Hair Loss in Teens: Causes, Signs & Treatment
We don’t often associate hair loss with young children or teenagers. However, it is also common for teenagers to experience symptoms of hair thinning, balding, or shedding. When this occurs, hair loss can affect the individual’s self-esteem, confidence, and social life.
If you are a teenager (or the parent of one) reading this and have noticed signs of hair loss, you are not alone. There is a growing population of boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 19 who share your concerns, and there are a variety of treatments available to you. Following a consultation, I will provide advice on lifestyle changes, grooming habits, supplement advice and more, with the aim of improving the health of your hair.
Causes of Hair Loss in Teenagers
There are many possible reasons for hair loss in teenagers. Below, are some of the most common examples.
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition that causes a specific type of hair loss. With this condition, hair loss often occurs in round patches, although not always. It may appear on the scalp or other areas of the body, such as the beard area. Alopecia Areata can cause just one solitary patch, or affect several areas of the scalp. Patches of hair loss may simultaneously occur on the crown of the head, at the sides of the head, and on the arms.
It is estimated that around 3% of the UK’s population suffers from Alopecia Areata, including teenagers. For individuals affected by this condition, during the consultation, treatment and management of this hair loss, we focus on the emotional and psychological health of the patient, as this is often the cause of the condition.
Androgen Dependent Alopecia, sometimes known as Male Pattern Hair Loss, is the most common cause of hair loss, affecting an estimated 25% of the population. This type of pattern baldness affects predisposed individuals from puberty onwards and therefore includes teenagers.
The condition often starts with the hairs at the temples receding, the hairs within this area appearing finer and the scalp becoming more visible. This can be very distressing for men, particularly for those increasingly aware of the appearance and self-confidence challenges associated with being a teenager.
Another form of Androgen Dependent Alopecia, Female Pattern Hair Loss presents as a change in the density of the upper region of the hair. Compared to the sides and the back of the head, hair can feel much finer and look quite transparent as more of the scalp shows through. This can occur in patients from puberty onwards.
With each growth cycle, the affected follicles gradually produce shorter and finer hairs, until growth ceases altogether. This type of hair loss is often first noticed at the temples, where hair becomes thinner and gradually the scalp becomes more visible at the crown and the top of the scalp. The exact pattern of hair loss tends to run in families.
The progression of the condition is always gradual and is not associated with an increase in daily hair shedding. However, some patients say they have noticed a sudden change in the density of their hair, as it can often feel this way if the hair loss is not immediately noticed. Patients describe the hair as looking “transparent and see-through” and find it difficult to style their hair in order to mask the thinning.
Medical Conditions / Hormone Imbalances
Certain medications list alopecia as a possible side effect, depending on the dosage and the pre-existing medical condition the medication has been prescribed for.
Endocrine Conditions (Hormonal)
Endocrine or thyroid disorders can also affect the hair. Although having an overactive thyroid doesn’t directly affect the hair, hypothyroidism most certainly does. Trichologists often see signs of these undiagnosed conditions during consultation! Having more than one of the conditions mentioned above is possible, which is why an accurate diagnosis is essential for proper treatment.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition that affects girls who have started menstruating and can cause hair loss in teenage girls, as well as adult women. With PCOS, the ovaries can produce an abnormal amount of androgens, which are male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. The patient can also become more sensitive to these circulating hormones.
Common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Hair loss
- Greasier scalp
- Irregular or absent periods
- Increased facial hair
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Blood sugar issues
- Acne on the face, chest or upper back
Hormone imbalance and various genetic factors are significant in the hair’s growth, particularly increased testosterone levels. These can be discussed in a consultation, and where appropriate, referrals can be made, or investigations can be arranged to help identify whether this applies to you.
Traction Alopecia often occurs when the hair is repeatedly pulled back tightly, for example, in braids, ponytails or buns. It is most often seen within the Afro-Caribbean community, who traditionally have their hair braided from childhood. This can also cause a specific form of scarring hair loss known as Central Centrifugal Alopecia. This can affect children, teens and adults alike.
As they are hugely popular with teenagers, hair extensions have also been named a cause of Traction Alopecia. However, hair extension techniques have vastly improved over the years, and Traction Alopecia from hair extensions is now minimal. If Traction Alopecia has occurred over several years, this often presents as hair loss along the front hairline.
Can Traction Alopecia be treated?
The pulling on the hair follicles caused by hair extensions can be halted and reversed, depending on how long it has been going on – and only after sufficient and thorough consultation of the hair’s care. However, suppose the hair extensions or other types of hairpieces have been worn for many years without any break or a superior enough treatment to protect the hair. Unfortunately, the thinning and patches of hair loss may be permanent in that case.
This is similar to when someone plucks their eyebrows for many years; eventually, the follicle will stop producing the same quality of hair or stop producing it at all.
Trichotillomania: Unconscious Hair Pulling and Plucking
Unconscious hair pulling or plucking is often a habit formed in childhood where “twiddling” the hair becomes more damaging. This condition is called Trichotillomania. A psychological disorder, Trichotillomania occurs when the individual pulls their hair completely out of the head, often leaving large areas of thin hair, damaged follicles, or total baldness.
This condition can also occur due to aggressive styling, affecting hair along the hairline. This is particularly common among teenage boys and girls wearing tightly pulled-back hair. Depending on the frequency and intensity of the hairstyle, the hair is sometimes permanently affected.
As trichology is considered a holistic practice, a significant part of my initial consultation stressed the importance of good nutrition.
After the cells in the intestines, the scalp’s hair cells are the most prolific in their rapidity of division. The clear benefit of well-balanced nutrition is good health; as a barometer of health, the hair, skin and nails should reflect this.
Hair is considered to be “non-essential tissue.” Therefore, in certain diseases, or if the diet lacks nutrients, the body will prioritise its stored energy for the vital organs, directing it away from the hair. Many dietary deficiencies can cause specific trichological conditions. Therefore, correcting and adjusting what we eat is part of the treatment.
FAQs on Teenage Hair Loss
Q: Can puberty cause hair loss?
A: Puberty does not cause hair loss directly, although certain hair loss conditions can be triggered at this age. For example, the start of menstruation can begin deficiencies identified via specific blood testing. Further, genetic thinning conditions such as Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss can also start at this age. You can find more information about this here.
Q: Why is my hair falling out as a teenager?
A: As a young adult, the hormonal changes you are experiencing can mark the start of some adult hair loss conditions. There are a few possible diagnoses for this. Your best option is to contact a qualified and experienced trichologist who should be able to diagnose your condition and give you some treatment options. This may be a regular part of the hair growth cycle, but most people prefer to have it checked out if they are worried.
Q: Is it normal for a teenager to lose hair?
A: Everyone loses a certain amount of hair each day, and in many cases, this is a natural part of the hair’s growth cycle. However, if you feel that your hair loss has recently increased, contact us to make an appointment today.
Q: What can cause hair loss in teenage girls?
A: It is common for teenage girls to become more aware of their appearance and compare themselves to their friends or women they see on social media, who may seem to have more hair than they do. However, some teenage girls do actually experience real hair loss when they wash and brush their hair. The first thing to do is to book an appointment with a friendly trichologist who can gently provide guidance on hair loss and may suggest some specific tests to help diagnose your condition.
Q: Which vitamin deficiencies cause teenage hair loss?
A: There are many vitamin deficiencies related to hair loss, but the most likely are low iron (Ferritin), B12, Zinc and Vitamin D. However, although taking these vitamins may help in the short term, it could mask an underlying condition, so won’t help in the long time. You should consult an experienced trichologist before taking vitamins to treat teenage hair loss.
Q: How much hair loss is normal in the shower?
A: The amount of hair you lose in the shower depends on how long your hair is, how long it is since you last washed it, and whether you wear it tied up or not. On average, losing 50-100 hairs a day is normal. In some cases, patients can lose as many as 120 hairs a day, but as they have a higher hair turnover, it grows back just as fast.