Reality check: Does wearing a hat cause hair loss?

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With summer around the corner (hopefully), hats will once again be in season.

But some people may avoid covering their head if they believe that wearing a hat can lead to baldness — something experts want to debunk.

According to Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, wearing a hat does not cause hair loss.

“It’s a total myth,” Khetarpal told Global News. “Wearing a hat for a few hours — as long as it’s not tight enough to give someone a headache — is not going to cause hair loss.”

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Some people who experience hair loss feel comfortable wearing hats, which may be why folks associate them with balding, Khetarpal says.

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And while casual hat wearing isn’t a major concern, Khetarpal says that sweat trapped under hats can affect hair.

“In the hot summer months, wearing a hat is going to make you sweat [in] it. And when you sweat more, you can get more dandruff and overgrowth of yeast and bacteria, which can cause some shedding,” she said.

“That’s not going to happen unless you’re wearing a hat all day, every day, throughout the hot months.”

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Khetarpal highlights that this type of shedding is reversible and will resolve on its own. It’s not the same as male and female pattern hair loss, she adds.

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Causes of hair loss

If hats aren’t a culprit, what causes hair loss? Genetics are one of the key determining factors.

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A 2017 study out of the University of Edinburgh found more than 200 genetic regions tied to male baldness. Researchers found that many of these genes came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mother.

If you inherit hair loss genes from one or both of your parents, there’s a higher chance you may experience balding or hair thinning, Khetarpal says.

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“Women are typically protected from hair loss until after menopause… but with men, it can start as early as their teens,” Khetarpal said. “Genetics play the biggest role of when it starts and how rapidly it progresses.”

Apart from genetics, lifestyle factors can contribute to hair loss.

Khetarpal says that smoking is associated with hair thinning as is a protein-deficient diet.

She also says that infants and people who are bedridden may experience hair loss around the back of their head.

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“When they’re on their back and there’s a lot of pressure on an area of the scalp, that could restrict some blood flow and can cause some thinning in that area,” she explained.

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Types of hair loss and things to remember

Khetarpal says medical experts typically divide hair loss into two main categories: scarring hair loss, also known as cicatricial alopecia, and non-scarring alopecia. She says about 90 per cent of hair loss falls into the non-scarring category.

“And then, within that non-scarring realm, the most common type of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss,” she said.

“What that typically looks like with men is they lose hair at the top of the scalp — they get some recession along the hairline and then in the crown — and hair also starts to thin on top. Women actually maintain their frontal hairline, but their part gets wider.”

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While Khetarpal says hair loss is very common, it still carries stigma. It can be hard for men and women when their hair starts to thin or fall out.

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“Because of the social stigma … the cultural kind attitude towards hair loss, I do notice a lot of my male patients especially wear a hat,” she said.

“Recent statistics show that 50 per cent of men, by the age of 50, have signs of androgenetic alopecia. For women, by the age of 70, around 40 per cent have clinical signs of hair loss.”

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