Thirty-five million men in the US are suffering from baldness compared to only twenty-one million females. About 95 percent of hair thinning in male pattern baldness is referred to as androgenic alopecia (AGA) which may also be alternatively called as alopecia androgenetica or alopecia seborrheica. The pattern starts with a receding hairline from the forehead and followed by a thinning crown (vertex) until these two meet leaving a horseshoe-shaped patch of hair around the head. This generally manifests variable degrees and patterns such as alopecia areata involving loss of hair in patches; alopecia totalis which manifests balding in the entire head; and alopecia universalis that entails hair loss in the head and in the body. Scientific studies revealed that the primary reasons for male hair loss are genes, hormones and age.
Genes: When Inheritance Does Not Matter
Androgenic alopecia cannot occur without the presence of certain specific heritable genes which can come from either parent. A gene is a small part of a DNA that contains a chemical code of hereditary instruction and is found in a chromosome. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes with one set of chromosomes coming from each parent. It used to be thought that hair loss in males is a man thing being inherited from the father to the son. These days, it is now recognized that hair loss in men involves more than one gene called polygenic. It is now known that baldness is a recessive gene that needs to be in present in the two X chromosomes (one from each parent) of a woman for the trait to be expressed. Meanwhile, males only need one X affected chromosome to express the condition which explains why more men suffer from AGA.
Baldness can be inherited from either parent yet recent studies are showing the higher influence of the mother. There are several genetic factors on the X-chromosome that influence hair loss that seem to be associated with the maternal side of the family compared to the paternal influence. This is supported by an androgen receptor (AR) on the X-chromosome that helps explain the similarity of patterns of hair loss with one’s maternal grandfather rather one’s own father. Another genetic factor, from the father this time, specifically an autosomal (body chromosomes) gene is responsible for another type of balding. This is why it is claimed that both parents can carry genes causing hair loss in males.
Hormones: What Testosterone Does to Men and His Hair
Testosterone is the hormone that is responsible in the development of the sexual characteristic of a male. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is formed by the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase on testosterone. Studies have revealed that the enzyme is more concentrated in the areas of the head where there are signs of patching hair growth. This somehow explains the patterned alopecia.
Specifically, DHT affects the hair cycle by decreasing the size of the hair follicles that leads to the shortening of the hair growth during anagen or the hair growth cycle. This continues until the hair progressively becomes shorter and finer and until the hair totally disappears. In simple terms, DHT shortens the length of Anagen (growing) phase and lengthens Telogen (resting) phase so that the hair shaft becomes progressively finer. In addition, there is also the bitemporal reshaping of the hairline.
Age: Because Growing Old is Inevitable
The age is a complicating factor in the process of hair thinning and hair loss. A male has to reach puberty and be exposed to the hormones over a period of time before the combined effects of genes and hormones can be expressed. The manifestations – degree and pattern of balding – vary depending on the genetic conditions and the levels of testosterone in the blood. Another age- or time-related factor is the cyclical characteristic of hair loss. This means that hair loss is never steady; it fluctuates so that there are alternating highs and lows with regards hair loss.
Further, even in the absence of predisposing factors (gene and hormones), it is a known fact that as a man ages some follicles randomly undergoes miniaturization. With further aging, those miniaturized hair follicles are lost and the actual follicular units are almost reduced by half. This progresses with further aging.
The truth is that, there are so many reasons for male hair loss aside from the genes, hormones and age. Environmental, psychological, medical, and emotional factors can make assessments and treatment quite complicated. The good news is, solutions are available. Why not find out more about it?
What is the Cause of Male Hair Loss
Alopecia, or more commonly known as hair loss, is a more common problem in men. While it is a typical condition not usually related to physical illness, it can cause the male human population significant psychological and social challenges, such as low self-esteem, embarrassment, depression, and social withdrawal. The major cause of male hair loss is hormonal in nature, although factors such as age, stress, thyroid problems, mechanical damage, and medications have been reported to cause hair loss in men.
* Androgenic alopecia
Androgen hormones can have a profound impact on men’s hair loss. Androgen is the umbrella term that refers to all the male sexual hormones. The main androgen hormone is testosterone. These hormones, which are mainly secreted by the testicles, are the main cause of male hair loss.
Testosterone gets to the hair follicles via the blood stream. It then attaches itself on what is called Androgen Receptors (AR), which are substances located in the four major areas of hair production, namely the papilla, matrix, epithelial sheath, and sebaceous gland. Once it reaches its target receptors, testosterone associates itself to an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5a), which synthesizes it into a new kind of androgen called DHT or dihydrotestosterone. On a healthy follicle, these two substances link themselves with no known negative consequence on the physiological development of men’s hair.
Hair issues occur in the case of genetic predisposition, when the hair follicles mutate as brought about by one or several alopecia genes. When alopecia genes come into play, 5-alpha reductase (5a) becomes stimulated which, in turn, triggers the increased secretion of DHT. This increased secretion disturbs the hair follicles’ work, which leads to their progressive deterioration and finally hair loss.
Androgen alopecia is responsible for the 85 to 90 percent of all hair loss cases in men. Also commonly known as male pattern baldness, it is a problem that rarely progresses to complete baldness.
It is not uncommon to lose between 50 to 150 scalp hairs daily. At any given time, around 10 percent of our hair goes into what is called a “resting phase”, and after 2 to 3 months of resting, hair falls out and new hair grows as a replacement. However, as a person ages, the hair follicle’s ability to replenish itself slow down, leading to gradual hair loss.
It is easy to associate hair loss with stress, as many patients link stressful events with the development of alopecia. Although there are no definite studies to prove that stress directly affects the hair follicles, statistics show that people who are constantly exposed to stress suffer more from hair loss than those who have a more relaxed lifestyle.
* Thyroid problems
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause male hair loss. Normally, hair growth has three phases, namely the anagen phase, catagen phase, and dormant phase. When a person suffers from either one of these two thyroid conditions, the general process of hair growth becomes disturbed. Thyroid disease can drive the hair follicles to remain in the dormant phase for prolonged periods which consequently leads to slowed hair growth and eventually hair loss.
* Mechanical damage
Mechanical damage to the hair is usually unintentional. Of course, no person would want to damage his own hair. However, despite the greatest intentions, hair loss can still occur. Since men always want to look their absolute best in front of women, they style their hair using all kinds of gel, wax, and mousse that they can grab. But, keep in mind that such products contain harsh chemicals that can cause male hair loss faster than the normal cycle. With that said, it is recommended that you limit the use of hair styling products to help you preserve your hair.
In most cases, hair loss brought about by medications is just temporary. Generally, your hair will gradually grow back once you adjust the dose or stop taking the medication. If you are worried that the medication you are taking is causing your alopecia, ask your health care provider for a list of the manufacturer’s warnings for the medication. It may be that hair loss is a potential side effect of what you’re taking.
There are several reasons why your hair might be falling out. Consider yourself lucky if the cause of your hair loss is not genetics because then you can find an easy solution to the problem. However, if baldness truly runs in the family, remember that there are treatment options available to “camouflage” the bare patch on your head.