Most hair loss is genetically inherited and not a result of external factors. In fact, 95 percent of hair loss in men older than 40 is a genetic condition called androgenic alopecia or, in plain English, “male-pattern hair loss”. Because of your genetic makeup, your body converts too much of your testosterone into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). One of the places where this conversion happens is the hair follicles in your scalp. Too much DHT production causes hair follicles to shrink (miniaturize). The follicles then shed existing hair and won’t regrow new hair.
This process usually starts at the hairline right above the forehead and proceeds in a V-shaped pattern, with the temples going bald first. Or, it can start as a bald spot forming at the back of the crown. Eventually, after many years the entire head will be bald. Some 50 percent of men will go bald sooner or later. For Caucasians, it’s up to 80 percent. There is also female-pattern hair loss, but it’s far more common in elderly women and very rarely leads to complete baldness.
Beyond androgenic alopecia, there are some rarer forms of baldness, such as autoimmune disorders or hair loss caused by malnutrition, prolonged sickness or exposure to certain chemicals and medications.
Talk to a dermatologist to learn more about androgenic alopecia and the other types of hair loss. A dermatologist can also recommend effective treatments for androgenic alopecia, such as finasteride, which has a proven record of success in stopping baldness and spurring hair regrowth.
Several factors can exacerbate androgenic alopecia, even though they in themselves don’t trigger hair loss. Stress is a common culprit here, especially chronic long-term stress which constantly keeps the body’s cortisol (the stress hormone) levels elevated. Cortisol interrupts the normal regeneration cycle of your hair, causing premature shedding of hair and slowing new growth. Stress thus can speed up existing male-pattern baldness.
Another condition that may worsen male pattern hair loss is dandruff, as it often is accompanied with an itchy scalp and the resultant urge to scratch your head. Such scratching can further hurt already damaged hair follicles and hair can then fall out faster.
Stress and itchy dandruff are the two most common factors that can worsen male-pattern hair loss. So, what about hats?
You’ll be fine unless you do wear a tight latex swim cap or medieval knight helmet around the clock and every day. And if you do, hair loss should be the least of your worries.
Avoid a tight hat in hot weather. This can lead to overgrowth of malassezia, a fungus which can cause dandruff, and that loves warm and dark places. Generally, if you are a regular hat wearer, it’s a good idea to maintain proper scalp hygiene and frequently wash your hat. As long as you do that, no harm will come to you from wearing one.