are many congenital conditions that potentially affect normal
hair growth, but it's thankfully infrequent for a child to be
troubled with anything more than hair fall of a temporary kind.
When problems do arise most can be treated successfully with simple
alterations to the child's diet and/or hair care routine. The
most common children's hair loss conditions that trichologists
or other health professionals would see are outlined below.
anagen syndrome" is a temporary disorder of connective tissue
competency where the hair can be painlessly pulled from the scalp
with little effort. It presents as 'diffuse' (all over) hair loss,
and is more commonly seen in fair-haired girls between the ages
of 2 and 9 years.
to grow" scalp hair is thought to be a temporary delay in the
growth response mechanism. Typically the child is female between
the ages of 2 and 9 years, with fine hair of thin density. Presenting
parents usually complain that the youngster has never had a haircut,
because her hair has never grown beyond collar-length! The problem
is frequently corrected with zinc and iron supplements at an appropriate
dosage for the child's age. Increasing dietary protein intake
would also assist regrowth.
Even without treatment intervention, both problems will usually
recover by the time the child has reached puberty.
When poor dietary habits are extreme or have continued for a prolonged
time, hair breakage, dull, dry hair, or even hair loss may eventually
result. Teenage girls are most commonly 'at risk' here with "fad"
dieting or inadequate consumption of iron-rich food sources. Simple
advice on the value of the five food groups and commonsense eating
habits is usually enough. A multi-vitamin/mineral supplement taken
for 3-4 months can assist nutrition until a pattern of healthy
eating is secured.
Alopecia areata may present in susceptible children of any age,
and progress to the more severe forms where all body hair is lost.
Alopecia areata is an inherited 'autoimmune' condition, which
means the affected person's body is reacting against itself. This
disorder is more often seen in dark-haired and Asian people, whilst
2-5% of children who develop alopecia are found to be gluten intolerant
(the main protein of wheat).
Although anyone who develops alopecia has a genetic predisposition
to do so, it's believed that some "trigger" initiates its presentation.
This might be chronic emotional stress or severe shock, illness,
vaccinations, or a chemical/foreign substance not previously exposed
to. In adults, alopecia areata is closely linked to problems of
the thyroid gland, vitiligo, and Sjogren's syndrome, whilst periodontal
disease, chronic tonsillitis/sinusitis, or head injury are also
thought to be precipitating factors.
Recently, Israeli researchers have revealed that the body's white
blood cells may be reacting against the pigment cells within the
hair shaft. That's why hair regrowth in alopecia areata is nearly
always white i.e.; lacking any colour pigment.
Where alopecia develops in early childhood, it sometimes shows
a tendency to become more intractable and less responsive to treatment.
Severe alopecia areata can be very destructive psychologically,
so investigations as to a possible cause, and treatment, should
be undertaken without delay. At the same the treating practitioner
should encourage an optimistic approach to the young patient's
setback. Whilst treatments for alopecia areata are currently palliative
and probably do not ultimately alter its course, complete hair
regrowth can sometimes occur even in those with 100% scalp hair
Traction alopecia is as the name implies, hair loss that occurs
when the hair is held tightly under tension or "traction", causing
the hair shaft to be eventually extracted from the follicle. Traction
alopecia is regarded as mechanical hair loss, and is predominantly
seen in females who continually pull their hair back in buns or
ponytails. Here the problem presents as a 'thinning' of the hair
behind the front hairline margins. This type of hair loss is also
regularly seen with braiding or 'dreadlock' hairstyles. Provided
the styling practice is identified and redressed early, the lost
hair will recover.
Trichologists are now seeing increasing numbers young males and
females with androgenetic alopecia (genetic 'patterned' hair loss).
Developing this inherited complaint can be quite devastating for
the adolescent in terms of their self-confidence, and the youth's
parents who often express feelings of guilt for their child's
It cannot be overstated how important it is to refer these young
clients and their parents to a qualified trichologist or family
doctor, who can provide them with accurate information on the
availability of effective approved medication. By doing this,
these families are less vulnerable to the "slick" advertising
promises of commercial hair loss centres that currently ask many
thousands of dollars "up-front" for very dubious treatment programmes.
Four or five decades ago female androgenetic alopecia was mostly
limited to elderly women. It's now not uncommon to see girls as
young as 14-16 years presenting with this complaint. Female androgenetic
alopecia begins as a progressive thinning-out of the top, temple
and/or crown areas of the scalp. Occipital hair density is usually
unaffected unless there is an underlying nutritional or metabolic
disturbance. Unlike men's genetic hair loss, not all the hair
follicles across the top of a woman's scalp are affected - thus
'thinning' of the hair density occurs rather than total baldness.
Characteristic signs and symptoms should reveal the nature of
the problem, but scalp biopsy still remains the definitive diagnosis.
Finally, "trichotillomania" is a somewhat uncommon condition where
the child plucks his or her own hair from the scalp. It's often
an unconscious act whilst concentrating or 'day-dreaming'. Sometimes
though it's the result of underlying anxiety in the child from
a stressful home, school, or other social situation. Affected
areas have a ragged, uneven appearance where much hair breakage
or empty hair follicles are evident. The crown area, behind the
ears, or the opposite side of the scalp to the dominant hand is
usually the area that's most ravaged. As with many habits, trichotillomania
can be a difficult mannerism to arrest. Where the problem has
existed for a number of years, psychotherapy, hypnosis, and/or
antidepressant drugs are often used as treatments.
the Author: Tony Pearce RN is a consulting trichologist and
a registered nurse. He is a past chairperson for the International
Association of Trichologists. He has published numerous articles
on trichology issues and provides a website and online consultation
service for people seeking accurate information, diagnosis and
Other areas of hairloss in this section you may be interested in:
Inherited Male "Pattern" baldness
What Men need to know about hair and hair loss
Female genetic thinning
Poor Diet Leads to thinning Hair
Lotions and potions
Treatments for baldness: Prescriptions and pharmaceuticals
Hair replacement: Transplant and single hair micrographs
Non-surgical hair replacement: Wigs and hairpieces
Menopause and hair loss
All other causes of hair loss
Hair loss in Pregnancy
Prescription medication and its links to hair loss
Laser treatment for hair loss
Hair Loss in Children and Adolescents
The Trichologist - your hair loss specialist, find out more