The actual data on hair loss among younger people is thin – a word that Generations Z and Millennials nonetheless use to describe what’s happen on their scalps.
The perceptions of people in these age groups are they are losing their hair at a faster rate and at an earlier age than their parents. A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that Chinese people under age 40 perceived they were losing their hair faster than Caucasians. Between a quarter and a third of people surveyed said they were seeing some hair thinning.
But that was a perception, with no data to showing their fears were a reality.
Importantly, perceptions are reality where it comes to hair loss. There is some indication that younger Americans, those of the Generation Z and Millennial generations, are losing their hair earlier than the generations that came before them. It’s only a slight difference, but one that deserves examination.
One thing for certain, there are many, many more hair loss treatment centers than there ever were before. The hair loss solutions industry has become massive, with treatment providers offering both men and women laser hair loss therapy, hair restoration surgery, nonsurgical hair systems, which are fancy wigs, as well as medical hair loss treatment with drugs like Rogaine and Propecia.
It is vital to understand there are basically three factors affecting most hair loss, those being genetics, lifestyle habits, and environment. The second category, lifestyle, requires a further breakdown as it encompasses many things including diet, exercise, mental health, and grooming habits. Also, the physical environment (air quality in particular) can affect hair, skin, and scalp health.
Genetics are unchangeable, of course. And they are complex – it’s not so simple as a father or maternal grandfather being bald that determines a son’s hair loss. Nor, for that matter, does a daughter have alopecia because her mother did. It’s an interplay of the genetics from both the maternal and paternal lines.
Diet and exercise are another matter. There are many foods that support hair growth, protein being among them (hair is made up of keratin, a protein that also forms finger and toe nails). For the most part, a healthy and balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and sufficient protein are pro-hair. What’s detrimental to hair health diets heavy in empty-calorie processed foods or those characterized as forcing severe caloric restriction (e.g. anorexia nervosa and yo-yo dieting).
So while actual data on hair loss within generations is lacking, there is a slight suggestion of better follicles in younger (Millennial and Generation Z) people. Compared to Gen X and Boomers, the people born after 1981 are exhibiting slightly lower obesity rates (allowing that obesity is somewhat an indicator of poor food habits). These are also the generations who use technologies such as wearables that help them track their activity levels and diets to effect better health outcomes.
What might still be a negative factor affecting younger peoples’ hair is stress. Hair loss is well understood to happen for individuals in stressful life phases – which for younger people with high-demand jobs, high college loan repayment burdens, and an inability to purchase a home – is a distinct reality.
So is hair loss greater in younger generations today vs. a few generations ago? It may well be, however the data to indicate as much does not currently exist.