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Last updated: May 20, 2022
6 min read

Can masturbation cause hair loss?

 

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If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Even though masturbation can be a healthy activity, there are many myths surrounding it. One concern you may have heard is: can masturbation cause hair loss? 

The short answer is: probably not. Let’s take a look at why this misconception came to be and some others to watch out for.

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Does masturbation cause hair loss?

There is no scientific evidence that masturbation causes hair loss. This myth has been linked to a couple of incorrect theories including a mistaken belief that masturbating takes protein away from hair growth. 

There is also a concern that masturbating boosts testosterone levels, leading to higher DHT (dihydrotestosterone) levels, which have been linked to hair loss. DHT is a male sex hormone that’s a byproduct of testosterone. Currently, there’s no available evidence that masturbation causes your hair to fall out. Let’s look at two common myths about hair loss and masturbation.

Myth 1: Masturbation increases testosterone levels

Fact: Because existing studies are quite small, no definitive statements can be made regarding the impact of masturbation on testosterone

Testosterone fluctuates daily, and some suggest levels also fluctuate after masturbation. But the evidence on this is conflicting. Some studies have found orgasms increase testosterone in the short term, while others saw no change in hormone levels after ejaculation. Other research noted an increase in testosterone in study participants who remained abstinent for three weeks (Exton, 2001). 

There are multiple factors that affect testosterone levels including age, diet, and fitness. Given the numerous variables that can impact your hormones, masturbation alone is unlikely to significantly alter your baseline––especially not in a way that could cause hair loss. 

Myth 2: Masturbating causes protein loss

Fact: The amount of protein in semen is very small compared to what our daily protein needs are. This means protein loss due to masturbation is very unlikely to cause hair loss.

The average amount of protein in sperm is about 5 g per 100 mL (about half of a cup). A high volume of ejaculate is about 5 mL. That means, taking a conservative estimate, you’d need to ejaculate roughly 20 times to release 5 g of protein. To put it in perspective, that’s about the equivalent of an egg white (Owen, 2013; Levitas, 2007).

Other masturbation myths

An early masturbation myth is that it leads to hair growth on the palms. This was quickly proved false as the majority of people don’t have hair follicles on their palms. 

In addition to hair loss or growth, there is no evidence that masturbating results in any of the following: 

A lot of these myths circulate because people might not be comfortable talking about masturbation or don’t want to ask their healthcare providers about it. 

It’s important to note that sometimes health issues are happening at the same time as you masturbate, but that isn’t the actual cause. For example, teens often get acne due to changing hormone levels while they’re exploring their bodies. That doesn’t mean acne and masturbation are directly linked. 

6 benefits of masturbation

Despite any rumors you may have heard, masturbation has a whole host of benefits. Here are six ways masturbation can positively affect your health.

1. Improved mood

The release of “happy hormones” like dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin during an orgasm has been linked to improved mood

2. Pain relief

If you’ve ever had a headache go away after an orgasm, it could be due to the natural pain-killing effects of oxytocin and endorphins. Orgasms boost these hormones and have been linked to pain relief (Hambach, 2013; Paloyelis, 2016; Sprouse-Blum, 2010).

3. Stress reduction

The increased oxytocin levels during orgasm may relieve stress. Studies show oxytocin modulates the brain’s emotional center (the amygdala) in a way that tamps down the body’s stress and fear responses (Love, 2018).

4. Better sleep

One study found that people who had orgasms (whether from sex or masturbation) reported better sleep. Researchers suggest the combined release of oxytocin and a reduction of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, after an orgasm may make it easier to sleep (Lastella, 2019).

5. Stronger pelvic muscles

Having an orgasm flexes pelvic floor muscles, which improves muscle tone. Research shows that stronger pelvic floor muscle function can also improve sexual satisfaction and arousal (Alwaal, 2015; Sartori, 2021). 

If you want an easy workout for these muscles, try Kegel exercises. This involves repeatedly clenching and releasing the muscles responsible for stopping urine flow. Both men and women can benefit from performing Kegels regularly but speak to a healthcare professional before starting them (Nazarpour, 2017).

6. Improved erectile function

A study of men ages 30–75 found that ejaculating at least once a week reduced the likelihood of ED (Qin, 2012). After men orgasm, they enter what’s called the refractory period, which temporarily prevents getting an erection or ejaculating. This is perfectly normal and should not be confused with ED.

Masturbation risks

While masturbation can be healthy, excessive masturbating can be harmful if it affects your life in a negative way, such as interfering with work or creating problems in your relationships. 

Another issue is relying too much on pornography during masturbation. This can lead to a distorted view of what sex should be and could impact your ability to get aroused with a partner (Zimmer, 2020). 

Issues with partners can also arise if masturbation techniques are idiosyncratic or very specific to them. The pressure, speed, duration, and intensity of how they masturbate may not easily be reproducible with a partner. Idiosyncratic masturbation techniques can also cause decreased genital sensitivity, which can cause difficulty orgasming in the future (Jenkins, 2015).

Causes of hair loss

Hair loss is usually caused by genetics. The most common cause—androgenetic alopecia—affects men and women. 

Temporary hair loss (also known as telogen effluvium) can be triggered by the following (Asghar, 2020):

  • Thyroid problems
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Calorie restriction (crash dieting)
  • Physical or psychological stress (surgery, illness, or trauma) 
  • Side effects of certain medications

When it comes down to it, sexual activity should not significantly affect your hairline. If you notice hair thinning or excess shedding, it’s best to seek medical advice about what may be causing it. 

References

  1. Al Aboud, A. & Zito, P. (2021). Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved May 11, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538178/ 
  2. Alwaal, A., Breyer, B. N., & Lue, T. F. (2015). Normal male sexual function: Emphasis on orgasm and Ejaculation. Fertility and Sterility, 104(5), 1051–1060. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.08.033. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4896089/ 
  3. Asghar, F., Shamim, N., Farooque, U., et al. (2020). Telogen effluvium: A review of the literature. Cureus, 12(5): e8320. doi:10.7759/cureus.8320. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320655/ 
  4. Ayad, B. M., Van der Horst, G. V., & Du Plessis, S. S. (2018). Revisiting the relationship between the ejaculatory abstinence period and semen characteristics. International Journal of Fertility and Sterility, 11(4): 238-246. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641453/ 
  5. Bowman, C. P. (2013). Women’s masturbation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38(3), 363–378. doi:10.1177/0361684313514855. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0361684313514855 
  6. Exton, M. S., Kruger, T. H., Bursch, N., et al. (2001). Endocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm in healthy men following a 3-week sexual abstinence. World Journal of Urology, 19(5), 377–382. doi:10.1007/s003450100222. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11760788/
  7. Hambach, A., Evers, S., Summ, O., et al. (2013). The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: An observational study. Cephalalgia, 33(6), 384–389. doi:10.1177/0333102413476374. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0333102413476374 
  8. Jenkins, L. C. & Mulhall, J. P. (2015). Delayed orgasm and anorgasmia. Fertility and Sterility, 104(5), 1082–1088. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.09.029. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816679/ 
  9. Lastella, M., O’Mullan, C., Paterson, J. L., & Reynolds, A. C. (2019). Sex and sleep: Perceptions of sex as a sleep promoting behavior in the general adult population. Frontiers in Public Health, 7. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409294/ 
  10. Levitas, E., Lunenfeld, E., Weisz, N., et al. (2007). Relationship between age and semen parameters in men with normal sperm concentration: Analysis of 6022 semen samples. Andrologia, 39(2), 45–50. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0272.2007.00761.x. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17430422/ 
  11. Love, T. M. (2018). The impact of oxytocin on stress: The role of sex. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 23, 136–142. doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2018.06.018. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6863168/ 
  12. Nazarpour, S., Simbar, M., Ramezani Tehrani, F., & Alavi Majd, H. (2017). Effects of sex education and Kegel exercises on the sexual function of postmenopausal women: A randomized clinical trial. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 14(7), 959–967. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.05.006. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28601506/ 
  13. Owen, D. H. (2013). A review of the physical and chemical properties of human semen and the formulation of a semen simulant. Journal of Andrology, 26(4), 459–469. doi:10.2164/jandrol.04104. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2164/jandrol.04104 
  14. Paloyelis, Y., Krahé, C., Maltezos, S., et al. (2016). The analgesic effect of oxytocin in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study using laser-evoked potentials. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 28(4). doi:10.1111/jne.12347. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103211/ 
  15. Qin, Z., Tian, B., Wang, X., et al. (2012). Impact of frequency of intercourse on erectile dysfunction: A cross-sectional study in Wuhan, China. Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, 32(3), 396–399. doi:10.1007/s11596-012-0068-9. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22684564/ 
  16. Sartori, D. V., Kawano, P. R., Yamamoto, H. A., et al. (2021). Pelvic floor muscle strength is correlated with sexual function. Investigative and Clinical Urology, 62(1), 79. doi:10.4111/icu.20190248. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7801170/ 
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  18. Zimmer, F. & Imhoff, R. (2020). Abstinence from masturbation and hypersexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(4), 1333–1343. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01623-8 . Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7145784/