Health: true or false?

Why shaving your baby's head will not promote hair growth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 June, 2015, 6:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 June, 2015, 6:04am

Does shaving your baby's head encourage hair growth?

The straight answer: No

The facts: In many Asian cultures, it is believed that shaving a baby's first head of hair helps to promote hair growth. It is not uncommon to see month-old babies whose heads have been entirely shaved, in the hope that their locks grow back thicker, fuller, and healthier. But there is simply no evidence to suggest that this practice is helpful at all.

We are all born with a specific number of hair follicles on our head. These follicles are basically sacs from which the hair grows. The follicles determine how much hair we will have throughout our lifetime, as well as dictating the texture and type of hair: fine, medium, coarse, straight, wavy or curly.

According to Leonica Kei, director and senior trichologist at Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre in Singapore, the number of hair follicles we have is genetically predisposed and therefore cannot be changed.

"Many babies are born with hair that is barely noticeable. This is called vellus hair," says Kei. "Vellus hair starts off short, fine and poorly pigmented, but between three and seven months after birth, this hair changes, and by the time the child is two years old, all his vellus hair will have been replaced by mature, thick, and terminal hair."

As the conditions that control the growth and diameter of your baby's hair play out in the scalp itself, shaving his head will not have any effect on his hair growth. Of course, there are many other factors that influence the health of your baby's hair, such as nutrition.

Another good reason to delay shaving your child's head until he is much older is that t can cause injury. "A baby's scalp is very tender," Kei says. "The top of his head, called the fontanelle, is especially soft because his skull bones have not fully knitted together."

Hair and scalp hygiene is important to help your child develop a healthy head of hair. Kei advises parents to wash their baby's scalp regularly.

"In some cases when a baby's scalp is not washed frequently, the natural scalp secretions can congeal and turn into oily, yellowish-brown flakes called cradle cap."

Cradle cap is not serious but it can look and feel unpleasant. Like adult dandruff, this condition is easily treated with daily scalp cleansing with a mild or medicated shampoo to loosen and remove the flakes.