Hair Loss Myths and Misconceptions
We all hear and read about stories and myths associated with hair loss and balding, and they can be as damaging as they are common. The more we know about the facts, the less we need to worry over false information. This article deals with many of these myths and misconceptions to help alleviate any of your own hair loss concerns.
Hair Loss Myths
The internet is a great source of information, but it can also lead to misinformation. Even credible sources are often misunderstood and misinterpreted. There are many myths surrounding hair loss which often cause unnecessary anxiety, here we set out to debunk some of these common myths.
Below are just some of the common hair loss myths and misconceptions that are still being spread today:
Myth: Hair grows back thicker after being shaved off
False! Some people think that shaving their head will grow it back thicker, but this is not true at all. Shaving does nothing to change how much hair a person has or how fast it grows back in. It also doesn’t have any effect on whether or not someone goes bald. The myth likely came from noticing how thick stubble feels after being shaved off of the scalp.
Myth: Alopecia is contagious
False! Baldness isn’t a disease and is rarely ever caused by an infection that could be “caught” by another person. In fact, the most common causes are overall health and genetic factors in the case of hereditary hair loss. A healthy diet and exercise may not regrow hair, but it can prevent further hair loss and help to alleviate any temporary problems.
What is Alopecia?
Alopecia is a general medical term used to refer to a variety of conditions that lead to hair loss. Some people with alopecia go through cycles in which they lose and eventually regrow their hair, while others experience permanent loss. There are many distinct types of alopecia and each has its own unique cause and pattern of hair loss. The most common types are:
- Alopecia Areata, which is an autoimmune condition that causes round patchy hair loss anywhere on the body. It happens to about 1% of the population and is caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles.
- Androgenic Alopecia, also known as pattern hair loss, occurs in both men and women and is the most common type of hair loss. It causes diffuse thinning both on the scalp and elsewhere on the body.
- Alopecia Barbae, which is a form of alopecia that causes non-scarring hair loss of the beard area in men.
- Alopecia Totalis, which is a form of alopecia that causes total loss of all scalp hair. It’s distinct from the condition Alopecia Universalis, which leads to total body hair loss.
- Traction alopecia, which is the most common form of hair loss caused by physical trauma. Hair loss occurs when there is constant pulling on hair that causes it to break off or get pulled out.
Myth: Stress causes permanent hair loss
False! While it is true that stress can cause hair to fall out, this happens on the scalp/head and results in temporary hair loss in the form of “telogen effluvium” or “shock loss”, which is just hair shedding. The hair follicles are still there and not yet gone, and in most cases, the hair should return as before.
What causes hair loss?
Hair loss is most often caused by genetic factors, with hereditary hair loss but there are many factors that can disturb normal hair growth. Medical issues such as thyroid problems, lack of protein or iron in the diet, autoimmune disorders, and bacterial or fungal infections can also damage hair follicles. Medications such as high blood pressure medication can cause hair loss if taken for a long time. Personal factors such as age, drugs, alcohol, and smoking all play a role too.
Myth: Hair loss only affects men
False! While it’s true that more men are balding than women, this is simply due to the fact that far more men have male pattern baldness than women have female pattern baldness and other conditions. It’s estimated that around 50% of women will experience significant hair loss in their lifetime, while in men this number could be as high as 80%! Women who suffer from female pattern hair loss usually have diffuse thinning all over the head, while men more often lose their hair in a distinct pattern across the scalp.
Myth: Wearing a hat causes baldness
False! In fact, wearing a hat can actually keep the hair protected (especially if it’s cold outside) and prevent further hair loss. There is some truth to the idea that wearing a hat or other hair covering can aggravate hair loss due to a condition called traction alopecia, but this is unlikely to happen unless the hat is pulled tight enough to cause strain on the follicles.
Myth: Hair loss only affects older people
False! Although bald spots are commonly associated with old age, hair loss can actually happen at any age. In fact, many people lose hair in their 20s and 30s, with one study reporting moderate to severe hair loss in 16% of men aged 18-29.
The relation between aging and hair loss is complicated, and not entirely understood. While permanent hair loss in the form of Androgenic Alopecia does indeed happen to some extent as a result of aging, it is also influenced by other factors such as stress or health conditions that can affect any age group.
Luckily, hair loss treatments can be done at any age.
Myth: Shampooing frequently causes hair loss
False! There is no evidence to suggest that shampooing frequently (although everyone’s ideal frequency will be different) leads to hair loss. However, some people may notice their hair shedding more when they shampoo heavily since shampoos can contain harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate.
Myth: Hair loss is strictly genetic
False! Although hair loss can be caused by genetics, there are a whole range of medical and environmental causes related to hair loss and thinning.
Some surprising truths about hair loss
Smoking has been linked to both male and female pattern baldness, which is due to the fact that smoking slows blood flow around the body, and may even cause direct damage to the hair follicles themselves! Alcohol consumption, despite causing other health issues, has not been linked to hair loss.
Tight ponytails and other hairstyles that pull on the hair can lead to traction alopecia, which is when too much force is placed on the hair follicles causing damage and eventually hair loss.
Not all hair loss is permanent! Even conditions like alopecia areata and chemotherapy-related hair loss may be temporary. As long as the hair follicles themselves are still intact, hair should eventually grow back to its original state. Sadly, male pattern baldness is permanent.
Over-styling hair can also cause damage, especially when it comes to blowdrying, curling irons, and straightening irons. Hair can be protected by using thermal protecting products but try to avoid exposing your hair to heat as much as possible. Harsh chemicals used in dyeing and bleaching can also damage the hair when used incorrectly, particularly when left on for too long.
What causes hair loss in women?
Hair loss in women is often caused by the same conditions as hair loss in men; however, there are some factors unique to women. For example, birth control pills can cause thinning hair and hair loss, and women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may also be at risk for hair loss.
Female pattern hair loss is different for women than it is for men because the thinning and loss of hair occurs over the entire head. Women tend to experience gradually thinning hair, rather than a distinct receding hairline like men often do.
What is the best shampoo for hair loss?
The truth is that shampoos can do little to prevent hair loss or hair thinning, nor will they make your hair grow back. Gentle shampooing with mild detergents that are good for the scalp, such as those that contain tea tree oil, can help to maintain a healthy scalp environment and remove dirt and other irritants.
Volumizing shampoos are commonly recommended as an option for hair loss, but keep in mind that these products are not intended to prevent or treat any disease.
Does cancer cause hair loss?
While the drugs used to treat cancer can cause hair loss, cancer itself is not directly responsible for hair loss. The main causes of hair loss are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These forms of cancer treatment work by damaging or killing cells in the body, and unfortunately, this includes hair cells. Despite this, cancer treatments usually don’t result in permanent hair loss, and a cooling cap could potentially lessen the damage.
What causes sudden hair loss?
The most common cause of sudden hair loss is stress. This may be due to a triggering event, such as the death of a loved one, or it can come on gradually over time. It cair loss can also be caused by illness, nutritional deficiencies, and certain medications.
Check out our other articles to find out more about what causes hair loss and what hair loss treatment is available.