Myths about the causes of hair loss and how to actually prevent it

According to the American Hair Loss Association, 66% of men will experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 35, though it happens on some level every day, to everyone. Genetically some men simply have fewer strands to replace fallen ones than other men do. The average healthy person’s hair grows about 0.5 inches every month, though this speed varies by age, genetics, and diet.

The most frequently cited hair loss myths

Hair loss is one of those unavoidable indicators of aging that inspires a general terror in us- so much so that a lot of false predictors have been contributed to the process. For a while, people thought excessively shampooing your hair increased your risk for losing your hair. This was due to the fact that the process of washing your hair causes dead strands to fall from the scalp and onto your shower floor. Philip Kingsley reports,It is natural to lose up to 100 hairs a day and a percentage of this comes out when you shampoo. The act of shampooing simply dislodges hairs that have already become detached from the follicle’s base and are ready to come out.” Also, not shampooing your hair doesn’t make your hair fall out either, as evidenced by the existence of dreadlocks.

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A common hair loss myth was exposure to too much sunlight, which in turn branched off into a popular spinoff debate of its own: Hat or no hat for a full head of hair into middle age?

For better or worse, hair loss is principally a result of genetics. Recently Dr. Michael Wolfred, who is a plastic surgeon that specializes in hair restoration and an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City spoke with TIME about the frequently purported hat-hair loss cause. Research has shown that male and female pattern baldness is actually caused by an inherited sensitivity to the hormone known as dihydrotestosterone.

Again, that doesn’t mean genetics is the sole predictor of hair loss, as the condition is multifactorial. “If the hat were too tight, I could see that causing irritation or inflammation in the hair follicle,” Goldbach says. By itself, this probably wouldn’t cause hair loss. But it could be a contributing factor, Dr. Hayley Goldbach, a dermatologist at UCLA Health added in the same piece published in TIME.

Certain materials some hats are composed of could cause an allergic reaction with your scalp that could potentially contribute to hair loss by causing the scalp to become inflamed,  but it isn’t the wearing of the hat itself. “If someone were already going bald due to other factors, like a genetic predisposition, this inflammation-induced shedding could speed up the process of hair loss,” Wolfred explained.

When people begin to lose their hair, they typically start wearing hats to conceal it from people, which might have helped create a false correlation.

Of course the other, slightly less popular, school of thought recommends hat use during the summer months to protect follicles from direct rays. On the topic, Dr. Antonella Tosti, an advisor over at Keep and Hair Loss expert, concedes that although direct sunlight exposure has the potential to severely dry your hair out, it is not a direct cause of hair loss. While we’re on the topic, another myth worth debunking is the one that says applying sunscreen on your scalp can result in hair thinning. The authors over at Keep, join many by declaring: “There aren’t any hair products that directly cause male pattern baldness.”  

There are many factors that can certainly damage your hair, but these do not as a rule prelude baldness. Chlorine and salt water, similarly to sunlight, can dry out your hair, but neither will invariably result in the feared condition.

Can hair loss be prevented?

Luckily, for every myth about a potential cause of hair loss, there’s a studied method of preventing it. If genetics are the chief factors that cause hair loss, nutritional deficiency doesn’t fall terribly far behind. For those that aren’t predisposed to baldness, it’s important to promote healthy strands by consuming the right nutrients and vitamins.

Make sure you get all the vitamin A. It can be found in liver, carrots, dark leafy greens, salmon, fortified milk and eggs. Antioxidants, which are found in foods rich in Vitamin C, also help protect follicles against free radicals. One cup of strawberries contains 141% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Healthline adds, “The body uses vitamin C to produce collagen, a protein that helps strengthen hair to prevent it from becoming brittle and breaking.”