It’s the change which many younger men dread; losing their hair.
However, male pattern baldness is staggeringly common. It's thought that roughly one third of all men will show some signs of it before they turn 30, and roughly one half before they turn 40.
For years, what makes it happen and what speeds the process up has been the subject of much debate; and as you might expect, household theories have abounded.
Inevitably, some of these theories have been exaggerated or conflated with those which relate more to hair breakage or poor condition; and, as a result, some men trying to slow down the rate of hair loss might resort to measures which they think might be helping, when in fact they aren’t making any real difference.
Let’s explore some of the most common myths and misconceptions on the subject of male pattern baldness, and examine why they might exist and whether or not there is any truth behind them:
Washing Your Hair Makes It Fall Out
Hair is perhaps the number one culprit in bathrooms up and down the country when it comes to shower plug blockages, and can often collect on our combs and brushes.
So it’s understandable that many might jump to the conclusion that washing it makes it shed quicker, and try to wash it as little as possible in order to preserve it.
However, washing hair doesn’t cause it to fall out. It only frees the hair which was about to be shed anyway. On average, even those who aren’t losing their hair will shed around 100 hairs a day. Whereas we might not notice it as we go about our normal routine and leave hairs scattered in our path, it’s much easier to spot when we’re going through our cleaning and grooming ritual.
It’s true that washing one’s hair too often can deplete levels of natural oils in the scalp, causing the skin and hair to lose moisture and become dry. This can result in the hair becoming more prone to breakage, and the production of more dandruff. But it won’t significantly speed up the rate at which men going bald will lose their hair.
How often you wash it depends on your hair type. For some with thinner, straight hair, washing it every other day may be preferable as it may be more prone to becoming greasy; whereas those with thicker or curlier hair may not need to wash it more than once every three to four days.
It’s Only Passed Down From The Maternal Family Line
One belief has long been that those with a bald uncle or grandfather on the mother’s side are more prone to going bald themselves.
There is some truth to this. Male pattern baldness is caused by genetic factors, and has been closely linked to genes on the X chromosome (on the mother’s side).
However, it isn’t inherited from the mother’s side exclusively. MPB can be inherited from the father’s side too. In fact, men who have a bald father are thought to have a higher chance of experiencing hair loss themselves; so having a history of hair loss on the father’s side but not on the mother’s side doesn’t eliminate its likelihood.
A Close Crop Doubles Hair Strength
The theory goes that if a man shaves his head, the hair will grow back up to two times as strong as it was before. However this isn’t strictly true.
As hair gets longer, it becomes more susceptible to damage and bad condition. Hair at the root tends to be stronger, which is why a close crop often gives the impression that hair is returning in a better state.
In MPB, hair falls out at the root, and unfortunately, shaving one’s head doesn’t alter this.
Hats Encourage Hair Loss
To stay healthy, hair needs oxygen. But this doesn’t mean that it ‘breathes’ in the traditional sense. Oxygen is carried to the hair follicles through the bloodstream, so the hair gets all the essentials it needs at the root.
It doesn’t need access to oxygen externally, so wearing a hat will not cut off the hair’s oxygen supply and make it fall out.
However, wearing a hat on a frequent basis may trap grease and dirt and cause the general condition of hair to deteriorate. Headwear which is too tight can also physically pull hair out or damage the follicles. But a hat which fits well won’t make someone go bald, or cause them to go bald quicker.
There’s Nothing Men Can Do About It
Despite being so common, hair loss can present a challenge to the self esteem of many men who go through it. Some men embrace it, while others might be more concerned about losing their hair.
Genetics are thought to play the biggest role in male pattern baldness, but this doesn’t mean that men looking to slow down or halt the process have no means to do so.
There are options available, and these include:
- the medication Propecia, which contains finasteride. This tablet treatment works by inhibiting the hormonal conversion in the body (testosterone to dihydrotestosterone) responsible for male pattern baldness. In trials it has shown positive results (either reduced rate of hair loss, stopping the process or facilitating regrowth) in around 85 percent of men who use it. Propecia is only available on prescription. There are side effects that have been associated with this drug and some medical conditions may prohibit use, so it is important to only ever purchase it after consultation with a doctor.
- the treatment minoxidil. More commonly known as Rogaine in the US and Regaine in the UK, it is thought to work by increasing the flow of blood (and thereby oxygen supply) to hair follicles. The product is issued in two strengths, 2 and 5 percent. It’s a twice a day solution administered directly to the scalp, and according to the product website is effective in either reducing loss or generating regrowth in four out of five cases. Despite being available over the counter, it’s advisable to only take this treatment after checking with a doctor that it is suitable.
- hair transplants. They are an option many men turn to, and obviously don’t require the user to carry on taking a regular medication. However, they are costly and someone who begins the transplant process will usually need to return to the clinic for further implants the more hair they lose.
You can find out more information about male pattern baldness on our hair loss pages.