What Is Poliosis? Causes And Treatment

Though harmless, this hair condition could be a sign of some underlying medical conditions.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Madhuri Agarwal, MBBS, MD Dr. Madhuri Agarwal Dr. Madhuri AgarwalMBBS, MD facebook_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Monomita Chakraborty MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Experience: 4 years

If you are wondering what poliosis hair is and What causes this condition, you are in the right place. Poliosis is a medical hair condition that generates white hair patches due to a lack of melanin. These white hair patches are formed on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard (1). It can affect people of all ages, and there is a variety of causes behind it. We will look at the causes and treatments of poliosis in this article. Scroll down for more information!

What Is Poliosis Or White Hair Patch?

Poliosis can develop in people irrespective of gender
Image: Shutterstock

Poliosis is a localized patch of white hair, also known as white forelock. It develops due to a discoloration caused by the absence of melanin (1). Poliosis is a harmless hair disorder that will not jeopardize your health. But it can be a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition like chronic inflammation, vitiligo, melanomai  XA type of skin cancer that occurs due to cancer in the pigment-producing melanocytes that grows and spreads quickly. skin cancer, or thyroid disorders.
Depending on the underlying cause of this de-pigmentation, poliosis can be short-term or long-term. It can be found in people of all ages, irrespective of gender.

protip_icon Quick Tip
You can use natural ingredients like henna, coffee, and indigo to color your white hair patches without damaging your tresses.

Poliosis or those white patches of hair on the scalp can be divided into two categories. Let’s go through them in the following section.

Different Types Of Poliosis

Poliosis is a hair condition that can be inherited
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Genetic/Congenital – These white patches of hair can be hereditary at times. They can be present at the time of birth due to the mutation of certain genes or other genetic issues (2).
  1. Acquired – If not congenital, poliosis is considered acquired. It can be the side or after effect of certain medical conditions that become visible in the later stages of life (2).

What Are The Causes Of Poliosis?

Vitiligo is one of the causes of poliosis
Image: Shutterstock

There are various causes behind the formation of white hair patches on the scalp (2), (3).

  • Genetic Disorders: Poliosis can be caused due to hereditary or genetic disorders like piebaldism, Waardenburg’s syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome, giant congenital nevus, and Alessandrini syndrome.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune diseases can cause a loss of melanin pigmentation. Conditions like vitiligo, hypogonadism, hypopituitarism, skin cancer, thyroid diseases, sarcoidosis, GAPO syndrome, neurofibromatosis, idiopathic uveitis, intradermal nevus, post-inflammatory dermatoses, halo nevus, post-trauma, and pernicious anemia, often co-occur with poliosis.
  • Others: Poliosis has also been connected to inflammatory, benign, and malignant neoplastic entitiesi  XAbnormal growth of tissue leading to cancerous or non-cancerous tumors. They can grow anywhere on the body. (2). It may also connected to alopecia areata, melanoma, herpes zoster (shingles), halo molesi  XNon-cancerous moles that have a ring-like halo around them. The ring is caused due to depigmentation. , radiotherapy, hypo or hyperpigmentation of eyes, melanization defects, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, dermatitis, albino, leprosy, injuries, aging, stress, and certain drugs.

In a study conducted on 479 subjects with alopecia areata, it was reported that 29.4% presented with poliosis. It was also observed that participants who had poliosis were of average age 47.7. It is important to know the cause of poliosis as it can help in managing the condition better.

How Is The Condition Diagnosed?

Blood test is one of the ways to diagnose poliosis
Image: Shutterstock

White hair patches are a clear and definitive sign of poliosis. As this hair disorder is not associated with a single medical condition, it is important to go for a thorough check-up for proper diagnosis. If a child develops patchy white hair, it can be diagnosed as poliosis, as white hair is uncommon in kids.

Getting a check-up is imperative as poliosis can be a sign of a serious medical condition like inflammation or skin cancer. The healthcare professional will go through the detailed medical history, genetics and family record of the patient. Subsequently, the following assessments will be carried out:

  • Complete physical inspection
  • Nutritional survey
  • Endocrine surveyi  XDiagnostic tests conducted to analyze the levels of various hormones and their activity in the human body.
  • Blood test
  • Analysis of a skin sample
  • Neurological causes

Jane Milne, a blogger, writes about being diagnosed with poliosis. She shares that the first time she noticed white hair patches was post the birth of her daughter, writing, “Within weeks of the birth, my hair started to fall out in little clumps. I’m lucky to have very thick hair so the little patches of thinning weren’t really noticeable. Even when the big clump at the right hand side of my hairline at the top of my forehead came out, it wasn’t too noticeable because of the hairstyle I was fashioning at the time (i).”

Is There Any Effective Treatment?

Light therapy is used for treating poliosis
Image: Shutterstock

Although there are not many treatment options available for poliosis, there are some viable treatments to reverse poliosis when paired with other ailments.

Research shows that skin grafting, followed by light therapy can reverse poliosis related to vitiligo (4). Another study conducted in 2016 showed that laser therapy sessions paired with daily oral medication might bring back 75% of the color in affected areas over a period of six months (5).

Treatment for hereditary poliosis is yet to be discovered. Since poliosis itself is not a serious cause of concern, most people simply dye their hair to cover the white patches. Anecdotal evidence suggests that taking steps, like reducing stress and eating healthy, to prevent premature graying of hair can also reduce patchy hair.

Another common question that is often asked is whether poliosis is contagious. Scroll down to find out more.

Does Poliosis Spread?

Poliosis is a rare chronic condition that can be congenital or acquired as a symptom of other underlying health issues, but it is not contagious. The condition itself does not spread from one individual to another. It cannot transfer through physical contact, airborne particles, or any other mode. The development of poliosis depends solely on internal factors.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Consume foods rich in protein, iron, zinc, vitamins A, C, E, and B5, riboflavin, and folic acid to manage poliosis (6). Also, limit your consumption of tea and coffee. Avoid fatty foods high in sugar and grease like fast or fried food, acidic foods, and fermented vegetables.

Infographic: Poliosis Hair

It can be mentally disturbing for many individuals to have poliosis since it’s not a condition that affects everyone. By itself, it is harmless. However, it can have underlying medical implications, so it is always best to be aware of one’s condition whether it manifests in harmful ways or not. We have summarized key points of the condition in an infographic below. Take a look!

poliosis hair (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Poliosis is essentially a lack of pigment in the hair follicles, which causes the hair to turn white or gray. The condition might be present from birth or develop suddenly at any age. While poliosis is not a life-threatening illness, it can affect the hair on the scalp and face. Because poliosis is not a severe health concern, most people just color their hair to disguise the white areas. Anecdotal data suggests that taking actions to avoid premature graying of hair, such as lowering stress and maintaining a nutritious diet, can also lessen patchy white hair strands. Consult your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions causing your symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is poliosis rare?

Yes. Poliosis is rare. It has been documented to affect 1 in 40,000 people.

Is poliosis vitiligo?

No. Poliosis and vitiligo are different conditions. Poliosis is the lack of melanin and melanocytes in hair follicles. Vitiligo is the lack of melanin in the skin. However, poliosis and vitiligo may co-occur.

Can poliosis cause blonde patches on hair?

Yes. Poliosis usually causes white streaks or patches on hair, but some people may also notice blonde streaks or hair patches.

Key Takeaways

  • Poliosis is a localized patch of white hair caused by the absence of melanin.
  • It can be hereditary or a side effect of certain medical conditions.
  • It may result from genetic disorders like piebaldism, autoimmune diseases like hypogonadism, or neoplastic entities.
  • Medical assessments like nutritional surveys and endocrine surveys can help diagnose the condition.
poliosis hair

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Poliosis is caused by a lack of melanin production in the hair follicles. Learn more about the causes and treatments of this condition from the video below.

Personal Experience: Source


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Bansal, Lalit, Timothy P. Zinkus, and Alexander Kats. “Poliosis With a Rare Association.” Pediatric Neurology 83 (2018): 62-63.
  2. Sleiman, Rima et al. “Poliosis circumscripta: overview and underlying causes.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 69,4 (2013): 625-33.
  3. Neri, Iria et al. “Poliosis and Neurofibromatosis Type 1: Two Familiar Cases and Review of Literature.” Skin appendage disorders vol. 3,4 (2017): 219-221.
  4. Awad, Sherif S. “Repigmentation of poliosis after epithelial grafting for vitiligo.” Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.] vol. 39,3 Pt 1 (2013): 406-11.
  5. Jung Min Bae, MD, PhD, Hyuck Sun Kwon, MD, Ji Hae Lee, MD, PhD & Gyong Moon Kim, MD, PhD (2016). Repigmentation Of Poliosis In A Patient With Segmental Vitiligo.
  6. Hoi HT. Great Effect of Fallopia Multiflora and Other Herbs in Poliosis Treatment. Pharmacognosy Journal.
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