As we age, it’s common for our hair to start changing. When, however, 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 . 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 or baldness is hereditary, and what you can do to treat genetic hair loss.
Hereditary hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in men. Androgenetic alopecia is also known as male pattern hair loss for those assigned male at birth or female pattern baldness for those who were assigned female at birth. Around 30–50% of men will be affected by the age of fifty  by male pattern baldness.
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 .
In men, 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:
For women, the earliest signs of female pattern hair loss will normally be overall thinning hair. This type of hair loss follows a predictable three-stage pattern known as the Ludwig Scale and is characterised as follows:
Type I. At this stage, individuals will start to experience hair thinning on top of the head, particularly around the hair parting.
Type II. The scalp starts to become visible through the hair at this stage as hair falls out. In addition, the parting is noticeably wider than in women who don’t have significant hair loss.
Type III. The scalp will be clearly visible at this stage due to extensive diffuse hair loss. Some individuals may be fully bald in the areas that are affected by female pattern hair loss. Hair growth may be healthy at the sides and back of the head, however.
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.
It should be noted that 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 .
One common myth that is typically associated with genetic 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 .
Many of the genetic variants that impact hair growth are found on your X chromosome . Because men get their X chromosomes from their mothers, 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 . So it’s not necessarily just dependent on your mother’s family as your father’s genes can play a part, too.
Although genetics is 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:
Unfortunately for those who want to prevent hair loss early on, there isn’t a way that you can completely stop hereditary hair loss. Meaning that 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). HRT can reduce hair loss by replacing lost oestrogen in the body.
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.
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