Helmets are common and necessary in many sports and recreational activities, but helmets cause hair loss too. Designed to protect our brain and prevent injury, they are a great asset to people engaged in these activities, but over time, can do some damage to your hair.
There has been a lot of talk, backed by scientific evidence, that people who wear helmets or hats over a long period of time are likely to experience hair loss, even with no genetic probability of baldness. The condition is called “traction alopecia,” and it occurs when people put on helmets or caps repeatedly and allow the helmet to pull on the hairs and loosen the roots from the scalp. This condition is most common with athletes in sports like football, hockey and baseball, who often sport headgear nearly every day from little tykes through their collegiate or professional career.
Research has found there are two ways that helmets and caps affect hair loss. First, is the repeated use of helmets and caps themselves, and the second is bacteria that naturally gathers on the scalp surface, which can be exacerbated by helmet or cap use.
Often, helmet use is for sports or recreational activities outdoors in the elements. Whether you are riding dirt bikes, playing football or baseball, or enjoying a day on a beach, your cap or helmet gathers sweat from your head, dirt and other foreign matter from the environment and keeps those pollutants near your scalp until you take it off. While you may wash your hair and scalp, it is not uncommon to forget to wash your helmet or cap with regularity. Every time you wear a helmet or cap without washing, the bacteria that was there has a greater chance to spread. Not surprisingly, this bacteria then infects your scalp, increasing the chance of stunted hair growth and ultimately resulting in hair loss.
Now, the hat or helmet itself.
As hairs get pulled by a hat or helmet, eventually follicles aren’t able to anchor into the scalp and fall away over time.
How can you address this issue if you’re athlete or just love sporting a cap? Let’s talk.
One suggestion to combat hair loss is to spray an anti-bacterial solution inside the helmet or cap and let it dry thoroughly, or give it a complete wipe-down with anti-bacterial cloths or towels between wears. The idea is to eliminate dirt, sweat and any other pollutants from getting into your scalp; this is because your scalp is similar to your skin in that it has pores or holes where the hair grows, and those pores have to be clean in order to keep the hair growing.
It is commonly recommended that people do not put their helmet or cap directly on the head, using an anti-bacterial cap under the helmet or cap.
Don’t want to buy products? That’s okay. There is a process called “jigging,” which can help prevent traction alopecia.
This process is simply putting on the helmet or cap, raising it slightly off the scalp, then lowering it, repeating this process until you feel all the hairs falling free of the helmet. As you first do this process, you can feel the hairs being pulled as the helmet rests on your head. As you continue to lift and reset, you will feel some of those hairs come “loose” from the helmet and fall back onto your scalp. Doing this every time you put on a helmet or cap will help mitigate hair loss if it has already started, and will help prevent it from starting if it hasn’t.
At the end of the day, you can keep your favorite hat and keep playing your favorite sports. Your coif will be safe with a little diligence.