As I removed a couple of loose hairs from inside my motorcycle helmet, my neighbor walked in the door and started ribbing me about going bald. Huh? Me? Going bald? No way!
My neighbor insisted that motorcycle helmets were responsible for causing hair loss, and it was just a matter of time before I would be completely bald. I was skeptical, but my interest was piqued, so I decided that some further research was in order. My latest research project was to find out for sure whether wearing a motorcycle helmet could cause hair loss or not.
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As expected, I am not going bald. However, my older brother is, but he doesn’t ride a motorcycle nor does he wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet does not cause people to go bald, but wearing a helmet or even a hat regularly could be a possible cause of a treatable hair/scalp condition called Traction Alopecia.
Let’s not get all alarmist about this now. If wearing a helmet caused people to go bald, then why isn’t every motorcyclist over the age of 40 bald? And, what about women motorcyclists? I don’t see any bald women motorcyclists. You will, however, notice a lot of women motorcyclists have short hair – that’s not for any medical reason, but because they are smart.
What is Traction Alopecia?
It almost seems like every time a motorcyclist loses a hair, the finger of blame gets pointed at Traction Alopecia, which would be incorrect. Alopecia is the technical term for ‘hair loss’ or ‘balding’, and there are many reasons why people go bald, Traction Alopecia being just one of those reasons.
Traction Alopecia, or balding by traction, is caused by constant pulling on the hair or sections of the hair. This can often be seen in various hairstyles such as cornrows or very tight ponytails where the hair is often pulled with force.
With that in mind, it would seem unlikely that wearing a helmet or hat could be the cause for balding, however, if the helmet is put on and off many times a day in an aggressive manner, then it could possibly cause some hair loss and irritation to the scalp.
Other symptoms of Traction Alopecia include redness and irritation of the scalp, itching, and ulcers on the scalp. If your hair is falling out and you also have some of those symptoms, you should go to see a doctor and have it checked out as soon as possible. If checked early enough, Traction Alopecia can be treated and your hair can be saved.
Why Does My Hair Fall Out?
Before that fateful day when my neighbor incorrectly laughed at the hair in my helmet, I had noticed the odd hair or three inside my helmet quite regularly, but it had never been to the extent that I may have thought, “Oh my God, I’m going bald!” I was born with a full head of hair and have always had a thick head of hair. There was no genetic baldness in my father or grandfathers, or any other members of my family (except my brother, but we’ll come back to him later). So, baldness was never given a thought at any time I found a loose hair in my helmet.
What I did notice when I first found the odd hair stuck inside my helmet was that the hair was caught on the black polyester lining inside the helmet. Perhaps not all helmets have this lining, but you should take a look anyway. This polyester lining is like a mini velcro that catches your hair and pulls it out. Go ahead take a look. And when you find a hair stuck to that polyester lining, you will see what I mean about how it catches your hair like velcro. I never at any time thought that the polyester was actually ‘pulling’ my hair out, but more likely catching hairs that had already fallen out or were loose anyway.
Some Do, Some Don’t
Lots of people go bald, and lots of people don’t go bald. So, what’s up with that?
Not everyone is prone to genetic baldness, and not everyone will go bald due to untreated Traction Alopecia. My older brother started getting a receding hairline in his mid-thirties, but he had never worn a helmet or a hat, nor was there a history of genetic baldness in the family. I don’t know whether he ever went to a doctor to find out why his hairline was receding, but he just decided to go with the trend of the time and shave off completely. (Let’s not mention the skin cancer he got a decade later on the top of his head).
Other reasons that people, including motorcyclists, go bald include:
- the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT),
- bacterial/fungal infection of the scalp,
- some prescription mediations,
- some medical treatments (i.e. chemotherapy),
- (in women) pregnancy, thyroid disorders, anemia and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Go and see your doctor!
If you notice your hair is starting to thin out or even fall out, go to a doctor and get a proper evaluation of your situation. Even if your friend/cousin/neighbor lost his hair due to reason ‘X’, doesn’t mean that you have the same condition. For your own peace of mind, go to a doctor and get it checked out.
What Can I Do About HairLoss?
I am not a doctor, so I cannot and do not give medical advice. However, if you are like me and don’t like going to doctors unless it’s a last resort, then there are some things you could try.
The first thing I would recommend is that you go to a doctor and get a professional analysis. Alternatively, you could try:
- washing your hair with a good anti-bacterial shampoo (available from Amazon). Dry your hair thoroughly. Even use a hair-dryer to make sure it is completely dry.
- don’t wear your helmet with wet hair.
- wear a bandana under your helmet to soak up sweat. Wash and change your bandana regularly, or just buy some new ones from Amazon.
- wear a balaclava under your helmet. A silk balaclava, from Amazon, can still be comfortable in hotter weather.
- instead of pulling the helmet off aggressively, lift the helmet up and off slowly to prevent pulling the hair out.
- clean your helmet regularly to remove potential bacterial or fungal build-ups.
Even if you do have Traction Alopecia, don’t stop wearing your helmet. Get proper medical treatment. Heads don’t bounce – wear a helmet!