Alopecia areata may appear in men, women, or children; in men twice as often on the back of the head as the front. Just the opposite is true with the women, but, possibly because of the way women arrange their hair, it is not noticed in the back. So, as women are smarter than men in covering up their blemishes, we can’t judge well which sex is more afflicted. Statistics would seem to show that lately alopecia is becoming increasingly frequent in England. Once again statistics are deceiving. In England, since the government took charge of health, eye glasses, false teeth, and wigs are furnished by the Ministry of Health. People who have been resigned for years to baldness are now trying out wigs at the government’s expense. In alopecia areata it is common to have a partial loss of hair and recovery. These are the cases that have encouraged so many people to believe that the application of the proper hair tonic will favorably influence their baldness. But for those who just gradually get bald, their misplaced optimism has made the fortunes of manufacturers of hair lotions. I have received many, many questions about the hair. There is still the belief amongst many people that local applications may cause hair to grow on bald spots or improve the health of the hair. You have been told that the hair follicles where the hairs actually grow are in the deep layers of the skin. The hairs themselves are dead matter whose appearance may be changed by dyes or other treatments. Rarely, I believe, are the deep, live parts injured by these materials and never, I think, are they helped.
You may get some impression of the blind credulity of the public when you learn that one chain of “hair experts” has a yearly income of nearly four million dollars. Often treatments are given with massage with the idea that there will be an increase of blood supply and this will cause the hair to grow. Any bald-headed man who has received a deep cut on his scalp should be convinced that there is plenty of blood circulating there.
Few things in our daily life seem more foolish than this unintelligent attitude towards the hair. Even the most brilliant minds are weak in this respect. On our college football team was a dashing halfback with the blackest, most luxuriant head of hair in the group. The brain beneath was in many respects as much to be admired; yet a few years later, after he had the benefit of a medical education, he began to grow bald and spent his money for hair lotions to bring back his fading glory. He is even balder now.
I realize that anything I say will not affect the sale of hair tonics. Years ago, when Dr. Greene’s was a popular patent medicine, some exasperated doctor exclaimed that it never did anybody in the world any good. The reply from the manufacturer was: “You are wrong. It has done Dr. Greene lots of good.” It is not at all unusual for a skin specialist to be bald. Choose your grandparents from those who did not lose their hair.