Hats are fun. Hats can be functional. Hats are easier than doing your hair. We wear them as a fashion statement, to keep the sun off our faces, and to keep our heads warm. But maybe you’ve noticed some hair thinning or patchiness recently, and you’re starting to wonder about hats and hair loss.
Your first instinct might be to hide that thinning dome under a hat, but is that making matters worse? Does wearing a hat contribute to hair loss?
Does Wearing Hats Cause Hair Loss?
Fact: You may be shedding hair, but it isn’t likely due to your love of hats.
The research does not support the idea that hats cause hair loss in any appreciable amount.
It's possible that wearing a super-tight hat could cause reduced blood flow to your hair follicles, at least hypothetically. If this happens, the stress to the follicles may cause hair to fall out. However, this would likely be a temporary outcome, at least at first, possibly becoming permanent over time if you didn’t stop wearing the tight hat.
In reality, it isn’t likely most people wear a hat tight enough and for long enough for hair loss to occur due to blood flow issues. But there's a little more to it.
Another commonly cited answer to the question, “Do hats cause hair loss?” is that by covering your head, you’re depriving your follicles of oxygen, nutrients, or necessary light. This, too, is unlikely. What can happen however, is that the fashionable floppy you wear is causing your hair to break close to your head.
This is known as friction alopecia, and it can result in patchy baldness or areas of really short hair. Your hair should grow back once you stop wearing hats or too-tightly fitted hats. If you opt to go back to wearing them again once those bald spots disappear, just make sure you choose a size that’s not too tight and, perhaps, wear them a little less frequently.
Another small possibility is that the hats you don daily pull on your hair. Again, this could be from wearing a cap that’s too tight. When you do something that pulls on the hair, it can damage the follicles and eventually lead to scarring. The result is that your hair grows finely or not at all. Hair loss from pulling is called traction alopecia.
What Is Traction Alopecia?
Of all the types of alopecia, this is the one that is the most preventable. Traction alopecia is caused by the repeated stress of pulling on your hair. When caught early enough, the condition is completely reversible; however, if you overlook the hair loss that occurs, you can end up with a permanent condition.
Traction Alopecia Causes
Does wearing a hat make you lose hair and lead to traction alopecia? It can, but wearing your baseball cap is not as likely a cause as other fashion statements or behaviors. More often, it’s the result of wearing hairstyles that consistently tug at the hair. Ponytails, cornrows, hair extensions and dreadlocks can all lead to hair loss.
People who consistently tug on their hair can also get traction alopecia. Trichotillomania is a disorder that is characterized by hair pulling. It affects approximately 1-2% of the population, most of whom are women. The condition is a mental health disorder that often results from stress. Many people who have it aren’t even aware of when they are pulling out their hair. Hair tugging alleviates negative emotions, but it leads to hair loss, scarring and, eventually, bald patches. It is important for anyone who has this condition to seek help, as it can be difficult to change the behavior without professional support.
Traction Alopecia Symptoms
To catch it early, you need to know what the condition looks like in its early stages and then take the necessary steps to prevent permanent damage to hair follicles. The first signs of traction alopecia can be easy to miss. Small bumps often appear on the scalp before you even see signs of hair breakage or hair loss. These bumps look an awful lot like pimples, but they occur in areas where your hair undergoes the most stress.
The next visible sign is patches of breaking hair or hair loss. When this symptom first starts to appear, it’s still early enough to reverse the condition. The longer you wait, the more likely you’ll end up with irreversible damage. You may also notice additional symptoms, including:
- Red patches
- Scaling and itchiness
- A stinging or burning sensation
- Inflammation at the hair follicles (a condition known as folliculitis)
- Blisters filled with puss
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure you give your hair a break from whatever hairstyle is causing the damage and get treatment right away. Doctors who specialize in hair loss can prescribe topical medications made from proven ingredients that can boost your body’s ability to regrow your hair.
Who Is Most Likely to Get Traction Alopecia?
Anyone can get it, male or female, child or adult. However, studies show that it is most common among African, Caribbean and Black Americans who wear their hair in tight braids. Among the adult women in South Africa, approximately 32% have traction alopecia, and as many as 22% of children between the ages of six and 15 may have it. African girls and women are more likely to have traction alopecia than boys and men, but the boys and men still get it when they wear their hair in cornrows or dreadlocks.
In addition to cultural hairstyle practices, Black people’s hair is morphologically different from people of European or Asian descent. The unique shape of the hair and follicle and the follicle position all factor into why people of African or Caribbean descent may be more likely to get traction alopecia.
Are There Effective Treatments for Traction Alopecia?
You’ve probably figured out that the answer to the question, “Do hats cause hair loss?” is "no, probably not" in most cases. If it is the cause, you may have traction alopecia from constantly wearing a hat that’s too tight for long periods of time.
Your hat may also not be the cause at all.
Treatment for traction alopecia is possible, but you must stop the behavior that’s leading to the condition.
Our dermatologists specialize in hair loss of all kinds. We can diagnose your condition from the comfort of your own home and prescribe appropriate treatment with the top ingredients used by dermatologists in private practice.
If you suspect that you have traction alopecia or some other form of hair loss, take our [free quiz]to begin your journey to a healthier head of hair.