What Causes Baldness? Everything You Need to Know About Where Baldness Comes From
Many men who go bald have a hereditary condition that leads to baldness. According to the American Hair Loss Association, androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness, causes 95% of hair loss in men. Balding typically presents as a receding hairline and thinning crown. The cause? It's a genetic sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of testosterone.
How Does Male Pattern Baldness Start?
Baldness caused by this hormonal byproduct starts because hair follicles sensitive to DHT get smaller over time. The life span of each hair gets shorter as affected hair follicles shrink. In time, the affected follicles stop producing hair.
Hair loss due to male pattern baldness tends to follow one of two patterns:
- Hair begins to thin around the temples and on the top of the head. Male pattern baldness that follows this pattern leaves hair in the shape of a horseshoe around the back and sides of the head.
- Hair begins to recede from the hairline's front edge. Eventually, the hairline pushes back on the head.
What Age Does Male Pattern Baldness Start?
Many men concerned about hair loss ask these questions: When does balding start? How long does it take to go bald once you start thinning? How fast does balding happen?
Male pattern baldness affects most men at some point, although the age it starts can vary. According to the American Hair Loss Association statistics, approximately 25% of men with hereditary male pattern baldness begin losing hair before age 21. By age 35, close to 66% of men experience some hair loss. These figures increase even more over time, with close to 85% of men noticing significantly thinner hair when they are 50.
What Causes Baldness Besides Male Pattern Baldness?
While male pattern baldness is the most common cause of baldness for men, other triggers for hair loss also exist. Hair loss from most other causes usually doesn't follow a predictable pattern. Instead, hair loss happens in only a few spots or all over and can lead to different degrees of hair loss.
Some men may ask, "When does balding stop?" "How fast can you go bald?" Some baldness causes can lead to permanent hair loss, but some are reversible.
Hair loss from this condition occurs when a body's immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. Hair will usually fall out in small patches from the head, although it can also impact other body parts such as beards, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Hair lost due to alopecia areata may or may not grow back.
Excessive hair shedding sometimes occurs approximately two or three months following a stressful event or shock to the body. Hair loss due to this condition typically grows back in two to six months. Triggers can include the following:
- Dramatic weight loss.
- Psychological stress.
Certain levels of nutrients such as iron are necessary for healthy hair growth as well as overall health. Intake of protein, vitamin D, and other vitamins are also essential to maintain healthy hair. Deficiencies in one or more nutrients can cause men to lose more hair than usual.
Taking certain medications can lead to hair loss. Hair loss from prescription drugs usually is temporary, and hair growth often starts again once the individual experiencing hair loss stops taking the medication. Medications that may lead to hair loss include the following:
- Acne medications, for example, isotretinoin (Accutane).
- Anticoagulants, for example, warfarin and heparin.
- Antidepressants, for example, fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft).
- Antifungal drugs, particularly voriconazole.
- Blood pressure medications, for example, ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers.
- Chemotherapy drugs.
- Drugs that lower cholesterol, for example, atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor).
Treatments for Male Pattern Hair Loss
A range of treatments for male pattern baldness exists. Some treatments options include the following:
- Hair transplant surgery: Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE) are the most common types of hair transplant surgery. FUT procedures remove a section of skin where hair still grows in the back of the scalp, then use that section to create tiny grafts to insert in parts of the scalp where hair isn't growing. FUE takes individual healthy hair follicles from the scalp and inserts these healthy follicles into holes where the hair isn't growing.
How Can Men Prevent Male Pattern Baldness?
While male pattern baldness is generally an inherited condition and thus challenging to reverse, it is possible to prevent further hair loss at the first sign of hair thinning. Medications designed to treat male pattern baldness may prevent further hair loss, but the hair loss may start again once a person discontinues medication use.
Men may also keep their hair healthy and prevent additional hair loss due to other causes by:
- Performing regular scalp massages to stimulate hair growth.
- Eating a well-balanced diet that includes sufficient vitamins, iron, and protein and adding dietary supplements to maintain healthy hair.
- Managing stress, for example, through deep breathing, exercise, and meditation.
- Quitting smoking, which, as some research suggests, may lead to hair loss.
- Switching medication if a medication causes hair loss.
Although various factors can lead to hair loss, male pattern baldness is a hereditary condition that causes most baldness in men. Different treatments may help promote hair growth.