There are many causes of hair loss. They include genetics, stress, infection, traction (pulling), and accidents involving blunt trauma or chemical burns. But can wearing a hat – or a helmet for that matter – create or make worse a hair loss condition?
In and of themselves, hats and helmets do not directly cause hair to fall out. But it’s possible that such head coverings can make an existing hair loss condition worse. That can happen in a variety of ways:
Hats that cause a hygiene problem. Whether or not you are experiencing hair loss, it’s possible that excessive wearing of headgear of any kind – hats, helmets, even scarfs – can trap bacteria that then causes a skin infection in the scalp. Most commonly seborrheic dermatitis can cause temporary hair loss. It is characterized by scaly, sometimes oily skin inflammation that is itchy and painful. Other fungal skin infections, or bacteria (including but not limited to syphilis) can have a similar effect. Persistent infection should be treated medically.
Causing a traction (pulling) problem. Traction alopecia is a very real and very permanent type of hair loss that comes from pulling the hair tight. In people who wear tight ponytails or braids (e.g., cornrows), this is fairly common. Conceivably, a hat or other head covering might accompany a tight pull on hair, however it’s more about a combination of the two. This is reversible hair loss unless it persists long enough to permanently damage the hair follicles.
Covering up a genetic condition. The vast majority of hair thinning and hair loss in both women and men is genetic in origin. Wearing a ball cap, wigs and hair extensions, or other head coverings might be a way for some to ignore the problem when in fact there are solutions through medications (minoxidil and finasteride are chief among them) that can stop it before it becomes irreversible. Early treatment is most effective!
Another argument against hats, helmets and other hair coverings is that fresh air is good for hair. In a sense, they are right in that getting fresh air generally means getting outdoors for exercise and a little healthy sunlight (sufficient to help your body produce its own vitamin D). It’s true that general good health translates into better hair health as well. But a hat that protects you from overexposure to the elements – the sun, and the drying effects of cold winter air – is a good idea, too.