Treatment of pediatric alopecia areata: A systematic review

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2022 Jun;86(6):1318-1334. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2021.04.077. Epub 2021 Apr 30.


Background: Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune, nonscarring hair loss disorder with slightly greater prevalence in children than adults. Various treatment modalities exist; however, their evidence in pediatric AA patients is lacking.

Objective: To evaluate the evidence of current treatment modalities for pediatric AA.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review on the PubMed database in October 2019 for all published articles involving patients <18 years old. Articles discussing AA treatment in pediatric patients were included, as were articles discussing both pediatric and adult patients, if data on individual pediatric patients were available.

Results: Inclusion criteria were met by 122 total reports discussing 1032 patients. Reports consisted of 2 randomized controlled trials, 4 prospective comparative cohorts, 83 case series, 2 case-control studies, and 31 case reports. Included articles assessed the use of aloe, apremilast, anthralin, anti-interferon gamma antibodies, botulinum toxin, corticosteroids, contact immunotherapies, cryotherapy, hydroxychloroquine, hypnotherapy, imiquimod, Janus kinase inhibitors, laser and light therapy, methotrexate, minoxidil, phototherapy, psychotherapy, prostaglandin analogs, sulfasalazine, topical calcineurin inhibitors, topical nitrogen mustard, and ustekinumab.

Limitations: English-only articles with full texts were used. Manuscripts with adult and pediatric data were only incorporated if individual-level data for pediatric patients were provided. No meta-analysis was performed.

Conclusion: Topical corticosteroids are the preferred first-line treatment for pediatric AA, as they hold the highest level of evidence, followed by contact immunotherapy. More clinical trials and comparative studies are needed to further guide management of pediatric AA and to promote the potential use of pre-existing, low-cost, and novel therapies, including Janus kinase inhibitors.

Keywords: JAK inhibitors; alopecia areata; contact immunotherapy; corticosteroids; pediatric; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Alopecia
  • Alopecia Areata* / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Janus Kinase Inhibitors* / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Janus Kinase Inhibitors

Supplementary concepts

  • Diffuse alopecia