What role does genetics play in hair loss?

July 29th, 2019

You might be living a stress and hat-free life with no direct sunlight and still go bald. Sorry, the top 5 hair loss myths have betrayed you! Turns out that no matter what you do, there’s really only one way to determine if you’re likely to experience male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia): just look at how many of your relatives are bald. Too many men want hairline certainty, so they check their maternal grandfather’s hairline hoping to know for sure. Be more chill, fellas! The science suggests that figuring out if you’re going to develop androgenetic alopecia takes more than a gander at grandpa.

DHT and Hair Loss

The first question to ask about male pattern baldness is, “What is DHT and how does it impact hair loss?” The answer is that DHT is dihydrotestosterone, which is what you get when testosterone, a male sex hormone, is exposed to the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase. When this chemical reaction occurs within a hair follicle’s oil glands it can lead the hairs to shrink with such severity that, over time, male pattern baldness occurs. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information heredity accounts for 80% of a man’s likelihood to develop androgenetic alopecia.

So why do so many men blame their mother’s side of the family for their baldness?

As explained by Helix, a company that offers genetic testing, one of the genes connected to hair loss is AR, which helps hair follicles identify testosterone. AR is on the X chromosome, which people get from their mothers. So, it makes some kind of sense that if your mom’s father were bald that you’d also be bald because he’s seemingly the one passing on the problematic gene.

A scientist would think that’s a pretty impressive hypothesis for a non-scientist. In the same way a dog doing tricks is impressive. “Who’s a good boy? You are! Here’s a treat for your hypothesis!” But a real scientist knows that determining if you’ll develop androgenetic alopecia is more complicated than a single gene.

Just how complicated is it? An epidemiological study of androgenic alopecia in 3, 114 Korean patients showed a correlation (but not causation) between early-onset balding and drinking and smoking, which shows just how many factors are in play. Additionally, NBC News reported that a genetic study shows a complex answer to the question of, “Will I go bald?” Published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Genetics, the study identified over 280 different genes that influenced balding. The study entailed examining DNA from over 52,000 mostly middle-aged men! There’s enough people doing that study to form a small city!

That’s so many people trying to figure out how to not go bald even though you don’t really need to figure out why men go bald!! As Reader’s Digest shouted to the world, “Good News, Guys: There’s a Huge Scientific Benefit to Being Bald!” In a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, participants identified photos of men with shaved heads or short hair as more dominant. Additionally, when comparing and contrasting photos of these same men, participants felt the shorter-haired versions were more dominant, taller, and stronger. That’s great news for the 2/3rds of men who experience hair loss by the age of 35 and the 85% of men who develop androgenetic alopecia by age 50, according to the American Hair Loss Association.

You don’t even have to wonder, “Do hats cause hair loss?” or study the hairline of your mother’s grandfather because it’s a win/win situation! Either you have your hair, or you look better than if you had your hair!

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And for those who want hair loss remedies, there’s always scalp micropigmentation: a hair loss solution that gives you the look of a short buzz cut.

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