Every other day when I'm searching for new hair products to try, I can always count on coming across several different products that all target one specific problem: hair loss. It's a problem that approximately 30 million women and as many as 50 million men suffer from, while many others can only hope to never have to experience it at all. Still, it's common, and so are the many myths that are associated with it.
We spoke to an expert about the most common hair loss myths, as well as what really causes hair loss and how to combat it. Read ahead to see what we learned.
Myth 1: Hair Loss Is Genetic
Not always. For starters, hair loss is actually a blanket term for different conditions that cause hair loss, like alopecia, some forms of which do have genetic components, according to Amy McMichael, professor at the Department of Dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
"The disease thought to be the most common to cause hair loss is androgenetic alopecia — a form of non-scarring alopecia affecting men and women with thinning on the crown in women and men and frontal hair line regression in men — and it has long been known to have a genetic component from both maternal and paternal genetics," she told POPSUGAR. Frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA) and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), both of which are scarring forms of hair loss, are also known to be genetic in nature.
"Each disease process has complicated genetic factors that are not just a one for one inheritance from parents, so we are all working to uncover how the genetics markers can be used to predict hair loss prior to the development of disease," McMichael continued.
Other conditions, like traction alopecia — which is when the hair begins to thin out as a result of prolonged tension on the hair follicle — are caused by habits and styling methods that put a lot of pressure on the hair. Telogen is also common, which is a temporary form of hair loss that's typically caused by stress.
Myth 2: Only Men Suffer From Hair Loss
We often hear about men balding or losing hair with age, but the truth is that hair loss in general doesn't discriminate based on gender, and it affects both men and women equally. "There are forms of hair loss that appear more commonly in women, including FFA and CCCA, but androgenetic alopecia appears to be more common and more severe in men," McMichael said. "Alopecia areata appears to be even in terms of prevalence in men and women."
Myth 3: You Can Fight Hair Loss With Topical Products and Creams
There's no real way to quickly regenerate hair after its been damaged, and the methods that actually can help are very dependent on the type of hair loss you're experiencing. Unfortunately because hair loss can be so devastating, it's easy for those who experience it to be preyed on by companies touting products that can't always deliver the results they claim they can.
"The most reliable way to find out if treatments work is to see a board-certified dermatologist who can assess your form of hair loss and [tell you] the most appropriate treatment," McMichael said. "While some over-the-counter treatments (like topical minoxidil, also known as Rogaine) can work for many forms of hair loss, when and how to use these treatments can vary significantly."
Topical products can't always regenerate growth. Instead, hair loss issues can usually be addressed with a combination of treatments, one of them being platelet-rich plasma injections, or PRP. "This is a treatment that requires a blood drawn from the patient which is centrifuged, and the top layer of plasma with the platelet are injected into the affected scalp," McMichael said.
The takeaway here is that hair loss isn't a one-size-fits-all issue, so if this is something you find yourself experiencing, the best thing you can do is talk to a dermatologist or trichologist (or even your hairstylist) to figure out what next steps to take.