Franz Walderdorff
“Thinning happens slowly over many years,” says George Cotsarelis, associate professor of dermatology and director of the Hair and Scalp Clinic at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “You’re not going to wake up bald one day.”
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updated 4/21/2009 4:34:39 PM ET 2009-04-21T20:34:39

This is an excerpt from an interview with George Cotsarelis, associate professor of dermatology and director of the Hair and Scalp Clinic at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Myth: Women rarely lose their hair.
Fact: “About 30 percent of women will experience female pattern hair loss [thinning on top of the head] by the time they’re 50. But it takes a 20 percent or 30 percent loss for most women to notice. The good news is that unlike men, who experience receding hairlines, a woman’s hairline is usually spared — instead, women start to have fewer hairs on their head, and the size of the follicles becomes smaller, making the hairs finer. Thinning happens slowly over many years. You’re not going to wake up bald one day.”

Myth: It all hinges on how your maternal grandfather’s hair held up.
Fact: “There is a genetic component, but it’s not inherited from your mother’s father, like the old wives’ tale says — it can be from either side of the family. Or you may not know of anyone in your family who has hair loss, yet you still may have it. But generally, if few people in your family have thinning hair, you have a lower risk.”

Myth: Brushing leads to more hair loss.
Fact: “This is the most common myth. Many women comb or wash their hair less often if they notice shedding. But in fact, this makes the loss more noticeable. If you wash your hair once a week, you might lose 500 to 700 accumulated hairs. If you wash it every day, you’ll lose fewer each time. Also, removing those dead hairs will stimulate regrowth.”

Myth: If you see a lot of hair in your shower drain, it means your hair is thinning.
Fact: “This doesn’t mean it’s permanently thinning. I recommend going to a doctor and having some blood work done. If the excess shedding is caused by a nutritional deficiency — iron, zinc, vitamin D, and protein are critical — taking supplements and improving your diet will usually stop the shedding, and the hair will return to a normal growth cycle.”

Myth: Hair that’s been colored or straightened is more likely to fall out.
Fact: “Coloring, perming, or straightening the hair is fine as long as the treatment isn’t painful — when there is pain, that indicates follicle damage. Hair extensions, though, can cause permanent damage to the follicle, which can result in thinner hair later in life. When there’s stress or traction on the follicle, two things happen: The barrier that prevents bacteria from reaching the follicle breaks, which causes inflammation; plus, the follicle itself gets pulled and disfigured. This damage can either stop it from producing hair at all or alter the width and texture of the hair it will grow.”

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