About Receding Hairlines in Teenagers

by Beth Greenwood

    Although many a middle-aged man might envy the typical teenager’s thick head of hair, baldness is a condition that can begin in the teens. Male pattern baldness, the most common type of hair loss in men, according to the National Institutes of Health, often begins with a receding hairline. In addition, the hair typically becomes thinner.

    Hair loss in teens can be caused by a variety of factors, according to the Kids Health website. Medical conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes and thyroid disease or medications such as steroids may cause hair loss. A skin disease called alopecia areata may cause hair loss not only on the scalp but also in other places on the body. People who pull their hair out because of psychological conditions may develop bald patches, and chemical treatments can damage hair and cause it to fall out. Eating disorders can cause hair loss because of poor nutrition, and a traumatic event or serious illness can cause a teen to shed excessive hair. An excessively tight hairstyle can also cause hair loss from tension on the scalp.

    Most people normally lose about 50 to 100 hairs each day, according to Kids Health. These hairs are replaced by the body. Each hair grows from a follicle, which will normally continue to grow new hairs. In male or female pattern baldness, however, even though the hair follicle remains alive it does not grow new hairs. Both male and female pattern baldness usually occur over a period of time. If hair comes out in clumps, or a teen sheds an excessive amount of hair in a short time, it is unlikely to be related to male or female pattern baldness.

    Male pattern baldness is a genetic condition. Male sex hormones are also involved with this condition. Although girls can also be affected, hair loss usually occurs on the top of the head and crown rather than the hairline, according to the NIH. Polycystic ovary syndrome is one cause of hair loss in teen girls and may be related to excessive male sex hormone production. In boys and men, the typical hair loss pattern is a receding hairline at the temples, resulting in an “M” shaped hairline, with additional thinning of the hair on the crown. A receding hairline is unlikely to be due to medical conditions, which may also be accompanied by sores, itching or redness of the scalp.

    In addition to a receding hairline, a teen with male pattern baldness is likely to develop hair that is finer and shorter. Hair loss is permanent. Although a receding hairline may be a source of psychological stress or affect a teen’s self-esteem, it is not usually a health issue. However, going bald can signify an increased risk of heart disease, according to an April 2013 article in the “British Medical Journal.” The researchers, found, however, that baldness on the top of the head, rather than a receding hairline, was more likely to be associated with heart disease.

    If your teen is concerned about hair loss, Kids Health recommends some strategies. Treat the hair gently -- don’t rub vigorously with a towel or shampoo too often and use a mild shampoo, such as baby shampoo. Air drying is less damaging to the hair than blow drying. Avoid styling wet hair, as it is more likely to stretch and break than dry hair. Avoid chemical treatments if possible, as they can be damaging to the hair. If you or your teen feel stronger measures are warranted, consult your family doctor or pediatrician about medical treatments.

    About the Author

    Beth Greenwood is a registered nurse and writer. She served as a columnist for the Tides Foundation's Community Clinic Voice on quality improvement and now contributes to various websites. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College and is a graduate of the California HealthCare Foundation Health Care Leadership Program.

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