Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/23/2021
If you’ve searched for information about the causes of hair loss, you might have come across videos, blog posts and other sources of information that claim wearing a hat can cause you to shed hair.
Like other hair loss myths, the idea that wearing a hat causes hair loss isn’t backed up by any real science. However, it’s a persistent myth that’s been around for decades.
Below, we’ve explained what causes hair loss, as well as why it’s totally alright to wear a hat if you’re starting to lose your hair.
We’ve also listed proven, science-based options that you can use to treat hair loss and protect your hair from the effects of male pattern baldness.
Let's get right to it. No, wearing a hat doesn't typically cause hair loss. In fact, there’s no reputable scientific research that suggests that wearing a hat plays any role in hair loss. However, anything you put on your head — hats included — that pulls on your hair roots may.
The most common form of hair loss in men is androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of your genes and hormonal factors, such as your sensitivity to the effects of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
Your body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.
If you have a genetic sensitivity to DHT, this hormone can bind to your hair follicles and cause gradual damage that eventually prevents them from producing new hairs.
We’ve talked about this process in more detail below and in our guide to DHT and the hair loss process.
Does wearing a hat cause hair loss? There are lots of urban myths about hair loss, with people blaming everything from sun exposure to stress, sleep habits and hair styling products for their thinning hairlines.
Since wearing a hat has no impact on your DHT levels, there’s no reason to think that it plays a role in hair loss.
In short, no. However, since wearing a hat can mess up your hair, it might make certain signs of hair loss more obvious.
For example, one of the most common early signs of hair loss is excessive hair shedding.
While it’s normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day, people with hair loss might shed significantly more than this amount on a daily basis.
If you’re starting to lose your hair, there’s a good chance you’ll notice stray hairs inside your hat when you take it off.
While it might look like your hat is causing you to lose hair, this is just a coincidence. When stray hairs don’t collect inside your hat, they’ll build up on your pillowcase, in the drain of your shower or in other areas.
Another reason many people associate hat wearing with hair loss is that wearing a hat can give your hair a flat and messy appearance, especially when you wear a hat for a long time.
When your hair is messy, things like a receding hairline or baldness around the crown (the area at the top of your head) can become more visible, making your hair loss more obvious.
Just like the situation above, this doesn’t mean that your hat is causing hair loss. Instead, it may simply make a receding hairline or other signs of hair loss easier to notice.
Interestingly, some research has found that wearing a hat may actually reduce your risk of hair loss over the course of your life.
In a study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers compared 92 identical male twins to assess the severity of their hair loss, as well as the factors that may play a role in the hair loss process.
The researchers found that some factors, such as smoking and the presence of dandruff, were associated with a higher degree of frontal hair loss (hair loss around the hairline).
They also found that certain other factors, such as a higher body mass index and testosterone levels, were associated with reduced hair loss around the hairline.
One of these factors was wearing a hat. Contrary to the myth, the hat-wearing twins were less likely to show significant frontal hair loss than their non-hat-wearing counterparts.
As we briefly mentioned above, male pattern baldness (the type of hair loss that causes a bald spot around your crown or a receding hairline) is caused by dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
DHT is a male steroid hormone that’s produced by your body as a normal, natural byproduct of testosterone.
During childhood and adolescence, DHT is an essential hormone that plays a major role in the development of your male secondary sex characteristics.
Along with testosterone, DHT is responsible for things like developing your genitals, producing your bone structure and stimulating the growth of your body, facial and pubic hair.
However, during adulthood, DHT becomes less of an essential hormone and, for some guys, a bit of an annoyance.
As an adult, DHT stimulates the growth of your prostate, the working of your sebaceous glands (the oil-producing glands within your skin that can contribute to acne) and, for some guys, male pattern baldness.
More specifically, DHT can bind to receptors located in your scalp and cause your hair follicles to gradually become smaller via a process called miniaturization.
Over time, these follicles stop producing new hairs, resulting in everything from mild thinning to severe hair loss that affects almost your entire scalp.
Not everyone is equally sensitive to the effects of DHT, which is why some guys shed hair early in life and others are able to maintain an almost flawless hairline well into old age.
Although male pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss in men, other things can also cause you to lose hair.
For example, health issues such as chronic stress, severe infection or illness that causes you to develop a fever can cause a form of hair shedding called telogen effluvium.
This form of hair loss generally presents as diffuse thinning that affects your entire scalp, rather than the receding hairline or bald patch that’s common with male pattern baldness.
Telogen effluvium hair loss is usually temporary, meaning you’ll grow back any hair that you’ve lost once the underlying issue is treated.
Certain health issues, such as tinea capitis (fungal infection of the scalp) and alopecia areata, may also cause you to lose hair.
Our guide to the different types of hair loss goes into more detail about how these forms of hair loss can develop.
So, simply put, wearing a hat isn’t responsible for your hair loss. Instead, the most likely cause of your hair loss is male pattern baldness that’s caused by a combination of the effects of DHT and your genes.
Although wearing a hat won’t contribute to hair loss, there’s no research to show that wearing a hat is good for your hair in general.
Overall, wearing a hat offers a mix of advantages and disadvantages. A wide-brimmed hat helps to shield your face and neck from the sun, which can prevent sunburn and cut down your risk of developing skin cancer.
However, when it comes to your hair and skin health, wearing a hat too often -- or wearing a hat that isn’t properly cared for -- isn’t always a good thing.
If you usually wear a hat in hot weather or while you exercise, sweat can build up inside the hat over time and potentially irritate your scalp.
When this sweat mixes with bacteria and the sebum on your skin, it can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts.
To avoid this, it’s important to wash hats, headbands and other clothing that’s worn against your head regularly.
While there’s no evidence that wearing a hat too tight cuts off blood flow to your hair follicles, it can rub against your skin and cause irritation.
To avoid this, make sure to loosen the adjustable snap closure on your hat so that it doesn’t cut into or rub against your skin.
Hair loss is a very common issue for men, with research published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery noting that 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 and more than 50 percent of men in their 40s have moderate to extensive male pattern baldness.
If you’re starting to notice the signs of hair loss, it’s important to take action quickly to prevent it from getting worse.
Male pattern baldness is treatable. Currently, the most effective way to stop hair loss is with the FDA-approved medications minoxidil and finasteride.
These two medications stop hair loss from different angles. Minoxidil is a topical treatment that works by stimulating hair growth, while finasteride is an oral medication that works by stopping your body from converting testosterone into DHT.
Other hair care products, such as DHT-blocking shampoo and biotin, can also help to promote healthy hair growth. You can view these products in our full selection of hair loss treatments.
Wearing a hat helps to shield your face and neck from the sun, reducing your risk of developing sunburn or skin cancer.
While wearing a dirty, sweat-soaked hat isn’t good for your skin, there’s no scientific evidence to show that wearing a hat contributes to hair loss.
In short, if you wear a hat, there’s no need to worry about it affecting your hairline or leading to a bald patch.
Just make sure to wash your hat regularly to prevent sweat, oils or other substances from building up inside the fabric.
Insider tips, early access and more.