Mind-body strategies may reduce hair loss without risk of adverse side effects. Alopecia areata is a type of patchy hair loss associated with psychological factors such as stress, trauma or negative family circumstances. Researchers chose to evaluate hypnotherapy as a possible treatment for this condition because hypnosis has already proved effective in reducing stress and anxiety related to asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.

In a preliminary study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2006; 55 [2], 233–77), investigators followed 21 patients with alopecia areata. Subjects received hypnosis treatments along with other care once every 3 weeks for periods lasting from 6 months to 6 years.

Twelve patients experienced hair growth on at least 75% of the scalp after only three to four hypnotherapy sessions; in nine of these cases, 100% of the hair grew back. Five of the 12 suffered a relapse during the follow-up period, but no patients experienced any negative side effects.

Hypnosis might be a valuable therapy for patients with alopecia areata, the researchers concluded. They noted, however, that study findings were limited by the small number of participants. A large randomized, controlled trial would be needed to further explore the benefits of hypnotherapy.