What causes male pattern baldness?
Most men will experience thinning or loss of hair in their lifetime. 90% of this hair loss is due to male pattern baldness—a condition that’s often seen as a natural part of aging for most men.
But why does your body forsake you in such a way? What’s actually going on?
The circumstances in which a person will lose their hair—if you’ll lose it, at what age, how quickly— is largely written on your genes. To complicate matters, there is no one gene responsible, but rather a blend of genes inherited from both your mother and father.
There are still many determining factors related to male pattern baldness that have yet to be identified.
What we do know is that one of the most important genes determining your hair’s fate is one that controls the presence of androgen receptors. Keep that in mind for this next section.
This is how it works:
- If you have male pattern baldness, the hair on the top of your head is particularly susceptible to an androgen (hormone) that men produce called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The more receptors you have, the more likely your hair is at risk. Interestingly, the hair on the side of the head is not particularly vulnerable to DHT, which is why you often see the characteristic “horseshoe” pattern of late-stage baldness.
- DHT binds to the individual strand and, over time, shrinks the hair before preventing the follicle from producing at all. As such, you’re likely to notice your hair thinning before you experience hair loss.
It takes time for DHT to adversely affect the follicle, which is why more men notice balding as they age—the DHT has had more time to act. When this process begins and how long it takes varies from person to person.
On average, once you notice thinning, it takes 15-25 years to progress to the last stages of baldness. About 20% of men will experience hair loss in their twenties, with that rate increasing to about half of all men in their fifties, 70% in their seventies and so on.
For answers to other frequently asked questions about male pattern baldness, like what to expect when you start balding and the best treatment options, click here.