Hair Loss in Teens - Possible Causes

Is hair loss in teens a common condition? What are the various causes of it?

Hair loss tends to be an adult concern, particularly as an individual approaches middle age. However, hair loss can also affect teens, and often points to a serious underlying condition.

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A note about Hair Loss in Teens - Possible Causes

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Hair loss during adolescence generally means that either dietary requirements have not been met (such as when a teen develops an eating disorder or tries a crash diet to lose weight), or it can signal an illness. Certain medications or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, will also cause hair loss, albeit loss that can be reversed.

Also, many teens try hairstyles - such as tight braids or cornrows - that can put stress on hairs for long periods and damage the delicate hair shaft, leading to temporary hair loss. Though episodic hair loss will be a disconcerting situation for an appearance conscious teen, most hair loss in teens can be reversed.

Some teens, especially boys, experience premature pattern baldness that can be traced to a hereditary predisposition. Even with this type of hair loss in teens, new treatments have become available that can help reduce the appearance of thinning hair.

The following include some of the most common reasons for hair loss in teens:

Alopecia areata

This is a skin disease causing hair loss on the scalp and occasionally elsewhere on the body which affects 1.7% of the population, including more than 5 million people in the United States. Some experts believe Alopecia areata to be an autoimmune disease, in which the hair follicles experience damage via an individual's own immune system.

As in many autoimmune diseases, the immune system erroneously attacks healthy cells and tissues in a person's body. Alopecia areata usually begins as one or more small, round bald patches on the scalp. Teenagers may notice one or two inch diameter circular bald spots suddenly. These spots may progressively grow larger, and in a small number of cases, can result in total hair loss in teens.

Both males and females can have the disorder, and it has occasionally been observed in childhood. The hair tends to grows back within a year, unfortunately not always. Sometimes the loss can be cyclical, with periods of normal and abnormal growth during which hair loss may again be experienced. Again, it remains rare that teenagers experience this type of balding; however, teenagers with this gene may notice hair loss beginning especially with the onset of puberty.

If the teen loses less than 50 percent of their hair, hair growth should return to normal growth. Some cases need to be treated with medications and potent natural remedies for hair loss and balding.

Androgenetic alopecia

Among adults, this type of hair loss, sometimes called male-pattern baldness, remains fairly common. Pattern baldness also occurs in teenagers, in some cases of hair loss in teens as early as age 14.

Since the normally prescribed treatment Propecia cannot legally be used until age 18, and hair transplantation may be unadvisable at such a young age, concealers such as wigs can be used in conjunction with natural treatments.

This reason for hair loss in teens can be caused by a combination of factors, including hormones called androgens, and genetic predisposition. Individuals who take steroids like testosterone to build their bodies can also experience this type of loss.

Disruption of the hair growth cycle

Some major life events and stresses can alter one’s hair growth cycle in the short term, causing hair loss in teens. For example, pregnancy and delivering, major surgery, or a traumatic event can cause shedding of excessive amounts of hair. This type of hair loss in teens and adults eventually corrects itself. However, hair loss and balding can be the first indication that a person has fallen ill, so it should not be taken too lightly, either.

Traction alopecia

This is a form of hair loss occurring in limited number of teenagers and initiated by extreme hair treatments or styling. This may include excessive hair drying, curling or other harsh heat treatments, bleaching, teasing, tight hairstyles, and other hair restraints, such as tight pony tails. Discontinuing the use of these harsh treatments will stop this type of hair loss in teens.

Hair treatments, styling and maintenance

Regularly chemically treating hair, such as frequent hair coloring, bleaching, straightening, or ‘perming,’ can cause damage that may make the hair break off or fall out temporarily. The treatments can also damage the scalp, in which case damage may actually be permanent.

Traction alopecia can be permanent if the style damages the hair follicles. Never wear hair bands or other restrictive styles overnight. Likewise, hair curlers should be worn overnight only if they stay flexible and do not over-irritate or pull on the scalp.

Many teens may be unaware of proper natural hair care and maintenance routines that should be followed to ensure optimum hair appearance and prevent hair loss in teens. When hair becomes stressed, it will lose its moisture and shed. It can be helpful for the teen to visit with a professional hair care specialist, where they can learn proper hair care which can help to ensure the continued health of their hair.

If such hair loss in teens continues, affected persons should switch to a mild natural baby shampoo, shampooing no more than once daily. Alternately, they can try one of the gentle natural shampoos on the market, or use a 100 percent natural Ayurvedic “shampoo” which has been decocted at home and will be based on their hair and skin type (dry, sensitive, oily, or normal).

A rinse should follow, based again on hair type - chosen by color so as to enhance the natural sheen and vibrancy. For example, blonds should rinse with chamomile tea, while brunettes can rinse with walnut and sage. Always lather gently, rather than scrub vigorously, as hair very rarely gets dirty enough to necessitate such treatment.

Also, pat the hair dry with a towel so as to minimize breakage. For the time being, dispense with the blow dryer and air dry your hair instead. Alternately, use the blow dryer on the lowest setting and keep it away from your scalp.

Excessive use of hair spray products or chemical gels (like straightening or curling gels, and volumizers) have also been linked to balding among young girls and hair loss in teens. These products build up oils and chemicals on the scalp, which can block the follicles and prevent growth from occurring normally, thus contributing to hair loss in teens, and even balding.

Too much product also inflames the scalp and can lead to dandruff. Try not to use too much spray and to wear the hair loose on alternate days so as to avoid scarring or irritating the scalp.

Illnesses or medical conditions

Endocrine (hormonal) conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes, thyroid conditions, and other disorders such as lupus can interfere with hair production and cause hair loss in teens. The hormone imbalance that occurs in polycystic ovary syndrome can lead to hair loss in both teen girls and adult women.

Obtaining control over these conditions with natural treatments, routine doctor visits, and occasionally medications will help to cease the hair loss and allow hair to re-grow. Some teen girls experience additional shedding during their menstrual cycles due to fluctuating hormone levels, but this tends to be minimal.

Poor nutrition or diet

Poor diet planning and eating can contribute substantially to hair loss in teens. Many teen girls with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia lose their hair because the extreme starvation or bingeing and purging cycles cause the body to not be able to obtain or absorb enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to sustain normal hair growth.

Some teens who maintain a vegetarian diet also lose their hair if they fail to obtain sufficient protein from non-meat sources. In addition, some athletes can develop hair loss and balding because they may be more likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia, and also may not maintain sufficient caloric intake in relation to energy expenditure. Further, some athletes take steroids, which has been shown to lead to hair loss.

When a teenager notices hair loss for the first time, more than likely the cause lies in a vitamin deficiency in the diet. The prevalence of junk food in the American teen diet, in combination with the lack of proper nutrition and failure to take a daily multivitamin, could result in thinning or even balding patterns. Therefore, dietary supplements can help prevent any further loss of hair, and special attention should be paid to eating the proper variety of foods in proper portions.

Concerns with body image can cause teens to lose hair through malnutrition, as weight and dress size take precedence over healthy eating habits. Many teens suffer from eating disorders, especially girls. Once proper nutrition has been restored, the health of the hair should return to normal.


Some medications prescribed for teens for various conditions have hair loss as one of the side effects. These often include acne medicines and lithium, which has been extensively used to treat bipolar disorder. Diet pills that contain amphetamines also can cause hair loss in teens, as can chemotherapy drugs for cancer - probably the most well-known medication that result in complete hair loss.

In addition, some birth control pills can cause thinning or hair loss due to changes in hormone balance. A pediatrician or other medical provider should be informed immediately if medications cause drastic hair loss, because lower dosages or alternate medications can often be prescribed. Treatments like dialysis, chemotherapy and radiation are the main causes of hair loss in teens because of medication. The hair will grow back after treatment ends.

A special note on chemotherapy - often, teens find it empowering to have some control over their appearance when hair loss can be anticipated. When receiving chemotherapy, some teens choose to cut their hair or shave their heads before the hair falls out. The hair can then be made into a wig. Many other options can help disguise temporary hair loss - hair wraps, hats, and scarves, to name a few.

Tinea Capitis

Also known as scalp ringworm, this condition results due to a fungal infection that can cause hair to be lost in patches, hair to be broken, and the scalp to be affected. Be certain to treat the condition with anti-fungal shampoos, rinses and remedies immediately upon discovery, as it can be contagious.


Another possible cause of hair loss in teens, this is a psychological disorder in which people repeatedly pull their hair out. The result leaves patches of baldness and damaged hairs of different lengths.

Most psychologists classify it as an impulse control disorder or a form of self-injury characterized by the repeated (uncontrollable) urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, facial hair, or other body hair. It may seem to resemble a habit, an addiction, a tic disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder that occurs with varying consistency and often under mental duress.

People with trichotillomania generally require professional help from a therapist or other licensed mental health professionals before they can bring their impulse under control. The behavior may be a result of another underlying condition, like post traumatic stress, extreme anxiety, or other psychiatric disorders, during which the teen uses the habit as a coping mechanism (much like the phenomenon of self-cutting or burning).


This sums up the various possible causes of hair loss in teens. For more information on hair loss, baldness and hair growth, read the other related articles and pages.

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