The Genetics of Balding

If you’re an adult over the age of 35 with a full head of hair, consider yourself lucky. According to the American Hair Loss Association, a whopping two thirds of men are affected by some form of hair loss by age 35. By the age of 50, about 85 percent of men will have experienced a substantial amount of thinning. Basically, almost all men are affected by hair loss sooner or later. Balding is completely normal. And yet, most of us would rather not be bald. Who, or what, can we blame fore our hair loss?

It’s not Your Food, Your Shampoo, or your Hairstyle

Much like we tend to blame an acute bout of the stomach flu on the latest thing we ate, we think we must have done something to cause our hair loss. Some people think wearing hats too often might trigger hair loss. Others blame it on their shampoo, their nutrition, or even their elevated sex drive.

Rest assured that none of the above hair loss myths are legitimate reasons for your thinning hair. Yes, you can lose hair as a result of serious disease, or as a side effect of certain medications. You might even lose your hair during times of extreme stress in your life. But all of these are examples of temporary hair loss. Once the condition causing it disappears, your hair typically grows back.

The vast majority of permanent hair loss is caused by a condition called Androgenic Alopecia. More commonly, it is known as Male Pattern Baldness or MPB. While women also suffer from hair loss (up to 40% of hair loss sufferers are actually women), MPB causes more than 95% of the hair loss found in men.

You Can Blame Your Mom and Dad

Male Pattern Baldness is a genetic condition. If you want to blame someone for your hair loss, blame your parents and ancestors. People often say they’ve inherited their baldness from their maternal grandfather. There is some truth to that. In a German study at the University of Bonn in 2005, researchers found a DNA difference on the X-chromosome that was associated with going bald. They were further able to narrow down the specific region on the X-chromosome to the androgen receptor gene. Balding men tend to have a different version of this gene than men who keep their hair. Since the X-chromosome is handed down to men through their mother, this study shows that at least some balding in men is inherited through the maternal line.

However, two more recent studies (one in Switzerland and one in Germany), have found another gene that’s responsible for balding. There is a region on chromosome 20 called 20p11 that was found to be associated with balding. Once again, people who go bald tend to have a different version of 20p11 than people who keep their hair. Having the “balding” version of the 20p11 gene can make men more likely to go bald by up to 7 times compared to men with the regular version.

Since this chromosome can be handed down by either parent, you are just as likely to inherit baldness from your father’s side as your mother’s.

Why do Certain Genes Make Us Go Bald?

Without getting too technical, what you are actually inheriting if you suffer from MPB are hair follicles that are sensitive to a hormone called
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It is a derivative of testosterone – hence the popular belief that baldness may be connected to an increased sex drive. Somehow having too much DHT shrinks hair follicles so that they eventually stop producing. The hair in your temples and on your crown is most susceptible to DHT. This is why Male Pattern Baldness is characterized by a receding hairline and a thinning crown.

Finding the genes and hormones that are partially responsible for early-onset balding is a huge step. It’s like we’ve reduced the haystack in which to find the proverbial needle from, say, the size of the United States to the size of East Nashville. But a lot of research still needs to be done before we can effectively treat hair loss. We still don’t know what exactly causes balding, or how to prevent it. But there is hope that more research will get us another step closer to finding a possible cure.

The Best Cure for Hair Loss

In the meantime, the best “cure” for hair loss is a hair transplant. There are many non-surgical supposed hair loss treatments on the market, but they generally don’t work in the long run. Don’t fall prey to a costly “hair analysis” to find a treatment plan. It’s not rocket science to diagnose Male Pattern Baldness. If your hair is thinning at the temples and on the crown of your head, MPB is likely what you have.

Want to know what type of hair loss you have, and whether you’re a good candidate for a hair transplant? It’s super easy and takes less than 10 minutes of your time. Take a few selfies showing your hair and request a FREE online quote. The Hair Doctor team is known for its expertise with the NeoGraft hair restoration technology and offers the most competitive prices in the United States.


1. The American Society of Human Genetics, Genetic Variation in the Human Androgen Receptor Gene Is the Major Determinant of Common Early-Onset Androgenetic Alopecia

2. The Tech, Scientists Link a Piece of DNA on Chromosome 20 to Male Pattern Baldness

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