Let’s consider the most common form of male hair loss – Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) or as it’s sometimes called, “Androgenic Alopecia”.
Very roughly, about 95% of global male receding hairlines, thinning hair and eventually substantial or total baldness arise from MPB.
It’s called a “pattern” because as the hair thins and recedes, it quite often does so in a very predictable fashion and area-by-area on the head. Again, fairly often at one stage, the remaining hair appears to be roughly in the shape of an “M”. There are however, a variety of sub-types of MPB that may follow a slightly different path.
Although some mythology suggests otherwise, in reality, some women may experience MPB too.
That’s considerably more unusual than in men, the pattern may be different and the effects are typically less severe but it can still happen due to the same causes, which will be discussed below.
What causes MPB?
The common folk-tale that MPB is ‘somehow’ linked to sex isn’t entirely false even if it’s fundamentally misunderstood! There is, in fact, a link to the commonly called “sexual hormones”, though not necessarily their quantity or efficacy.
Both men and women produce the hormone testosterone. In men, it’s mainly in the testes and prostate and in women, the ovaries. In most cases, men have considerably higher levels of testosterone than females, which accounts in part for certain characteristics usually associated with ‘maleness’.
Certain enzymes in the body transform testosterone in both sexes into another hormone called “dihydrotestosterone”, which is commonly referred to as “DHT”.
Paradoxically, DHT is responsible for hair growth everywhere on the body – apart from the head! It explains why, in most cases, men will incline towards more facial and body hair than women.
On the head however, things are different. DHT clings to hair follicles and it can trigger receptors that tell the follicle to start shrinking. As it does so, hairs become increasingly fine and production may stop altogether.
Thus, there is a clear and established link between testosterone, DHT and some forms of hair loss and hair thinning.
If you’d like to know more about the specifics of these mechanisms, you should consult a specialist at a treatment centre.
Why doesn’t it affect everyone?
Every single person is different, so the above mechanics may have very different effects from one person to another.
There are other facts that might interact with DHT in terms of the total impact on your hair loss:
- your genetics. It appears as if the genes play a significant role in deciding how receptive to DHT your follicles may or may not be;
- your lifestyle choices. Although the evidence isn’t conclusive, there are some indications that obesity and other unhealthy lifestyle choices MAY increase the rate at which MPB can have an effect;
- whether or not you’ve undergone diagnosis and one of the various forms of hair treatment for hair loss. It may in many cases be possible to slow down the rate of MPB if early enough treatment is undertaken;
- your haircare regimes – although not directly a cause of MPB, some poor hair care practices may exacerbate the genetic effects by further weakening hair and damaging the follicles.
Sexual activity and other myths
To be clear and sweep away some very ancient myths:
- there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the frequency of sexual intercourse or masturbation has any effect whatsoever (positive or negative) on MPB in men or women;
- the biggest influencer on the severity of MPB is your genetics and NOT the levels of testosterone you have in your body.