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What Causes Androgenic Alopecia?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss, but what causes it?

Androgenic alopecia, or male and female pattern baldness, is a type of hair loss that can occur in people of all sexes. According to a 2020 article in Experimental Dermatology, a complex interaction between hormones and genes triggers this type of baldness. Understanding what causes male androgenic alopecia is key for treating the early signs of male pattern baldness, so you can stop or slow balding. 

Causes of Male Pattern Baldness

Androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss, Robert Leonard, DO, a doctor who treats hair loss at Hair Health Institute, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

Men with this form of hair loss typically begin going bald in their twenties, while women usually notice hair loss in their forties or fifties. The primary culprit is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which comes from testosterone. DHT attacks your hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out and stop growing. Men typically have more testosterone than women, which may explain why baldness is more common among men. 

Leonard says it’s a myth that you get hair loss from your mother’s side of the family, or from a specific grandparent. 

“The genetics of androgenic alopecia are often misunderstood by the public and by the medical profession,” Leonard says. “Conventional belief is that male pattern baldness is a sex-linked dominant trait, which means you get it from your mother’s father. In fact, the inheritance pattern is polygenic. That means bits of genetic information from both sides of your family play a role in this condition.” 

You can’t predict whether you will lose your hair based solely on who in your family has hair loss. But, Leonard says, it is often possible to predict your risk of hair loss by looking at the history of hair loss on both sides of your family. 

Don’t Wait. Get Help Today. 

“Most people don’t notice their hair is thinning until after 50% of the hair has already been lost,” Leonard says. This can interfere with proper treatment, since it’s easier to stop hair loss than it is to reverse it. Leonard urges people who suspect they may be losing their hair to seek expert help early on from a doctor who treats hair loss. 

Hair loss is a progressive condition that gets worse with time. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are here to help you find the help you need and begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.