Every year, millions of men — and women — experience the signs of hair loss and balding. Any time a person begins to have suspicions of baldness (fine hairs on the pillow, in the shower, etc.), the reasonable reaction is to seek a remedy or “cure.” There is a sea of rumors floating out there that attempt to explain the “root” of the baldness problem — a problem that affects more than 30% of men and women by age 30. These myths are not only often a waste of time and money, they obfuscate the existing treatments that actually work to halt hair loss and promote re-growth.
Myths about hair loss and balding have existed for thousands of years. For example, Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, thought that baldness could be cured by a mixture containing horseradish and pigeon droppings. As time moved on, the myths continued to grow — although the reasons for their creation changed slightly ($).
The proliferation of these myths is most likely due to the overwhelming desire to have a simple solution to a complicated problem — particularly one that is within our control. But today, let’s debunk some of these myths and learn what the facts really are.
Myth #1: Genes for hair loss come only from the mother’s side of the family –
Although the inheritance of balding and hair loss genes from the mother’s side is slightly stronger, androgenetic hair loss (common baldness) can be inherited from the mother’s side of the family, the father’s side — or both.
Myth #2: Men who are bald have high levels of testosterone –
This myth falls into the same category as another familiar myth: “the size of a man’s hands or feet determines…” Hair loss is caused by a greater sensitivity of hair follicles in some parts of the scalp to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), rather than to increased levels of testosterone. DHT causes the hair follicles to shrink (miniaturize) and eventually disappear. If elevated levels of testosterone were the problem, then “all” of a person’s body hair would be susceptible to hair loss — not just the areas on the crown and front of the scalp.
Myth 3: A sign of genetic baldness is seeing large amounts of hair fall out –
In contrast to popular belief, going bald is not due to massive amounts of hair falling out, but rather by normal thickness hair gradually being replaced by finer, thinner hairs — a process called “miniaturization.” If large patches of hair start suddenly falling out, it is time to see your doctor. This is not a sign of balding, but rather a more serious medical problem.
Myth #4: Hair loss is caused by decreased blood flow to the scalp –
When your hair is growing, it does require a significant amount of blood flow. Once you lose your hair, not as much blood is needed and the blood flow to the scalp decreases. Therefore, a decreased blood flow to the scalp is not one of the causes of hair loss, but a result of it.
Myth #5: Wearing hats makes you go bald –
People who accuse their hats as being the cause of their hair loss think that wearing hats all the time prevents the scalp from breathing. Actually, hair follicles get oxygen from the blood stream, rather than from the air (much like how a plant gets water from its roots and not its leaves).
Myth #6: Hair loss is caused by clogged pores –
Clogged pores, while actually a common cause of acne, do not cause baldness. If common baldness were simply due to clogged pores, then rigorous shampooing would be all that was needed to maintain a full head of hair. This is obviously not the case.
Myth #7: Frequent shampooing causes hair to fall out –
When people start to thin they sometimes think that shampooing is the cause, since they notice hair in the tub. To prevent this, they begin to shampoo less often. The hair that would normally come out in the shower now builds up on the scalp. With the next shampoo, even more ends up in the tub only confirming the patient’s suspicion. Remember, hereditary baldness is not due to hair falling out, but rather by normal hair gradually being replaced by finer, thinner hairs. The simple solution is to shampoo every day and the excess hair in the tub will go away.
Myth #8: Only men suffer from genetic hair loss –
Balding is often thought of as a “man’s” problem, but the fact is that over 40% of women suffer from significant thinning throughout their lifetime.
Myth #9: Hair loss medications only work in the crown –
The main benefit of drugs like minoxidil (the generic form of the drug that sounds like “ROW-GAIN”) and especially finasteride (the generic form of the drug that sounds like “PRO PE SHUGH”) is to slow down or halt hair loss, rather than to re-grow hair. Although initial studies showing the effectiveness of both minoxidil and finasteride were done on the crown, this doesn’t mean that the medications won’t work on other parts of the scalp as well. In fact, the medicines can work wherever there is thinning and baldness — as long as the area is not completely bald.
Myth #10: Hair loss stops when you get older –
Once hair loss begins, it tends to progress over a person’s lifetime and never completely stops. However, the rate at which hair will continue to fall out is hard to guess. The younger you are when you start to lose your hair, the more likely you are to become very bald.
Now you are better prepared to deal with the realities of hair loss and baldness, rather than trudge through the myths. If your personal hair loss is too advanced for minoxidil or finasteride to control, you might consider hair restoration surgery.