Home Hair Loss 5 hair growth and loss myths debunked

5 hair growth and loss myths debunked

13 min read

Woman combing hair

Worried about your health hair? We spoke to dermatologist Dr Sharon Wong, from the London Bridge Hospital and trichologist Anabel Kingsley, from the Philip Kingsley clinic to give us some insight…

Stress: TRUE

Dr Sharon Wong: “Stress definitely has an impact on health – in my dermatology clinic, I see clear relationships between health levels and skin and hair. Things like stress-induced acne, eczema, psoriasis and hair shedding are common. Generally, we lose hair in three ways – hair thinning with (and without) shedding, patchy hair loss or breakage. So if you’re experiencing hair loss, note the type of loss, in particular – stress-related hair loss is of a shedding type. Stress is one of the main causes of disturbing the hair follicle cycle and can affect the follicle’s cycle, shortening the anagen growth phase. Usually around three to four months after a stressful event, you’ll notice shedding, and improvements can take at least six months.”

Stress can affect the hair in a big way

Anabel Kingsley: “Because hair loss doesn’t occur straightaway, it’s often difficult to pinpoint what’s behind any apparent changes, but stress can affect the hair in a big way. Most importantly, it can affect how we eat – turning to the wrong foods, or skipping meals – which has a knock-on effect on hair health. It affects the balance of the gut too – an upset tummy can significantly affect nutrition absorption. Stress can also increase testosterone levels (depending on your genetic disposition) which can also cause noticeable changes in your hair. Ongoing stress can even result in your hair moving out of the growth phase altogether (‘Telogen Effluvium’).”

Overstyling: TRUE

Dr Sharon Wong: “This generally causes breakage and a difference in hair texture. Thermal injury and chemicals (like hair dyes containing ammonia, peroxides or relaxing treatments for Afro- Caribbean hair) can cause the cuticles to lift away from the hair surface, making hair appear dull, brittle, ragged and aged. It also exposes the core of the hair fibre to structural damage – making it break more easily. There is also traction alopecia – caused by tight hairstyles, or headscarves being tied to tight at the back, for example (even man-buns mean we see it in both sexes now) which typically causes hair thinning over the frontal hairline and temples. In the early phases, traction alopecia is reversible but if you leave it too long, it can cause scarring and permanent hair loss.

Anabel Kingsley: “Overstyling can easily cause breakage – often close to the root – which can look the same, but is entirely reversible. The only exception? Very tight hairstyles worn on daily basis, like braids or extensions which can cause traction alopecia. It’s not uncommon for ballerinas – who have their hair tied up in a tight bun all day, every day – to experience this, or women who braid their hair regularly.”

The contraceptive pill: TRUE

Dr Sharon Wong: “Sex hormones have a huge affect on hair health – we know this from changes during pregnancy, post-pregnancy and the menopause. Some synthetic progesterones have a testosterone-like effect, which can cause hair loss, and progesterone-only contraceptives (like the mini-pill or depo provera injections) can aggravate hair shedding. Oestrogen in combined pills tends to have a more protective effect. Combined contraceptive pills like Dianette and Yasmin have an anti-male hormone effect which can be useful in protecting against female pattern hair loss, and those with PCOS. Finally, Spironolactone (not a contraceptive) is a diuretic that can be used for hormonal acne and hormonal hair loss, but – as with all treatments – it’s generally better to start sooner rather than later.”


Woman brushing hair

Anabel Kingsley: It’s true taking the contraceptive pill can affect your hair, but it depends largely on your genetic predisposition. Oral contraceptives can help the hair, but some can make hair loss worse too, and it often depends on the individual. Dianette is regularly prescribed to people experiencing hair loss, for example, as it’s known for being ‘hair-friendly’ but there are long term risks associated with it. Microgynon, on the other hand, isn’t hair-friendly for everyone. If you’re worried about your birth control or hair loss, your GP will be able to advise on options best suited to you.”

Overwashing: FALSE

Dr Sharon Wong: “I don’t think overwashing does anything to growth or loss directly, but it affects the hair’s aesthetics, and can lead to a dry scalp and hair. There’s generally no one-fits-all for hair – it’s like skin, everybody’s different. But your scalp health is really important and leave-on products can leave a film of residue which gives a tacky feel and look, as well as attracting dust and dirt. That can potentially change the microbiome or balance of normal bacteria and yeasts on the scalp surface – aggravating conditions like dandruff. So it’s really important to wash regularly!”

There’s generally no one-fits-all for hair – it’s like skin, everybody’s different

Anabel Kingsley: “Your scalp is the environment your hair grows in, so it’s crucial to keep it healthy for it to support hair growth – if you’re not washing your hair enough, you’re likely to experience flaking which in turn can cause hair loss and inhabit growth. But non-washing is a complete myth – our hair won’t clean itself when you leave it long enough, no part of the body is self-cleaning. Think all of the pollution, car fumes, dust from building sites, dead skin cells – left on your hair to fester, it’s just not hygienic.”

Diet: TRUE

Dr Sharon Wong: “Hair follicle cells are one of the fastest-growing cells in the body but it’s not an essential structure, so our bodies don’t prioritise nutrition to the hair. Dramatic weight-loss itself can cause hair shedding by depriving hair of nutrients – your hair is made from keratin which is protein – and a diet deficient in protein can cause loss, too. A well-balanced diet that includes lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, iron (women tend to have lower levels of iron stores – ferritin), Vitamin C to help absorb iron, B vitamins including biotin and essential fatty acids are all vital in providing the nutrition to keep hair follicle cells healthy. Interestingly, Vitamin D receptors have been identified on hair follicles too, and play an important role in the hair growth cycle.”

Anabel Kingsley: “It’s very difficult to get the nutrients we need through vegan or vegetarian diets alone, because they lack important proteins. Plant proteins don’t contain all the essential amino acids our hair needs, and plant sources aren’t absorbed as easily by the body (it’s non-heme iron, which is harder to break down). Supplementation is definitely needed because vegan foods don’t contain all vitamins, like B12 for example, which vegans will need to look to supplements or fortified foods for. The risk with taking a self-prescribed supplement, is that you might not be getting adequate levels, and it could interfere with existing medication – so speak to your GP before taking anything new.”




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