Matt Lucas has a condition called Alopecia Totalis, which means he has completely lost all his hair. When this rare condition occurs, the hair ‘mini-organs’ in the skin are thought to be ‘attacked’ by the body’s immune system. However, the true root cause is not fully established.
Although we have some idea why the hairs stop functioning, we don’t know for certain why some people experience the immune response while others don’t.
It’s possible the auto-immune response was triggered by stress. Lucas hsa written about an experience he had as a child on holiday in which he lost his parents and then got run over by a car. Later that year his hair began to fall out rapidly.
I recently wrote an article explaining why some men lose their hair while others don’t. The conclusion to that article is that a particular type of stress known as ‘social rejection stress’ causes an increase in inflammation. Perhaps Lucas experienced extreme stress, which triggered some hair loss, which led him to experience social rejection, which led to the Alopecia Totalis.
Lucas has said that he was bullied relentlessly for a period, which could explain the social-rejection stress related hair loss.
But why doesn’t the hair ever grow back?
This is probably the biggest mystery of all. You might think that the immune response would come to an end at some point and the hair would grow back, but in Matt Lucas’ case that hasn’t happened.
Alopecia Areata seems to be a similar kind of condition to Hayfever. In the case of Hayfever, the imune system irrationally reacts to contact with pollen. Although pollen shouldn’t harm the human body, the immune system releases chemicals that cause inflammtion, ichiness, runny nose, etc.
It seems that in the case of Alopecea Areata something similar is happening. It’s as if there’s a genetic error in the body, which causes the immune system to release chemicals around the hair folicles, which prevents them from growing.
Hair growth is regulated by proteins in the scalp known as growth factors. If the scalp has an abundance of the right growth factors (like Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)) and little of the wrong ones (like transforming growth factors (TGFs)), the hair will grow strong and long. Vice versa, if there are too many of the wrong growth factors and not enough of the right ones, the hair will grow weak and may stop growing all together.
What can be done?
There has been some success in treating Alopcia Areata, using topical anti-inflammatories and JAK inhibitors.
Successful reversal of Alopecia Areata with the arthritus drug ‘Baricitinib’
Multiple successful trials have been completed using a group of drugs called JAK inhibitors. The drugs successfully revered Alopecia Areata.
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Pictures of Matt Lucas with hair (before he went bald)
Matt Lucas before he lost his hair, at around the age of 5
Matt Lucas when he first started losing his hair at the age of 6
Matt Lucas after he first went completely bald
Matt Lucas with a beard
In recent years Matt has to some degree conquered his Alopecia Totalis and been able to grow a full thick beard, proving that it is possible to cure the condition.