Like so much of your biology, whether you are at risk of androgenic alopecia (aka male pattern hair loss) is written in your genes. Studies of twins show that more than 80% of the variance in both early and late-onset male pattern hair loss can be attributed to genetic factors.
Over the last two decades, the enormous strides made in decoding the human genome have shed considerable light on the root causes of hair-loss in men. Recent research points towards two distinct pathways for inheriting hair-loss which will lead to novel tailored treatments in the future.
If you carry the genes, then it is a matter of when, not if, they will set the scene for hair-loss. When this happens, they make your scalp sensitive to a naturally occurring hormone in your body called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The complex genetics behind male hair-loss explain why it is so widespread but with safe, proven treatments available - what's written in your genes doesn't have to be your destiny.
Despite your risk of male pattern hair loss being driven by your genetics, the actual damage is done by a male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The amount of DHT interacting with your hair follicles in combination with how sensitive your genetics are makes the receptors determine how quickly your hair thins.
DHT is more prevalent in younger men, so the earlier your genetics flip the switch to make your hair sensitive to DHT the more aggressive your hair-loss will be.
Over time, the presence of DHT will cause the hair follicle to become increasingly smaller, and the hair that it grows will become progressively finer and lose its pigmentation. Eventually, the hair follicle stops producing even the final fine vellus hairs and is lost. The length of this cycle is driven by the amount of testosterone and DHT in your system. For a man in his late 20's or early 30's, once hair-loss commences, the follicles can be lost in a few years whereas a man in his 50's may take decades to reach the same degree of thinning.
Your genes may put you at risk of hair loss and DHT is an unavoidable part of being a man, but the good news is that there are a number of clinically proven ways of preventing DHT from damaging your hair follicles. By limiting the effect of DHT you can slow (and in some cases even roll back the early stages of) hair loss, enabling you to keep your hair fit and healthy for longer.
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