While CPAP hair loss isn’t considered a common CPAP side effect, we wanted to clarify what may cause hair loss for some people with sleep apnea who use CPAP and provide some additional tips to prevent this uncommon result from happening.
For those who are genetically predisposed to hair loss, also known as male pattern baldness (or female pattern baldness), if anything, the boost in oxygen in the blood can only benefit circulation within your scalp. One study suggests Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) may actually be a factor in MPB. Therefore treating your OSA with CPAP may help with common causes of hair loss. There is no correlation between using a CPAP device and hair loss. However, the friction from wearing your mask and headgear may cause facial irritation and in some cases hair shedding. In this article, we’ll share some ways you can protect your hair when wearing your mask and headgear.
You have little choice but to address your sleep apnea condition because it is life-threatening, so it can feel unfair and disheartening if you start to experience hair loss from wearing your CPAP mask and headgear. If you’ve experienced the benefits of CPAP therapy, you probably aren’t eager to go back to the insomnia, depression, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and mood swings that many are faced with before starting treatment.
That said, it’s very natural to suffer confidence issues with hair loss, and it can have a profound impact on day-to-day life, so it may sometimes feel like you’re forced to choose between your hair and your therapy. However, if your hair loss is directly related to the friction of your CPAP headgear’s straps, there are some easy ways to protect your hair while still fully benefitting from your therapy.
Popular solutions include sleeping with a silk headcover, adding padding to your headgear, or even opting for a mask that doesn’t use traditional headgear, such as the Bleep Dreamport. We’ll briefly talk about potential causes of CPAP hair loss, then go right into some great solutions for keeping your hair protected while wearing your CPAP mask.
What Causes CPAP Hair Loss?
There are many causes of hair loss outside of the world of CPAP, including circulation issues, hereditary hair loss (pattern baldness), aging, your general hair care routine, and even general life stressors. Hair loss from CPAP, however, is almost always a friction or breakage issue, and people with fine, thin hair are at greater risk of their CPAP headgear breaking their hair.
Assuming your hair loss isn’t coming from a number of other possibilities (which you should be sure to consult with your healthcare provider about first) and is indeed coming from the friction of your CPAP headgear, below you’ll find some affordable and easy-to-implement solutions to try.
1.Pamper Your Hair
We aren’t saying that you’ve been treating your hair wrong, but the message here is simply to pay more attention to the care of your hair and your scalp. Brushing your hair every night before bed and scalp massages can help stimulate hair growth, and taking supplements like biotin has been shown to stimulate keratin production to promote hair growth, as well. Some people try to avoid over-washing or over-cutting their hair when they are experiencing CPAP hair damage, too.
Another common thing that women with long hair have found works for them is to put their hair into a ponytail or small tight bun before putting on their CPAP headgear. This keeps the strap from moving up and moving around, as well, which reduces friction. Friction is the main culprit with CPAP hair loss issues.
While not right for everyone, we also found that some people simply change their hairstyle and find some relief. Women who used to wear their hair long decide to wear it short so that their headgear fits better. Some change the way that they style their hair so that their hair dents don’t show. Even men with long hair sometimes decide to cut it because it is easier to fit their CPAP straps over their hair that way.
2. CPAP Hair Protectors to Cover Your Hair
Covering your hair with a scarf, sleep cap, or skull cap before putting on your CPAP mask is one of the simplest and most successful solutions that we found. People use everything from bonnets and bandanas to soft beanies and helmet liners.
The main goal is to provide a barrier between the CPAP straps and the hair. This protects even the finest, most brittle hair from damage. However, this doesn’t work for everyone because some people can’t tolerate wearing anything on their heads while they sleep due to temperature fluctuations, claustrophobia, or sensory issues.
Here are a few of the best CPAP hair protectors and covers that we found:
- 100% Silk Scarf: A silk scarf is best because its smooth, slippery texture protects against friction and movement. It’s also natural and lets your skin breathe. Since you’ll be wearing it every night, this is important.
- Helmet Liner Skull Cap: this product is lightweight and breathable with another great feature—it has built-in holes that your mask straps can fit through. It also provides cushioning to make wearing the headgear more comfortable. A similar hiking beanie for women has a ponytail hole, and at less than $15 each, they are well worth the investment.
- Sleep Beanie: this beanie is described as deliciously soft and comes in a variety of colors.
- Slouchy Cap: If you have long, thick hair, this beanie could work better for you.
We even heard from some resourceful people who used a spare piece of fabric or a nice towel to cover their heads before putting on their headgear.
3. Switch Up Your Headgear
A very common idea from people who battle the problem of hair loss or damage due to CPAP mask straps is to change their headgear. Some people found an entirely new style that works for them, and other people found that it is best to rotate between a few different masks and headgear styles.
There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what style of headgear might be better or worse for hair loss, but a good rule of thumb is to find the headgear that is the most comfortable for you with the least amount of movement without needing to be very tight. Switching through a rotation of different masks and headgear whenever your hair starts to conform to the mask’s straps should limit breakage and give your hair time to heal.
Some people have also found success by opting for headgear with slimmer straps that don’t make as much of a ‘hair dent’. The Phillips Respironics DreamWear mask is a favorite because it offers a secure seal with a soft silicone frame and simple headgear.
4. Use Extra Padding
It’s common to protect your skin by using padded strap covers so that your headgear doesn’t irritate your face during the night, and the same idea can be applied to covering headgear to protect your hair. Covering up the straps at the top where it rubs against your scalp can help reduce hair damage.
Hair can also be damaged by getting tangled in buckles and Velcro, so a lot of people have found that using padding to cover these areas prevents that.
If you are handy, you can make your own out of any soft material, and some people simply use a rolled-up towel or washcloth. If you want something a bit more purpose-built, StrapGuard CPAP Mask Strap Pads are a great bet and are easy to install and maintain.
5. No-Headgear Masks
If you’re someone who is able to breathe exclusively through their nose, then you actually have some options in terms of CPAP masks that don’t use headgear. The same is true if you’re interested in trying an oral CPAP mask. While they aren’t always the best-selling or most comfortable masks, the people that enjoy these masks are typically very vocal about it. Here are a few CPAP masks that don’t need headgear to deliver CPAP therapy:
- Bleep DreamPort CPAP Mask Solution: The Bleep DreamPort is an alternate take on nasal CPAP masks that doesn’t use headgear, a cushion, or nasal pillows. The mask secures to the nose via disposable adhesive strips, allowing for a secure fit with no leakage.
- TAP PAP Nasal Pillow: TAP PAP is a minimalistic nasal pillow CPAP mask that utilizes a small mouthpiece to give the mask stability in place of traditional headgear.
- Fisher & Paykel Oracle HC452 Oral Mask: The Oracle HC452 does utilize a strap around the neck for stability, but actually relies mostly on the plastic mouthpiece to hold the mask in place, leaving your hair to move freely.
- ResMed Swift FX Bella: The Swift FX is a nasal pillow mask from ResMed that uses standard headgear, but offers an innovative headgear option in the form of headgear loops that wrap around the ears for support.
Don’t Lose Hope
It can be concerning and confusing when you begin losing hair as a direct result of using a device that’s supposed to be making you healthier and more energized. If you’re losing hair in places that your CPAP headgear doesn’t cover, be sure to consult with your healthcare professional about other potential causes for hair loss you might be experiencing. So long as your hair loss is from your CPAP headgear and not another underlying source, however, there are plenty of measures you can take to protect your hair.
Using a skull cap or beanie is a great way to reduce friction on your hair and add a layer of protection between you and your CPAP mask. Changing headgear, or even swapping between two different sets with different coverage has also helped people combat CPAP hair loss. Even if you have to get an entirely new mask to fix the problem, you’ll still be far better off than if you chose to quit CPAP to save your hair.
While your hair might not be the most important thing in the grand scheme of sleep apnea treatments, it is important to you and it does matter. And the good news is that you aren’t alone—many people have encountered this challenge and found a solution that works for them, and you can too!
While the first solution you try may not work for you, we encourage you to keep experimenting. Use some of the suggestions that we outlined here as a start and don’t give up until you find what works for you.
Nate aims to make learning about sleep apnea and CPAP products as enjoyable as possible. When he’s not spending time working, you’ll find him volunteering at the local animal shelter or cultivating his vegetable garden.