We’ve all heard crazy old wives tales about how to improve your hair. Eat bread crusts to make your hair curly. Regular trims will help your hair grow faster. Cutting your hair on a certain day of the week will bring you good luck. In the world of hair, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. We all want thick, glossy hair, but how do we know what to believe? In this article, we will crack the code and find out which hair myths are true, and which are totally false.
A History of Hair
Hair care products are a billion dollar industry. A quick glance at a magazine rack of a grocery store or a swipe through your Instagram feed shows endless amounts of follicular information. This obsession with hair is hardly a modern invention.
Throughout human history, hair length and style gave others clues about social class, religion, and marital status. For example, single women in Ancient China arranged their hair in braids, while married women tied their hair in a bun on the top of their heads. In Ancient Rome, the patrician upper class grew their hair long and wore it in elaborate and sophisticated styles, while simpler hairstyles denoted belonging to the lower classes. For the Ancient Mayans, hair was also used to separate rank. Commoners kept their hair short, while nobles grew long hair they kept tied in ponytails. For the Mayans, receding hairlines were considered attractive and Mayan men would burn their hairlines to permanently damage the follicles for a more elongated profile. In Ancient Greece, long hair was reserved for those with wealth and power, while the heads of slaves were shaved.
Since the beginning of time, humans have been struggling with hair loss and searching for ways to make hair thicker, longer, and stronger. Hair loss has been a problem for humans for thousands of years. DNA from a Greenland man who died more than 4,000 years ago indicates that even he suffered from male pattern baldness.
So why the preoccupation with hair? According to anthropologists, thick, glossy hair is a sign of good health, and signs of good health are considered to be attractive. People have always gone to great lengths to grow a full head of hair. Ancient Egyptians created topical tinctures for hair loss with the fats of several animals, including goats, lions, crocodiles, snakes and hippopotamus. And if that didn’t work out, they would just wear wigs.
Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates also suffered from hair loss. He prescribed a concoction of opium, horseradish, pigeon droppings, beetroot, and spices. He also came up with a rather radical treatment for hair loss – castration – after noticing that eunuchs (castrated males) never seemed to lose their hair. In 1995, researchers at Duke University confirmed that this procedure does in fact prevent hair loss – but we don’t recommend such extreme measures!
Julius Caesar is another historical figure who suffered from hair loss. He originally hid his receding hairline by combing his hair forward in a hairstyle now known as the Caesar. When this no longer worked, he hid his receding hairline with a crown of laurels. Maybe a laurel crown isn’t so practical today, but if you can pull it off, we say rock it!
The Truth Behind Common Hair Myths
So what really works? What’s the truth, and what is just an old wives tale? What can help you grow a full head of hair, and what methods should be left in the past. Read on as we bust these myths!
1. Frequent Trims Will Make Your Hair Grow Faster – FALSE
Your hair follicles determine how quickly your hair grows, not the ends. However, frequent trims can make your hair appear thicker by getting rid of split ends, which can make hair look thinner. If you’re growing out your hair, we recommend a trim every 8 weeks to diminish split ends and keep your hair looking healthy. Your hair won’t grow faster, but it will certainly look better!
2. Baldness Comes From Your Mother’s Father – FALSE
While your propensity towards hair loss is determined in part by genetics, hair loss is polygenetic, meaning the genes for hair loss come from both sides of you family, not just the maternal side. If there is hair loss anywhere in your family, whether on your father or mother’s side, you are more likely to inherit the genes as well.
3. If you pluck a grey hair, two more will grow in its place – FALSE
Every hair on our head comes from one follicle. If you pluck the hair out of this follicle, it will only produce one to replace it. This myth originates from the fact that grey hairs tend to have a different texture than the rest of the hair, which makes them stand apart. However, plucking may create scarring on the scalp, which can cause bald patches. Therefore, we recommend you reach for the dye if you’re concerned about greys!
4. Stresses Causes Hair Loss – TRUE (Somewhat)
Traumatic events like a car crash, giving birth, major surgery, or the death of a loved one can cause hair loss. However, hair loss is not caused by common, every day stress that comes with modern life. Routine stress that comes from home and work life do not cause hair loss. Otherwise, no one would have any hair!
5. Hats Cause Baldness – FALSE
Wearing baseball caps does not cause traction alopecia, a form of hair loss caused by hair being physically pulled out. According to Spencer Kobren, founder of the American Hair Loss Association, “Your baseball cap would have to be on our scalp so tight that you couldn’t wear it in order to cause any type of traction or damage”. That’s great news, because hats also have the added bonus of protecting your hair and scalp from damaging UV rays!
6. Washing Your Hair Too Much Can Cause Hair Loss – FALSE
All the hair in your shower drain may make you feel like you’re losing extra hair. However, it’s normal to lose 50-100 strands per day when hair reaches the end of its growth cycle. Washing your hair with shampoo is just getting rid of the hairs that have already come loose from your scalp. Washing your hair is actually essential to hair growth because shampoo removes oil, dirt and debris, all of which can prevent hair growth. If you do want to shampoo every day, make sure you choose a gentle shampoo that won’t dry out your hair and cause breakage.
7. Birth Control Pills Make Your Hair Fall Out – TRUE
According to Paradi Mirmirani, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, women who are genetically prone to hair loss are more sensitive to androgen. If the type of birth control you’re using is heavy with progesterone, a hormone easily converted to androgen, it can trigger hair loss. Not all oral contraceptives are created the same, however, and some birth control pills have less progesterone than others. Make sure you talk to your doctor about your prescription is hair loss is a concern for you (http://www.prevention.com/beauty/myths-about-thinning-hair-and-hair-loss).
8. You Should Brush Your Hair 100 Strokes Per Day – FALSE
Brushing your hair is a good thing, to a certain extent. Hair brushing distributes oils from the scalp more evenly along the strand for shininess and also stimulates blood flow to the scalp, which can help with hair growth. However, the myth that you need to brush your hair 100 strokes every day like Marcia Brady is totally false. Brushing can create friction on the hair, which can damage the cuticle and make hair appear frizzy. Too much brushing can also lead to breakage, which can make hair appear thinner. We recommend sticking to a more moderate amount, like 20-30 strokes.
9. Hair Loss Medications Don’t Work – FALSE
While there are certainly plenty of companies out there pushing products that are little more than snake oil to help with hair loss, there are a few medications approved by the FDA that can slow or stop hair loss. Propecia and Minoxidil (found in over-the-counter hair loss remedies) are both clinically proven to help with hair loss. However, they do not work for everyone and the effects wear off when you stop medication. But we say if you’re serious about preventing hair loss, they’re worth a shot!
10. Sleeping With Your Hair Down Will Make It Grow Faster – FALSE
According to Dr. Doris Day, an NYC-based dermatologist, “While there is no evidence to show that sleeping with your hair down will make it grow faster, the method is often recommended if you are experiencing thinning or hair loss to ensure that you are causing additional breakage, damage, or tension at the root, which will ultimately result in added thinning”. If you do choose to sleep with your hair up, make sure you keep your ponytail or bun loose to prevent breakage.
What’s your favorite myth for growing great hair?