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Hats have the unique ability to be both useful and fashionable, but does wearing a hat cause baldness or hair loss? Read on to find out what the research has to say.
Do hats cause hair loss?
Luckily, the answer to that common query is no.
A study looking at identical male twins showed that various environmental factors might impact hair loss or male pattern baldness. Things like smoking and the presence of dandruff were linked to increased frontal hair loss, while drinking four or more alcoholic drinks per week was associated with increased hair loss around the temples (Gatherwright, 2013).
On the flip side, those who wore a hat daily saw less hair loss around the temples (Gatherwright, 2013).
Now, while the research does not point to a direct link between hats and hair loss, dermatologists encourage hat-wearers to be mindful of sporting a tight hat too often during the summer when you’re more likely to sweat can irritate or inflame the hair follicles.
What about traction alopecia?
Traction alopecia is hair loss caused by repeated and severe stress on your hair follicles. Think of a tight ponytail or bun, taunt braids or dreadlocks, heavy hair extensions, or overnight rollers.
But traction alopecia can also happen when you repeatedly wear the same tight headgear, such as for religious reasons or a hard hat or helmet as part of a professional requirement. Still, as suggested in the earlier study, there’s no conclusive evidence linking hats to hair loss or baldness.
Research shows that traction alopecia occurs in one-third of women of African descent who wear these tight hairstyles. Ballerinas, gymnasts, and military personnel—all known for stern hair styling—may also experience higher rates of traction alopecia compared with the general public (Billero, 2018).
The good news is that if traction alopecia is detected early enough, hair restoration is possible by removing the source of tension on the hair.
Other causes of hair loss
Flat caps, beanies, fedoras, snapbacks—none of these will cause you to go bald. In fact, the most common cause of hair loss, androgenic alopecia, is completely out of your hands.
Androgenic alopecia, also known as androgenetic alopecia or male or female pattern baldness, is a genetic condition that affects both genders. Around half of American men aged 50 live with male pattern baldness, with the prevalence increasing with age. Female pattern baldness affects around 38% of women over age 70 (Phillips, 2017).
Androgenic alopecia usually occurs gradually over time and follows predictable patterns. For men, this means a receding hairline or bald spot, and for women, it’s usually thinning hair along the crown of the scalp.
Male pattern baldness is often caused by DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a male hormone or androgen. Among people who are genetically susceptible to androgenic alopecia, DHT causes hair follicles to shrink and generate shorter, thinner hairs (Ho, 2021).
While other types of hair loss are typically reversible, there is no cure for androgenic alopecia. That said, finasteride (brand name Propecia; see Important Safety Information) and minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) can slow or stop hair loss and, if started early enough, can even regrow some hair.
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Around 80% of men using prescription finasteride saw positive results, and results can be seen as early as three months.
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An over-the-counter treatment, about 70% of men reported increased hair growth after four months of use.
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Extreme stress and shock manifest in the body in all sorts of ways, including hair loss. Emotional or physiological stress can lead to the sudden onset of a temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium. Usually, this occurs due to extreme weight loss, surgeries, illness, certain medications, hormonal changes, or having a baby. The good news is that the hair will typically regrow once you remove the cause of the stress (Hughes, 2021).
Another condition that can yield hair loss or hair thinning is trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of your body, despite best efforts to stop. When the obsession is focused on the head, the repetitive hair pulling can leave patchy bald spots on the scalp (Pereyra, 2021).
Another condition, alopecia areata, is when your body’s immune system attacks healthy hair follicles, causing hair to fall out and preventing new hair from growing. Lastly, hormonal problems, like thyroid disorder or being postpartum, can also lead to hair loss (Lepe, 2021).
Hair loss and baldness can be side effects of certain medications and supplements, such as those used for high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer, acne, and more. For many people, stopping the medicine can improve hair loss and regrowth. Just be sure to check with your healthcare provider before quitting a medication.
As you can see, there are many causes of baldness, but hat-wearing is not a big one. Go ahead and wear that hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays or support your favorite team, and don’t worry about what it will do to your hairline.
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.
- Billero, V. & Miteva, M. (2018). Traction alopecia: the root of the problem. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 11: 149–159. doi:10.2147/ccid.s137296. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29670386
- Gatherwright, J., Liu, M. T., Amirlak, B., et al. (2013). The contribution of endogenous and exogenous factors to male alopecia: a study of identical twins. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 131(5), 794e–801e. doi:10.1097/PRS.0b013e3182865ca9. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23629119/
- Ho, C. H., Sood, T., & Zito, P. M. (2021). Androgenetic alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved on Apr. 1, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
- Hughes, E. C. & Saleh, D. (2021). Telogen effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved on Apr. 1, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
- Lepe, K. & Zito, P. M. (2021). Alopecia areata. StatPearls. Retrieved on Apr. 1, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537000/
- Pereyra, A. D. & Saadabadi, A. (2021). Trichotillomania. StatPearls. Retrieved on Apr. 1, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493186/
- Phillips, T. G., Slomiany, W. P., & Allison, R. (2017). Hair loss: common causes and treatment. American Family Physician, 96(6), 371–378. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2017/0915/p371.html
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.