The military has stringent grooming standards which apply to both men and women. These guidelines include specifications on hair length, style, colouration, makeup application, tattoos placement/quantity, and piercings number/location.
The rationale behind these stringent regulations is twofold: firstly, to foster feelings of cohesion and uniformity within the military community; secondly, to project a polished and professional image to internal and external audiences.
However, following these standards can unmask or exacerbate hair disorders. This post discusses the most common inflammatory hair disorders amongst military veterans and why they can be a major problem.
Table of Contents
Why They’re A Major Problem For Military Veterans?
Inflammatory hair disorders are diseases that cause the hair follicles to become inflamed. It leads to itching, burning sensations, pain, and scaly patches on the skin surface. Plus, this is usually accompanied by uncontrollable hair loss.
The most common types of inflammatory hair disorders are:
- Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its hair follicles. The most common alopecia areata causes round patches of hair loss on the scalp.
- Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp that can spread to the beard.
- Telogen effluvium is a common form of temporary hair loss after pregnancy, surgery, or severe stress.
- Trichotillomania is the compulsive urge to pull out one’s hair.
- Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition involving the skin and mucous membranes.
- Anagen effluvium is sudden hair loss due to damage to the hair follicles.
- Psoriasis refers to a chronic skin disorder that results in red, scaly patches.
- Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that causes red, itchy patches on the scalp, face, and chest.
Inflammatory hair disorders have far-reaching implications for military veterans, including potential problems with self-esteem & body image, employment prospects – which may force them into early retirement, marriage/relationship breakdowns, and financial difficulties.
What’s more, the psychological impact on military veterans can be devastating, with their condition often being seen as a sign of weakness or failure – meaning that many sufferers are reluctant to seek help.
Why Do Inflammatory Hair Disorders Occur?
The causes of inflammatory hair disorders are unknown. However, there is a strong correlation between stress and the development of these conditions. It may be because:
- stress triggers the release of certain hormones, which can aggravate inflamed hair follicles
- when people are stressed, they may neglect their hygiene, leading to an accumulation of oils and sweat on the scalp – promoting fungal overgrowth and inflammation
Military veterans often experience high levels of stress due to multiple deployments, traumatic events witnessed/experienced during service, and transitioning back into civilian life post-discharge, making them particularly vulnerable to developing inflammatory hair disorders.
Also, soldiers’ high and tight haircuts and wearing hats or helmets for extended periods may place them at a higher risk. It can put traction or pressure on the hair follicles and increase the risk of developing conditions like traction alopecia.
Certain risk factors make some people more likely to develop inflammatory hair disorders, including:
- having a family history of the condition
- being female (women are more prone to conditions like alopecia areata)
- having a compromised immune system
- using harsh chemicals on the scalp (bleach, colourants, perms)
- having a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis that affects the scalp
What Can Be Done To Help Military Veterans?
Military veterans who suffer from an inflammatory hair disorder can seek treatment from various sources. One approach is to go to the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centre for help. The VA can help veterans connect with a specialist who can provide the necessary treatment.
Another option is to seek help from a private dermatologist. Many specialists treat inflammatory hair disorders, and most will work with veterans to get them the care they need.
Some veterans may choose to go the natural route and try over-the-counter or home remedies. While this approach may not be as practical as other methods, it can be worth trying if other treatments haven’t worked or are too expensive.
Veterans could also try a combination of approaches, depending on what works best for them. Or, they can ask for minoxidil prescriptions for both the scalp and other areas of body hair loss. In addition to traditional treatments, veterans can also try alternative therapies for their baldness. These therapies may include:
- Herbal remedies
- Low-level laser therapy
No matter which route they choose, it’s crucial that military veterans with an inflammatory hair disorder get the treatment they need. Otherwise, the disorder can significantly impact their quality of life. If you’re a veteran who suffers from this condition, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You deserve to feel better!
There is a correlation between hair disorders and military service. Studies have shown that hair disorders are more common in military personnel than in the general population. Some of the most common hair disorders among military members include alopecia areata, trichotillomania, and telogen effluvium. Fortunately, most hair disorders can be treated effectively.