Hair and the Effects of Flat Irons

Hi I am 29 years old, male. Do flat irons cause permanent hair loss? My hair dresser started using a flat iron on my hair 3 years ago, since my hair was wavy, he showed me how I can make it straight. About 2 months after using it (usually once or twice a week) I noticed that my hair was drying out. I stopped, only to use it once in a while. Today I find that my hair is receding on the sides and my crown is thinning. Is this from the use of the flat iron? I’ve stopped using it for about 6 months now but I still find that my hair falls out everytime I wash and style it. I researching on the net about the side effects of flat irons but never found any concrete proof about the consequences of using them. I hope I didn’t ruin my hair for good! What can I do?

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Let’s think logically about this. When hair has grown beyond the scalp, it is no longer a living tissue. Only the hair organ below the skin is living. Hair is made of compressed fibers and a shingle type of structure made up of shed skin cells called cutin. These shed skin cells are in effect the same ‘stuff’ that produces the scales we see in dandruff and may reflect higher turnover of the skin on our scalps. As these shed cells are compressed above the fibers in the hair shaft, they form a layered array just like the shingles on a roof would form to keep out the water. But below the skin, the hair organ puts lipoproetin layers into these scales of cutin that give the hair the character that you have. The presence of fat on the outside of the hair shaft is what brings out ‘luster’ in the hair. Once the hair exits the skin as it grows , it enters the hostile environment of air, wind, weather, heat, etc… and it no longer is subject to what your body can do for it. As the hair exits the surface of the skin, the sebaceous glands secret a waxy sebum that may find its way onto the hair shaft, giving some people an oily hair.

When you iron your hair with heat, you do change the character of the hair and change the configuration of the varying layers of compacted cutin and the fibers that make up the structure of your hair. Heat takes away the luster (shine) from hair, burns away the waxy covering, may denature the lipoproteins on the surface of the hair shaft and it is this that protects the hair from the environment. Heat may damage the core of the fibers inside the hair as well. High heat applications can damage the hair so that it cracks, breaks, and even become fragile, producing broken ends from hair that breaks too easily. Take a look at this illustration of an enlarged hair shaft here (illustrated by Norm Nason). Note the layering of the cutin shingles. Look at the center of the shaft and see the fibers that form the backbone and the strength of the hair shaft. When these fibers are broken, or the shingled cutin is removed, damaged or burned, a pealing process may begin which would reflect the damage to the foundation of the hair shaft, and it can become permanent. When the hair is damaged, then gentle handling is critical to maintain and hold it on your head. You can, of course, cut it off and new hair coming from below the skin which should not grow out damaged, will eventually replace the weak hair. The hair exiting the skin is normal and undamaged so you can and should expect that once you cut off the damaged hair, the new hair will grow to whatever your normal should be. Good cosmetology can hydrate the hair and it might bring back some of its luster and strength. For those of you interested in high powered microscopic views of the hair system below the skin, see here.

So, if you have hair loss or thinning of new hair, it is possibly a new problem, and you need to have your hair analyzed by a doctor like me.

Tags: hairloss, hair loss, iron, character, heat, cutin, fiber

5 thoughts on “Hair and the Effects of Flat Irons

  1. I am a 59 year old woman and have been using Nioxin 3 years now for hair loss. While the product may be reducing further loss, it has not regrown the hair I lost in a patch about 3″ in diameter just above my hairline. The hair loss occurred for a number of reasons: a lot of stress, a rather drastic reduction in my thyroid med (from 175 mcg to 125 mcg), and my baby grandson who loved to twirl his fingers in my hair as I held him (he was actually pulling it out). All those factors have sense been corrected, but the hair will not grow back in. I still have hair there, but it is very sparse. What would you recommend I try now?

  2. I am on no medication, I take only flax seed oil and a Vit.E, everyday.
    Just recently I can put my fingers through my hair and my hands are full, even when I shampoo, but the ironic thing is when after I shampoo the next day I see no hair falling out. Is this common or should I contact my Doctor?

  3. im 16 years old.. my hair line receeded for leaving it in too many tight pony tails for about 3 years. .now the hair wont grow back and its reallly thin… ive been using a flat iron and now its making the hair that i have become really brittle and fall out!.. im starting to use to deep conditionor.. besides this.. what else should i do

  4. im 16 years old. i’ve been using a ceramic straightener for about a year and a half now. ever since i started i noticed my hairline/fringe was getting thinner. i recently stopped using it for about 3 months and immediately the first time i used it again, a significant amount of hair fell out. now im using it regularly and its getting very thin. i always use heat protection syrym and i wash and deep condition with damagerepair conditioner. i dont know what else to do but im starting to really worry.

  5. I have thin, flat hair that has always gotten greasy fast, so I have pretty much never used conditioner. However, after some pretty serious bleach/dye jobs and almost daily flat-ironing, my ends have become fairly fried. I started loving soaking my ends the SHielo Hydrate Conditioner. When I saw the amazing reviews on the Shielo Hydrate Conditioner, I thought I would give it a shot–wondering if it would be perhaps TOO good (read: heavy, greasy) for my fine hair.

    I was happily surprised after my very first use– the conditioner was so thick and creamy and my hair was sooooo soft and shiny and smelled delicious! I absolutely can’t stop running my fingers though my hair after using Shielo Hydrate Conditioner, it’s like silk. Split ends even seem mended! I have literally never noticed as significant a difference on my hair after using any other product. Does NOT weigh my hair down one bit or feel greasy at all, even when I sometimes use it sparingly on my whole head and not just the ends.

    SECRET TIP: I even use it on my legs for and amazingly close and moisturizing shave (just be careful because it does turn the shower floor into a slip and slide!)

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