hair myths

Truth or Hair: Debunking Old Wives’ Hair Myths I Grew Up With

Brushing your hair 100th times before bed? Yep. We've been there!

Every culture worldwide has its own set of hair myths and beliefs. That mysticism has been passed from generation to generation, shaping our views of right or wrong, from moon-phased-timed haircuts to only asking for a male hairstylist during certain days of the month. As crazy as it sounds, some of these hair myths may have a scientific explanation—or at least one that’s half-truth before becoming an old wives hair tale. Growing up as a Latina, I have experienced or heard most of them, so I went out of my way to discover the reason behind these myths to prove or debunk them.

The Truth About Hair Myths: It’s Them, Not Us

Hair Myth 1: Avoid Female Hairstylists Because of Their Menstrual Cycle

best curling iron for all hair types
Genetics is the only contributing factor to determining hair texture.

I started getting my period at 11—TMI, but hear me out. At that age, my grandma and aunts warned me about not getting a haircut when female hairstyles were menstruating. Why? Because that “dirty discharge” would make the clients’ healthy hair becomes dull, deaccelerating its growth process. The menstrual cycle will also change my hair texture; therefore, the only option was to ask for a male hairstylist.

This is far from the truth. Experts say YOU may be the culprit, not the other way around. “Old wives used to think getting our periods every month was “bad” and “disgusting,” thus we weren’t allowed to do anything for us, or anybody, including cutting hair,” explains Dr. Leidy Boscan, general surgeon and aesthetic medicine expert. “Of course, that’s only a myth. There is no scientific proof to back these claims. The only reason to avoid chemical hair treatments during the menstrual cycle is that the hair becomes more prone to breakage—a not-so-ideal combination if you require bleaching or keratin treatments.”

Hair Myth 2: Shave Your Head So New Hair Comes Out Straight

shaved hairstyles for black women barely there
Why not try a barely there shaved hairstyle? Photo credit: Kim Carpenter.

If we’re talking about hair textures, many have advised avoiding certain kinds of haircuts, so you don’t make it “curlier or straight.” This myth might as well be part of our lives since we were babies—right when it was time for our first haircut. “When I had my first child, my mother told me to shave my newborn’s hair so that it can grow “beautiful,” as in with more volume and straight,” shares Nicole Axelrod, from Long Island, New York. That same principle could apply to the myth of not cutting your wavy hair short because it will become unmanageable.

Only constant damage from hair tools or chemicals may change your hair texture. Not a bad haircut! If a haircut goes wrong, you’ll likely have to deal with volume or length issues, not the texture.
Palm Beach-based hairstylist Emmy Veloso.

According to Dr. Boscan, you might see a change in hair texture due to genetics and hormonal changes. “Though these changes can be temporary, I have known patients whose hair hasn’t been the same after having a baby.” Doctor Boscan advises looking at female relatives from both sides whose hair is similar to yours. That will hint at how your mane will look in a few years.

Hair Myth 3: Your Original Haircolor Won’t Come Back After Years of Dyeing

You may lose your natural pigments after dying your hair over time.

You may lose your natural pigments after dyeing your hair over time. Hair color has also been part of that mysticism since I started dyeing my hair at 14. My mom was upset because my natural dark brown mane would never be the same. Truth be told, I would never know as I haven’t worn my original hair color for at least ten years. But, perhaps, she was right.

For example, if your natural hair is brown or black, it will always be like that, unlike grays starting to appear. What you lose, though, is the pigment underneath, explains Dr. Andres Fernandez, general surgeon, and cosmetologist.“The more you dye or bleach, the more that pigment disappears (that pigment gives you an undertone, like ash brown or blonde, copper gold, etc.). So that might be why, if you’re a natural copper redhead and dye your hair, over time, it will turn into a faded version, more like strawberry blond or so”.

Hair Myth 4: 100th Times Brushed Curly Hair Wrapped Tight will Change into Straight

hair myths
Hair brushing won’t change its texture, but you’ll wake up without knots.

Another old wives tale I remember (and tried when I was a mere kindergartener) was brushing my hair 100th times every night before I went to sleep. My grandma and most women in the neighborhood brushed and wrapped their mane in old pantyhose so it could “straighten, keep it soft, and grow longer faster.” Boy, did I have hope for this one? In reality, I never got to grow my hair past my shoulders, and that pantyhose trick gave me headaches and nightmares.

But, to this day, I still wonder if they were right—to which Dr. Boscan responds, “Maybe halfway.” She explains that constantly brushing your hair, whether 100th or a couple of times a day, may help stimulate the scalp and hair follicles to make it grow healthier. “You are exfoliating the scalp and spreading oils from the roots down to the ends, making your hair softer and shinier.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt to brush your mane to keep it untangled, though at the end of the day is all about—you guessed it!— genetics.

Hair Myth 5: Hair Extensions Bring Bad Luck

how I care for my hair after wearing extensions removing clip ins
Be gentle when removing your extensions to avoid damage.

And how about hair extensions? I won’t lie—tape-in hair extensions have been my jam for the past year. I love how I can change my look in hours, and it takes my mind off the fact my hair hasn’t grown as long as expected. Some say hair extensions bring back luck, but according to hairstylist Emmy Veloso, these might bring secondary effects most people aren’t aware of.

“Extensions are tricky because if these aren’t placed properly, you may experience hair loss. For example, tape-ins can rip your hair from the scalp, especially during the moving-up process. In addition, the extensions can add unnecessary weight to fine hair and even develop mildew if these are not cleaned or dried properly.” That’s certainly bad luck in my book.

In conclusion, hair myths are part of our upbringing regardless of our culture and beliefs. While I have learned what might be true, and I think I have the tools to find out, I know there are tales I can’t change. For example, would I want to shave my hair entirely to change its texture? Not at all. But, getting a haircut based on the moon cycle to accelerate its growth? Well, that’s another subject.

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