Myths & Facts
Meet Tony Maleedy our hair specialist with 25 years experience
in clinical practice and hair research. Tony will be regularly
contributing to his column on UKHairdressers and helping you
care for your hair.
“I’d like to talk you through some of the many myths about
hair. Sometimes they are based on fact, often they are amusing,
and occasionally they are potentially harmful. Here are some
of the most common followed by the scientific reality.” Tony
Myth: Washing your hair too much will make
it fall out
true. Washing your hair is singularly the best thing you
can do for it. Your hair and scalp, just like the rest of
your body, benefits from the removal of dirt, oil and dead
When you wash your hair, of course, you notice more hair falling
out, but these are only hairs which are ready to come out
anyway. Not washing your hair will not prevent this; indeed,
leaving your hair unwashed is likely to result in a greater
hair loss in time.
The science bit: The only hair that will fall out when you wash it is hair
that is ready to leave the follicle either because it has
come to the end of its genetically determined growing phase
or because of ill health, stress, poor diet or some other
causative factor that is interfering with the life cycle of
the hair. It is totally counterproductive not to wash your
hair for fear of it falling out. Not only will hair that is
ready to fall out, fall out anyway, the hair loss may be greater
by not washing your hair. This is because when the hair/scalp
is greasy follicles become saturated with sebum (the skin’s
natural oil) which contains substances that can cause the
hair to loosen in the follicles and fall out.
Myth: Cutting hair will make it grow stronger
true. This works well in the garden but not on the scalp.
Unlike the stem and branches of a shrub the shaft of the hair
is not alive so ‘cutting back’ will have no effect except
to sometimes give the appearance of thicker hair when it is
shorter. Once hair is visible on the surface of the scalp
all you can influence is its condition and appearance.
The science bit: Hair grows from the dermal papilla, or hair root, which
is located at the base of the hair follicle and only factors
which influence the forming hair cells within the root, such
as a genetic predisposition, diet, illness, physical trauma
etc., will determine how strong or weak the hair will be.
Once hair has emerged from the follicle its ‘strength’ has
been determined by its diameter, elasticity and tensile properties
are set and cannot be influenced by cutting it. What does
now start to influence the newly emerged hair is the environment
and the things we do to it such as washing, colouring, straightening
etc., and if weakness and damage is caused to the hair from
these factors then cutting off any split or broken hair certainly
Myth: Brushing your hair 100 strokes a night
is good for it
it’s not. It can be terrible, especially for longer hair.
As hair grows longer it becomes drier and more fragile, brushing
causes splitting and breakage. It is better to use a good
quality wide-tooth comb which is kinder to the hair.
The science bit: As a brush passes over the hair the bristles bend and an
increased force puts more pressure on the hair causing splitting
and breakage. Also, when using a brush the hand is less sensitive
to resistance than when a comb is used, so a brush tends to
force apart any tangled hairs causing them to split and break.
Alternatively, a wide tooth comb allows any tangles to be
gently eased out of the hair, dramatically reducing hair splitting
Myth: If you don’t wash your hair for some time it will clean
it won’t. What actually happens is that people who don’t
wash their hair for a while simply get used to it being in
that particular state. It becomes the norm for them. It is
simply not possible for hair to somehow clean itself.
The science bit: If hair is not washed regularly sebum, natural skin oil,
will spread along the hair shaft and coat the hair to which
dust and dead skin cells adhere making the hair dirty. After
a short time, this oil will oxidize, turn rancid and start
to smell. Some people say “Well, people managed before shampoos
existed”, true, but the standard of hygiene was very different
then. People did not only, not wash their hair; they bathed
infrequently, didn’t use deodorants, didn’t wash their clothes
frequently and walked amongst horse dropping and human waste
poured onto the streets. The past smelt differently to the
For the sake of your hair and scalp (and possibly your social
life) it is best to treat them like any other part of your
body and wash regularly with a good quality shampoo.
Myth: Hair can turn white overnight
true. Hair can turn white quickly … but not that quickly.
Hair colour pigment (melanin) can stop being produced within
a short time because of such things as stress or ill health.
If this happens to many thousands of hairs at the same time
a person’s hair can turn from being coloured to grey or white
within a few weeks or months.
The science bit: Once hair has grown out of the hair follicle the only things
that will affect its colour are hair colouring products or
environmental effects such as ultra-violet radiation from
the sun bleaching the hair. Melanin within the cortex of the
hair cannot simply disappear without chemical intervention.
Myth: Pulling out one grey hair will make two
grow in its place
at all. But if hair is starting to turn grey (it’s actually
white, there‘s no such thing as a grey hair, the greyness
is the effect of white hair interspersed with normal, darker
coloured hair) and you pull one grey hair out, it may well
be that the neighbour hair is just about to start growing,
therefore two hairs in close proximity will appear at about
the same time.
The science bit: You should never pull out a scalp hair because not only
will an additional hair not grow, the hair you pulled out
may not be replaced by another hair – particularly if the
hair has been epilated a few times. There is a disorder called
‘Traction Alopecia’ which is hair loss caused by pulling.
This is commonly seen when women have worn their hair in braids
or cornrows for some time, or when hair is pulled and tied
back very tightly, a hair style worn by many ballet dancers.
This pressure on the soft tissues within the hair follicle
causes scar tissue to form, the hair to be forced out and
the prevention of new hair growth from the damaged follicle.
Myth: You should change shampoos regularly
because “hair gets used to them”
true. But there is an exception. The primary job of a
shampoo is to remove dirt and oil from the hair and scalp,
this it will do time after time with no diminishing effect,
so there is no reason to change your shampoo for this reason.
Some shampoos, however, particularly those with high levels
of silicone can cause build up on the hair which can influence
the texture and manageability of the hair and give it a slightly
The science bit: Shampoos that contain a high level of water insoluble silicones
such as Dimethicone, a common ingredient in ‘conditioning
shampoos’, particularly 2-in-1 shampoos, can build up on hair.
Silicones can coat the hair shaft to such an extent that the
hair feels weighed down and limp. In some cases the hair can
start to feel more like a nylon wig rather than real hair
because when you touch your hair your fingers are not coming
into contact with the hair itself, but the synthetic silicone
which is coating it. This build up of silicone on hair can
also be a problem for hairdressers trying to colour a client’s
hair because the silicone barrier can interfere with the penetration
of colour molecules into the cortex of the hair leaving the
new hair colour patchy. Where a build-up of silicone does
occur the hair should be washed using a silicone-free shampoo
and conditioner. To find one look at the ingredient list and
avoid hair products that contain substances such as ‘dimethicone’
and ‘cyclopentasiloxane’, which are likely to interfere with
the hair colouring process.
Myth: Wearing hats causes baldness
it doesn’t. This is a myth started by the Victorians who
probably wanted something to blame for baldness. Hats do not,
under normal circumstances, cause baldness. The exception
to this being traction alopecia (hair loss due to pulling)
which can be caused by very tight fitting hats worn over a
long period of time. But this hair loss usually occurs at
the sides or the back of the head where the hat is rubbing,
not the front and the top.
The science bit: It is possible for some hats made with synthetic materials
that don’t allow an escape of air and heat to cause or exacerbate
some scalp disorders which can, in turn, lead to hair loss.
But the chances of this occurring are very slim.
Myth: You get nits only if your hair is dirty
true. A person with perfectly clean hair can pick up head
lice (nits are the eggs of head lice) as easily as a person
who has not washed their hair for a while. Washing the hair
with normal shampoo will tend to remove some of the lice,
but not all, and certainly will not remove the nits which
the lice have firmly cemented to the hair shaft. You need
a special head lice treatment shampoo or lotion to completely
clear this problem.
The science bit: Head lice are not there because they like dirt but because
they like blood - and we all have that. The head louse feeds
exclusively on human blood and once removed from the scalp
and its supply of food, and warmth of the skin, soon dies.
Myth: Bald men are more virile
bald men, but it’s not true. It was assumed that because
the male hormone testosterone causes male pattern hair loss,
a balding man must have high levels of it and so must be more
virile than a man with a full head of hair. However, it is
not so much the level of hormone which causes this type of
hair loss but how the hair cells respond to it, and this is
The science bit: It is not, strictly speaking, the male hormone testosterone
that causes male hair loss. For this type of hair loss to
occur testosterone has to be converted by an enzyme called
5-alpha reductase (located within the forming hair cells)
into a much more potent hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
It is the effect of this hormone which inhibits the growth
of new hair cells, resulting in a finer hair (or no hair)
being produced. This means that a man can have a very high
level of testosterone but if he has not inherited the ability
for testosterone to be converted into DHT then no significant
hair loss will occur.
Tony Maleedy’s new Juniper Mint Scalp Therapy Shampoo
will be available through UKHairdressers online store at £16.50.