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Hair loss myths – and the truth

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
22 January 2013

Hair loss can cause great self-consciousness in men and most resign themselves to the fact that there’s little that can be done to prevent receding and balding unless you’re a multi-millionaire footballer and don’t mind the indignity of the media following your hair transplant.

We asked international hair loss expert Dr Marcovici if these common hair loss myths are true or false.

Can hair products affect hair loss?

They can.

There are two main hair styling-related methods that can cause hair loss.  The first is the use of strong chemical reagents - such as those found in certain commercially available hair bleaches, hair color products, and also perm solutions.  Eventually, these cytotoxic materials can cause hair breakage and also damage to the living follicle beneath the skin surface. 

The second way we can lose hair in pursuit of our hair style is through what’s called traction alopecia.  It’s basically mechanical stress caused to the hair-producing follicles by a regular pulling force. It can eventually stop the follicle being able to produce healthy hair. 

[Related: Good hair hygiene for men]

Are natural shampoos without chemicals better for hair?

Not to my knowledge. In my view, there are a number of commercially available hair shampoos that have never been linked to negative side-effects and also work very well. They’re not 100 per cent natural, but I don’t think that matters. I'm thinking of brands like Neutrogena and the Lonil line of shampoos. 

Do you inherit balding from your mum’s side?

Yes.  And no.  Unfortunately you can inherit the genes that leave you susceptible to baldness from either or both parents.  They’re not gender-specific. 

Pattern hair loss can also skip a generation so that your grandparents may suffer hair loss but both your parents may not.  As a general rule, the more members of your family suffer from pattern hair loss, the more likely you will. 

[Related: Famous bald men who've gone for hair plugs]

Once it’s gone its gone – is it true you can’t grow new follicles?
This is true, I’m afraid. The best you can do is try to prevent losing more.  But it's not the whole story.  In the next ten to fifteen years, it is almost a certainty that stem cell research will lead experts to grow hair follicles in a lab and then used to boost the thinning scalp.  It’s an exciting time, but it’s not quite here yet!
Does stress makes your hair fall out?

The evidence seems to suggest that stress can indeed contribute to hair loss. This it might be a bit misleading as if you’re going to lose your hair due to genetics, stress isn’t the cause.

[Related: Bald men seen as more 'manly']

Do bald men have more testosterone?

No, this isn’t true, it’s more about how your body reacts to the testosterone hormone. Three things contribute to baldness.  First, genetics - you have to have susceptibility genes.  Second, age.  Nine year old children do not suffer from common pattern hair loss.  The third factor is circulating hormones. 

In your body, testosterone converts to something called 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.  DHT is a well-described hormone that sets in motion the negative growth cycle that causes hair to grow progressively thinner over time.

The level of testosterone isn’t a problem, it’s how your body converts it to DHT, which is largely caused by your genetics.

Standing on your head or massage gets more blood to the scalp and helps reduce hair loss

The reality is that scalp hair doesn't thin because it's starved of blood.  It thins because the "software" in the follicle receives the message from circulating hormones to begin shutting down. 

Scalp massage may feel good.  But it will do little or nothing to preserve your hair. 

Hanging upside down like a bat will bring greater blood flow to your scalp.  But again, it won't do anything to stimulate hair growth.

Dr Marcovici is behind new hair loss treatment ThickRx, available in independent health stores.

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