Question: I recently suffered some burns to my head for rather juvenile reasons I’d rather not get into. I lost hair in two patches, and the bigger of the two is still very tender (and hair-free). I’m assuming my hair will grow back – but will it?
Answer: Hi Trent, it’s difficult to know if your hair loss will be temporary or permanent without seeing the severity of the burn. While there’s generally a good chance of hair regrowing after it’s been scorched off in an accident, that sadly isn’t always the case.
Famously, Michael Jackson lost a large patch of his hair in 1984 when he was filming a Pepsi commercial and a pyrotechnics accident set it on fire. Despite rapid medical treatment, he still suffered major burning on the back of his scalp and was left with a large bald patch.
Jackson turned to a well-known American surgeon known as Doc Hollywood for help, and during 80 minutes of laser surgery the doctor was able to repair his burnt scalp.
Something similar happened when a member of Australian pop band 5 Seconds Of Summer was injured on stage. Performing at Wembley Arena in London in 2015, guitarist Michael Clifford wandered into the path of a pyrotechnic where a burst of fire caught him squarely in the face.
While video footage shows the guitarist’s head engulfed in a ball of flames, the young pop star appears to have escaped relatively unharmed. Though he – understandably! – ended that show early, he was back in action for the following night’s performance.
In more serious fires, however, badly burnt skin on the head can result in hair-producing follicles becoming permanently destroyed. Previously healthy follicles are replaced by scar tissue from which no new hair will grow, either naturally or through the use of hair loss treatments. This is a condition known as cicatricial alopecia often referred to as scarring alopecia.
In many cases burns to the head are relatively minor and the scalp makes a full recovery. When it does, follicles typically begin producing hair again. Hair regrowth usually resumes once the scalp has healed, this usually means within three months. Lack of regrowth, especially a year after the incident, confirms scarring hence, the hair will not regrow.
Just to give you a full picture, it’s also worth knowing that the shock of trauma – and yes, losing your hair in a fire definitely counts! – can lead to Alopecia Areata. This is characterised by sudden patchy loss of hair – from anywhere on the head, not just where you were burned. It is mainly caused by follicles suddenly and prematurely entering the telogen (resting) phase, and whilst the precise causes are unknown, sudden and extreme shock or trauma is widely accepted as a trigger.
Though hair normally grows back of its own accord within six months, in some instances the hair’s pigmentation may continue to show signs of stress, with the resultant regrowth appearing white. Pictures of Oscar Pistorius taken during his murder trial showed the former athlete had distinct white patches thought to be where hair had regrown after stress-induced Alopecia Areata. This change in colour is common; the regrowth is actually unpigmented, hence it looks white, but should regain pigmentation after a few hair growth cycles.
It makes sense to see both your GP and a hair loss specialist with regards your particular condition – and the sooner the better. You want to give yourself the best possible chance of regaining a healthy scalp as soon as you can.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. 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 UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.