Male Pattern Baldness

Male Pattern Baldness

This is the main cause of hair loss in men. It accounts for more than 6 million men in the UK and can start as early as the teenage years. In fact, most men will have extensive hair loss by the time they reach old age which is due to a number of factors. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Excess production of male hormone testosterone
  • Drop in protein synthesis as part of the ageing process which affects hair growth.
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Medical conditions such as anaemia and an underactive thyroid.
  • Skin diseases
  • Poor diet
  • Some prescription medicines

Androgenetic alopecia

Another name for male pattern baldness is 'androgenetic alopecia'. It is one of several types of alopecia which are characterised by patchy or complete hair loss.

Androgenetic alopecia is also used to refer to female pattern baldness although this is less common.

Another common form of alopecia is alopecia areata which is discussed separately.

The role of testosterone in hair loss

The main cause of hair loss is testosterone. Testosterone is a male hormone which is responsible for muscle mass, facial and body hair and sexual characteristics. But it is also responsible for hair growth on the scalp which is where problems occur.

Why is this? The answer is dihydrotestosterone or 'DHT' for short. DHT is a derivative of testosterone which if produced in excessive amounts, puts too much strain on the hair follicles, causing them to shrink and eventually shut down.

Basically, the hair follicles become oversensitive to DHT which prevents them from growing new hair. If this occurs then hair continues to be shed as part of the hair growth cycle but no new hair is grown.

Male hair loss pattern

This leads to the characteristic bald patches on the back and sides of the head. This hair loss forms a pattern - usually a 'horseshoe' shaped pattern in which hair is lost from the forehead or 'hairline' which begins to recede. This is followed by the temples and the top of the head or 'crown'.

Hair remains around the back and sides to give that distinctive inverted 'U' shape.

In some cases it leads to complete baldness.

Baldness is often seen as a sign of virility but this is an old wives tale. The real cause is oversensitive hair follicles.

Can women experience horseshoe pattern baldness? No, their hair loss occurs in a different way. Their hair loss occurs on the top of the head only.

Inherited male pattern baldness

Male pattern baldness is largely inherited. If your father and his father before him went bald at an early age then the chances are you will do the same.

It means you have inherited the tendency towards oversensitive hair follicles, caused by too much DHT, which stops hair production. Conversely, lower levels of DHT enable the hair follicles to function as normal and grow new hair.

But, there are cases where there is no history of baldness in a family but male pattern baldness skips a generation. So, if your grandfather went bald but your father kept a full head of hair then unfortunately, you are likely to take after your grandfather and experience hair loss.

Unfortunately life isn't fair and this is one of those occasions. If you have inherited this gene then there is little you can do to change that, but, there are solutions. These include a hair transplant, hair loss drugs and wigs.

Medical experts are still uncertain about the genetic link between DHT and male pattern baldness.

Accept male pattern baldness

There are some men who choose to remain bald and celebrate this fact. If you are experiencing hair loss but are comfortable with this then don't be afraid to display this to others. Use moisturisers to maintain the condition of your scalp and apply sunscreen to protect it from the elements.

But if male pattern baldness is difficult to accept then consider a hair transplant.