Hair transplant for teenagers: Is it safe?
October, 12 2019 | By Dr. Sangay Bhutia (Hair Transplant Specialist in Delhi)
Teenage is usually not associated with hair loss, it is seen as more of an older people problem. Teens usually see a spurt of hair growth on their body as puberty sets in. However, there are a growing number of teens around the world, who are experiencing early hair loss, some of which may be permanent. A large number of teenagers are also looking for solutions including hair transplants, as it can be particularly traumatic to undergo hair loss at such an early age. Whether hair transplants are safe for teens, is in fact a commonly asked question that hair experts encounter on a regular basis.
Hair loss in teens can be caused by stress, nutritional deficiencies, extreme dieting, or health problems. A sudden shock to a body caused by surgery or trauma can also lead to the hair growth cycle being temporarily disrupted resulting in hair loss. In some cases, Trichotillomania or a hair pulling disorder can be the culprit. It is marked by an irresistible urge to pull hair from the scalp or eyebrows etc. Usually triggered by stress, emotional distress, or found in people with a family history of the disorder, Trichotillomania develops during early teens and can last a lifetime.
All of these issues are resolvable with the right medication, change in nutrition, psychological help, and the right care. However teenagers can undergo Androgenetic Alopecia or male pattern baldness as well. For some people, permanent baldness can set in as early as their teens or early twenties. The only permanent solution to this kind of hair loss is a transplant.
Appearance is an important subject for teens, especially in the social media age, where some teens live for those platforms. Hair fall, especially the permanent kind, at this age can cause serious psychological issues, making teens look at hair transplant as their only hope. However, teens are usually advised to wait for a while before the surgery can be performed on them. Even for patients in their early to mid twenties, surgeons may occasionally perform the surgery, but it doesn’t happen often. The reasons are simple. First, it is very difficult to ascertain the pattern of hair loss, and anticipate future hair loss. Even if teens are diagnosed with pattern baldness, surgeons cannot be sure as to how much hair and in what pattern will it fall in the future. So, even if a teen was to get a hair transplant, they will have to get a second one soon after as progressive hair fall occurs leaving new bald patches on the scalp.
The surgeon will usually ask patients to wait till their mid to late twenties, so that the hair loss pattern becomes more discernible, and they can predict what kind of hair fall the patient will experience in the future, and take that into account while planning the hairline and placing the grafts. However, if teens have a bald patch because of an accident, a burn, or a scar, then they can undergo a hair transplant. In such cases, the hair loss is not expected to progress with age as it is not happening because of Androgenetic Alopecia. In these cases, it is safe for teens to get a transplant.
For the rest, it is advisable to wait for a few more years. However, there is medication which they can use during this time to arrest hair loss. Minoxidil and Finasteride are the two most commonly used medications for hair loss. A topical medication, Minoxidil is meant for people suffering from pattern baldness. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, or a formulation which dilates blood vessels thereby improving the flow of blood to parts of the body. It relaxes the muscle walls, and boosts the flow of blood; stimulates hair growth by improving the supply of essential nutrients and oxygen to hair follicles. Minoxidil usage can show results in four to five months, and while it might not bring back the hair that a patient has already lost, it can arrest hair fall.
Meanwhile, Finasteride contains hormones that block the breakdown of testosterone, and reduces the levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the primary culprit in pattern baldness. DHT, which is made from testosterone, causes the shrinking or miniaturisation of hair follicles, weakens them, and makes them fall out eventually resulting in long-term hair loss. Finasteride and minoxidil can both arrest hair fall, and can be helpful for teens. Some surgeons don’t prescribe Finasteride to teens, but those who are 18 and 19 can use it safely.
These can be good options for teens to deal with hair loss, till the time they are a few years older and eligible for a hair transplant.