At times, having a "good hair day" can seem like a tall order. After all, there are a ton of forces that could be working against you, like not-so-ideal haircuts, greasy strands, lack of time, and relentless humidity. On top of it all, there’s a ton of hair misinformation being spread via word of mouth and social media.
We’re here to help you sift through the noise. With the help of the trichologists Shab Reslan and Gretchen Friese, we're setting the record straight on 11 common hair myths and giving you their best tips for caring for your strands.
Meet the Expert
Gretchen Friese is a trichologist and spokesperson for BosleyMD, located in Denver, CO.
Shab Reslan is a certified trichologist and hairstylist based in New York City, specializing in hair growth and scalp health. She is a consultant for HairClub and is on Byrdie's Beauty and Wellness Review Board.
Myth: I Can’t Train My Hair to Do Something
Hair can totally be trained to grow a certain way—but it’s going to take some time and consistent manipulation, says Reslan. “The follicles in our scalp are typically angled in a position influenced by gravity, making the hair grow out and down,” she explains. “You can alter these growth directions by maintaining consistent and gentle tension in the desired direction.” That means regularly combing your hair in the direction you want it to go and securing it.
If you’re looking to switch your part, Reslan notes that it’s crucial that you put it where you want it once you hop out of the shower (so, when it’s still wet) and set it using styling gels, or a ponytail holder if your hair is long enough. You can also blowdry and set the new look. “ Over-time, the repeated motions can slowly start to alter the way the hair grows out,” she says.
Myth: Shaving Will Make My Hair Grow Thicker or Faster
Since hair is essentially protein and keratin, there's no way for it to communicate with your body. So while some people believe that shaving causes hair to grow back faster or thicker, this is not possible since your body has no way of knowing whether you shaved or not. “Any hair that is shaved appears to grow in thicker simply because the ends of the hair are cut straight across, creating a more blunt and thicker appearance compared to a new cycle of hair growing in and starting thinner and naturally more pointed,” says Reslan.
Myth: Getting Frequent Haircuts Will Make Hair Grow Faster
Getting your hair cut more often will not make it grow any faster. It does, however, help with breakage, which can make it seem like your hair is growing at a more rapid rate. “A trim only affects the ends of the hair strand and has no biological effect on the hair,” says Friese. “But a healthy trim of split ends or damaged hair will help it become longer because it won’t be breaking off at the ends.”
Myth: You Have to Shampoo Your Hair Daily
This isn’t true as long as you’re following the “golden rule,” as Reslan calls it. “The golden rule of shampoo frequency is to use the correct products based on your washing habits,” she says. She explains that those who might prefer to shampoo less frequently should use a clarifying shampoo to maintain a healthy scalp environment.
Myth: Plucking Gray Hairs Will Make More Grow Back
First thing’s first: Gray hair is the result of a combination of stressors on the hair follicles (e.g. inflammation, stress, etc.), explains Reslan. “Although plucking can’t be fully responsible for creating another gray hair, the stress caused on the scalp from the plucking itself can perhaps increase the inevitability of another hair follicle losing its pigment,” she says.
Myth: Hair Can Turn Gray Overnight
If you've read the answer to the above myth, you should already be able to figure out the answer to this one. Remember, hair is considered “dead,” Friese reminds us, so it can’t actually turn colors overnight. “An existing pigmented strand of hair can not turn gray, rather the same strand would continue to grow in without pigment at some point,” adds Reslan.
Myth: Growing My Hair Longer Will Hide My Hair Loss
Fact: Actually, in almost every circumstance, growing hair longer makes the thinning and baldness appear much more noticeable. “The longer your hair is, the more it weighs and pulls down on the root of the hair in a manner that can expose the scalp more,” says Reslan. “The appearance of thicker hair requires a length that is able to maintain a style that appears full throughout the mid-length to ends and well as maintaining weightless volume at the roots.”
Myth #8: Shampoo Will Make My Hair Grow Faster
Picking the right shampoo can help you reach your hair goals. “Some shampoos can encourage the hair to stay in the anagen phase of hair growth longer and may help hair grow a bit faster,” says Friese. Some shampoos also help improve your scalp’s microbiome, “ensuring long-term quality hair growth,” adds Reslan.
Myth #9: Hair Loss Comes from My Mother's Side of the Family
Hair loss can’t be attributed to a specific parent. “The most common kind of hair loss androgenetic alopecia (pattern baldness) is caused by a genetic predisposed sensitivity to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT),” says Friese. “This can be seen on both the maternal and paternal side of families.”
Myth #10: Wearing Hats Can Prevent Hair Loss
On the contrary, wearing hats can cause hair loss if it’s both too tight and worn very frequently. “Tight hats can cause friction on the hair which can break it at the follicle which will give the illusion of hair loss,” says Friese. “The friction may also irritate or damage the follicles which can eventually cause hair loss.”
Myth #11: Dandruff Is Caused by Dry Scalp
According to both Friese and Reslan, there are a number of reasons why someone might have dandruff. “Dandruff is usually caused by fungal infections of the scalp, too much oil secretion and/or sensitivity to hair products,” says Friese.
Dandruff can also occur on dry or oily scalps. “In most cases, a dry flaky scalp can be caused by use of harsh cleansing ingredients in shampoos combined with over-washing,” says Reslan. “Oily flakes on the scalp are typically a sign of inadequate cleansing of the scalp from either infrequent shampooing or the use of gentle cleansing shampoos that are incapable of sufficiently cleansing the scalp.”