Recent research suggests that the most common type of hair loss, male pattern baldness, can be triggered by faulty hair-making progenitor cells in the scalp. Researchers long believed that men whose hair progressively thins—starting with a receding hairline, and then stretching to the crown—lacked a sufficient number of these cells. Rather, it appears that the cells are merely unable to complete their normal development and mature to a fully-functioning state. That finding, published last month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could be the key to reversing hair thinning and baldness. 1
Other potential contributors to hair loss include illness, age, genetics, and even primping habits. Meanwhile, a flurry of myths contribute to men’s anxiety, if not to baldness itself. “I get athletes who think helmets caused their hair to fall out, and men who say it’s because their mothers rubbed their heads with black tar soap,” says dermatologist Gary Hitzig. Neither helmets nor soap are at fault, he says. And more blame may get heaped on mothers than they deserve.
We got to the bottom of 5 common beliefs about hair loss. Here’s the bald truth:
Myth: Hair loss is passed down from your mother’s side.
Not entirely true. While the primary baldness gene is on the X chromosome, which men get only from their mothers, other factors are also in play. The hereditary factor is slightly more dominant on the woman’s side, but research suggests that men who have a bald father are more likely to develop male pattern baldness than those who don’t.
Myth: If you’re balding, you’re old.
On the contrary, hair loss can strike in the teens and is common among 20- and 30-year-olds. The earlier it begins, the more severe it will likely become.
[See: Do’s and Don’ts of Healthy Hair.]
Myth: Wearing a hat strains hair follicles, causing hair to fall out..
Good news for men who rely on caps to cover their shiny crowns: They’re not causing any harm. Dirty hats can, however, lead to a scalp infection, which in turn accelerates hair loss, so either make sure yours is clean or rotate frequently.
Myth: Trauma can cause hair loss.
True—with a catch. Physical or emotional stress “will never cause you to lose hair you wouldn’t have lost anyway,” Hitzig says. “If the hair is not meant to be lost, it will grow back.” That said, it can accelerate balding. Rapid shifts in weight—whether pounds are gained or lost—can also contribute to the likelihood of hair loss.