Does Wearing a Hat Cause Baldness?

Wearing a Hat
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Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
5th August 2020

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Does wearing a hat cause baldness? Simply put, no, this is a myth. Hats can only cause you to lose your hair if they are exceptionally tight-fitting. And that’s not very likely.
Hair loss in men is caused less by what you wear on your head than by the hormones present in your body. Male pattern baldness is caused by dihydrotestosterone, which shrinks and weakens the hair follicles on your scalp.
So no, hair loss doesn’t have anything to do with your hat — nor the amount of sun you get, the amount of hair product you use, nor your levels of testosterone. Hair loss, rather, is about genetics.

Male pattern baldness (MPB) is not a condition that everybody understands. And in this fertile ground, it’s inevitable that myths about hair loss abound.

From a purported link between hairstyling products and MPB to a belief that your mother is to blame for your baldness, there are many of these misconceptions around. But, as ever, the trick with myths is being able to tell the truth from the tall tales.

So, does wearing a hat cause baldness? In short, no. But it is understandable that you might think so. In this article, we’ll look at why this isn’t the case and at what actually causes MPB. 

And we’ll be debunking some of the other hair loss myths while we’re at it, too.

Does Wearing a Hat Cause Baldness?

Quite simply, no, wearing a hat will not cause you to go bald. 

While you may have noticed that things can get a little itchy, that you leave a couple of strands behind, or that you look a bit scruffy once you’ve removed it, these are merely the hazards of wearing a hat. They don’t mean that the health of your hair is compromised.

Only on very rare occasions can hats cause hair loss. However, this would not be the kind of baldness that comes with MPB. While the signs of balding include a receding hairline above the temple or a thinning on the crown, any hat-related hair loss would be quite different.

Traction Alopecia

You would instead see the symptoms of what is known as traction alopecia, a type of hair loss resulting from the pulling of — or strain on — your hair. While usually associated with people who wear tight ponytails or braids, you can develop traction alopecia as a result of wearing tightly fitting helmets for motorcycling or skiing, for example.

Chances are that you’ll notice if you have the symptoms of traction alopecia. MPB is non-scarring and painless, but traction alopecia can be itchy and painful, and it can leave scarring on your scalp.

It needs to be reiterated, however, that it is incredibly difficult to suffer traction alopecia as a result of simply wearing a hat. The hat would have to be very tight, and you’d have to wear it for a staggeringly long time.

What Does Cause Baldness?

Male pattern baldness is responsible for over 90% of baldness cases in men, and it’s caused less by what you do to your scalp than by what happens inside you.

MPB is caused by your genetic and hormonal composition. It is largely driven by a specific androgen, or male hormone, known as dihydrotestosterone, or DHT for short. 

DHT is produced by the body as a by-product of testosterone and when you are a child (and during puberty), it helps in the development of male genitalia, facial hair, and other male characteristics.

For the majority of adult men, hair follicles are sensitive to DHT. This means that, as DHT is continually being produced, our follicles become weaker and weaker in its presence, through a process known as miniaturisation. The follicles shrink and, ultimately, lose the capacity to produce hair at all.

Strangely, it is those follicles above your temples and at your crown that are most sensitive to DHT. That’s why the “pattern” of MPB is recognisable from the receding hairline, the widow’s peak, and the thinning at the crown. Your hair at the back and sides of your head, meanwhile, will grow healthily for longer.

While some men’s hair follicles are more genetically sensitive to DHT than those of others, the majority of us will experience some hair loss throughout our lives. According to the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of men will have some hair loss by the age of 35, and 85% of men by the age of 50.

So you see: Baldness has got nothing to do with wearing a hat at all.

Other Myths about Hair Loss

The link between hair loss and wearing a hat is not the only baldness myth that exists. You may have heard that shampooing and styling can increase the chances of hair loss in later life. Or even that baldness is a sign of manliness.

Let’s take a look at some of these hair loss myths in detail:

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Your Product is Causing Hair Loss

One myth pinpoints shampoos and styling products as a problem. Some products, the story goes, contain chemicals that damage your hair.

While some low-quality hair products may cause irritation — particularly if you have an allergy — they won’t cause MPB. So, if you do have a reaction, your hair will grow back.

High Testosterone Leads to Hair Loss

Another myth that has really gone the distance identifies baldness with manliness, drawing a link between hair loss and testosterone levels. This one traces its roots right back to ancient Greece, as one famous philosopher, Aristotle, speculated about a link between virility and baldness.

While it may sound almost scientific, it’s not hormone levels that are the main cause of MPB. Instead, it’s your follicles’ sensitivity to one particular hormone, DHT.

If Your Mum’s Dad is Bald, You Will Be Too

Finally, there’s an idea out there that your chance of losing your hair is directly related to the health of your maternal grandfather’s hairline.

Now, genetics do play a role in MPB, however, that’s not the be-all and end-all. Studies have shown[iii] that your dad’s side of the family is just as important genetically for your hairline as your mum’s. That could be good news or bad.

Key Takeaways

Does wearing a hat cause baldness? No. And neither are your testosterone levels or your shampoo. These are just some of the many myths that surround male hair loss.

Rather, MPB is caused by the sensitivity of your hair follicles to the androgen, DHT. This hormone can cause those follicles to shrink, weaken, and, ultimately, stop producing hair at all.

References

  1. American Hair Loss Association – Men’s hair loss: https://www.americanhairloss.org/men_hair_loss/introduction.html

  2. I. Takashima – Androgenetic Alopecia: Pathophysiological Aspects in Man and Animals: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-74612-3_18

  3. W Cameron ChumleaThomas RhodesCynthia J GirmanAmy Johnson-LevonasFlavius R W LillyRuishan WuShumei S Guo (2004). Family history and risk of hair loss: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15237265

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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