Can wearing a kippa cause balding?

Rx for readers

A man wearing a kippa listens to speakers during an anti-Semitism demo at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate September 14, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A man wearing a kippa listens to speakers during an anti-Semitism demo at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate September 14, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I am 27 years old. My brother, who is 31, has been showing signs of thinning of his hair at the front of the top of his head. He wears a large cloth kippa most of the day. Our father, who wears a smaller crocheted kippa that lets in the air, has a full head of hair. I wear a smaller kippa that is crocheted as well. Does wearing a large, solid kippa all the time except when sleeping cause balding? I don’t want it to happen to me.
I also want to know whether wearing hair in a tight ponytail most of the day is harmful. My brother’s three daughters are required to do this because of their ultra- Orthodox Bais Yaakov school, where it is the rule not to leave hair loose, without a ponytail. They got used to it and do it at home and when going other places away from school.
Are they causing harm to their hair? P.T., Jerusalem Veteran Jerusalem dermatologist Dr. Julian Schamroth, who serves ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox patients, among others, comments: Hair loss is not related to the hair being covered, and thus “unable to breathe.”
Women who wear wigs, Indians who wear turbans and Arabs who don keffiyehs do not have in increased incidence of hair loss (alopecia) compared with those who don’t wear these coverings. Hair loss is usually hereditary. The genetics of alopecia is complicated and multi-factorial.
For example, genetic hair loss could be from either side (mother or father) and could be recessive (coming from a grandparent or even a great-grandparent). The onset – whether at an early or late age – is also probably due to a separate genetic factor, as is onset of graying.
Nevertheless, specific types of hair loss can occur due to pressure, rubbing or pulling caused by the hair covering. For example, some wigs have a retaining clip in the front or on the temple areas of the hairpiece. These often exert pressure on the scalp, which may result in alopecia localized to the site of the clip. Regarding a ponytail, when hair is pulled tightly as in a ponytail, traction alopecia may result on the frontal area of the scalp.
While on the subject of kippot and hair coverings, there are a few other dermatological disorders – confined to Jews – that come to mind: “Tefillin dermatitis” occurs due to chromate (used in the tanning process). The dermatitis typically occurs on the left forearm, the left hand, the upper left arm, the central upper forehead, and the back of the neck – all areas where the tefillin leather comes into contact with the skin.
“Shokel pigmentation” is often seen in yeshiva students who sway to and fro (shokel) during learning. The spine tends to knock repetitively against the hard back of the chair or bench, resulting in brownish pigmentation over three or four bony prominences of the spine, usually on the central back.
“Shohet’s nails” are characterized by horizontal ridges over a fingernail – usually the thumb. In order to test the knife’s sharpness, the ritual slaughterer (shohet) runs the knife lightly along the nail to check for small nicks in the blade.
“Peyot assymetry” is the presence of hair locks (peyot) of different lengths. It often arises in school kids who – unwittingly – tend to play with, or twist, their peyot while learning. This usually results in traction alopecia – mostly on the right side of the scalp (in right-handed people).
Outside of dermatology, there is the Jewish risk (especially in the US) when cutting bagels, usually eaten with cream cheese and lox in synagogue meetings on Sunday mornings.
Many Jews have had to rush to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of wounded thumbs before the companies decided to precut the bagels.
My son, who is 33, started to show involuntary movements of his face – his eyes and mouth at the age of 17. These tics, which cause him to distort his face and open his mouth, have gotten worse. He covers his face with his hands so that (he thinks) they are less noticeable, but it is very disturbing to see. He doesn’t like to talk about it and he probably hasn’t gone to the doctor for a diagnosis.
Besides this, he is normal physically and mentally.
What causes these movements and how can they be treated? Y.H., Tel Aviv Prof. Tamir Ben-Hur, chairman of the neurology department of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, answers: There are different types of involuntary movements and diverse reasons for them.
They may be caused by medications, various metabolic and endocrine conditions, autoimmune diseases, as well as various acquired and genetic brain disorders.
It is a shame that he has waited so long without going for diagnosis and treatment.
He should not delay and be examined by a neurologist who is a specialist in movement disorders, first to define the type of abnormality, to perform the diagnostic work-up and, of course, to consider several therapeutic options.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to, giving your initials, age and place of residence.