areata. “It’s unnecessary, it can be stressful and it may lead to nutritional deficiencies and other problems.”

Taking supplements

Vitamin D is important for your natural hair growth cycle. If you have a vitamin D deficiency ­— which is fairly common — taking a supplement to boost your levels is advisable if you have alopecia areata, recommends Dr. Piliang.

The same can be said if you’re low in iron or zinc, two other nutrients important for hair growth. “It’s important to look for these deficiencies so you can do something to help,” says Dr. Piliang.

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But again, none of these supplements will block alopecia areata. And taking vitamin D, iron or zinc when your levels are already good will not give your hair an extra boost or spur super growth.

Stress relief

Stress isn’t easy on your body and there’s emerging evidence that it can wreak havoc on your immune system. Finding ways to destress (such as meditation or listening to soothing music) may help you better manage alopecia areata.

That doesn’t come with a guarantee, though: “For many people, when alopecia areata happens, it just happens out of the blue,” says Dr. Piliang. “It doesn’t have to be triggered by a stress response.”

But finding ways to deal with stress can lift your mood and help you better handle hair loss when it happens.

Alopecia areata home remedies to avoid

Avoid taking extreme steps to try to treat alopecia areata. There’s no high-priced “super vitamin” on the market or “extra” nutrients that can just stop hair loss. There’s no restrictive diet you can adopt that will put the brakes on the condition either.

“People want an easy solution, but treating alopecia areata is not that simple,” states Dr. Piliang. “Anything you’re finding online in the middle of the night is not going to be the answer.”

Final thoughts

Prescription treatment options for alopecia areata have greatly improved within the past few years. Before blindly trying alternative treatments, talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

“The whole landscape on treating alopecia areata has changed since 2022,” Dr. Piliang says. “There may be medication available now that can help you.”

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