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Is Hair Loss Hereditary?
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Updated on September 20, 2022

As we age, it’s common for our hair to start changing. But whether it starts to thin out slightly around the hairline, or more obvious bald patches start to appear, it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

If you’ve already started to notice the early signs of hair loss, you’re not alone.. In the UK, 40% of women aged over 70 experience baldness, as well as two-thirds of men [1-2]. Hair loss can happen for a multitude of reasons — but one of the reasons most commonly cited is genetics. So how much of our hair loss is hereditary?

In this article, we’ll explore whether hair loss is hereditary, and what you can do to treat hereditary hair loss.

What is hereditary hair loss?

Hereditary hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in men. Around 30–50% of men will be affected by the age of fifty [3].

Your genes play a large role in the chances of you keeping a full head of hair into old age. They affect how sensitive your hair follicles are to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone responsible for shrinking follicles and causing hair loss in people with male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss.

Hereditary hair loss may also be linked with ethnicity. For example, alopecia is more common in Caucasian men compared to people of other races and ethnicities [4].

What are the symptoms of hereditary hair loss?

The earliest signs of male pattern baldness will normally be hair thinning or a receding hairline, which follows a very predictable seven-stage pattern known as the Norwood scale:

  • Stages 1 and 2: Hair loss starts slowly at the hairline, which starts slowly and gradually creates an M-shaped hairline.
  • Stage 3: Early recession continues until there’s little hair remaining around the temples, this is the stage when you’ll find it harder to cover up any hair loss.
  • Stage 4: You may start to develop noticeable bald spots on your crown.
  • Stage 5: At this stage, your hairline may start to look like a horseshoe. This normally marks the point where you will find it difficult to treat the hair loss with medication.
  • Stage 6: Most of your hair may have receded significantly. The remaining hair will be very thin, providing minimal coverage.
  • Stage 7: By the final stage, you will be fully bald across the top of the scalp. If by this point you haven’t taken any preventative action you may struggle to recover your hair.

What causes hereditary hair loss?

If you’re genetically predisposed to hair loss, this is due to an innate sensitivity to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a male sex hormone that controls a number of bodily functions, including hair growth. It binds to the hair follicles, causing them to shrink. As a result, your follicles eventually stop producing hair.

The hairs that do grow are normally much thinner and more fragile. So when you’re going bald, you’ll normally notice your hair thinning before you notice actual hair loss.

But it’s not a single gene that makes you susceptible to pattern hair loss. One study of more than 52,000 participants identified more than 200 genetic factors that can impact hair growth [5].

Does genetic hair loss come from your mother’s family?

One common myth that is typically associated with hereditary hair loss is the idea that hair loss is passed down through your mother’s side of the family. So, if your mother’s father is bald, the chances of you going bald too are highly likely.

Although there is some truth to this myth, as 79% of hair loss is hereditary, it doesn’t mean that you’re certain to go bald just because some people in your family are [6].

Many of the genetic variants that impact hair growth are found on your X chromosome [7]. Because men get their X chromosomes from their mother, it’s reasonable to assume that your mother’s genetics can increase your chances of going bald.

However, some studies have also found balding genes in the Y chromosome [8]. So it’s not necessarily just dependent on your mother’s family — your father’s genes can play a part, too.

Is baldness only caused by genetics?

Although genetics are one of the main reasons why some people experience hair loss, it’s not the only cause.

Some non-hereditary causes of hair loss include:

How can I prevent hereditary hair loss?

Unfortunately for those who want to prevent hair loss early on, there isn’t a way that you can completely stop hereditary hair loss – if you’ve got balding genes, chances are you’re going to experience hair loss at some point in your life.

However, there are certain things you can do to prevent it from getting worse. For example, there are some medications that work by blocking DHT, like Finasteride and Dutasteride.

You can also use topical treatments, like Minoxidil, which you apply to your scalp daily and is supposed to help stop hair loss in its tracks or stop it from getting any worse.

Those experiencing menopause-related hair loss may benefit from hormone replacement therapy. HRT can reduce hair loss by replacing lost oestrogen.

For some people though, especially those who have extreme hair loss, these treatments will not cut it. In this scenario, the next best option for you is to look into getting a hair transplant.

Hair transplants can fix hair loss, regardless of the underlying cause, and is a reliable and efficient way to restore a full head of hair.

If you want to find out if a hair transplant could be the right solution for you, book a no-obligation consultation with our experts at the Wimpole Clinic today.

Is Hair Loss Hereditary?, Wimpole Clinic

Sources:

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hair-loss/coping-tips-for-women/
  2. https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/hair-loss-faqs
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1346-8138.1997.tb02321.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308812/
  6. https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/60/8/1077/545174
  7. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-03-genetic-links-baldness.html
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/oct/13/medicalresearch-genetics
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)Updated on September 20, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani (MBBS, MISHRS, FRCS)
Updated on September 20, 2022

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