Can Hats Really Cause Hair Loss or Damage?

Woman wearing a bucket hat, hands on her head

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Hats are a fantastic way to shield your head from the sun (helping to prevent sunburn) and keep your hair color from fading. From bucket hats and baseball caps to oversized sun hats, they offer a variety of benefits for your hair and head when you wear them. Not to mention, they can really complete your 'fit.

But can wearing hats damage your hair? Could your love of accessorizing be the reason you are losing hair? To find out the answers, we spoke to Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon. Keep on reading for everything you need to know about how wearing hats can impact your strands, including whether or not they cause hair loss or damage.

Meet the Expert

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City.

Can Hats Cause Hair Loss?

In most cases, hats do not cause or contribute to hair loss. "The exception would be if the hat is extremely tight or chafing, such that it causes tension on the hair and harms the scalp," says Engelman. "In this case, over time, repeated tension on the hair and head could contribute to hair loss, especially if the scalp and hair are already vulnerable or experiencing hair thinning."

However, it's pretty unlikely that wearing a hat will cause hair loss, and most hat wearers have nothing to worry about. In fact, according to Engelman, most properly-fitting hats can even help prevent hair loss and scalp damage by protecting the head from elements like UV rays, cold temperatures, and wind.

Can Hats Damage Hair?

Similar to hair loss, in most cases, hats will not cause hair damage. "Repeated pulling or tension on the hair can lead to breakage or even loss over time," says Engelman. However, this isn't typical and isn't something you need to worry about—unless you wear extremely tight hats.

What Actually Causes Hair Loss?

Hair loss is caused by several factors, ranging from genetics to medical conditions. In addition, diet, stress, and hair products can cause hair loss, too. "Age is a factor with many people—especially men—experiencing thinning and baldness as they age," says Engelman. "Hormones play a role as well, which is why hair loss is linked to stress and hormonal changes, including pregnancy. Lack of nutrients in one's diet can also cause hair loss, as can using harmful hair products and styling tools."

Truthfully, pinpointing the exact cause of hair loss is a job for your dermatologist. It can be one of the above factors or a combination of a few, and typically requires an in-depth analysis to determine the exact cause(s).

Can You Prevent Hair Loss?

While it's possible to prevent some forms of hair loss, others aren't preventable. "Hair loss that is linked to diet, stress, medication, hair care products, and hair styling can be addressed by removing the cause of the hair loss or making lifestyle changes that better support the health of the hair and scalp," says Engelman. "However, some causes of hair loss are out of our control, and we can only treat them while facilitating the best possible conditions for a healthy scalp."

It's also possible to intervene with treatments like minoxidil and Nutrafol if you start to notice hair thinning or loss caused by uncontrollable factors. "Taking great care of the scalp and hair by using the right products and avoiding damaging styling techniques (like hot tools and pulling hair back too tightly) can also help prevent accelerated hair loss," says Engelman. Some of her favorite products for supporting a healthy scalp and hair are NatureLab Tokyo's Perfect Clean Scalp Balancing Sake Rinse ($19) and the Paul Mitchell Scalp Care Anti-Thinning Regimen ($64). Plus, sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase and gently wrapping the hair with a silk or satin scarf may also help prevent hair damage and loss.

The Final Takeaway

While hats may seem like the culprit behind hair loss, they actually have numerous benefits. They can protect the head from cold temperatures and wind, help you avoid sunburn, and conceal a rough hair day. If you find yourself managing hair loss, it's best to look at other factors—including genetics, medical conditions, age, diet, and stress—to figure out what's causing your hair to fall out.

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