Androgenic alopecia – better known as pattern baldness – affects an estimated 30 million women and 50 million men in the U.S. alone. It occurs when hair follicles shrink, thus causing new hair to become finer over time until the follicles become dormant. While several factors can contribute to hair loss, genetics and hormones are typically the primary culprits. Many believe there is a link between elevated levels of testosterone and hair loss, but is it fact or fiction? Follow along as we explore this relationship.
Testosterone exists in different forms. “Free” testosterone isn’t bound to any proteins in the body, while most testosterone is bound to sex hormones binding globulin protein, or SHBG. Individuals with low levels of SHBG may have elevated levels of free testosterone in the blood stream.
DHT and Hair Loss
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), found in skin, prostate, and hair follicles, is made from testosterone by an enzyme named 5-alpha reductase. In women, it can also be made from DHEA. Hair follicles’ sensitivity to DHT is what causes male pattern baldness. It starts with the front hair line receding, particularly at the sides, and forming an M shape. Eventually, the crown, or the vertex, becomes bald as well and the two areas join forming a U shape.
Remember, it’s the sensitivity of hair follicles to DHT that causes hair loss, not the amount of DHT. And that sensitivity is determined by one’s genetics. If the hair follicle receptor that interacts with DHT and testosterone is sensitive, it is more likely to be triggered by even lesser amounts of DHT, resulting is a higher likelihood of hair loss. Additionally, men with close male relatives who have experienced male pattern baldness (MPB) are at higher risk of developing it themselves.
Virility and Hair Loss
While some believe that men who experience male pattern baldness have higher levels of testosterone and are more virile, this isn’t exactly true. Men with MPB can have higher levels of the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT but lower levels of testosterone itself. One may also have genes that produce follicles that are overly sensitive to DHT or testosterone, even in low amounts.
Still, man or woman, are you more concerned about the exact cause of your hair loss or the loss itself? Most of our patients choose the latter of the two options, which is why so many people come to DiStefano Hair Restoration for a free consultation to see if they are candidates for transplant surgery and, if so, which type might be best suited to them. So, if hair loss has you singing the blues, schedule your consultation today and we’ll have you whistling a new tune in no time.