Merck Manuals Tackles Six Hair Loss Misconceptions

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 4:00 AM HST

Doctor details what men and women should know about alopecia

KENILWORTH, N.J., June 6, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- After this year's Academy Awards, hair loss was a trending topic. Yet much of the conversation around Jada Pinkett Smith's alopecia highlighted common misconceptions around hair loss. We lose about 50 to 100 strands of hair from our head every day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. But some people will experience even more significant hair loss in their lifetimes, which can be a source of anxiety and in some cases, an indicator of more serious medical issues.

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MerckManuals.com (PRNewsfoto/MerckManuals.com)(PRNewswire)

In a new editorial on MerckManuals.com, Wendy S. Levinbook, MD, Hartford Dermatology Associates, breaks down six of the most common misconceptions about hair loss – along with the facts people should know.

Misconception #1 - Alopecia is a Specific Medical Condition

Alopecia is simply the medical term for any type of hair loss. It is not a specific medical condition. There are many specific types of alopecia. The most common is androgenetic alopecia, which is related to aging. By age 80, more than 70% of men and 50% of women will have this form of alopecia.

Misconception #2 - Hair Loss Only Affects Older Men

It's not just men who experience hair loss. Women also experience hair loss, although the pattern of hair loss tends to be different in men and women. In women, hair is usually first lost on the top of the head. Typically, the hair thins rather than becoming completely lost, and the hairline stays intact.

Misconception #3 - Hair Loss is Passed Down from Just Your Mother or Father

There's a persistent myth that hair loss in men is passed down from the mother's side of the family while hair loss in women is passed down the father's side. While genetics play a part in male- and female-pattern hair loss, these traits can be passed down from both parents.

Misconception #4 - Nothing Can Prevent Hair Loss

There are a wide range of products, vitamins and therapies that claim to prevent or even undo hair loss – often with a hefty price tag attached. The reality is, it's difficult to regain hair that's already been lost in most cases. Slowing or stopping hair loss depends on the cause of the hair loss, but there are some products that can be effective if used consistently and effectively.

Misconception #5 - Washing Your Hair Too Much Can Cause Hair Loss

Some people are concerned that washing their hair too often can cause hair loss. This is not true. Additionally, hats do not cause hair loss and in fact can be an effective way to protect the scalp from the sun.

Misconception #6 - Hair Loss is Only a Cosmetic Issue

The psychological impact of hair loss should not be overlooked or minimized. Our society places a high value on appearance, and hair is closely tied to beauty standards across many cultures. Individuals struggling with hair loss should pay close attention to mental health issues that may come with it. Often, seeking support from loved ones or others going through similar challenges can help.

At the same time, hair loss is not always a purely cosmetic challenge. It can be indicative of more serious issues, including lupus, hormonal disorders, fungal infections, or nutritional deficiencies. It can also be caused by physical stressors, psychological stress, or an injury.

Read more about hair loss in Dr. Levinbook's editorial on MerckManuals.com.

About The Merck Manuals and MSD Manuals

First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world's most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Manuals kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a global initiative with the goal to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. The Manuals achieved that goal, and today its medical information is available in more than 241 counties and in nearly a dozen languages. It's continuing its ambitious mission through outreach, education and creating new reliable medical resources. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit MerckManuals.com or MSDManuals.com and connect with us on social media: For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook. For Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook

About Merck

For over 130 years, Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases in pursuit of our mission to save and improve lives. We demonstrate our commitment to patients and population health by increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to prevent and treat diseases that threaten people and animals – including cancer, infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and emerging animal diseases – as we aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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SOURCE The Merck Manuals

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