My daughter was born with a full head of hair. Now that she’s almost 8 years old, it’s gorgeously long and beautiful. My husband is Vietnamese and she benefits from their healthy, fast growing hair genes. In fact, she has the exact kind of hair that I always wanted growing up. It’s long, thick, shiny, and straight with just a tiny curl at the end. My own is pretty much the exact opposite!
Convenient Hair Style
Styling my daughter’s hair has always been fun for me. Even though we’ve enjoyed trying many unique hairstyles (including an elaborate star design for July 4th), there was one style that we seemed to fall back on most of the time. It’s what I call a waterfall ponytail, which is a half ponytail on top, flowing into a full ponytail by the nape of the neck. It kept the fly away strands near her face tamed, and the rest of her hair contained so it didn’t tangle. Plus, it took very little time to do. Easy, peasy! We have to get up very early during the week, so for convenience sake, I would let her sleep in her hair ties, then just quickly fix it in the morning.
One morning a few years ago, however, as I went to quickly re-do her hair, I was stopped in my tracks. My jaw literally fell open. I was shocked to discover that my little girl had a bald spot right in the middle of her scalp! A BALD SPOT!! It wasn’t tiny either- about the size of a quarter (which seemed humongous on her little head).
My first thought was that maybe she or her sister had cut it. But, it was completely smooth, with no little hairs poking out. Then I wondered if she had pulled a hair tie out, and a bunch of hair went with it (I did that when I was a kid). Although, the size of the bald spot was much too large to be caused by that. As I examined it closely, I ruled out anything my child could have done to herself. Which left only medical reasons, or me, as the culprit.
How in the world could this have happened?
Could I have done this to her?
How did it get so big without me noticing it?
Reasons that Children have Hair Loss
I was quite scared as I turned to the internet to find out what we were dealing with. My head spun with all kinds of crazy diagnosis. One that came to mind immediately was Alopecia Areata. I was familiar with this because my 5th grade Reading students analyze a book in which the main character has this disease that causes hair to fall out inexplicably.
Then other possibilities popped up on the computer screen, most I had never heard of, and couldn’t even pronounce. Trichotillomania is where kids pull, twist, or rub their hair out. Telogen Effluvium is a condition in which severe stress interrupts hair growth (it was the beginning of the school year, could my little girl be THAT stressed?). Tinea Capitis is ringworm of the scalp. There were also nutritional deficiencies, which didn’t seem likely. Hypothyroidism was a potential source since I have this endocrine issue (but without the hair loss). Finally, at the bottom of the website was a list of non-medical reasons for hair loss. One reason listed was hair abuse, in which vigorous brushing or putting the hair into tight ponytails can cause it to fall out. (Bingo-That’s it!)
As I researched further I found that this ‘hair abuse’ is also known as Traction Alopecia. It’s caused by forcefully pulling the hair, or wearing it in a tight ponytail in the same location often. Basically, I had abused my daughter’s hair so much in one spot, that it completely stopped growing! It was My fault! Cue the mommy guilt!!
Thankfully, Traction Alopecia is not permanent (if caught early). Being more gentle with the hair will allow it to grow back. So, we changed a lot about how we handled my daughter’s hair. We stopped doing the same style everyday (and got creative hiding her bald spot). She was no longer allowed to sleep with hair ties. We used essential oils that promote hair growth, to encourage her hair to grow back. We switched from thin hair bands to thicker ones that wouldn’t get as tight or rub as hard against her scalp.
After a few weeks of hoping, praying, and crossing our fingers, her hair started growing back. It took a few years to get to the length of the rest of her hair, but we are just thankful that it eventually grew back just as good as ever. So much so, in fact, that she’s donated her long, healthy hair to children in need three times already.
Sadly, there are many reasons for hair loss in children (much more than listed here). If you are concerned that your little one is losing hair and/or has a bald spot, it’s important to speak with your child’s pediatrician. Some causes of hair loss require medicine or lifestyle changes, but many are treatable.
I obviously never knew that what I was doing could cause baldness. I wish someone had told me sooner, so that my little girl didn’t have to deal with the repercussions of my mistake. Which is why I’m sharing my story now. I could beat myself up over it some more (because I certainly did enough of that when I made the initial discovery!), or I could learn my lesson, move on, and help another mama out so that her child doesn’t have to suffer like mine did.