Loose Anagen Syndrome: A Benign Childhood Hair Loss Condition

In the realm of special needs, loose anagen syndrome may not seem so serious. But for little girls, it's a hit on developing healthy self-esteem.

Christina Rovik, 6, is happiest in the water.

Lined up with her swim team in one-pieces and swim caps, the standout swimmer looks just like all the other girls.

But it’s when the cap comes off that Christina starts to feel different.

The Canton first-grader has a rare condition called loose anagen syndrome, which causes her to have very thin, short hair that falls out easily. Taking off her swim cap can painlessly pull out gobs of her hair, and the same thing can happen with hairbrushing or taking out a ponytail holder.


Her mother, Nancy Rovik, says Christina has been mistaken for a boy and handed “boy” toys at McDonald’s because of her short hair. Now she asks to wear dresses every day so people know she’s a girl.

“She cries and she wishes she had long hair,” Rovik says. “She gets really sad about it. I think it’s an emotional toll on her. ”

When asked about her hair, the adorable blue-eyed 6-year-old recalled a time at preschool when a friend tried to help her on a swing and accidentally pulled out a handful of her hair.

“I don’t want them to pull my hair out,” she says. “My hair is not attached to my scalp.”

What is it?

Loose anagen syndrome is seen most often in fair-haired children like Christina and usually appears between ages 2 to 5, says Dr. Richard Weiermiller, a pediatrician affiliated with Beaumont Children’s Hospital. It is more common in girls than boys, he says.

“It would be noticed because the child just never has any thickness to their hair or any length to their hair,” Weiermiller says. Children with the syndrome rarely need haircuts.

In Christina’s case, she was 2 1/2 years old when her big sister Mackenzie gave her a haircut while mom and dad weren’t looking – it became her “first and last” haircut, Nancy Rovik says.

“It never grew back,” she says. “It just kind of kept getting thinner and thinner and more of it was falling out. It would be on her pillow, it would be everywhere.”

Rovik took Christina to see a pediatric dermatologist at age 4, where she was diagnosed with loose anagen syndrome.

Little is known about why the syndrome develops, though some research suggests it can sometimes be related to certain hereditary disorders, Weiermiller says.

“It has to do with the way we grow hair,” he says. Just as infants often have bald spots on the backs of their heads due to sleeping on their backs, “it’s the same basic premise with people with loose hair.

“That isn’t loose anagen syndrome, but it’s a similar process,” he says.

Some children with the syndrome are more affected than others. “It’s a minor issue for some kids, whereas for other kids it can be pretty drastic,” Weiermiller says.

There is no cure for loose anagen syndrome.

“The basic treatment is none, other than trying to prevent trauma to the hair itself,” he says. “The least you can do to manipulate the hair, the better in terms of keeping it in place.”

Family changes

The Rovik family has made some adjustments at home to help Christina, including using a soft bristle brush, avoiding the blow dryer and curling iron and using baby shampoo. They take extra precautions outside because Christina’s scalp sunburns very easily.

Nancy Rovik also started doing her other two daughters’ haircuts herself so Christina doesn’t feel left out by a trip to the salon.

“You can’t treat one differently,” she says.

Mom and Mackenzie have also both chosen shorter-than-usual haircuts recently, so Christina would feel less envy over her mom and sister’s long, thick locks.

But despite her best efforts, Rovik can’t help but feel sorry for Christina when it’s time for those back-to-school trims at home, or when she sees her daughter brushing or braiding sisters Mackenzie and Samantha’s hair for them.

“There’s nothing I can do to make her hair long,” Rovik says. It’s even more noticeable to others “when your 4-year-old has longer hair than your 6-year-old.”

Shopping for toys can also become complicated, as the family is always on the lookout for girl dolls and figurines that have short hair. Snow White is a popular choice, and Christina has an American Girl doll, Kit, who has a short hairstyle.

“It made her happy to see it,” Rovik says. “Being able to see things with short hair – it makes my life easier.”

The good news, Weiermiller says, is loose anagen syndrome tends to go away on its own by adulthood – although when exactly that happens can vary.

“It’s a rare thing to start with – and even more rare for it to continue into – adulthood,” he says.

Rovik sees no signs so far that Christina’s hair is changing and wonders whether it ever really will. She also knows more challenging times could be ahead as Christina gets older.

“Sometimes kids are cruel,” Rovik says. “I pray that she will grow out of it. I just wish there was something I could do.”

In the meantime, the Roviks always make sure Christina knows how beautiful she is – inside and out.

“She’s a gorgeous kid,” her mother says. “I think she’s beautiful.”

When discussing differences like this with young children, Weiermiller encourages parents to focus on their child’s strengths and what they have in common with siblings or friends instead of their differences.

“Whenever you’re explaining something like that – you have to focus on positives. You have to point out the fact that it is one minor thing in the whole scope of things,” he says. “I think the biggest concern is the child feels 100 percent different. If you can show them they’re 99.9 percent the same, that’s a better way of getting them to view themselves.”

Understanding the condition

The Roviks also seek awareness and understanding from the community.

The sometimes unruly appearance that loose anagen syndrome has given Christina’s hair has elicited responses in public ranging from the sarcastic “That’s an interesting haircut,” to assumptions that the girl has cancer, Rovik says.

“I just want people to understand that she’s not a boy, that she doesn’t have a communicable disease. Nobody can catch it. It’s not something that she’s doing to herself. It’s just the way she was made,” she says. “I don’t want people to make up assumptions.”

Long hair or not, Christina is a “girly girl,” her parents say, who loves princesses, playing dress-up and attending ballet class in addition to her competitive swimming.

“I don’t want (people) to think differently of her and I want them to treat her like the girly girl that she is,” Rovik says.

Christina has some goals of her own: “I want to swim in the Olympics,” she says. And, as for her hair, her dream is a common one for girls her age, though it has special meaning for Christina.

“I want to have Rapunzel’s blond hair,” she says with a shy smile. “So it can be so long and longer than the whole world.”

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for 2016.

Photo by Kristen Hines


  • My daughter, now 11, was diagnosed with LAS 3 years ago. We were at Cleveland Clinic for her older sister’s foot surgery and the nurse noticed my youngest daughter’s hair and asked if she had cancer. I replied,no and told the nurse our family doctor had no answers for me. She asked if I was interested in having the hair specialists take a look. Of course we did. She had a biopsy done and we were told she had a genetic disorder called LAS. My husband and I we’re surprised because she is the first we know of in our families. They said she should grow out of it after puberty. She prays every day it will change. She is on a dance competition team and we use hair pieces for her so she has a bun or ponytail. We always have to be careful it won’t pull out her hair or cause breakage. She recently had a girl ask her why her she kept her hair cut short and so thin. She broke down sobbing for almost 30 minutes. She says she is tired of people asking because it is not like it is a choice. I work on her realizing that she is beautiful no matter the hair length. It grows in a nice pattern so it looks like a style. We try to get the right products and she has taken vitamins. When I tell her how so many people comment on her beauty she says, “Yes I know but I want my hairstyle to be by choice not because it won’t grow!”

  • It is tough I get it and now my 3rd daughter I am sure has it. Her hair is the same as my middle daughter CC it is tough on them and my heartbreaks, glad we are not alone and that we have a group out there and that understand it. Hugs to your daughter!

  • My daughter was diagnosed this morning with LAS. So glad I found this article. She is 4 and I’ve been going from Dr to dr trying to figure out what it was. I’m glad to have a diagnosis but sad several years ahead of us before her hair stops falling out.

  • My daughter was just diagnosed today she is 5 1/2. Its been really tough, but at least we know of other who are dealing with this like we are. She has been bullied for her hair before and called a baby because of it. I remember being at Disney world and people thinking she was a cancer patient it broke my heart because she is just a normal little girl like everyone else, she just doesn’t have long hair. Its going to be a long road ahead, but now we know what its called.

  • My 3 year old daughter was diagnosed this morning with LAS. She is the most vane toddler on earth and she wants nothing more than to have long Repunzel hair. I know that we will have to answer hard questions about why her sisters can wear their hair in pony tails and why she has to keep her scalp covered in the sun but I also know how lucky we are that this is all it is. There are children and families who are battling much more serious health concerns and that I have a strong willed and confident daughter who will take every day as it comes.

  • Hello, Living in Continental Europe, my daughter Victoria has been doagnosed LAS when she was about 5 year, by a Belgian specialist. She is now 14 and the hair are still not growing quicker than before. She has always got the same feeling as before and is still disappointed not having long Rapuntzel hair 🙁 It seems there is no treatment for that. The nails and hair on her body are growing at there standard rate. The problem remains only locate on the scalp….

  • My daughter was 2 yrs when the physician at Children’s Memorial in Chicago diagnosed her with LAS. She is now 7 1/2 and it has not gotten any better. She barely has any hair in the front part of her head and the back still hasn’t gone to her shoulders. She loves going to the salon to get “haircuts” and she is always trying to get her haircut with bangs. I’m not sure how much longer we can pretend to get her haircut, but we do the best we can to give her a few “bangs”. She is going to figure it out sooner or later that we really aren’t cutting her hair. It really is hard as a parent to see your daughter want something and you can’t give it to them. It took me 9 years to get her, she will be my only daughter, and I will miss out on ever being able to do my little girls hair. You all know how you dreamed of having a little girl and being able to do pretty braids or pigtails. She was in dance recital and they required a certain bun in her hair which I could not do. She noticed she was the only girl in the show that didn’t have a bun on top of her head. I do thank God that she is a healthy and happy girl and so far she has such a positive attitude about The whole thing. But it worries me that they can’t figure this whole LAS out, how do they know that there isn’t an underlying condition? And why can’t they figure out a remedy for it. I get it is cosmetic, but it is also that special bonding a mother and daughter get to do together that is lost.

    • My 12 year old , who was diagnosed at the age of 4 has been in competition dance for the last 2 years. She can’t do the competition hair style that the other girls wear and she is okay with that. As I left in my original comment, we got her hair cut in a cute pixie when she was about 10. Shaving one side and the back of her hair. My hairdresser many years ago said I could shave her hair and shock the follicle and her hair would grow in differently. We finally gave that a shot. The portion that we shaved continually grows in very thick and requires regular haircuts. That haircut changed her. She held her head so high and her personality shined brighter than I could have ever thought. I understand exactly how you feel. It is very heartbreaking to see your little girl want a ponytail and it is devastating not to be able to give her that seemingly simple thing. I pray that mine grows out of it and the portion that we didn’t shave will grow in to match the rest of her beautiful curls.

  • My daughter just got diagnosed yesterday with short anagen syndrome after visiting the doctors on and of for years. She is being referred to a dermatologist and there is a cure. I know they are both a little different and hoe tough it is i get so upset for my daughter being mistaken as a boy and its so upsetting when as you are saying dance compitions ect and you have to buy hair peices. So glad there are other mothers going through the same as i am

  • My now 12 year old daughter, A, was diagnosed at the age of 4. She is the middle of three girls. Both the older daughter and the youngest do not have LAS and both have very thick curly hair. I hated seeing my sweet little girl wish for the long hair like her sisters. I have always had short hair so she didn’t feel completely alone. I especially hated the first day back at school when all her friends were getting their new “do” for the new school year and she had the same hair for the last few years. Finally, when she turned 10 I decided to try the “old wives tale” of shaving her hair and hoping it would allow her new hair to grow in thicker. We did the very popular angled bob with one side and the back shaved.. She looked amazing and her personality came to life with that haircut. She gets compliments literally every day about her hair. It continues to grow back much thicker and fast requiring that portion to be regularly cut. She has now had that haircut for the last 2 years and wants a change. She has decided to grow her hair out. Unfortunately, the section in the front that we didn’t shave has not really grown and is thinner than the rest. I am hoping when she hits puberty her hair will change and the thinner portion will thicken up. I have read everywhere that if a child was diagnosed it will more than likely go away on its on, with the child growing out of it. I am praying that is the case. My advice would be to get your daughter a bad ass haircut and let her personality shine!!!!!!!

  • My daughter was diagnosed around 3yrs when we couldn’t understand why she had barely any hair. It eventually started to grow and she had her first salon trim at about age 9 bless her. By 11 she eventually got it to shoulder length but then the real problem with the loose hairs started to occur. It became so distressing to her to find so much hair in her bed. it got so bad that I used to collect it daily, one so that she wouldn’t see it so much and two to keep a record of the amount of hair in her bed on a daily basis. saying that she never had bald patches just miserable hair compared to everyone else.
    The reason I’m on this site is sadly that at the age of 21 she still becomes distressed when she has the severe loose anagen stage and I was looking to see if maybe a cure was found since last researching the issue. She has used minoxodil since the age of 16 to try and keep the hair in her head and whilst it helps we think, there are always hairs in her bed and she still experiences those loose phases from time to time.
    Reading where some people have found shaving makes the hair grow thicker and natural if I could turn back time and know this at the age of 3/4 I would have been sorely tempted. Then again I wouldn’t have had the knowledge of what lay ahead.
    I fear now that she will be one of the rare few where it doesn’t correct itself in adulthood. Whilst her hair is passable it has been heartbreaking to watch her desperately trying to make the most of it and watching her friends with their massive heads of hair extension enhanced hair!

  • My daughter was diagnosed when she was 4 years old, went to A dermatologist to get a mole looked at , the mole checked out great, but that same day the doctor notice her hair was short & thin . If it wasn’t for the mole we probably would have never known she had loose Anagen syndrome. She would loose her hair and I took her in to her docotor but he said there was nothing wrong so I should of got a Second opinion . I’ve Learned that the hard way for now on I want at least get three opinions by three different doctors when it comes to mine and my child’s health.

  • My daughter’s hair has shed excessively since she was 2.5y. She’s just turned 5y. We’ve gone to 3-4 derms and a hair specialist. No diagnosis. I’ve just learned about LAS but not sure as her hair has grown but just sheds a lot. Everywhere. All the time. With minimal manipulation. Wondering if anyone’s daughter ever “grew” out of it?

    • YES! My now 10 year old started shedding hairs about 2 years ago. Long, full-length with the bulb-tip, with little to no stress to the hair. I have taken her to the pediatrician several times and a dermatologist three times in a year. All said there was no problem, and her hair isn’t coming out in patches. I got a referral from the somewhat skeptical dermatologist for LAS at yet another pediatric dermnatologist. I am at my wits end, Her hair grows very long, but her thickness has decreased so much, whereas she used to break the ponytail holder beyond 2 wraps, now I can wrap it 4x. I try not to even use them anymore for fear or puling her hair. She has continually lost bags of long hair in the drain, every shower, and in comb out. I never use a dryer and am so careful. It makes no sense. I hate this and hope it stops. I thought it was impending puberty since the scalp is oily and a bit of chronic dandruff. I left her hair alone most of the week of vacation and came home to a big clump when we washed it.

  • Hi! My almost 5 year old daughter has every sign that she has this. Is there any benefit to getting it diagnosed? I don’t want to bring her from Doctor to Doctor for an examination that points out that we think she has a hair problem. If there’s nothing that can be done and no magic cute, is there a point? I’m just not sure what to do. Thanks!

    • Stacey W.

      Hi Jen. Thanks so much for your comment. I’d say it would make sense to get a diagnosis. Better to know what the issue really is.

  • Hello,
    My daughter is the one in the article and I know that it is hard to understand what is going on, but I have to tell you my daughter now 9 her hair is growing, so there is hope, however my 8 year old is losing a lot of hair and she also has LAS and this is very hard for her to understand but I have hope since my older ones hair is growing.
    There is just nothing we can do about it right now. But we are all here for each other and we all learn from each other


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Loose Anagen Syndrome: A Benign Childhood Hair Loss Condition
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