Nearly everyone experiences hair loss during their lifetime. The degree varies depending on various factors. So, while others end up becoming bald, some may only experience thinning. Meanwhile, some people get to old age with a full head of hair – no baldness and no signs of thinning.
In most cases, though, the loss begins in adulthood. According to Health Line, about 25% of men who experience hereditary male pattern baldness start losing hair at around 21. However, the baldness signs are only visible in the early 30s. The majority (85%) become bald between age 35 and 50.
So, why is hair loss in teenagers rampant? Is it even normal, or should you be worried if you start losing hair at such a young age?
Why People Lose Hair
Perhaps we should begin by understanding why anyone would lose hair in the first place. Why would healthy hair suddenly begin to fall off?
The explanation is straightforward. Every strand of hair has a hair shaft (the visible part), a root (found below the skin), a follicle (the place where the root originates).
Below the follicle is the hair bulb that houses living cells that divide and grow to build the hair shaft. Blood vessels nourish the cells inside the hair bulb and supply the hormones necessary for hair growth, structure, color, etc., depending on the individual’s stage of growth.
Hair loss can occur if there’s interference with the hair root, follicles, or significant changes in the hair bulb.
5 Common Causes of Hair Loss in Teenagers
Interference in the hair root, follicle, or hair bulb can be attributed to many factors, including aggressive hairstyling and the hair treatments many people purchase to reverse hair loss. However, the five leading causes are as follows;
1. Androgenic alopecia
The number one cause of hair loss is what’s known as male and female-pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia. It’s directly attributed to genes and hormones known as androgens. When testosterone comes into contact with an enzyme found in the follicle, it’s converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a potent androgen with the ability to bind receptors in follicles. When binding happens, it can trigger a change in genetic activity of the cells in the hair bulb, initiating a gradual process of hair loss.
2. Alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles. Autoimmune conditions develop when the body mistakes healthy body cells for foreign invaders and begins fighting them. In this case, the immune system attacks the hair follicles, potentially causing visible hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and the rest of the body. It’s characterized by round bald patches and affects approximately 1-in-50 people. Among children, 1-in-1,000 have it.
3. Food-related causes
Hair loss can also be directly attributed to the food you eat and how your body processes the foods. First off, lack of certain nutrients can lead to hair thinning and eventual baldness. People who don’t get enough of vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, Vitamin E, iron, and niacin, for instance, are at an increased risk of baldness. Secondly, eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can also cause the loss of hair.
4. Other health conditions
Aside from eating disorders, one may also notice hair loss if they have health conditions such as thyroid diseases, lupus, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Thyroid disorders lead to underproduction or overproduction of thyroid hormones that may cause brittle hair, eventually leading to hair loss. Meanwhile, lupus is an autoimmune condition that attacks tissues and organs throughout the body. One of the main symptoms of lupus is uniform hair loss. The hair never grows back. Finally, polycystic ovary syndrome is a female health issue that causes women to produce excess androgen.
5. Medications and medical treatments
Yes, the medications taken for some health conditions may also result in hair loss – temporary or permanent. Chemotherapy drugs are the best example. If you’re on chemo for cancer treatment, you’ll almost certainly lose hair. Medications for acne, bipolar disorder, and ADHD may also cause hair thinning and baldness. In addition, studies show that diet pills that contain amphetamines can also cause hair loss.
It’s Likely a Temporary Issue
The good news, though, is that hair loss in teenagers is often temporary. Unless it’s a genetic issue (though genetic baldness tends to start much later), it will be gone after a while, and you’ll get your hair back. However, you should always try to eat a healthy diet and avoid aggressive hair styling and treatments that may cause unnecessary hair loss.