As we grow older, it is expected for our hair to grow thinner. However, thinning hair amongst children can be alarming, and will be seen as problematic to many.
People consider hair loss and hair thinning a problem only adults face, but toddlers and babies experience it, too. Although hair thinning for adults is normal and will be experienced by basically everyone, hair thinning among toddlers is quite rare. Only 3% of pediatric patients experience this kind of problem.
That is why you have to look out for all the symptoms and factors that will cause hair thinning problems to your child. There is a wide variety of factors that may cause hair thinning, slow hair growth, and even hair loss.
In this article you will know the growth and development characteristics of a youngster’s hair, medical and non-medical reasons why your toddler’s hair is thinning, and the things you need to look out for to avoid or prevent hair thinning problems from happening.
Children’s hair growth and development characteristics
Before going through everything you need to know about the causes and prevention of hair thinning, it is important to know the basics of hair growth and development.
On the 22nd week, a developing fetus already has all of its hair follicles formed. With about 5 million hair follicles throughout the body, a total of one million can be found on the head, and
1000 of those follicles are located on the scalp itself. That is the largest number of follicles a human body can possibly have in its lifetime because we don’t develop any more follicles afterwards.
The density of the scalp hair is reduced as the human body grows from childhood to adulthood because the scalp has a tendency to grow as our body grows. Human hair, unlike those of other mammals, sheds in random and not seasonal. At any given time, our hair goes through three stages of hair growth – anagen, catagen, and telogen.
This is what we consider the active phase of the hair where the cells and roots of the hair are dividing at a fast rate. A new hair will be formed and will push the old hair up the follicle and eventually replace it completely. During this phase, the hair grows 1 cm every 28 days.
The Catagen phase is the transitional stage of the hair, about 3% of all hairs in the body are in this phase at any given time. It lasts for two to three weeks. The hair stops growing and the outer root starts to shrink. It will then attach itself to the root of the hair. This is the formation of the club hair, or the type of hair the new one pushes out.
The last and final stage of hair growth, telogen is considered to be the resting phase and is normally happening to about 6% to 8% of all hairs. It lasts for about 100 days. During this phase, the follicle completely rests and the club hair is formed. Pulling out a hair in this phase will bring you a solid, dry, and white component at the root. 25 to 200 telogen hairs shed normally every day.
Possible Causes of Thinning Hair on Children
Most of the time, thinning hair on children is caused by infection or other medical issues found in the scalp. Here are the most common medical causes:
- Scalp Ringworm
Ringworm is a common fungal skin infection. It causes red rashes around the body. When a ringworm finds its way to affect the scalp, it is most commonly known as tinea capitis. When this happens, red, itchy spots will appear on the scalp. This can be very irritable, and you will notice your child constantly scratches their scalp.
Scratching the scalp will cause the hair to slowly fall out. Some toddlers will even pull out their hair out of irritation and to try to relieve the itch. This usually causes hair thinning to appear in a few locations on the head.
It is recommended to use antifungal cream on the scalp to moisturize and get rid of all the itch and let the hair regrow.
- Alopecia aerate
This medical issue causes the immune system of the child to attach their hair follicles and cause the thinning, or worse, baldness. In worse cases, some children may lose their eyebrows and eyelashes. Some may experience periods when the hair falls out, and periods when it grows fully. Research proves that this type of medical issue is different for each individual.
There is still no cure for this disease, but treatments will surely manage the symptoms and keep the constant hair fall from happening. There are also no specific drugs to treat alopecia aerate yet, but doctors prescribe certain drugs that will help stop the body from attacking hair follicles.
- Traction alopecia
This type of medical issue happens when the scalp experiences tension or pulling for a long period of time. This usually happens to kids who wear very tight braids or ponytails. This issue also occurs when people use cheap extensions on their hair or by attaching extensions at home.
The results of Traction Alopecia can be itchy, red, thinning spots of hair. It may also cause hair loss that concentrates on areas where the most pressure was focused.
Traction alopecia usually goes away on its own when the hairstyle of the child loosens, and may even give way for a healthier hair growth. But there are cases when the person with this kind of medical situation develops scalp infection. If that happens, antibiotics are highly recommended.
- Telogen effluvium
This medical issue occurs after an extreme physical or emotional shock.
As you can see, healthy hair grows on a usually predictable schedule. After 2 to 6 years, the hair will then go into the rest period, also known as the telogen stage. This stage lasts for about 4 months before new hair replaces the old ones and pushes it out.
When a child’s hair is healthy, up to 90% of their hair is actively growing at any given time. However, when telogen effluvium happens, it causes more hair to stay in the telogen phase and not grow at all.
Some causes of telogen effluvium include:
- Physical injuries
- Emotional stress
- Fever or infection
- Surgery with general anesthesia
- Vitamin and nutritional imbalances
Always be on the lookout for these causes, because it is quite common for this case to go unnoticed. When you feel that your child has experienced one of the situations given above, observe their hair growth and find a way for it to be treated so that the hair thinning will be manageable.
A lot of products used for hairstyles can cause major medical issues to your child’s hair. If you are planning to bleach, dye, or straighten their hair, you should think twice before doing so because these products can be very toxic to kids. Try asking your hairstylist for alternative products that are safe and nontoxic for children.
- Constant styling and blow-drying
Blow-drying produces too much heat for your child’s hair to handle. Avoid constant designing of the hair using this equipment because it causes serious damage to the scalp. Quit blow-drying and styling the hair every day to minimize heat exposure
- Hair ties
Tying your child’s hair can be the only bonding you get these days, but you should keep in mind that pulling their hair into a tight bun, or ponytail, or braid causes trauma to their scalp and will later on develop into a serious medical condition. Be gentle when combing and brushing their hair, and keep ponytails loose to prevent trauma and hair loss.
Things to Look Out for to Avoid and to Treat Thinning Hair
Thinning hair is a big issue to your kids mainly because it may seem harmless at first, but will surely cause major health problems in the long run. It is your job as the parent to be mindful and look out for symptoms or signs that may indicate that your child is developing medical and causes of hair thinning.
Here are things you should always be on the lookout for:
- Constantly complaining about an itchy scalp
- Excessive scratching of the scalp and head
- Redness, scaling, and bald patches on the head
- Tender scalp
- Insignificant hair loss for no reason
- Generally unwell or always with low energy
If your child is showing any of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to consult a dermatologist about the issue.
Prevention of Alopecia or Hair Thinning
The best way to make sure your child is safe from this kind of matter is to prevent anything that has the possibility to cause it. Be mindful when combing, brushing, and cleansing your child’s hair, pulling too hard may cause hair loss and hair thinning.
Avoid using hair straightener and other chemicals on their hair as well as it may cause some damage that you will regret in the future.
All in all, the thinning of your child’s hair is not normal and is absolutely not something you can just brush off. Their scalp, just like any other part of their body, is important and needs the same attention as anything else.
Always be mindful of the symptoms. Keep in mind that it is your duty as their guardian to keep them safe and healthy at all times. Consult your doctor the moment you see more than one symptom of hair thinning or alopecia on your child.