Hair Loss In Babies: Why It Happens And How To Deal With It?

What causes hair loss in babies? Keep reading this MomJunction post to learn about hair loss in infants and ways to tackle it. Posted by Rohit Garoo. MomJunction is your friend, philosopher, and guide – all rolled into one. We are a place to stop for a while and hang out with likeminded people, a place to learn and to teach. Image courtesy of Tomas Rebro via Bigstockphoto.

Hair loss is seldom a condition you associate with babies. So it can be a scary experience when your little one’s hair starts to come off when you comb it!

Hair loss is not a new problem among infants, but its cause is often a mystery for parents.

Why Does A Baby’s Hair Fall?

Some amount of hair loss (medically called alopecia) is normal during the first six months of an infant’s life. This happens as the birth hair falls off, making way for permanent hair growth.

Hair loss after the age of six months or a significant loss during the first six months could be an indicator of problems. The following are some of the most likely causes of hair loss among infants:

  • Constant friction: Babies spend a lot of time on their back and tummy till they can sit up. It is but normal for the head to come in contact with external surfaces. Repeated contact can lead to friction, which if severe enough, can cause hair loss. Such type of hair loss is called friction alopecia or pressure alopecia. In such cases, hair loss usually ceases once the baby begins to sit and spends more time sitting than lying down.
  • Scalp infections: Scalp infections, including a fungal infection such as ringworm, can cause hair loss among infants. Ringworm can cause circular patches of baldness on the baby’s scalp.
  • Allergies: An allergic reaction of any form may lead to hair loss. A baby can be allergic to massage oil that you may apply to the baby’s scalp. Allergic conditions like eczema can also cause hair loss. A type of eczema that is commonly found on a baby’s head is seborrheic dermatitis, also called cradle cap.
  • Repeated tugging of hair: If your baby tends to play with their hair or if there is a sibling who tugs the hair, then it can cause loss of hair. Psychological conditions such as trichotillomania, where the affected person likes pulling out hair, could be one of the reasons for it.
  • Tight hairstyles: Braiding or tying the hair tightly is often a cause for hair loss in older infants and toddlers. Avoid binding the hair so tightly that it could damage the hair follicles and result in breakage and shedding of hair.
  • Illness and stress: Stress caused by diseases or a fever can make the hair follicle weak and lead to hair loss. Cancer and its treatment can also cause hair loss in infants and babies.

The causes of hair loss can be many. So, it is important to note the signs of hair loss among infants to identify the right problem.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hair Loss In Babies?

Here are the signs of severe hair loss in babies:

  • Too many hair strands in the comb: Perhaps the first indicator of hair loss would be excess hair in the teeth of your baby’s comb. If there are more than the usual number of hair strands, talk to the baby’s doctor.
  • Hair all over the crib and toys: Excessive hair loss in babies can leave a trail of hair on things that the baby uses, from their crib to stuffed toys.
  • Hair shed when you run fingers through them: You end up with tufts of hair between your fingers each time you run your fingers through the baby’s hair. This is most likely to happen in extreme cases of hair fall, such as cancer treatment.
  • Bald patches on the scalp: You notice small or large circular zones of baldness or thin hair on the baby’s scalp. It is most common in conditions like ringworm where the fungus invades only a part of the scalp, causing hair loss just in that area.
  • Red, crusty, or inflamed scalp: The scalp appears red or crusty with flakes of yellowish skin shedding while you comb. The skin of the scalp also is particularly inflamed. These symptoms can indicate dermatitis or eczema.

Do You Have To Take The Baby To A Doctor For Hair Loss?

Hair loss in babies is not a medical emergency. If the baby is otherwise healthy, there is no need to take the baby to a doctor. However, if the baby has the following symptoms along with hair loss, then it is better for the doctor to take a look.

  • Itchiness of the scalp
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Cracked and crusty scalp that bleeds
  • Baby tends to pull hair very often
  • Rapid hair thinning due to hair loss
  • Blisters or pimples appear at the point of hair loss
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

The doctor will suggest a course of treatment depending on the cause of hair loss.

How Is Hair Loss In Babies Treated?

The treatment of hair loss will depend on the diagnosis of the underlying problem. Through visual inspection of the scalp, the doctor will diagnose the reason for the hair fall. Treatment options for hair loss in babies include:

  1. Medicated baby-safe shampoos: If the doctor suspects an infection of the scalp, they may prescribe a medicated shampoo to clear the baby’s scalp of any pathogens that could have caused hair loss.
  1. Creams, lotions, and oils: Conditions like eczema of the scalp can be treated using creams that subdue inflammation. The doctor may also suggest lotions or baby oils that prevent the scalp from cracking, thus reducing hair loss.
  1. Anti-fungal ointments and medicines: Ringworm infections are treated with anti-fungal topical ointments. In severe cases of infection, your baby may be prescribed oral medications for faster relief.

In some cases, you can prevent hair fall by taking a few simple precautions.

How To Prevent Hair Loss In Babies?

There is little you can do to prevent natural hair loss in babies aged less than six months. However, you can minimize the risk and slow down hair loss with these precautions.

  • Shampoo your baby’s hair periodically: Get a mild, baby-safe shampoo and wash the baby’s hair at least once in two days. You can also consult the pediatrician about a schedule that works the best for your baby.
  • Avoid friction and tying baby’s hair too tight: Minimize scalp friction as much as you can and avoid tying the baby’s hair too tight. It takes off any strain on the hair follicles and thus reduces hair loss.
  • Maintain good hygiene: Fungal infections often spread due to contact with soiled and dirty clothes such as towels and caps. Always wash the baby’s towels and clothes with warm water and baby-safe disinfectant detergent. Washing hands, after playing outdoors, also helps prevent fungal spores from infecting the skin.
  • Be watchful of allergies: Allergic reactions often cause inflammation of the skin, including the scalp. Watch out for the signs of allergy, including symptoms such as skin hives and difficulty in breathing.

Hair loss is a benign problem that seldom leaves an impact on the baby’s health. It is, in very few cases, a result of a serious condition. Medical attention is usually not needed specifically for hair loss, but if you suspect something else might be wrong with the baby, then do not hesitate to consult the doctor. As babies grow older, they have denser, permanent hair that is stronger and less prone to falling.