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10 Most Common Causes of Teenage Hair Loss (and Treatments)
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on February 11, 2024

Between 15.5% and 38.5% of adolescents worldwide experience teenage hair loss [1]. This can have significant detrimental effects on their self-image and psychological well-being, as well as their ability to form positive relationships with their peers [2][3]. However, the good news is that in many cases, the conditions which cause this hair shedding in adolescence are treatable. 

The most common type of alopecia which causes teenage hair loss is early-onset androgenetic alopecia, followed by alopecia areata and telogen effluvium [4]. But a variety of other factors, ranging from common scalp problems to systemic illness or lifestyle choices can also make your hair fall out during your teenage years.     

There are many treatments available for teenage hair loss, depending on its root cause. While certain medications that are very effective in adults are not recommended for adolescents (e.g. Finasteride), others, such as Minoxidil or steroid creams, can be safely used to curb hair thinning and stimulate your follicles for hair growth.   

Keep reading this article to find out all you need to know about:

  • How much hair loss is normal in adolescence
  • The most common causes of teenage hair loss
  • How to prevent and treat teenage hair loss
  • How to cope with teenage hair loss
Table of Contents

How much hair loss is normal during adolescence?

Hair shedding can be a normal part of your hair growth cycle. Everyone loses between 50 and 100 hairs each day. Certain activities can make this more obvious, for example, more hair loss is normal in the shower, when removing your scrunchie or when brushing your strands vigorously. 

100 hair strands in a person with short hair (left) and long hair (right)
Photo showing 100 hairs from a person with short hair (left) and longer hair (right).

However, if you are routinely shedding considerable amounts, and your hair is so thin that you can see your scalp or if you start to see temple hair loss, bald spots, rashes or sores on your scalp, it is time to see a trichologist. This hair specialist will help you get to the root of what is making your hair fall out.

How common is teenage hair loss?

Teenage hair loss is more common than generally believed – it affects between 15.5% and 38.5% of all adolescents. The variation depends on different factors, such as the genes, hormones, lifestyle and environment of teenagers who live in different geographical locations [1].  

What are the most common causes of teenage hair loss?

Most of the conditions which can cause alopecia in adults can also affect adolescents. Here are some of the most frequently encountered reasons a teenager’s hair may be falling out:

early male pattern baldness (left) and female pattern baldness (right) in 18 year olds
Early onset male pattern baldness (left), respectively female pattern baldness (right) in an 18-year-old adolescent [7].

1. Early-onset androgenetic alopecia

Commonly known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia affects 85% of men and 50% of women [5][6]. But not many people know that its early-onset form also affects approximately 15% of the world’s teenagers [7].

Just like this type of hair loss is more common in men than in women, androgenetic alopecia is more common in boys than in girls. The average age when teenagers start to see the first signs of hair thinning and balding is around 14-15 and most of them have a family history of patterned hair loss [8][7]. 

The mechanism of androgenetic alopecia is the same in adolescents as it is in adults: your body converts excessive amounts of the male hormone testosterone into a different male hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT binds to receptors in your hair follicles and makes them shrink, producing smaller and finer hair, until they stop altogether. 

EARLY-ONSET ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA
Causes: A combination of genetic, hormonal and sometimes, lifestyle factors
Symptoms:

In boys [7][9]:

  • Mild hair thinning and miniaturization (shorter, finer hairs) around the frontal area of your scalp and your crown
  • Incipient temple hair loss
  • Sometimes, diffuse hair thinning, normally typical for female pattern hair loss

In girls[7]:

  • Diffuse hair loss
  • A widening of the central parting
  • A visible decrease in ponytail size
  • Hair that does not grow as long as it used to
Treatment:   

The most effective treatment for adolescent androgenetic alopecia is topical Minoxidil [7][9]. Using Minoxidil and a derma roller together for hair growth can improve its absorption and enhance its effect.

Low-level light therapy (LLLT) for hair growth has also proven itself helpful in achieving hair regrowth and it is completely safe for teenagers.

While Finasteride is very efficient in treating this condition in adults, it has not been approved for use in minors (and it would not be recommended for girls anyway). But you can try a natural DHT blocker, such as rosemary oil for hair growth or pumpkin seed oil for hair.

Telogen effluvium in a teenager
Telogen effluvium in a teenager

2. Telogen effluvium

This condition is temporary and it usually begins showing symptoms 2-3 months after a very stressful period or a traumatic physical or psychological event. Once the stressor has ended, telogen effluvium should resolve itself in under 6 months [10]. 

The proportion of teenagers who experience telogen effluvium is mostly unknown, as it is a temporary condition which often goes unreported, but it is estimated to make up around 2-17% of hair loss cases in adolescents [11]. 

TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM
Causes: High physical and/or psychological stress (e.g. illness, trauma, vitamin  deficiencies which cause hair loss, the anxiety of an exam, or a difficult break-up) [10]
Symptoms:
Treatment:   Normally, this condition resolves itself without treatment. If it hasn’t improved in 6-8 months, it is best to see a trichologist. They may recommend a corticosteroid treatment or blood tests for nutritional deficiencies.
Alopecia areata in an adolescent girl
Alopecia areata in an adolescent girl

3. Alopecia areata

 Alopecia areata is estimated to affect 1.83% of teenagers worldwide and it has been shown that around 40% of the people diagnosed with this condition worldwide see its first symptoms before the age of 20 [12]. 

 
Causes: This condition is most likely autoimmune, which means your white blood cells are attacking your hair follicles.
Symptoms:

Typical presentation of alopecia areata:

  • Smooth, round bald patches
  • Small, broken hairs that look like exclamation marks
  • Yellow or black dots on your scalp
  • Pitted or brittle nails

Rare types of alopecia areata:

Alopecia ophiasis:

  • a wavy band of hair loss, often at the back of the head

Alopecia totalis:

  • 100% hair loss on your head

Alopecia universalis:

  • 100% hair loss on your entire body
Treatment:   

In most cases, your hair will grow back on its own within a year even without treatment [13]. However, you may experience relapses over the years.

Should the alopecia areata persist, corticosteroid treatment is frequently used to stop the hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth. Steroid creams can be effective for milder forms, while oral or injectable steroids may be effective for more extensive alopecia. Minoxidil may also present some benefits in achieving hair regrowth [13]

Immunotherapy may be needed for rare and severe forms of alopecia areata, such as ophiasis alopecia, alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis. Even so, they may not always respond to treatment [14].

10 Most Common Causes of Teenage Hair Loss (and Treatments), Wimpole Clinic
Scalp psoriasis in a young person

4. Common scalp problems

Several common scalp problems can induce diffuse or localized hair loss in adolescents. The most frequently encountered are a fungal infection known as roundworm (tinea capitis) and yeast infections on the scalp, such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis (which thrive on the excessive sebum production that usually occurs during puberty). However, other conditions, such as scalp psoriasis, eczema or scalp folliculitis can also affect teenagers. 

While some of these conditions make your hair fall out due to inflammation (e.g. ringworm, scalp psoriasis), others make your scalp so itchy that you can cause hair breakage simply by scratching vigorously (e.g. dandruff).

 
Causes: Scalp problems are most often caused by microorganisms such as fungi or bacteria. However, in some cases, they can be a result of inflammation caused by an autoimmune condition (e.g. scalp psoriasis).
Symptoms:

While symptoms differ for each of these conditions, you can suspect a scalp problem if you are experiencing one or more of the following:

  • Red or pink patches of thickened skin
  • White, silver or yellow scales or flakes
  • Dry, cracked skin, which may sometimes bleed
  • Dry or weeping sores on your scalp
  • Pimples around the roots of your hair
  • A rash on your scalp
  • Inflammation or irritation
  • Localized hair loss in the affected area
  • Scalp itchiness, tenderness, pain or burning
Treatment:   

While treatment depends on your particular scalp condition, the good news is that treating the underlying cause most often resolves your hair loss.

Some of these conditions respond to antifungal treatments, such as ketoconazole (e.g. dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, ringworm), others may require antibacterial creams (e.g. scalp folliculitis) or steroid creams (e.g. psoriasis, eczema).

However, if you suspect you may have a scalp problem, but you’re not sure which one it may be, using zinc pyrithione is most likely to be effective against most of these conditions, until you have a chance to get them checked out by a dermatologist. That is because it has complex antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities [15].

Trichotillomania in a teenager
Trichotillomania in a teenager

5. Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder)

This type of body-focused repetitive behaviour disorder is a form of obsessive-compulsive behaviour [16] which involves the urge to pull hairs out of your scalp. It often debuts during puberty and while there is no data regarding how many adolescents are affected by this condition, its prevalence in adults is 1-2% of the world’s population.

While in adults, women are 4 times more likely than men to develop this condition, the gender rates are equal in children and adolescents [16]. 

Trichotillomania ranges from mild to severe. This condition tends to be accompanied by other mental health issues, such as anxiety, mood disorders or ADHD [16].

 
Causes: While the causes of trichotillomania are uncertain, it is thought to have a genetic component and to be triggered by stress, a chemical imbalance in the brain or the hormonal changes which occur during puberty [17][18].
Symptoms [17]:
  • An urge to pull out your hairs, especially when stressed
  • Broken hairs in certain areas of your scalp
  • Irregular bald spots, or hair loss on one side of the head.
  • In severe cases, sores on the affected area
  • A sense of relief after having pulled out your hair
Treatment:   Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the most common and efficient form of treatment for trichotillomania. There are currently no medications proven effective in controlling this disorder [16].
traction alopecia
Traction alopecia in a young person

6. Traction alopecia

Traction alopecia is common among teenagers who often wear tight hairstyles. Hairdos such as cornrows, braids or ponytails can cause hair loss. Moreover, wearing heavy extensions can cause hair loss as well.

This condition is more common among adolescents with afro hair. However, research indicates that it is likely due to wearing tight hairdos associated with this hair type, such as braids, dreadlocks or cornrows.

 
Causes: Traction alopecia is caused by continuous tension put on your hair follicles when using tight hairstyles or heavy extensions. This loosens your hair strands from their root and damages your hair follicles.
Symptoms:
  • Hair loss around the frontal area, temples or fringe
  • Broken hairs or black dots on the affected area
  • Raised bumps or pimples on the affected area
  • Scalp tenderness, soreness or tingling
Treatment:   In most cases, the only treatment required is to stop wearing tight hairdos, allowing your hair follicles to heal. However, more severe cases can benefit from a treatment with Minoxidil or corticosteroids.
10 Most Common Causes of Teenage Hair Loss (and Treatments), Wimpole Clinic

7. Hormonal imbalances

During puberty, hormonal activity is intense and often erratic and it can interfere with teenagers’ hair growth cycle. As the levels of male and female hormones start to increase, to produce the many significant changes that take place in the body during this time, they can get imbalanced and push your hair into the shedding phase faster than normal. Moreover, during adolescence, girls can start experiencing polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause hair loss

Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can affect adolescents as well as adults, and hair loss can be one of the consequences.    

 
Causes: Hormonal imbalances can be temporarily induced by puberty, or they can be the result of a condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or a thyroid disorder.
Symptoms:
  • Diffuse hair thinning
  • Sometimes, a burning sensation on the scalp
  • Sometimes, fine, dry hair
Treatment:   If the hormonal imbalance is puberty-induced, it may resolve on its own as soon as your hormonal levels begin to settle. However, if your symptoms persist, seeing your GP about it is a great first step. They may order tests or refer you to a specialist who can recommend treatment for balancing your hormone levels. Once that is achieved, your hair loss should also resolve.
Scalp manifestation of discoid lupus
Scalp manifestation of discoid lupus

8. Systemic illness

Rarely, teenage hair loss can be caused by an illness which affects your entire body, and which can also have consequences on your hair. Some of these illnesses can be autoimmune (e.g. discoid lupus), while others can lead to insufficient nutrients to your hair follicles due to poor nutrient absorption. 

 
Causes: Systemic conditions that can cause hair loss include anaemia, stomach ulcers, Chron’s disease, leukaemia or discoid lupus (however, leukaemia and lupus are very rare and should only be considered if you also have other significant symptoms).
Symptoms:
  • Diffuse hair loss
  • Sometimes, a burning sensation on the scalp
  • Sometimes, fine, dry hair
Treatment:   Getting your systemic condition under control often resolves your hair loss as well.
chemotherapy induced hair loss
Chemotherapy-induced hair loss

9. Medication-induced hair loss

There are several types of medication that can cause hair loss. While chemotherapy-induced hair loss is the best-known, many other medications can cause hair loss. They include certain antidepressants, birth control pills, some heart medication, some antibiotics, or anabolic steroids (the kind of steroids that are used to achieve muscle growth).

So be sure to check the list of potential unwanted side effects of any prescription medication you may be taking to see if hair loss is listed. 

 
Causes: While chemotherapy destroys rapidly dividing cells, such as cancerous ones, it also destroys hair, whose cells are also rapidly dividing. As for the other medication, they usually induce telogen effluvium, by causing disruptions in your normal hair growth cycle.
Symptoms:

In the case of chemotherapy, total alopecia can occur.

In the case of other medication, you can expect telogen effluvium symptoms:

  • Diffuse hair loss
  • Sometimes, a burning sensation on the scalp
Treatment:   If you suspect one of your prescription medications is causing your hair to fall out, see your GP or the specialist who prescribed it and talk to them about what can be done. Interrupting treatment normally resolves your hair loss, but that is not always a safe option.
Woman's hair being succumbed to various treatments

10. Lifestyle-induced hair loss

While lifestyle factors will rarely lead to alopecia on their own, certain habits can damage your hair strands, cause hair breakage and trigger or exacerbate conditions that cause hair loss which may require treatment to manage. 

 
Causes: 

While many lifestyle choices can affect your hair health, here are those which have the greatest impact on teenage hair loss:

  • Smoking – it has been scientifically proven that smoking can cause hair loss [19] and early onset androgenetic alopecia [20]. And since it also contains nicotine, vaping may cause hair loss as well.
  • Excessive heat styling – applying high heat to hair can dry it out and cause air bubbles to form in the hair shaft, making it brittle.
  • Overuse harsh chemicals on your hair – frequent use of bleach or hair dye can cause hair loss, as the strong chemicals in them penetrate the hair shaft, damaging it and also irritating your scalp.
  • Eating a restrictive diet  – some vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss, so not getting enough nutrients, such as iron, zinc, biotin, vitamin D, or vitamin E can have a negative impact on your hair health.
  • Excessive exposure to the sun – too much sunlight is not good for your hair, as it can dry it out. Not wearing a head cover in hot weather can lead to summer hair loss.
  • High levels of stress – you may have heard that stress and anxiety can cause hair loss, and it is true. That is because they can trigger or worsen several conditions that cause hair shedding (e.g. telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, trichotillomania)
Symptoms:
  • Dry, brittle hair that breaks easily
  • Diffuse hair loss (especially from vitamin deficiencies)
  • Dull, flat, lacklustre tresses
  • Frizzy strands which are difficult to manage
Treatment:   While volumizing and repairing hair formulas may help, correcting the habits which have led to your hair breaking or falling out is the only reliable, long-term solution.

Can hair grow back after falling out in adolescence?

Whether your hair will grow back after falling out in adolescence depends on the condition which caused it to fall out in the first place. 

If your hair loss was due to telogen effluvium, traction alopecia, medication or lifestyle choices, there is a good chance that once you remove the factor which led to your hair shedding, you will soon start to see regrowth. Similarly, getting a systemic illness under control or regulating your hormones can lead to hair regrowth, provided these were the reasons for your hair thinning. 

If you are experiencing alopecia areata, your hair is likely to grow back within a year, but you might continue to have relapses throughout your life [21]. 

However, if your hair loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia, ageing is likely to make your condition worse, unless you keep it under control with hair growth treatment.   

Young beautiful bald woman

The psychological impact of teenage hair loss

Research performed on the psychological impact of hair loss on adolescents has revealed concerning results. Studies show that teenagers who experience alopecia have a significantly greater chance of developing at least one psychiatric disorder than their peers with healthy hair [3].

The most common of these are major depression, OCD and anxiety disorders [22][3]. They are also likely to experience increased incidences of low self-esteem [23], embarrassment and self-consciousness [12].

The main factors which increased the chances of a negative  psychological impact in teenagers with hair loss were:

  • The adolescent’s age and gender – the younger the teenager experiencing hair loss is, the more likely they are to feel shame and anxiety about their condition. At the same time, girls seem to be more severely affected on a psychological level by alopecia than boys [22]. 
  • The severity of the balding – teenagers with more extensive hair loss, such as alopecia ophiasis or alopecia totalis, are more likely to develop a poor self-image and be in more significant psychological distress [2]. 
  • The duration of the condition – prolonged disease duration seems to be less likely to significantly impact teenagers’ quality of life and emotional well-being than recently developed alopecia. This is likely due to having had time to get used to their condition [2]. 
  • The reaction of their peers – adolescents who are bullied on account of their alopecia are the most exposed to developing adverse psychological effects [12]. 
10 Most Common Causes of Teenage Hair Loss (and Treatments), Wimpole Clinic

Tips for coping with teenage hair loss

There are several things that teenagers can do to help them cope with their hair loss [24][25]:

  • Join a teenage hair loss support group – any burden is easier to carry if you don’t feel alone in carrying it. Finding other young people who share your experiences and know exactly how you feel can be liberating. 
  • Get support from your friends and family – it can be difficult to open up about things that truly bother you and make you feel vulnerable and helpless. But that is what your loved ones are for. Having the support of someone you trust can make a great difference when dealing with things outside of your control.
  • Talk to a therapist about your hair condition – teenage hair loss can affect you on a deep level, sometimes with a serious impact on your mental health. If you feel like the support of loved ones is no longer enough to make you feel better, don’t hesitate to see a mental health professional, who can give you the tools you need to cope. 
  • Use styling to your advantage – If your alopecia is not very extensive, there are many things you can do to hide thinning hair. You can use hair-thickening spray or one of the best volumizing shampoos for hair loss. And you can try one of the best hairstyles for men with thinning hair, or respectively, the best female hair loss styles for thinning on the crown

Are you concerned about teenage hair loss?

If you are worried you may be experiencing teenage hair loss, book a consultation with a trichologist and set your mind at ease. They will examine you thoroughly and run all the necessary tests to provide you with an accurate diagnosis. And once you have got to the root of your hair problems, they will recommend the best, personalised treatment.

Medications and therapies for hair growth are the most common and effective course of action when treating teenage hair loss. However, if your early-onset androgenetic alopecia persists into adulthood, there is no need to worry, as you may be a good candidate for a hair transplant.

Hair restoration surgery is not offered to minors, as their hormonal activity is still erratic and their hairline has not yet matured. Getting a hair transplant too early can lead to more hair loss around the transplant area over time, making a second procedure necessary. But if non-surgical options will no longer suffice, you can always get a hair transplant when you’re 25.

10 Most Common Causes of Teenage Hair Loss (and Treatments), Wimpole Clinic

Sources:
  1. The frequency of alopecia and quality of life in high-school students in rural areas (Sivrihisar, Mahmudiye, Alpu, and Beylikova) of Eskisehir
  2. Psychiatric symptomatology and health-related quality of life in children and adolescents with alopecia areata
  3. Comorbidity of psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents with alopecia areata in a child and adolescent psychiatry clinical sample
  4. Adolescent hair loss 
  5. Men’s Hair Loss – Introduction
  6. Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts
  7. Androgenetic Alopecia in Adolescents
  8. Pediatric androgenetic alopecia: a retrospective review of clinical characteristics, hormonal assays and metabolic syndrome risk factors in 23 patients
  9. Androgenetic alopecia in adolescents: A report of 43 cases
  10. Telogen Effluvium: A Review of the Literature
  11. A Single Centre Retrospective Review of Nutritional Deficiencies Associated With Telogen Effluvium in the Paediatric Population in Canada
  12. Quality of life in children and adolescents with alopecia areata—A systematic review
  13. Hair loss and its management in children
  14. Topical Immunotherapy in Alopecia Areata
  15. Zinc Pyrithione: A Topical Antimicrobial With Complex Pharmaceutics.
  16. Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Disorders in Children and Adolescents: Clinical Characteristics and Treatment Outcomes in a Naturalistic Setting
  17. Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder)
  18. Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder)
  19. The Effects of Smoking on Hair Health:  A Systematic Review
  20. Role of Smoking in Androgenetic Alopecia: A Systematic Review
  21. Alopecia Areata
  22. Alopecia Areata: Factors That Impact Children and Adolescents
  23. Association of alopecia with self-esteem in children and adolescents
  24. Psychology of Hair Loss Patients and Importance of Counseling
  25. Women and hair loss: coping tips
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on February 11, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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