Hair Loss Myths: True or False?

Biology & Baldness

Most people have encountered rumours about the hormonal and genetic causes of baldness and the information passed around concerning these processes can seem pretty straightforward. New studies on hair loss and hair growth, however, as well as further research into the biological ways both occur, means we have to rethink some of our understandings about hair loss. Here are a few common ideas about biological baldness and the fact or fiction behind them.

  • Baldness is inherited from the mother:

False. Most people have heard that androgenetic alopecia, pattern baldness, is a genetic condition, but genetics can be a tricky labyrinth to navigate. Although male- and female-pattern baldness does have a genetic component, the common misconception that this particular gene can only be passed down from the mother’s side is untrue. Baldness can in fact be passed on from mother, father, both, or even inherited from your grandparents as it has been known to skip generations.

  • Losing hair is a sign of baldness:

False. Everyone loses about 50-100 hairs a day as part of the normal hair growing process. Hairs grow in two stages known as telogen and anagen cycles. After the resting cycle, telogen, which lasts a few months the anagen cycle begins. The dormant hair follicles in the telogen stage become active again during the anagen cycle and push out the dead hairs in order to allow new hairs to grow. However, because each follicle goes into a different cycle at a different time you may experience various levels of shedding from time to time, especially after a particularly stressful period in your life. If you’re experiencing extreme hair loss in patches or clumps, you are not experiencing pattern-baldness or typical shedding, but rather losing hair as a result of some other disease, hormonal imbalance, or nutrient deficiency and you should consult your doctor immediately.

  • Stress can cause baldness:

True, to some degree. Extreme stress in some cases can trigger a form of temporary baldness called telogen effluvium. In these instances, large amounts of hair follicles will go into telogen resting cycles simultaneously. After about 3-6 months after the initial stress occurred, you will shed more hairs than usual when the follicles begin growing again during the anagen state. This may cause an overall thinning of your hair, but not an actual baldness as it is temporary and the follicles generally right themselves once the period of stress has been resolved.

  • Pregnancy can cause baldness:

True, in some instances. Pregnancy itself does not cause baldness, but the hormonal changes or the stress of birth can both cause temporary hair loss. After the stress of giving birth, the mother may experience telogen effluvium. See stress and baldness for more on these issues. Pregnancy can also cause your hair itself to change. It is a common phenomenon for children born with blonde, curly hair to end up with darker, straight hair as time progresses. In a similar way, the hormonal changes during pregnancy can generate curly hair or even thicker hair for some women with straight, thin hair.

  • Hair loss as a young adult is unusual:

False. There is really no set time an individual’s hair follicles will begin to shrink from the DHT. While hair loss and greying is typically associated with men over forty, both men and women may start to lose hair in their twenties in some cases. If this occurs, you can use preventative measures like minoxidil and finasteride to slow the thinning process down. If you have a child who is having extreme hair loss which is not simply the occasional shedding of dead hairs, then you should consult your doctor immediately.

Blood Circulation & Baldness

In order to grow, your hair follicles need blood, which is why hair transplants must be performed carefully to ensure proper circulation is maintained in your scalp. The reason hairs need blood is to receive the oxygen and nutrients which keep the hair follicles alive and healthy; most of the myths concerning hair growth and circulation result from the misconception of where this oxygen comes from. Like any other organ in your body, your epidermis gains its oxygen from the blood stream and, because your hair follicles are part of the skin, your hair likewise gets its nutrients internally rather than externally.

  • Wearing a hat causes baldness:

False. Although extremely tight hairstyles or hats can cause traction alopecia, hair loss from tension, hats do not generally jeopardize hair growth. Hairs do not need external oxygen to gain nutrients or to ‘breath’ because they get all the oxygen they need from your blood stream. If the hat is so tight that it cuts off circulation to the scalp, you may have a problem with suffocating follicles, but a properly fitting hat should not damage your follicles or cause baldness.

  • Wearing wigs can cause baldness:

False. Like hats, if worn properly a wig should not cause damage to the follicles. If your hairpiece or wig is too tight, however, you may suffer from traction alopecia, hair loss from tension. Ensure you are wearing your wig, extensions, hairpiece, etc, properly and your hair should be fine.

  • Standing on your head increases hair growth:

False. While this may send surges of blood to the scalp and increase blood circulation to your head, your hairs grow in 3-6 month cycles, not after 15 minutes of tilting your head upside down. Furthermore, follicles begin shrinking over long periods of time due to their reaction to the DHT in your system, not due to a lack of oxygenated blood which the follicles will receive from normal circulation to the scalp anyway.

  • Massaging the scalp slows hair loss

False. Hair follicles need oxygen and nutrients from your blood stream, but massaging the scalp to increase blood flow will not increase your hair growth or stop your hair loss because the rate of blood circulation does not affect your hair follicles. If you use medicinal massage treatments like minoxidil then massaging the scalp to saturate the follicles with the tonic can help slow the balding process, but it is not the blood circulation itself, which will slow the hair loss.

Beauty & Baldness

With stylists, hair-care product labels, and trendy fashion magazines telling us how to protect our hair and stave off impending baldness, sometimes the myth and the reality of hair care can be distorted. Here are a few common beliefs about how to maintain your hair’s health and a brief examination of whether or not these are valid methods for looking after your locks.

  • Certain hair styles cause hair loss:

True. Not all hair styles cause hair loss, but if you wear tight, constrictive hair do’s like cornrows, buns, tight braids, or tight extensions then your hair follicles can become damaged. This type of hair loss is called traction alopecia. If you stop pulling on your hair and wear looser styles, then the damage may not be permanent and it will not get any worse.

  • Blow drying causes baldness:

True, to some extent. Blow drying, especially with hot air at close proximity, can dry out your hair, cause breakage, and even damage the hair follicles so that it falls out temporarily. While there can be hair loss, it is not technically baldness because it is temporary hair loss which should fix itself after a short time. Keep the blow dryer a proper distance from your hair, try to use a medium-heat setting, use heat-protective sprays, and buy an ionized blow dryer to help protect your hair while you style.

  • Brushing your hair causes hair loss:

False. Hair grows in two cycles: the anagen and the telogen. When some of your hairs are in their resting phase, or telogen, they stop growing. After about 3-6 months, the anagen, or growth phase, begins and those hair follicles in the resting phase come out of hibernation and start to grow, pushing out the dead restive hairs in order to make room for the new growth. This causes you to shed about 50-100 hairs a day because each follicle is in a different phase at any given moment. Brushing your hair simply gets rid of the dead hairs which would have fallen out during the anagen phase. Excessive brushing will not cause more hair loss or increase your baldness; if you have pattern baldness, the brushing will get rid of hairs you would have lost anyway. Brushing your hair too much can cause split ends, however, which will decrease the quality of your hair, so make sure you use a good brush and never brush your hair when it’s wet.

  • Showering too often causes hair loss:

False. Like brushing your hair, the hairs lost in the shower are hairs that would normally be shed in the course of the hair’s anagen growth process. If you are losing large handfuls of hair every time you shower or brush your hair, however, you should contact your doctor as this may be a more serious medical issue.

  • Cutting your hair makes it thicker and grow faster:

False. While true of facial and bodily hair, the hairs on your head have different types of follicles than the rest of your body. Shaving the top of your head or cutting it shorter will not make your hair grow back thicker, but getting rid of all the split ends off the bottoms of your hair will make it appear thicker because it looks healthier and more consistent. As your hair splits on the bottom, the splits can run up the hairs and cause your hair to look stringy; if you trim your hair regularly, however, you can decrease the amount of splitting and get a more uniform length which will make it look thicker and will actually keep it healthier. Your hair will not grow faster, even if you cut it or shave it; the pace it grows does not change over your life time, what you’re born with is what you get.

  • Shaving a baby’s head makes the hair grow thicker:

False. Babies are often born with hair which may or may not be the hair they have when they grow up. Many children experience colour change, a switch between curly and straight hair, or a difference in thickness as they grow. This cannot be changed by external cuttings, trimmings, or shavings, but keeping the split ends off can keep it looking healthier just like adults’ hair. Hair grows according to internal biological, genetic, and hormonal instructions, so shaving the baby’s head will not have long term effects on the quality of the child’s hair.

« Colouring or Perming & Hair Loss Hair Loss Treatment »

Guide to the Causes of Hair Loss