Hair loss is normally associated with aging, but there are another group of people who are known for having thin hair, or no hair at all – babies and toddlers. Very young children can experience a range of hair loss and scalp conditions, which in most cases, though often drastic in appearance, are entirely harmless.
Hair loss in babies
In some cases, babies born with a generous head of hair will lose their locks during the first few months after birth. Although sometimes a cause for concern amongst new parents, this is usually nothing to be alarmed about – in fact, this sort of hair loss is caused by natural fluctuations in the child’s hormone levels. Whilst in the womb, foetuses are exposed to high levels of hormones from their mother, which cause the hair follicles in their scalp to go into the growth phase, or anagen. When the baby is born, the hormone levels in their bloodstream drop, leading to this hair being shed as the hair growth cycle begins again and new hair begins to develop and emerge. This new hair can be a radically different colour, and although it is often patchy at first, it will eventually become even thicker than the hair that was shed.
At The Belgravia Centre, we normally see Traction Alopecia in adults who have styled their hair very tightly – for instance, in cornrows or tight braids – but babies can also experience a form of this condition. Lying in one position for an extended period in a cot or car seat puts pressure on their hair follicles, and can lead to patchy hair loss. As with adult cases, once the source of the tension or stress is removed, the hair will likely grow back. With babies, this normally occurs when they start sitting up.
A common condition in infants, cradle cap resembles very severe dandruff or mild dermatitis. It involves a region of the scalp, face or nappy area becoming red and covered in oily yellow scales. Once these scales have dried out, they will flake off, taking some of the baby’s hair with them. Although cradle cap can be an unsightly condition, it causes no discomfort to the children who experience it, unless the affected region becomes swollen or infected – in which case the baby should be taken to a doctor. Although most common amongst children younger than eight months, cradle cap can also be experienced by older babies and toddlers. It will usually linger for a couple of weeks before clearing up of its own accord. Like infant hair loss, cradle cap is caused by hormonal imbalances that cause babies to secrete too much sebum – naturally-occurring oil which lubricates the hair.
If your baby continues losing their hair after they are six months old, or an older child starts to lose their hair, it is recommended that you consult a GP or paediatrician at the first opportunity.