Baldness or hair loss is usually something only adults need to worry about. But sometimes teens lose their hair, too — and it may be a sign that something's going on.
Hair loss during adolescence can mean a person may be sick or just not eating right. Some medicines or medical treatments (like chemotherapy) also cause hair loss. People can even lose their hair if they wear a hairstyle (like braids) that pulls on the hair for a long time.
Losing hair can be stressful. Most of the time, hair loss during the teen years is temporary. With temporary hair loss, the hair usually grows back after the problem that causes it is corrected.
Hair is made of a kind of protein called keratin. A single hair has a hair shaft (the part that shows), a root below the skin, and a follicle. The follicle is the place the hair root grows from. At the lower end of the follicle is the hair bulb. This is where the hair's color pigment, or melanin, is produced.
Most people lose about 50 to 100 head hairs a day. These hairs are replaced — they grow back in the same follicle on your head. This amount of hair loss is totally normal and no cause for worry. If you're losing more than that, though, something might be wrong.
If you have hair loss and don't know what's causing it, talk to your doctor. A doctor can determine why the hair is falling out and suggest a treatment that will correct the underlying problem, if necessary.
Here are some of the things that can cause hair loss in teens:
If you see a doctor about hair loss, he or she will ask questions about your health and family health (your medical history). The doctor will check your scalp, and might take hair samples and test for certain medical conditions that can cause hair loss.
If medicine is causing your hair loss, ask the doctor if you can switch to a different medicine. If your hair loss is due to an endocrine condition, like diabetes or thyroid disease or female-pattern baldness, proper treatment and control of the underlying disorder is important to reduce or prevent hair loss.
If your doctor recommends it, a product like minoxidil can increase hair growth in male- and female-pattern baldness. Alopecia areata can be helped by treatment with corticosteroid creams or injections on the scalp. If your doctor thinks that nutritional deficiencies are causing your hair loss, he or she might refer you to a dietitian or other nutrition expert.
Hair loss can be the first outward sign that a person is sick, so it can feel scary. Teens who have cancer and lose their hair because of chemotherapy treatments might go through a difficult time.
It can help to feel like you have some control over your appearance when you're losing your hair. When getting chemo, some people like to cut their hair or shave their heads before the hair falls out. Some even take the hair they cut off and have it made into a wig.
Many options can help disguise hair loss — such as wearing wigs, hair wraps, hats, and baseball caps. For most teens who lose their hair, the hair does return — including after chemotherapy.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is important for a lot of reasons. Healthy foods can really benefit your hair.
If you're losing hair, some doctors recommend using baby shampoo, washing your hair no more than once a day, and lathering gently. Don't rub your hair too vigorously with a towel, either. Many hair experts suggest putting away the blow dryer and air drying your hair instead. If you can't live without your blow dryer, use it on a low-heat setting.
Styling your hair while it's wet can cause it to stretch and break. So style your hair when it's dry or damp. Avoid teasing or back-combing your hair because they can cause damage. Finally, be careful when using chemicals — such as straighteners or color treatments. Don't get any kind of chemical treatment done too often.
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: November 2014
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