Why Pulling Out Your Hair Might Stop Baldness

Senior man with his arms crossed
“Here at Globo Gym we understand that ugliness and fatness are genetic disorders, like baldness or necrophilia, and it’s your fault if you don’t hate yourself enough to do something about it.” —White Goodman, “Dodgeball” (2004)

In A Nutshell

Contrary to all logic, the latest research suggests that pulling out your hair may stimulate hair growth beyond the area where the hairs were plucked out. University of California researchers observed that pulling out a small area of 200 hairs caused 1,200 new hairs to grow. The new hair growth also spread beyond the original area of loss, so that the hair was fuller. But don’t go pulling out your hair just yet. So far, this theory has only been tested on mice. Still, researchers are hopeful that new treatments can be developed to create the same effect.

The Whole Bushel

It’s perfectly normal to lose 50–100 hairs each day. For most of us, the new hairs growing on our head will obscure any typical hair loss. Although we don’t always know why hair loss occurs, there are certain events or conditions that are associated with it.

The most common problem is male-pattern or female-pattern baldness. For men, bald spots and a receding hairline characterize this condition. The hair can also become miniaturized, meaning it’s softer, shorter, and finer. For women, this condition results in thinning hair. Age, heredity, medications, vitamin levels, hormonal changes, and medical conditions, such as scalp infections or hair-pulling disorder, can also cause hair loss.

But there are a lot of misconceptions about baldness. For example, many people think that hair loss only happens when you’re old. Not so. It can start as early as the teen years. It’s also quite common among men in their twenties and thirties. Unfortunately, the sooner it starts, the more serious it will probably become.

Certain styling techniques like teasing or cornrows can damage hair. However, hair products and hats don’t accelerate hair loss unless you get a scalp infection or inflammation of hair follicles, such as with permanents or hot oil treatments. The same is true for sun exposure and eating carbohydrates. They really have no effect, although rapid changes in weight can make your hair fall out. Products like Rogaine and Propecia can help to prevent hair loss, but they do have side effects. Rogaine can be irritating to your scalp, while Propecia is known to reduce a man’s sex drive. However, it’s a myth that the most sexually active men lose their hair first. Also, studies have shown that bald men don’t have more testosterone than hairy ones.

Contrary to all logic, the latest research suggests that pulling out your hair may stimulate hair growth beyond the area where the hairs were plucked out. University of California researchers observed that pulling out a small area of 200 hairs caused 1,200 new hairs to grow. The new hair growth also spread beyond the original area of loss, so that the hair was fuller.

But don’t go pulling out your hair just yet. So far, this theory has only been tested on mice. Still, researchers are hopeful that new treatments can be developed to create the same effect. This builds on the results of earlier studies, which demonstrated that damaged hair follicles can also affect adjacent areas.

In this latest study, scientists pulled out 200 hairs from a small, circular area on a mouse’s back. They plucked the hairs one by one. If the diameter of the area was over 6 millimeters, the hairs didn’t grow back. But when the diameter was in the range of 3–5 millimeters, hair growth more than doubled, sometimes regenerating as many as 6.5 times the original number of hairs. The hair also spread to adjacent areas.

By analyzing the relevant molecules, the researchers found that plucked hair follicles release inflammatory proteins, like an SOS signal to the body. Answering the call, immune cells quickly converge on the injured site and signal both plucked and unplucked hair follicles to grow. The researchers want to see if this effect will occur with other organs. They hope that slight damage to another body part might stimulate serious regrowth.

But not everyone is convinced that this works yet. “Whilst it’s certainly interesting to see the results of this study in mice, all previous observations suggest that repeatedly plucking a human hair follicle will weaken the root, and eventually cause the follicle to die,” said Dr. Bessam Farjo of the Farjo Hair Institute. “People pluck hairs—such as eyebrows—out all the time, and it doesn’t seem to stimulate the growth of other hairs . . . more scientific tests and human evidence are needed to substantiate the findings of this initial report.”

Show Me The Proof

The Telegraph: Cure for thinning hair? Scientists find plucking stimulates huge growth
Mayo Clinic: Hair loss
US News & World Report: What Causes Hair Loss? 9 Myths About Baldness

  • 1DireWolf

    Damn, and here I was just getting out my tweezers.

  • oouchan

    Since my eyebrows don’t look like Eugene Levy’s, I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to work on humans. In addition….poor mice. 🙁

    Interesting.