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The bald truth: separating myth from fact

What is the truth about losing your hair?

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Baldness and hair loss has been surrounded by myths and untruths for hundreds of years and for all that time there have been lotions and potions promoted and sold as a miracle cure for the condition.

Only in more recent times have we had a better understanding of the causes of male pattern baldness, female hair loss and alopecia and alongside that the development of more reliable and proven treatments.

So that we can look at the treatment options for hair loss from a more knowledgeable viewpoint we need to look at what is fact and what is fiction among the myriad of information available.

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Hair loss is passed down from the mother’s side

This is not entirely a myth as it is partly true. The primary baldness gene is on the X chromosome which men can only get from their mothers. However, there are other factors involved whereby if you have a bald father you are more likely to develop male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) than those who do not.

Only old men go bald

This is definitely a myth because male pattern baldness knows no age. Hair loss can be seen in 25% of men under thirty but this rises to 50% of men by the time they reach 50.

Hair loss is a man’s problem

Statistically, it is believed that hair loss affects approximately 35 million men globally; it also affects 21 million women globally. This fact makes the idea that men are the only ones who suffer hair loss a myth. The difference is that hair loss is likely to be more obvious in men showing as b bald patch or receding hairline whereas, in women, hair loss tends to be all over the scalp.

Bald men are more virile as they have more testosterone

This is probably one of the most popular myths and there is nothing in this one. Men who are bald do not have more testosterone than normal.

Using vitamin supplements can prevent hair loss

If a vitamin deficiency is the cause of hair loss then a supplement will help. Otherwise, this is a myth.

Carbohydrates cause hair loss

Carbohydrates and red meat contain nutrients that are essential for maintaining a healthy head of hair so this is a myth.

Masturbation makes you go bald

This is a myth and there is no evidence to suggest that masturbating causes hair loss. The myth however may have arisen from the fact that semen contains high levels of protein and so masturbation literally causes a person to ejaculate protein that could have been used in the production of hair.

Poor circulation makes you go bald

Growing hair needs healthy circulation in the scalp, and as hair loss occurs, scalp circulation declines. However, this decreased blood flow to the scalp is the result, not the cause of male pattern baldness.

Stress can make you bald

This is true to some extent. There are three types of hair loss that are associated with stress:

  • Telogen effluvium - if a person suffers a particularly traumatic event the stress related to that can cause large numbers of hair follicles to go into the resting phase and within a few months, the hair can begin to fall out in clumps.
  • Trichotillomania is a condition where the sufferer feels an irresistible urge to pull their own hair out. It may be a strategy for them to deal with some events or situations.
  • Alopecia areata is a form of alopecia which is an autoimmune condition. The body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles and so causes the hair to fall out.

Direct sunlight can make you go bald

This is a myth as natural sunlight and sunbeds or tanning booths do not cause baldness. It is recommended however that if you have thinning hair or bald patches you protect the scalp from UV light.

There is no cure for baldness

There is no ‘cure’ as such for baldness and there are no magic creams or potions that will restore a full head of hair. There are however drugs and treatments which will in part at least slow down or stop the hair loss.

  • Finasteride - this has been found to be an effective treatment for male pattern baldness. In studies, it has been shown to stimulate some regrowth but 90% of the subjects in the study reported that the hair loss had stopped when the drug was taken without stopping over an extended period of time. It was found that if the subject stopped the drug the hair loss resumed. This drug is only for the treatment of hair loss in men.
  • Minoxidil - is a drug licensed in the UK for the treatment of hair loss in both men and women. The action of minoxidil is based on its expanding the blood vessels in the scalp which improves blood flow to the hair follicles which encourages the growth of hair.

Massaging the scalp can help to stimulate hair growth

There may be a small amount of truth to this statement in that hair requires a good blood supply in order to stay healthy and grow thick and massaging the scalp will stimulate the flow of blood. In no way will it prevent androgenetic alopecia which is caused by damage to the hair follicles.

Hair loss is permanent and not preventable

In the case of hereditary hair loss or androgenetic alopecia, a person cannot change their genetic makeup but there are medications available that can effectively slow down, stop and sometimes even reverse hair loss.

Wearing a hat makes your hair fall out

This is a myth. Only if a hat is too tight causing restricted blood flow to the scalp could it possibly cause some hair loss. Alternatively if taking it off pulls at the hair it may cause some traction alopecia.

Hair products can make you go bald

This is definitely a myth as clean hair is likely to be more healthy as it is a sign that you look after it. Losing a few hairs daily is quite normal and healthy.

Cutting hair makes it grow back stronger

This is a myth. When hair is cut it straightens the straggly ends which may make it appear thicker but actually cutting the hair does not change the hair itself in any way.

Conclusion

There are many myths associated with the age old problem of hair loss but what has changed in more recent times is that there are now options available that will help with the problem.

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