Hair loss during adolescence can mean that you’re sick – or just not eating right. Certain medications or medical treatments, chemotherapy for example, may also cause hair loss. You can even lose your hair if your hairstyle pulls on it for a long time, braids or dreads for example.
Losing your hair can be stressful when you’re at a point in life when you’re already concerned about your appearance. Most of the time, hair loss during the teen years is temporary, that is, the hair generally grows back after the problem that caused it is treated.
What Is Hair & How Can I Keep Mine?
Hair is made of a type of protein called keratin. A hair is comprised of a shaft (the part that shows), a root (below the skin), and a follicle (from which the root grows). At the lower end of the follicle is the hair bulb, where the hair’s color pigment, called melanin, is produced.
Most people lose from 50 to 100 hairs a day from their head, which grow back in the same follicle. This amount of hair loss is completely normal and no cause for worry, but if you're losing more than that it could be a sign of a problem.
If you have hair loss and don’t know what’s causing it, talk to your doctor, who will determine why your hair is falling out and suggest a treatment that will correct the underlying problem, if necessary.
In the course of your visit, your doctor will ask questions about your health and your family’s health (your medical history) and check your scalp. In some cases, your doctor might take hair samples and test for certain medical conditions that can cause hair loss.
If medication is causing hair loss, ask your doctor if you can take a different drug. If your hair loss is due to an endocrine condition, like diabetes or thyroid disease, proper treatment and control of the underlying disorder is the key to reducing or preventing hair loss.
Ask your doctor about products like minoxidil that can speed up hair growth. If nutritional deficiencies are found to be causing the problem, your doctor might refer you to a dietitian or other nutrition expert.
Hair loss can be the first outward sign that you’re sick, so it may be scary. Teens, particularly girls, who have cancer and lose their hair from chemotherapy treatments, can go through a difficult time. When getting chemotherapy, some people choose to cut their hair or shave their heads before the hair falls out – and even take the hair they cut off and have it made into a wig. There are many ways to disguise hair loss, from wearing wigs and hair wraps to hats and baseball caps. Be assured that most teens who lose their hair get it back, including after chemotherapy.
Take Care of Your Hair
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is important for a lot of reasons, and it really benefits your hair.
If you’re losing hair, your doctor may suggest using baby shampoo, no more than once a day, and lathering gently. We recommend that you don’t rub your hair too vigorously with a towel either, and you may want to consider putting away the blow dryer and air drying your hair instead. If you can't live without your blow dryer, try using it on a low heat setting.
Style your hair when it’s dry or damp – doing it while it’s wet can cause it to stretch and break – and try to avoid teasing your hair, which can cause damage. Finally, be careful when using chemicals like straighteners or color and avoid frequent chemical treatments.