Why Male Pattern Baldness Occurs

Going bald is a fact of life for millions of men. Adults lose about 10,000 scalp hairs each and every day. Hair normally lives for around five years. With male pattern baldness, these hairs do not always get replaced and gradually bald areas appear. This process can, however, take a long time and the age at which you start to lose hair does not necessarily provide any clues as to how long it will be until you define yourself as bald.

Mature man reading a newspaper in a cafe

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Normal Hair Loss

There are a number of reasons why men start to go bald, but if you are a man between the ages of about 20 to 45 and you start to lose scalp hair, then the chances are 95 percent certain that you are experiencing male pattern baldness. As the term suggests, male pattern baldness follows a typical sequence or pattern. Hair loss can start in different areas but is usually at the temples and/or on the crown of the head. Initial thinning of hair progress over a number of years and may lead to total baldness but more typically loss of hair over the top surface of the head.

The Cause of Male Pattern Baldness

Most men are genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness. It is the effect of hormones on the hair follicle that produces male pattern baldness. Testosterone, a hormone that is present in high levels in males after puberty, is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. DHT has an adverse effect on hair follicles. Acting on a hormone receptor on the hair follicle it slows down hair production and produces weak, shorter hair, sometimes it stops hair growth from the follicle completely. This process gradually depletes your stock of hair and is normal hair loss.

Hair Transplantation

Male pattern baldness can be treated with hair transplant surgery. During the past 10 to 15 years, hair transplantation has advanced in two major ways. First, more people are now candidates for the procedure. Second, the results look more natural.

Results of hair transplantation are also surgeon dependent. In other words, surgeons with more experience, skill, and patience are better at hair transplantation.

Anybody who is considering hair transplantation should keep in mind that there are limits to what this procedure can accomplish. Hair transplantation can't make your hair look like it once did. Nevertheless, this surgery can improve your appearance, and many people are satisfied with the results.

Before you receive hair transplantation, your healthcare provider may recommend that you try Minoxidil (finasteride) if you haven't already done so. This medication has been shown to reduce hair loss and improve hair growth in some people.

Hair Loss, Illness, or Disease

Go to your healthcare provider if you lose hair suddenly if your hair loss is in clumps or significant enough that you notice large amounts on your pillow, covering the back of your clothes or when you wash your hair. This type of hair loss does not represent typical male baldness, but it does require a diagnosis. Don't worry. Hair loss can occur for a number of reasons and can often be treated successfully.

By Jerry Kennard
 Jerry Kennard, PhD, is a psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society.