Losing your hair is a reality of getting older – but the degree to which it occurs varies hugely from person to person. While some people experience gradual thinning, many others suffer full-blown baldness. It’s a distressing position to find yourself in, so it’s not surprising that many hair loss sufferers turn to unusual remedies or techniques in an attempt to reverse it.
The truth is, the vast majority of hair loss is genetic in nature, which means that treatment options are very limited. As a result, a lot of the hair care advice found floating around on the internet has no basis in fact. Here are just some of the most popular hair loss myths which, with a little research, can be easily debunked.
For more advice and information check out our hair loss infographic below:
In their search for hair loss cures, some people have taken up bizarre advice such as not wearing hats. But any doctor will tell you that hats would only have an adverse effect upon hair growth if they were so tight that they cut off blood supply to the hair follicles.
Standing on your head
If increasing blood flow to the scalp were the cure for hair loss, we would all be doing it. Sadly, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that it has any positive effect as a hair loss treatment. Hair loss is nearly always related to genetic factors, a medical condition or medical treatment, which means standing on your head will not have any effect upon your hair growth.
Many people assume that if your dad has a full head of hair, you won’t lose yours either. In fact, baldness can be passed down on both sides of the family; so if you start to go bald, you might have to look to your maternal grandfather for the blame…
Stressing over stress
If you lead a busy, stressful life and you suffer from hair loss, it can be tempting to draw a link between the two. The truth is, while acute and chronic forms of hair loss can be caused by stress, the majority of hair loss is caused by male or female pattern baldness, which means it is permanent, genetic in nature, and has no relation to stress. Telogen effluvium is one type of acute hair loss that can be caused by intense emotional or physical stress, however unlike male or female pattern baldness it is usually temporary.
Forgoing the blow-drying
While styling your hair can cause damage to the hair, frequent blow-drying or straightening is not something that can cause permanent hair loss. Exposing the hair to high temperatures or harsh chemicals can damage individual hairs, causing shedding and breakage, and styles such as tight braids can pull the hairs from their roots. However, only genetic or medical factors can cause the long-term loss of hair.
Cutting back on products
If you want to prevent hair loss, tossing your hairsprays, gels and mousses in the bin is not the way to do it. Hair care products are all tested to ensure that they are safe for your hair and scalp. The only thing hair products can affect is the appearance of the hair you do have.
Getting snipped regularly
Perhaps the most commonly held myth regarding hair growth is that cutting it makes it grow faster. This simply isn’t true; your hair grows approximately half an inch each month, and cutting it regularly has no effect upon this rate. What is true is that cutting off split and damaged ends can give your hair a healthier, thicker appearance.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question “how often should I wash my hair?” As with any hair product, shampoos and conditioners are tested to make sure they can be safely used, without causing damage to your hair. Washing frequently will never lead to permanent hair loss.
Keeping out of the sun
We know that UV rays can be very damaging to your skin and eyes – but what about your hair? According to the experts, sun exposure can weaken your hair and make it prone to breakage, but it cannot cause permanent hair loss. If you’re concerned about your hair growth, staying out of the sun needn’t be a top priority.
Focusing on testosterone
Bald men tend to be associated with manliness and virility, due to the misconception that hair loss is caused by high levels of testosterone. In fact, male pattern baldness (the leading cause of hair loss in men) is caused by a genetic sensitivity to a specific type of testosterone known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone). In men with male pattern baldness, DHT causes susceptible hair follicles (typically those at the front and on the top of the head) to shrink and disappear. Testosterone levels are, in this case, irrelevant.
Ignoring female sufferers
Hair loss is most commonly associated with men, but it’s a big problem for women too. Despite the popular baldness cures being targeted at men, it’s estimated that 50% of women will experience significant thinning of their hair throughout their lifetime.
I’m losing my hair. What should I do?
As we have seen, hair loss is typically caused by genetics. Male and female pattern baldness cause gradual, permanent hair loss, and can only be treated with specific hair loss tablets or treatments that have been endorsed by the medical community.
For men, the available hair loss treatments are finasteride, a tablet taken every day that prevents the conversion of testosterone into DHT (the hormone which causes hair loss), and minoxidil, a lotion or foam rubbed into the scalp every day. For women, minoxidil is the only effective hair loss treatment.
If your hair loss isn’t caused by male or female pattern baldness, it may be related to an underlying medical condition, prescription medication, or medical treatment. Whatever the case, it’s always a good idea to speak to a doctor if you find yourself experiencing hair loss.