Despite the fact that pattern baldness, medically termed as androgenetic alopecia, is one of the most common conditions out there for hair loss, it’s still shrouded in much mystery, mythology, and plain-old misinformation. The fact is that, until recently, people knew very little about why we go bald and even less about how to regrow hair, leaving us guessing and speculating about why our locks tend to lessen with age.
Yet, like anything else that ails you, pinpointing the causes for a certain condition is crucial to understand your treatment options. It’s important that you have accurate, up-to-date information on hair loss before you jump into your journey of regrowth. To start, read some of the following hair loss myths and help spread proper information about this extremely common condition that affects millions of men and women at every age.
“Hair Loss Is Determined by the Maternal Grandfather”
Don’t blame one specific person in your family if your hairline has started to recede. Hair loss isn’t determined solely by your mom’s dad, your mom’s dad’s dad, or even your own dad. In fact, whether or not a person will go bald is determined by his or her entire genetic makeup, with inherited genes from many family members contributing to the outcome. Genetics play a big role in hair loss, and there are over 200 genes that help regulate it.
So, what exactly does cause baldness? What bald people inherited from their ancestors, and these 200 genes, is a sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and other androgens that affect hair growth. These androgens shrink hair follicles, in a process called miniaturization, and can even damage them permanently. Indeed, if your mom’s grandpa was bald, you might be bald, too, because you inherited his sensitivity to these hormones. But you can inherit this trait from many people who contribute to your genetic makeup, not just your maternal grandfather or any single other person.
“Hair Loss Isn’t Common in Women”
Hair loss is more common in men than it is in women, with approximately 85 percent of men experiencing significantly thinning hair by the age of 50, according to the American Hair Loss Association. But it’s also extremely common in women, affecting some 30 million women in the United States. In fact, about half of all women will experience noticeable hair loss at some point in their lives. While male pattern baldness tends to get a lot of attention, female pattern baldness is a big deal, too.
Like in men, the No. 1 reason why women lose their hair is because of genetics. Called female-pattern hair loss or androgenetic alopecia, this type of hair loss is caused by an increase in androgen activity and other hormone fluctuations in the body. As you probably know, hair loss in women is more common after menopause, when estrogen is lost. Other contributing factors for women include pregnancy, follicle damage due to certain hairstyles (called traction alopecia), and extreme stress, among other things.
“Balding Only Happens to Old People”
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for us to stave off baldness and hair thinning until we reach old age. In fact, about a fifth of men will experience significant hair loss by the time they turn 20, but that percentage does grow as you get older, increasing your likelihood of displaying baldness in your 30s and 40s. The most common time for men to begin noticing signs of balding is between 25 and 35, while about half of women experience some degree of thinning or loss before they turn 50, with many women reporting that loss worsened after menopause.
“Wearing Hats Regularly Causes Baldness”
As the purveyors of the cutting-edge Capillus laser cap, a laser hair growth cap that treats androgenetic alopecia, we’re particularly passionate about debunking this well-perpetuated hair loss myth. Many people believe that wearing hats or headbands can strain hair follicles, causing hair strands to fall out and preventing future growth, but there’s good news for hat-lovers: They don’t increase your risk of going bald. So, go ahead and rock your favorite caps without worry.
“Certain Hair Products Can Cause You to Go Bald”
This one’s not a total myth, as putting certain things in your hair can certainly damage strands and cause them to fall out, especially if they dry out or damage the shaft of the hair to the point of no return. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any permanent hair loss as a result of regularly using sprays, gels, salves, shampoos, conditioners, or other usual suspects of the hair care aisle. It’s best to stick to gentle hair products (or specific hair products for hair regrowth) and to see a professional anytime you want to dye, perm, or otherwise expose your hair to any potentially harmful chemicals.
“Stress Has Nothing to Do with Hair Thinning and Baldness”
Some of the most interesting (and admittedly daunting) new medical research projects have shown that humans are way more affected by stress hormones than we ever imagined, from emotional effects like depression and anxiety to physiological impacts like weight gain and high blood pressure. One of the ways stress manifests itself physically is by triggering hair loss and thinning. According to Mayo Clinic, being stressed out can cause the hair follicles to enter a resting phase or cause the immune system to wage an attack on them, causing hair loss.
Other times, extreme stress leads to a condition known as trichotillomania, or the irresistible urge to pull out your hair. All of these forms of stress-related hair loss do not have to be permanent, and many people are able to get hair to regrow when they get their stress levels under control. It’s also important to note that physical stress and straining can cause traction alopecia, which occurs mostly in women who have spent much of their lives having their hair forced into certain hairstyles, such as tight braids, pigtails, and ponytails.
“Female Hair Loss Signifies High Levels of Testosterone”
As we’ve already covered, certain sex hormones—specifically, a derivative of testosterone known as dihydrotestosterone or DHT—have a serious impact on both male and female baldness and hair thinning. So, then, does that mean that women who suffer from thinning hair have higher levels of testosterone? No. In fact, even small amounts of DHT can trigger hair loss in men and women alike. Remember that women also have testosterone in their bodies naturally, though in much smaller quantities than men do. Any amount of these hormones can lead to thinning and hair loss, sadly.
“Shaving Your Head Can Regrow Hair or Cause Baldness”
There are two common myths associated with shaving the head as well as other parts of the body, including the face and legs. The first is that buzzing yourself bald causes hair to grow back longer and thicker than before. The second says the complete opposite—that shaving your head causes permanent damage and prevents hair from being able to grow back at all. Indeed, shaving your head makes you bald, but only until your hair grows back.
In truth, in order for there to be permanent hair loss or thinning, there must be damage to the hair follicles. But here’s the thing: The hair follicles live beneath the surface of the skin, several millimeters below the outside of your scalp where the head is shaved. Therefore, shaving your head only removes the hair at the surface and can’t cause any real damage to the hair follicles. Some hair removal techniques can cause damage, though, such as repetitive plucking and waxing, so avoid them on the scalp or anywhere you want hair to grow long, strong, and thick.
“Bald Men are More Virile”
Unfortunately for many, this one’s not true either. In the same way that many people mistakenly believe that balding women have higher levels of testosterone, the same logic is applied to men. With that being said, this simply isn’t true. In fact, men with male pattern baldness have higher levels of the enzymes that convert testosterone to DHT, meaning they may have lower levels of circulating testosterone in their bodies. Some men who are going bald have a normal amount of testosterone but simply have genes that make their hair follicles more sensitive to DHT than others.
“Sun Exposure Can Cause You to Go Bald”
These days, as we understand more and more about the damages of sun exposure, we’ve begun to see sun protectant hair products pop up on the shelves right alongside regular SPF 30+ sunscreens. Certainly, regularly exposing your locks to the stresses of the UV rays of the sun can cause hair strands to dry out, fade, and split, but it won’t cause permanent baldness. With that being said, sun damage in the scalp can cause hair follicles to move from the growth part of the hair growth cycle to the shedding part, which can lead to hair thinning.
As you know, our time out in the sun must be properly balanced—too little and we risk a vitamin D deficiency; too much and we put ourselves at risk of developing skin cancer and other conditions. Your hair needs vitamin D to thrive just like the rest of your body, and some studies even link hair loss with a deficiency of this fundamental vitamin. Your best bet is to protect your scalp and hair from excessive exposure to the sun but to make sure you’re getting the proper amount of vitamin D as well through safe sun exposure, food, and supplements.
Bonus Myth: Laser Hair Loss Treatments Don’t Work
Bald people may not be more virile or relaxed, but there’s some good news in the pile of myths, too. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has gotten a bad rap, with many people believing that the many at-home devices on the market are simply gimmicky wastes of money. But, in truth, laser hair treatment is actually quite good at treating hair loss caused by genetics. The therapy uses red light lasers to stimulate and energize the cells of the hair follicle, causing hair to grow thicker, stronger, and silkier than it did before.
Our hair loss laser cap is an easy way to restore your hair follicles back to good health easily and without the high cost or highly invasive nature of other hair regrowth treatments. Plus, many people see significant results in just a few months of wearing it. Still not convinced? According to one study, using the Capillus laser hair cap every other day for 17 weeks safely and effectively regrows hair. The participants experienced an average of 51 percent increase in hair counts as compared to control patients. All from wearing a baseball cap for a few minutes each day.
What You Can Do to Treat Hair Loss
Understanding the underlying cause of your hair loss or thinning is the first step in developing a treatment plan that truly works. If you believe that your condition is caused by hereditary factors, then it’s time to look into low-level laser therapy solutions to help restore the health and vitality of your hair follicles. Capillus is always available to help you put together a tailored treatment plan that meets your specific hair growth goals and takes your unique considerations into account.