WHILE TEENAGERS MAY THINK THEY ARE INVINCIBLE, THEY CAN FALL PREY TO HAIR LOSS FOR MEDICAL REASONS AND LIFESTYLE REASONS.
Most teenagers live as though nothing affects them, but there are many reasons that can contribute to a teenage girl noticing hair fall-out and thinning, says Dr. Sara Wasserbauer, a Walnut Creek, California-based hair transplant surgeon and hair loss specialist. “Some reasons are medical and some are lifestyle related, but all may cause undesirable and worrying hair loss in teenage girls, although most are reversible.”
Heated appliances and chemical processes cause burns, scarring, and hair breakage and fall-out called CCCA or central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia
“Most teenage girls use heated appliances, coloring, bleaching and straightening processes and chemicals with reckless abandon,” says Wasserbauer. Hairstylist Zahava, owner of Poza Salon in Charlotte, N.C., recalls a scary scenario from when she was a teenager. “My mom let me bleach my hair blonde, but my friend said curly blonde would be even better and that she could perm my hair. My mom said it was a bad idea because of the bleach. Did I listen? No! When I leaned over to rinse out the solution, I saw the curler rods hit the shower floor with my hair still rolled around them! The next morning my gummy hair came out in clumps and I begged my mom not to go to school, but she totally refused. That was the worst hair day of my life, and I swore I would someday grow up and do hair.”
But seriously, although we females have always had our heated appliances (remember the blow-drying and curling required to get that perfect feathered Farrah Fawcett flip?), in the past decade there has been a proliferation of heated appliances such as double-barrel curling irons, curling wands, flatirons and crimping irons in addition to salon processes such as Brazilian keratin straightening treatments and hair coloring, including DIY kits. When used recklessly, these products and processes can all cause hair fall-out, burns and scarring, which can lead to hair loss such as Zahava’s, clinically known as central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, warns Wasserbauer (Zahava’s hair eventually did grow back).
Loosen up — daily tight ponytails or cornrows cause hair breakage and hair fall-out known as traction alopecia
If you play sports, dance or do gymnastics and wind your hair up into a tight ponytail, bun or braid every single day, you could be literally pulling it out by the roots all around your hairline, says Wasserbauer. In addition, hairs break off where they are rubbed by elastic bands in the same spot over and over. Learn to use looser braids or alternate hairstyles and ponytail placement to reduce stress on hair follicles.
Also, tightly braided cultural hairstyles such as cornrows have the same result, so be sure to give hair a breather every other week from styles that are pulled tight, she advises.
Swallow this — malnutrition from restrictive dieting causes hair loss and thinning, period
Think you should be on a diet? Keep it realistic because hair thinning and fall-out can be a direct result of calorie restriction from dieting. It’s a fact that your body uses all its calories and nutrients to simply maintain life, including keeping your heart pumping blood and supplying enough basic energy for being alive and walking around through your school day. If your body does not have enough calories and nutrients, the first things to suffer are your hair, skin and nails. “Remember, hair is made up of protein … if you’re not eating any, your hair will suffer. If you’re noticing hair fall-out and thinning and have been restricting your food intake, malnutrition could be the reason,” cautions Wasserbauer.
Stressed out? Picking at and pulling out your own hair on purpose is called trichotillomania
Trichotillomania. Say it slowly: trik’oh-till’oh-may’nee-ah. You might not even realize you are doing it, but pay attention to your habits. If you have been picking at your hair, eyelashes or eyebrows to the point of pulling out hairs, you might have an anxiety disorder known as trichotillomania, which may be treated before hair loss is severe.
Pay attention — there are some medical reasons that can cause hair loss in teenage girls, so see a doctor
According to a recent study by the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine in New York City, hair loss in teenagers is caused mostly by androgenetic alopecia (AGA), or from simple heredity. The study found that a family history of AGA was reported in 83 percent of patients. But researchers also found that hair loss and thinning in teenage girls can be the presenting sign of an underlying endocrine disorder, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.
If you do not abuse your hair or body in any of the above ways that can be corrected or treated, you should see a doctor to screen for any of the medical conditions that cause hair loss, advises Dr. Wasserbauer.