What to Do When You Notice Thinning Hair in Your 20s and 30s

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You have about 100,000 individual hairs on your scalp. It’s completely normal to lose anywhere between 50 and 100 hairs every day. But since other hairs are growing while old hair is shed, you typically don’t notice any substantial hair loss.

But what if you experience early hair loss? Losing hair in your 20s or 30s can be particularly distressing, especially if you’re not sure why it’s happening. Thinning of hair can be a signal of an underlying problem or a combination of problems, but fortunately, early hair loss may be treatable in some individuals.

This issue affects both men and women. Some people aren’t bothered by their changed appearance. But others experience emotions like sadness or embarrassment when their hair starts to thin. If you’re concerned because you’re losing your hair or it’s thinning, your doctor can help pinpoint the cause of the loss and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

What Causes Early Hair Loss?

Early hair loss is often related to one or several factors, including:

  • Certain hairstyles: Hairstyles like cornrows or pigtails, which pull hair tight, may increase your risk for early hair loss.

  • Heredity: A family history increases your likelihood of experiencing early hair loss.

  • Hormones: Early hair loss in women is often caused by fluctuations in hormones, such as during pregnancy or menopause. You may also lose hair if your thyroid gland isn’t working properly.

  • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, like diabetes, may cause premature hair loss. Scalp infections such as ringworm may also result in loss of hair.

  • Medications: Hair loss is a known side effect of certain medications, like those prescribed for cancer treatment, high blood pressure, depression, or arthritis.

  • Stressful events: Extremely stressful events, such as a divorce, may result in early hair loss. Often, this type of early hair loss is only temporary.

  • Treatments: Certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the head, may cause hair to fall out.

How Do You Treat Early Hair Loss?

If you’re experiencing thinning hair in your 20s and 30s, it could be a sign of something more serious. Talk to your doctor to develop a plan for narrowing down the problem. Often, once you discover the underlying issue, treating that condition can stop hair loss. If you can’t pinpoint the cause, that’s okay; fortunately, several treatments are available to help manage early hair loss. Your doctor may prescribe medications to slow or stop hair loss. Some medications even promote new hair growth and may be available as over-the-counter products.

For some people, hair transplant surgery offers the chance to restore your hair’s appearance. During this procedure, your surgeon removes small patches of skin from the back of your scalp. These skin patches each contain several hair follicles, which are then implanted into areas of balding. This type of hair restoration may help revitalize bald or thinning patches of hair.

Some people choose to use devices that emit low-level laser light to stimulate new hair growth. This treatment is still being studied for its effectiveness, but it has been shown to increase hair density in some research studies.

Can You Prevent Early Hair Loss?

Unfortunately, hair loss caused by genetic factors isn’t preventable. But hair loss due to other factors may be avoidable. Preventing early hair loss starts by treating your hair gently each time you wash and dry it. Avoiding harsh hair treatments and products, such as hot oil treatments, hot rollers, or chemicals used in permanents may help you avoid hair loss in your 20s or 30s.

You can also help prevent early hair loss by avoiding hairstyles that pull your hair tight, such as braids or buns. If you pull, twist, or rub your hair frequently, try to quit. Stopping these behaviors can also help keep your hair healthy. And since some studies show a link between smoking and baldness in men, it’s important to stop smoking.

If you’re concerned about losing hair early, you have options for treatment. Ask your doctor to help determine the cause of your hair loss. Something as simple as a scalp infection can usually be treated easily, which may help to quickly restore your hair to its natural thickness. If your hair loss is caused by something else, your doctor can help you decide which treatments are likely to work best for you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 15
  1. Hair loss. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926
  2. Hair loss. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/hair-loss
  3. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? American Academy of
    Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/hair-care/hair-loss-vs-hair-shedding
  4. Hair Loss. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/condition/hair-loss/
  5. Diffuse hair loss: Its
    triggers and management. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. https://www.mdedge.com/ccjm/article/95095/dermatology/diffuse-hair-loss-its-triggers-and-management
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