The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous portraits in the world, with her cryptic smile inspiring many theories as to her identity and the cause of her unknowable expression.
Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece has long inspired artists from all genres, having recently found favour with a new audience since appearing in the Beyonce and Jay-Z video for The Carters’ ‘Apes**t’.
Now La Giaconda is back in the news for another reason… Researchers from Belfast City Hospital’s Department of Dermatology have spotted another facet to the sitter’s enigma – her hair loss.
Receding hairline and lack of eyebrows
According to correspondence published in the British Association of Dermatologists’ journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, researchers Victoria Campbell and Kevin McKenna, she displays classic signs of Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA).
FFA is a permanent hair loss condition which almost exclusively affects women. It belongs to a group of scarring conditions collectively known as Cicatricial Alopecia. It typically presents as a receding hairline in a thick, banded pattern, and is often accompanied by a loss of eyebrows.
This differs to the thinning hair at the temples, which can be found in cases of Female Pattern Hair Loss, as when the hair sheds, it does not ‘thin’, but rather exposes smooth, pale, bald skin which can be inches deep and tends to present in a fairly uniform pattern around the hairline.
Although there are currently no safe and effective hair loss treatments for FFA, new techniques such as PRP are being trialled.
In their 22nd August 2019 article (ref: doi: 10.1111/ced.14080), the Belfast team states, “This is the first report of features consistent with frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA) found in the Mona Lisa: namely high forehead, receding frontotemporal hairline, and lack of eyebrows.”
The pair report how the painting has attracted significant attention from the medical community which has hypothesised diagnoses of hyperlipidaemia or hypothyrodism, based on her pallid appearance. “Given the higher prevalence of autoimmune conditions amongst patients with FFA, hypothyroidism may have coexisted,” they add.
Was a hair styling practice to blame?
Campbell and McKenna cite another potential reason for the Mona Lisa’s frontal hair loss as being a Renaissance-era hair styling practice.
Not, as one might expect, tight hairstyles leading to Traction Alopecia, but something that has since died out and was known as ‘pseudoalopecia’.
This was where women’s eyebrows and hairlines would be shaved or plucked to create the illusion of a larger forehead. This intentionally-inflicted hair loss was done as the resuling look was considered to make women look more intelligent.
Whilst people know better than to attempt this practice now, when it comes to the Mona Lisa’s hairloss, whatever the truth of the matter is, we will never know. This is simply one more complexity to add to the mystery surrounding the world’s most visited painting, which is estimated to draw around six million visitors to her home at the Louvre in Paris, France, annually.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.