Hair Loss at a Young age
Hair thinning in your teen years or early 30s is usually set off by a specific trigger. The good news is that it is mostly reversible, as and when the trigger is addressed.
Balding for older people, in some respect, is inevitable, while hair loss at a young age is not as common. Thus, it can be all the more alarming since losing hair can severely impact one’s self-esteem. Read on to learn about the various reasons for hair loss at a young age and the preventive measures to tackle the situation.
What causes hair loss at a young age?
Dermatologists believe that hair loss, both in men and women, can start as early as their 16s. When we talk about hair loss in general, our natural tendency is to think of hormonal hair loss like female and male pattern baldness. While pattern baldness in women occurs around menopause, men can show early signs even in their 20s.
An increasing number of young people face the hair loss crisis. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Internet is thus sprawled with the question- why .’ Here are some of the top triggers that may be responsible for hair loss at a young age:
Severe stress can take a significant toll on your entire system & is undoubtedly a big trigger for hair loss at a young age as well. When our body is tense or stressed, it enters survival mode. At this time, it tends to allocate energy and fuel to the most vital bodily functions & hair obviously does not make it to the top of that list.
Stress pushes hair more and more into the resting stage of the natural hair growth cycle. Eventually, the hair falls off. Fall out is usually visible three months after the stressful event takes place & it can last up to six months.
APA’s latest report on stress in America suggests that day-to-day struggles, the constant state of risk assessment & uncertainty have been particularly overwhelming for younger adults in times of the ongoing pandemic.
Apart from Telogen Effluvium, Trichotillomania can also be responsible for premature hair loss. It is a psychological condition triggered by acute stress. In this case, the patient feels overwhelmed by negative thoughts and has an uncontrollable urge to pull out their hair from their scalp, eyelids, and eyebrows. The onset of this disease is usually seen at a young age- between 10-13.
Crash diets have become a thing these days, especially among young adults. We don’t realize that our body requires the right balance of nutrients to conduct smooth bodily functions, including hair growth.
Crash diets lead to insufficient nutrition, causing hair fall. The body also considers the consequence of a crash diet a stressful event. The growing popularity of veganism among teenagers could also strongly influence their hair health because they don’t get enough protein from non-meat sources.
So, dietary imbalances, digestive conditions, and eating disorders are potential causes of hair loss at a young age. While stress-induced hair loss can correct itself with time, vitamin & protein deficiencies can limit your scalp’s ability to grow back hair if not addressed in time.
Let’s look at some of the nutrients, the deficiency of which might lead to hair loss:
● Vitamin C
● Vitamin D
● Vitamin E
● Vitamin A
● Folic acid
3. Other Medical Conditions
● Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition that most people develop before they step into their 30s. Early signs may also be visible as early as childhood. At times your body misunderstands the healthy cells for foreign invaders. In this case, your immune system attacks your hair follicles, causing hair loss on your scalp and other regions of your body.
● Ringworm infection can occur on the scalp. This fungal infection leads to scaly and itchy skin on the scalp (in patches). It can also cause inflammation in some cases, which might cause scarring and hair thinning.
● Telogen Effluvium is a condition that causes rampant shedding due to a sudden change which may be environmental or hormonal. This condition is not permanent, but when it occurs, most of the growing hair goes into the resting phase all at once, causing hair to fall.
● Lupus is another autoimmune condition that is linked to alopecia. It occurs when the immune system attacks your organs and tissues. One of the primary lupus symptoms includes gradual hair thinning, other than butterfly-shaped rash, joint pain, and fatigue.
● Unchecked thyroid issues or diabetes can also obstruct hair production in young people and make their hair brittle. In these cases, hair loss is reversible with proper treatment.
4. Hairstyling and treatments
There is hardly anyone who doesn’t want to look young for as long as possible. Consequently, the early ’20s to ’30s is when most people experiment with hair styling methods.
Frequent chemical hair treatments, coloring, or even applying excessive heat to your hair can cause hair breakage and temporary loss. Since it is uncommon that these treatments will affect the roots of your hair, regrowth is most likely once you discontinue the styling treatment. Bleaching and chlorine in swimming pools can also drastically deteriorate your hair quality over time.
Traction Alopecia is another kind of baldness that results from hair styling. The condition affects people with longer hair who tend to wear a hairstyle (braids, tight buns, ponytails) that pulls on the roots too tightly for a long time. You will notice hair loss along your hairline in this case. This condition can have a permanent impact on your follicles without early intervention. Pain is usually the first sign you should pick up for extra traction on the hair.
5. Hormonal changes
Hormonal imbalance is one of the major causes of hair loss at a young age- both for men and women.
Medical conditions that can cause hair loss include polycystic ovarian syndrome, hyperthyroidism, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Changes in estrogen levels can also affect hair growth. While higher estrogen levels aid hair to grow thicker, hair starts to fall out as the level drops than normal. Thankfully, hair thinning should stop as your body adjusts to the new estrogen levels.
Progesterone, on the other hand, can trigger and worsen hair loss. Many popular birth control medications like Depo-Provera shot, NuvaRing, Xulane patches, and implants like Nexplanon are progesterone-based. If these are causing your hair loss, it should resolve as and when you stop using them.
Pattern hair loss is the most common form of hair loss among men and women. It can possibly start right after puberty in women and increase over time.
Male pattern baldness, as mentioned earlier, can arrive as early as your mid-20s. On the one hand, genetics play a role in this; on the other, the effects of the male sex hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone) have a huge influence.
DHT (a byproduct of testosterone), like other hormones, binds to the receptors in the body. This can potentially damage the hair follicles and prevent them from producing new strands. However, this doesn’t occur immediately. Instead, it has long-term effects leading to a receding hairline or complete baldness.
6. Medical Treatments or medicines
Yes, sometimes prescribed treatments can also lead to hair loss as a side effect. Following are some examples:
● Diet pills (contains amphetamines that cause hair loss)
● Acne medication
● ADHD stabilizers and drugs for bipolar disorder
● Cancer medicine & chemotherapy
● Medications that lower cholesterol levels
● Anti-fungal treatments
● Blood pressure medication
Treatment for hair loss at a young age
The key to treating hair loss is to catch it early. So, in most cases, early-age hair loss is treatable and can also be avoided. Here are some measures that you can undertake:
Keep stress levels in check
How you reduce your stress depends on you. However, here are some of the things you can start doing to destress:
● Get a consistent good night’s rest
● Engage in frequent exercising
● Stay hydrated & eat healthily
● Try out relaxing practices like yoga or deep breathing
● Cut down on bad habits like smoking and drinking
A simple thing like eating disorders could also be the culprit for your hair fall. You must ensure that you balance your diet nutritionally during your regular meals. If you feed your hair with the necessary vitamins and nutrients, you can cut down on hair shedding.
● Banana, milk, cashews, and tuna contain magnesium
● Oranges, chicken, fish, soya beans, broccoli, and spinach are good sources of Vitamin E, B3, B5, B9, and protein.
● Beans, leafy greens, and fish are also excellent sources of iron.
If need be, you can consult a nutritionist about developing a suitable diet chart as per your needs and likes. Eating healthy specifically helps the treatment process of telogen effluvium and lupus.
You might think that supplements can help you fulfill the quota, but be careful because an overdose of any nutrient can also lead to hair loss. Always consult a doctor to understand the root of the cause.
Try lifestyle changes
Do you smoke or consume alcohol frequently? If yes, then you should try quitting or drinking in moderation. Smoking restricts the blood flow and essential nutrients from reaching your hair follicles. Regular smoking can stall hair growth as nicotine narrows the blood vessels.
One of the common side effects of alcohol consumption is dehydration which can be fatal for your hair. How so? Our hair is ¼ water- dehydration weakens the body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients, thus leaving your hair fragile & prone to breakage.
Being proactive about hair loss prevention helps resurrect plenty of dormant hair cells and stimulate hair growth.
PRP or platelet-rich might sound new to you and is one of the unique medical treatments you can opt for. This treatment works by injecting the plasma (present in your blood) directly into your scalp to stimulate regrowth in your bald spots. The growth factors in the platelets promote hair follicle healing.
Low-level laser therapy is another non-invasive treatment option that you can go with to combat hair fall issues. LLLT costs less than PRP and is clinically proven to treat hair loss due to alopecia. This therapy has become hugely popular due to the widely available commercial devices like laser combs, laser bands, and laser caps. They are user-friendly and can be used at home while multitasking.
These home-use LLLT devices can help improve your hair density by stimulating the epidermal stem cells in your hair follicles. Capillus, Theradome, HaiMax, iRestore, Kiierr, and Illumiflow are some of the most renowned brands that offer FDA-cleared laser devices. However, to be more confident, you can learn more about Laser hair growth treatment before investing in any of these laser devices.
Minoxidil or Rogaine is available both in pill and topical ointment format. It increases the blood flow to the scalp, thus strengthening and thickening the hair follicles. Minoxidil not only prevents hair from permanent fall out but also boosts follicles during their regrowth phase. Similarly, Finasteride (also called Propecia) works like Minoxidil and comes as pills but is FDA-approved for men only.
If you are suffering from a genetic condition like Androgenetic alopecia, the above-mentioned medicines will work too. However, the catch here is that these medications don’t cure hair loss. They slow down the process & only successfully do so with consistent consumption. Having said that, like many medicines, these two also come with rare but possible side effects like blurry vision, irregular heartbeat, etc.
Also, since we have talked about how certain medications can trigger hair loss, you may ask your doctor to switch medication or lower the dosage.
Tying your hair in tight buns, braids, or twists can put a lot of pressure on your hair roots- something you may want to avoid. Letting your hair loose from time to time can release that pressure to prevent follicles from being scarred, which can cause permanent hair loss.
You can try preventive measures like the following-
● Limited use of heat relaxers
● Avoid keeping braids for more than three months. Make sure you get thick-diameter dreadlocks when you do.
● Loosen braids along your hairline
It is natural to be more “hair aware” in your younger years. However, now we know that you can prevent and treat hair loss at the age of 20. The first step toward treating early-age hair loss is getting diagnosed by a professional. Once you have the correct diagnosis, you can take better preventive measures or opt for treatment to rectify the situation.