Do Hair Products Cause Hair Loss?
As a YouTube creator with some mild hair loss, I’m often met with many of the same questions – or should I say statements. On many of my hair styling tutorials or hair product reviews, I get a surprising number of people telling me that those very products are causing my hair loss or even speeding it up.
So, do they have a case? Or is this all a bit of a misunderstanding?
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Why Am I Losing Hair?
I’d like to begin by talking about my scalp. Why am I losing hair? Well…it’s quite simple. Male pattern baldness. This is how most male hair loss occurs. If you want a full explanation of how this works, my Finasteride review video has more information. To keep it short, it’s primarily down to genes inherited from your parents, which gradually result in reducing hair density over time. As a result, outside of pretty extreme treatments, there’s little you can to do stop or reverse it. You’ll often see it starting in areas such as at the temples, the centre of the hairline and at the crown area. The rate at which this happens varies widely per person.
To lots of guys, their hair is precious and they don’t want to lose it. After all, your hairstyle can substantially change your appearance. As such, I understand the idea that putting a potentially dangerous product onto your hair could be worrisome.
So, where do hair products and equipment come into all this? Are they making this worse?
It’s important to be specific when answering these questions. Typically, the type of comments I normally get infer that the chemicals in products like waxes or hairsprays act to ‘kill’ your hair follicles and prevent future growth.
For the most part, this isn’t really the case. There are some factors that can affect it, which we’ll discuss in a moment. Generally, though, I like to think of it this way. Who most frequently uses hair products and equipment? It’s not us…it’s our female counterparts. They are using all sorts of hairsprays, brushes, dyes and equipment every single day and whilst our hormones are somewhat different, our hair is structurally the same stuff – it reacts very similarly to the styling products we’re using.
So, for the general premise that using hair products rapidly leads to baldness, there just isn’t much of a case. On a practical level, if that were true, most of your female friends and family would probably look like cue balls. On a scientific level, I couldn’t find any evidence that hair styling products directly cause hair loss, akin to male pattern baldness. A ton of hair loss websites confirm that, by themselves and when used correctly, most products don’t have any particularly negative effects.
Some hair products may contain parabens or sulphates. Parabens are typically used as preservatives, whilst sulphates are used as a detergent or foaming agent in shampoo. Whilst the effects of parabens are debated, albeit not yet proven, with some claiming they can harm your health; it’s clear an over-reliance on sulphates can dry the hair out, so they may be worth avoiding.
Importantly, irresponsible use of certain hair products and equipment can result in the hair becoming more damaged and brittle; which could cause hair follicles to shrink or more easily be ripped out. I’d call this ‘styling damage’, rather than true hair loss.
Extreme heat can certainly cause such damage. As a result, I see many people discouraging the use of hair dryers when styling your hair. Whilst I don’t stretch that far, I would recommend using a better-quality hair dryer, with multiple temperature settings. That way, you can select a medium temperature, in combination with a fast speed, to maintain great styling results without the risk associated with high heat. While it may be a necessity for longer hair, I’d also recommend against using straighteners. They tend to be far hotter than hair dryers and can leave the hair feeling fragile after repeated usage.
When drying and brushing your hair, it’s important to be gentle. Your hair is fragile when it’s wet, so avoid being too vigorous with towels and combs, to avoid unintentionally pulling out smaller hairs.
Additionally, there are a few things to bear in mind when using your hair products. Firstly, be a little bit careful how much product you use. Using excessive amounts of product can cause a build up of oil and wax, which some believe can contribute to blocked scalp pores and consequently follicle miniaturisation in extreme cases. This is when hair follicles decrease in size and sometimes fall out. In most situations, unless you are caking your hair in product, this shouldn’t be an issue. I’d recommend starting with a small amount of wax when styling your hair anyway.
Furthermore, your choice of hair product can affect how thick your hair looks. Greasier products tend to clump the hair, allowing others to see straight through to the scalp if you have thinner hair. As a result, if you’re concerned about thinning hair, I’d recommend using a product with a matte finish, as these leave the hair looking thicker, and help to prevent scalp visibility.
I think it’s also worth mentioning hair washing products that claim to promote hair growth and reduce hair loss. Caffeine shampoos such as Alpecin, have been all over media this last decade. Having been sceptical over the performance of such products for a long time, I found it quite funny when in 2018, the UK Advertising Standards Agency banned Alpecin from making claims that their product fights hair loss. Consultant trichologists essentially found no evidence that the product reduced hair loss. Having tested a caffeine shampoo myself, to little avail, this came as no surprise. I wish it worked, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.
It’s also generally recommended to avoid shampooing every day, as these generally contain sulphates. This means they can dry out your scalp and strip away the natural oils in your hair, causing dandruff and in rare cases, damage to the hair follicles. Once every other day is probably a slightly better option. Also, when using shampoo, remember to follow it up with a conditioner, to help rehydrate the hair follicles.
I like to make a real effort with my hair normally every other day. I think it’s important to give your hair some down time from all the chemicals. However, there is a lot of scaremongering when it comes to this topic – much of which comes from hair brands looking to profit from it. Outside of extreme cases, or clumsy decision making, your hair styling products will not make you bald.
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