Here's Why People Once Thought McDonald's Fries Cured Baldness

Whether it was history's first Florida Man, Juan Ponce de León, vainly searching for the Fountain of Youth or the fanatical German nudist who founded a cult that equated coconuts with the body of Christ, mankind is always whipping up new and unique entrees to add to its buffet of half-baked, harebrained ideas. Of course, if you happen to be bald and unhappy about it, your head might be full of hair-brained ideas instead. And occasionally an idea seems so empty-headed that it fits both descriptions. Such was the case when a comically dim light-bulb moment placed McDonald's fries in the spotlight as a potential cure for baldness.

The mere suggestion that Mickey D's french fries could double as delicious Rogaine seems to put the "hash" in "hash browns." But what might sound like the addled musings of a mind high on a burger joint actually started with science. Sort of. As Newsweek details, in 2018, the journal Biomaterials published a study by researchers at Yokohama National University in Japan who used a chemical found in the french fries to grow hair "on the backs of nude mice." The chemical in question was dimethylpolysiloxane, a kind of silicone that McDonald's adds to its cooking oil to keep it from foaming when deep-frying its fries. The news broke like the wind, but many of the media's claims and headlines failed to pass the smell test.

The hairline headlines got ahead of themselves

Emphasizing the dubious McDonald's link, media outlets capitalized on a golden-arched opportunity to generate buzz. Muscle & Fitness's headline declared in all caps, "MCDONALD'S FRENCH FRIES MAY CURE BALDNESS," and the site further asserted: "If you were looking for a sign to go through the McDonald's drive-thru on your way home from work today, this is it." Elite Daily went with, "Do McDonald's Fries Cure Baldness? Science Suggests Bathing In A Tub Of Fries." If you only read headlines or simply skimmed the articles, you might have thought you found an excellent excuse to gorge on McDonald's french fries – presumably while silently praying that baldness wasn't the cure for your looming obesity.

The lead scientist for the study, professor Junji Fukuda, crushed any hopes that McDonald's fries might regenerate lost hair (via the Magellan Times): "I have seen online comments asking, 'How many fries would I have to eat to grow my hair?' I'd feel bad if people think eating something would do that!" In fairness to the sites which fed that misconception, many of their pronouncements could plausibly be construed as tongue-in-cheek (or fry-in-mouth). It seems likely that they were more interested in whetting people's appetite for sensational headlines than trying to convince readers that deep-fried potato strips cure baldness. After all, "Nearly unpronounceable chemical with a tangential connection to McDonald's helps nude vermin grow fur" isn't a very sexy headline – nudity notwithstanding.