Why do men go bald?

25 Mar

By the age of 80, 80% of all men have some hair loss; this balding is called Androgenetic Alopecia (Ellis, Stebbing & Harrap, 2000). Balding is due to the hair follicles on the head shrinking, to eventual become so tiny that they appear to not be there. Balding has been associated with genetic factors for many years, and it often runs in families (Birch & Messenger, 2001). But there could be other factors. Nyholt et al (2003) did genes on identical twins and concluded that 81% of hair loss was due to genetics.

To support the genetic reason of balding, research has shown link between male baldness and the androgen receptor gene (Levy-Nissenbaum et al, 2005). The androgen receptor is a gene that is activated by the binding of testosterone.  It has been suggested that the polymorphism of this gene can cause baldness (Levy-Nissenbaum et al, 2005).

Research in 2008 suggested that baldness could be to do with the weight of the scalp (Tuncay Ustuner, 2008).  Tuncay Ustuner (2008) proposed that as a man got older, the soft tissues around the hair follicles stops working as well as it once did. Therefore the hair follicles become trapped between the scalp and the skull, damaging them and causing baldness.

Stress can also cause some people to go bald. Alopecia Areata is when white blood cells attack the hair follicles, causing boldness in weeks (Scott, 2011). This is not permanent hair loss and treatment can usually get the hair to grow again (Scott, 2011). Telogen Effluvium is also due to stress. This is when the hair just simply stops growing. This is not serious and grows back within a year (Scott, 2011).

In the past testosterone has been said to be linked to balding. The graph below shows how the amount of testosterone decreases with age; as does hair. This suggests that there could be a link but more recent research claims that there is not.

[image retrieved from: http://www.benbest.com/lifeext/aging.html]

Although there may be other causes of hair loss apart from hereditary, these appear to be either for non- permanent hair loss or are unreliably researched ideas. Unfortunately for some, it appears that some men are destined to baldness.


Birch, M. P., & Messenger, A. G. (2001). Genetic factors predispose to balding and non-balding in men. European Journal of Dermatology. 11(4), 309-14. Retrieved from http://www.jle.com/en/revues/medecine/ejd/e-docs/00/01/88/AE/article.md

Ellis, J. A., Stebbing, M., & Harrap, S. B. (2000). Polymorphism of the Androgen Receptor Gene is Associated with Male Pattern Baldness. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 116, 452–455. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1747.2001.01261.x

Nyholt, D. R., Gillespie, N. A., Heath, A.C., & Martin, N.G. (2003). Genetic basis of male pattern baldness. J Invest Dermatol, 121, 1561-4.

Scott, E. (2011). Stress and Hair Loss: What Are The Causes of Hair Loss? Medical Review Board.

Tuncay Ustuner, E. (2008). Baldness may be caused by the weight of the scalp: Gravity as a proposed mechanism for hair loss. Medical Hypotheses, 71(4), 505- 514. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2008.05.030


4 Responses to “Why do men go bald?”

  1. riggerb March 29, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Research in to this area of science is one that always has plenty of interest. Recent research has found a protein that travels beneath the skin and identifies a molecule called Laminins-511 that tells the hair follicles to grow. Researchers always are willing to put time and money into this area as it is an area that generates alot of interest. Researchers are looking into this area of combating baldness as it can be used in all causes of baldness from, burns, chemotherapy, to aging baldness and genetic baldness. It is an easy and effective way of treating it without huge costs and it is not very time consuming. However this area of treatment is still waiting approval from the FDA but it is hopeful that it will be approved and that treatment can start soon in the future.
    Here is the link to the research:

  2. psuf1d April 13, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    According to results from a study by Wells,P.A.,Willmoth,T. Robin J. H. Russell,R.J.H (1995) there is a relationship between baldness and feelings of depression, neurotiscim and having low self esteem. Yet the question remains whether these factors cause hair loss or whether hair loss causes these factors.
    York et al. (1998) found that women who experience high levels of stress are 11 times more likely to suffer from hair loss. Yet the same question is still at large..what causes what? However, the example of Telogen Effluvium you presented does suggest that it is more likely that stress can cause hair loss rather than the opposite way around. A possible way to explore this could be a longitudinal study to examine levels of stress and hair loss over a long period of time.
    Wells, P. A., Willmoth, T. and Russell, R. J. H. (1995), Does fortune favour the bald? Psychological correlates of hair loss in males. British Journal of Psychology, 86: 337–344. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1995.tb02756.x

    York, J., Nicholson, T., Minors, P. & Duncan, D. F. (1998). Stressful life events and loss of hair among adult women: a case-control study. Psychological Reports, 82, 1044-1046.

  3. Gideon Martin April 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Their appears to be a definitive link between hair loss and an adverse affect on male self esteem. Research has found (Williamson, Gonzalez, Finlay, 2001) has found that men that go bald suffer from lower self esteem, lack of confidence and self – consciousness. Further research found that these negative feelings were even more severe in cases of baldness occurring in younger men (Wells, Willmoth, Russel 2011). Men who go bald at an early age suffer from increased introversion, self consciousness and feelings of attractiveness. All the evidence points towards hair being an important part of the male self image and important for self esteem and self worth.

  4. liamjones33 April 18, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    It never ceases to amaze me how people look beyond nutrition in instances of the body, I can’t say much so therefore I won’t get too many marks for this comment, but the simple answer is a zinc deficiency. Doing your own research into the nutritional basis of balding would reveal this succinctly.

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