Warning: There are This Is Us spoilers below.
NBC's breakout show This Is Us is known for its unwavering ability to hit you right in the feels department. But on last night's episode, the series tackled an often-untouched topic that's been the secret source of a lot of pain for millions of women around the world: hair loss. Or, more specifically, alopecia — a very real, very prevalent autoimmune disease.
The conversation starts when Déjà (played by Lyric Ross), the foster child of Beth and Randall (played by Susan Kelechi Watson and Sterling K. Brown), opens up about why she won't wash her hair. Beth brushes through Déjà's locks during the chat, and notices she has a handful of bald patches. Déjà acknowledges them, admitting that her hair loss gets worse in times of stress.
It's worth noting that Déjà is a teenager, which goes against a widely-held belief that hair thinning and loss is an issue that only affects older people. But as anyone with the condition can attest, that's simply not true. As noted by the Alopecia Areata Foundation, a whopping 6.8 million (!) people are affected by the autoimmune disease in the U.S., which can cause you to lose the hair on your head just as readily as your body or face. What's more, almost half of African American women will experience some form of hair loss in their life.
But you don't need an alopecia diagnosis to be affected by hair loss and thinning. In fact, research suggests that approximately 50% of women will suffer from it in some form in their lifetime. As for whether it's common to lose your hair before you hit 30? According to dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, it's absolutely possible. "Sometimes, hair falls out or you might not have a full head of hair due to genetic tendency — this can start appearing in your early to mid-20s," he says.
Regardless of age or condition, one of the biggest lifestyle factors that contribute to hair loss, as Déjà noted, is stress. This can trigger you to release an onslaught of hormones — cortisol being a big one — that can affect the hair-growth cycle. The moral of the story? If you too suffer from alopecia, know you are not alone — and we're glad shows like This Is Us remind us of that.