Exclamation Point Hairs: A Sign of Alopecia Areata?
Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’re wondering about exclamation point hair and whether it’s a sign of active hair loss, you’ve come to the right place.
Exclamation points are typically a sign of excitement and joy. But when your hair resembles an exclamation point? Perhaps not as much joy and excitement.
Hair can take on several shapes and lengths throughout our lives, whether because of changes we make ourselves (like a haircut) or factors out of our control (such as genetics and age).
Exclamation point hair may not be quite the look you’re going for. But beyond that, could these hairs be a sign of hair loss — particularly alopecia areata — and a bigger underlying health issue?
We’ll explore the possibility of exclamation mark alopecia areata and what else could be causing your exclamation mark hair.
What Do Exclamation Point Hairs Look Like?
Exclamation point hair looks how it sounds — a short stub of hair that’s narrower at the base than the tip, creating the appearance of an exclamation point.
In some cases, exclamation mark hair appears when the hair follicle (the structure hair grows from) has grown, but the hair shaft (the visible part of hair) has broken off. In other instances, exclamation point hair may appear around the edges of a patch of hair loss.
Oftentimes, exclamation point or broken hairs are associated with alopecia areata, a patchy hair loss that develops when your immune system attacks your hair follicles.
Exclamation Point Hairs and Alopecia Areata
As mentioned above, alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes patches of hair loss due to the immune system attacking and damaging your hair follicles.
Hair typically falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter, but in some cases, hair loss might extend to the entire body. Alopecia areata usually involves loss of scalp hair, though it may also lead to a patch of hair loss in your beard, eyebrows or body hair.
While anyone can get this type of hair loss, you may be more at risk if you’re affected by an autoimmune disease, such as thyroid disease or psoriasis.
Exclamation mark hairs and alopecia areata often go hand-in-hand, as hair may regrow in the hairless patches, causing exclamation mark hairs to be a common sign of this type of hair loss. That said, there could be other causes of exclamation mark hairs.
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Other Causes of Exclamation Point Hairs
Besides patchy alopecia areata, there may be other causes of exclamation point hairs.
You might experience hair growth after a different type of hair loss, leading to short exclamation point hair:
Androgenetic alopecia. Also known as male pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia is one of the most common types of hair loss. It’s typically characterized by a receding hairline and scalp hair loss at the crown. If you start treatment for androgenetic alopecia, initial hair regrowth may result in exclamation point hair.
Telogen effluvium. Another common form of hair loss, telogen effluvium is caused by severe stress, illness or certain types of medication interrupting the hair growth cycle. Telogen effluvium causes a noticeable loss of hair volume, but when spontaneous regrowth begins, you may have upright regrowing hairs — exclamation mark hairs, in other words.
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Exclamation Point Hairs: What to Do Next
If you’re noticing short hairs that resemble an exclamation mark, it could be a sign of hair loss — namely, alopecia areata.
Caused by the immune system attacking hair follicles and leading to hair loss, alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that results in bald patches. Spontaneous hair regrowth might occur in those with less extensive hair loss or no family history of the disease.
Though there’s currently no cure for alopecia areata, exclamation point hair could be the result of another type of hair loss. Schedule a visit with a healthcare provider for a hair loss diagnosis to determine the cause of your hair loss.
From there, your provider can recommend treatments for hair loss, such as topical treatments like minoxidil or finasteride. You can also check out our guide on how to stop alopecia areata from spreading for more information on this condition.