To Shave or Not to Shave the Baby’s Head

May 13, 2012 - Seoul, South Korea - A South Korean child's head is shaved by a monk during a ritual to celebrate Buddha's upcoming birthday on May 28 at the Chogye temple on Sunday. Nine children entered the temple to experience living as a monk for three weeks. (Credit Image: © Park Jin Hee/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com) ***** Online: Report online usage by emailing the caption info to wsj@zumapress.com *****

It is common in many cultures, particularly Asian, to shave the baby’s first head of hair in the hope that this will promote thicker hair growth.

Sometimes other superstitions and beliefs accompany this. The Hindus, for example, call the baby head shaving ceremony the ‘Mundan’ and they believe that it also removes undesirable traits brought by the child from past lives as well as stimulating brain function. They then offer the shaved hair up to to their family deity at the local temple in the hope of attracting further good fortune.

But does shaving baby hair work to stimulate thicker hair growth subsequently?

Babies are born with soft downy or ‘vellus’ hair as their follicles are not yet fully formed. However they tend to get their full quota of hair by age 5 or 6 so shaving does not make a difference to this natural process. Nor will it make a difference to the number of follicles babies are born with as they are born with them all present, even if they do not all start producing hair immediately.

The hair may look thicker when it grows back after shaving because it is all growing back at the same time and rate whereas a newborn baby will often have tufts of differing lengths and bald areas.

The other reason a child’s hair may be shaved is to treat for nits or ringworm, though this practice has largely died out in the West as better treatments have become available.

Shaving to promote hair growth has been a common belief among a great many cultures around the world for a long time, but various medical studies are now proving it to be a myth.