Have you noticed that younger people seem to be losing their hair a lot sooner? It may not be your imagination.
New research found that people in China in their 20s are going bald sooner than any generation before them.
The data was anecdotal from a self-reported survey of 4,000 students at Tsinghua University in Beijing, but researchers said 60 percent of the young study participants reported they were losing significant amounts of hair.
While 25 percent of respondents said they didn’t notice the hair loss until they were told by friends or family, 40 percent responded they were quite aware of their receding hairlines.
Researchers also reported that the students least likely to report hair loss were studying science, math, and automotive engineering.
Millennials and hair loss
Although balding is typically associated with advancing age, an increasing number of millennials in the United States say they’re experiencing hair loss.
Dr. Andrea Hui, a San Francisco dermatologist, said that both men and women as young as 18 years old are asking her for help in combating hair loss.
New York hairstylist Angelo David told the New York Post that an increasing number of his younger clients are expressing concerns with thinning hair and receding hairlines.
Hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders, and stress are among the known causes of hair loss in young men and women.
However, diet can also strongly influence hair health.
The growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets could be contributing to millennial hair loss.
Research conducted last year by Dr. Emily L. Guo, a resident physician at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, indicated that severely reduced protein consumption as well as deficiencies in zinc, vitamin D, and other nutrients can negatively affect hair growth.
How big a factor is stress?
Stress can affect the growth lifecycle of your hair.
Usually, your hair grows, then stops growing, and finally falls out.
These steps are called the anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen phases.
The anagen (growth phase) of a human scalp hair lasts from two to six years. After the growth phase, hair enters a short catagen phase (a few days) when the follicle shrinks slightly.
That’s followed by the telogen phase when the hair remains stable. Finally, hair enters the exogen phase during which it falls out.
This is a continuous process and it’s normal for someone to shed between 50 and 100 hairs every day.
“Stress can interrupt the hair growth process by moving hairs out of the growth phase prematurely. This can cause higher amounts of hair to fall out,” Day told Healthline.
Stress-induced hair loss has been demonstrated in mice exposed to loud noises. In this study, stress led the rodents’ hairs to enter catagen prematurely.
Another study involving monkeys found a greater likelihood of hair loss in test animals with higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
According to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA), research indicates a connection between age and stress. Millennials say they feel isolated or lonely due to stress while maintaining an average of five “close friends” with whom they can relax, discuss personal matters, or call on for help.
APA researchers discovered that members of generation X and millennials reported higher levels of stress than older generations. They also seem to have more difficulty successfully coping.
Day said that millennials’ hair maintenance may also be contributing to hair loss.
“Excessive bleaching and dying can seriously damage hair,” she said. “The weight and tension of hair extensions can also weaken hair follicles, causing more hair to fall out.”
Millennials are more ‘hair aware’
Day considers the increasing focus placed on appearance through the media as another factor that makes millennials more sensitive to hair changes.
“It’s normal for people to experience some hair loss in their 20s and 30s,” she said, “but greater exposure to celebrities and the media create a greater desire for thicker, more attractive hair than earlier generations experienced.”
“Anyone concerned about thinning hair or balding should see a dermatologist to discover what can be done,” Day added. “There are medical, nutritional, and other interventions that can help.”