- Rafael Abuchaibe (@RafaelAbuchaibe)
- BBC News World
The search for baldness solutions does not come from today, but from centuries.
It is known that, almost 2 thousand years ago, the Greek Hippocrates — considered the father of modern medicine for having been the first to separate his scientific observations from the religious beliefs then in force — began to observe the functioning of hair, testing ways to reverse its fall.
Although we now understand much better how the hair system works, there are still many misconceptions that are repeated about hair loss — that “it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” says Carolyn Goh, a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss and scalp disorders. hairy.
In addition to researching this body part at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Goh in particular was diagnosed with alopecia areata, which occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles.
In an interview with BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language service, the dermatologist pointed out three persistent myths about baldness.
Myth 1: Mother’s genes are to blame
You may have heard around that the genes that cause baldness come from the mother’s side of the family, but the reality is much more complex than that.
A 2017 study published in the British journal PLOS Genetics analyzed information from 52,000 men with hereditary baldness and claimed to have managed to identify at least 287 genes involved in the hair loss process.
At least 40 of the identified genes were related to the X chromosome, the one inherited from the mother, while the others were scattered throughout the genome.
“It’s true that the strongest genes come from the mother’s side of the family,” says Goh, “but since more than one gene causes baldness, they can come from both sides. So it’s likely to come from both,” he says.
According to the doctor, the genes identified as responsible for baldness cause an exaggerated sensitivity to an element present in testosterone, the male hormone. It is something that can occur in both men and women, but with differences.
“Women generally don’t go bald. They generally lose some hair on top of their head and maybe a little on their temples. And that’s probably because we don’t have as much testosterone as men do, and we have more estrogen to balance it out.” .”
Myth 2: Wearing a cap or washing your hair a lot can intensify hair loss
How many times do you wash your hair a week? Every day? Three times a week? Do you wear a cap or hat often?
Probably none of this has to do with your hair loss.
“Certainly, if you see someone covering their head, it’s because they’re going bald, not the other way around,” jokes Goh.
These myths are related to something that is very true: the scalp is one of the oiliest areas of the skin.
“It is one of the fattest areas, but not necessarily one of the most sensitive. In fact, fewer allergies are reported on the scalp than on other parts of the body”, says the expert.
The doctor claims that if a person is using the right products, they should have no problem washing their hair every day.
Myth 3: There is no proven solution to hair loss
Currently, there are at least three clinically proven alternatives to fight baldness.
None of them guarantee results with 100% effectiveness, given the complex chemical and biological system involved in hair loss, but they can help slow it down or even reverse it — remembering that you should never start treatment with medication without medical advice.
- Minoxidil: it is a compound sold in the form of a lotion or foam, applied directly to the scalp;
- Finasteride: applied orally. It was originally used to treat a type of benign prostate enlargement but now, in lower concentrations, it also prevents hair loss;
- Transplants: in general, hair follicles are removed from the part of the head where hair growth continues and inserted into the parts where there is no further growth. Different transplantation techniques have evolved a lot in recent years.
About this last treatment, Dr. Goh believes that there is still a hesitation about its effectiveness, but she guarantees that “today’s transplants are really good”.
Because of the level of precision the procedure requires—you have to remove and reinsert individual follicles—Goh recommends that the transplant be done by someone with “a good eye.”
“There’s a lot of art to it. What’s amazing is that the follicle ‘remembers’ how it grew before it was transplanted. [geralmente na parte de trás da cabeça] and manages to grow in the new location.”