People often find masturbation difficult to discuss, which may explain why this topic attracts so many myths.
However, these myths rarely hold water, and masturbation is a regular part of life for many people — in a survey of more than 2,000 adults, 80 percent of men and women reported masturbating.
In this article, we take a closer look at why people think that masturbation might cause hair loss. We also investigate other masturbation myths and facts, and look at real causes of hair loss.
Does masturbation cause hair loss?
There are no studies connecting hair loss to masturbation.
In a word, no — there is no scientific evidence that masturbating causes hair loss.
This myth may come from the idea that semen contains high levels of protein, and so with each ejaculation, the body is losing protein that it could use for hair growth.
While it is true that semen is high in protein — with approximately 5.04 grams (g) of protein per 100 milliliters (mL) of semen — each ejaculation contains just 3.3 to 3.7mL of semen, which is a comparatively small amount.
Another theory is that masturbation increases testosterone, which in turn increases the levels of a hormone linked to hair loss, called DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
However, a study from 2001 showed that adult males actually had an increase in testosterone levels after abstaining from masturbation for 3 weeks. This means that testosterone levels might actually rise if a person avoids ejaculating.
In either case, there is no evidence to suggest that masturbation increases DHT levels.
Busting other masturbation myths
Many myths exist about masturbation, but modern science has not proven it as the cause of any specific physical ailments.
Alongside hair loss, there is no evidence that masturbation will:
- cause hair to grow on the palms of the hands
- lead to blindness
- do permanent damage to the genitals
- cause impotence in men and infertility in women
Many people find masturbation difficult to talk about, which means that myths about masturbation can be very persistent.
Benefits of masturbation
Masturbation may help to relieve stress, and encourage healthy self-image.
Masturbation may have many benefits, including:
Understanding the body
Masturbation may help a person to become more familiar and comfortable with their body, helping them understand their sexual sensations and what gives them pleasure.
Studies have reported that women who masturbate early in life may be more likely to have positive sexual experiences as an adult, and a healthy self-image.
Orgasms, whether achieved alone or with a partner, support and strengthen the circulatory, nerve, and muscular systems of the genitals in men and women.
Many people use masturbation as a way to relieve stress or help with sleep. It may be considered a risk-free way to experience sexual pleasure, since it cannot lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Risks of masturbation
Although many people find it difficult to talk about, there are few risks associated with masturbation. It may become a problem if it begins to:
- interfere with school, work, or other aspects of an individual's life
- cause problems in a relationship
- cause excessive guilt
- be too rough, resulting in swelling or decreased sexual sensitivity
If a person is worried that masturbation is becoming a problem, a doctor or sex therapist will be able to advise on the best course of action.
What causes hair loss?
Anyone concerned about hair loss should speak to a doctor.
The actual cause of hair loss is most often a combination of heredity and hormones, not masturbation.
Common causes of hair loss include:
Male pattern baldness
An individual with androgenetic alopecia has a genetic sensitivity to DHT. When exposed to DHT, the hair follicles shrink, which prevents them from generating strong, healthy hair.
According to the American Hair Loss Organization, male pattern baldness (MPB) causes over 95 percent of hair loss in men and may affect 85 percent of men by the time they are 50.
Although women have lower levels of testosterone than men, androgenetic alopecia can also affect females. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, about 50 percent of women over the age of 65 will experience androgenetic alopecia.
This form of alopecia typically results in bald patches developing on the head or elsewhere. The hairless areas may stay contained and hair may re-grow, or the hair loss can spread to include the entire scalp, facial area, and body.
Alopecia areata is considered to be an autoimmune condition. It can affect men, women, or children.
While chemotherapy typically focuses on cancer cells, some of the cancer-fighting compounds in chemotherapy drugs can cause as much as 90 percent of a person's hair to fall out. This hair loss is temporary, and the hair should regrow following treatment.
Major bodily stress
Major stress to the body, such as childbirth, serious infection, or malnutrition, can result in a significant loss of hair.
This form of hair loss usually resolves on its own, but it may also be persistent.
This form of alopecia occurs when the hair is pulled too tightly for a long time, resulting in damage to the hair follicles.
Traction alopecia occurs when a person wears cornrows, extensions, tight braids, or ponytails for an extended period.
In its early stages, this hair loss is temporary. However, if a person continues to wear the same hairstyle for months or years, the hair loss can become permanent.
Masturbation is a common activity that will not affect a person's health or lead to hair loss.
Anyone who wants to talk about the benefits or problems associated with masturbation should speak to their doctor, or a sex therapist. Likewise, anyone worried about hair loss should discuss it with a healthcare professional.