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Broken hair at about 1" long

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the hair on one side of my 5 year old daughter's head was really short and spiky in places. I asked if she'd been cutting her own hair, because she'd just had a friend over and you know 5 year olds. She denied it, and after looking more closely, I could tell that the hairs were pretty evenly spaced throughout her regular-length hairs, and I don't think it looks cut (or pulled).

Today I was fixing her hair and noticed her short hairs are all over the top of her hair. The hairs are half to 1.5 inches long, all more or less the same length (within 1/2 an inch either direction of 1" long), and it's probably fully 1/4 of the hair on her head. She looks like a freaking porcupine. She was pretty embarrassed about it and wouldn't take her hood off after I asked if she was pulling her hair out (I told her it was ok if she was, and we'd help her figure it out, but that it'd be good if she could just tell us if she is, and she said she's not).

I'm trying to figure out if it's breaking off (I am leaning towards yes) or if she pulled a bunch of hair a few months ago and it's growing back. She regularly gets big chunks of hair out in the comb, but her hair is fine and she tends to be a vigorous brusher, so I didn't worry before. We went gluten-free in May of this year but we have worked really hard to make sure the kids have a good diet. She is a good eater and I actually didn't have any concerns about her diet until I noticed this. We also moved over the summer, and she spent 6 (non-consecutive) weeks away from me and her dad with extended family (2 weeks with each set of grandparents, 3 sets), so there was stress too.

So, diet? Stress? Vitamin deficiency? What can cause hair to break off like that, and should I be rushing her to her doctor, or just ask next time we go (April)?


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