Genetics plays a large role in determining how much hair loss you’ll see as you age. However, other factors — such as stress levels, nutrition, and medications — also cause balding.

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Although baldness is often thought of as a male issue, hair loss can affect anyone — regardless of their gender.

Genetic hair loss can’t be reversed, but there are steps you can take to slow it down and maximize your hair growth potential.

In this article, we’re going to examine the genetics behind balding, dispel a common balding myth, and look at how you can slow hereditary hair loss.

When hair loss is caused by your genetics, it occurs in a predictable pattern often referred to as male pattern baldness (MPB) or female pattern baldness (FPB).

For men, MPB starts as an m-shaped recession at the front of your scalp and often starts in your 20s or 30s. About 80 percent of men experience MPB by age 80.

Women often experience hair loss after menopause in the Ludwig pattern, which is a gradual recession along the part of your hair. Roughly half of women will experience female pattern hair by the time they’re 80.

Androgenetic alopecia, the medical name for MPB and FPB, is the most common cause of hair loss.

Studies looking at twins estimate that genetics account for about 80 percent of male pattern baldness.

Male pattern baldness

You may have heard the myth that men inherit the gene for baldness solely from their mother’s father. Even though this isn’t always the case, there is some truth to it.

In reality, the genetic component of male pattern baldness still isn’t well understood, but it’s thought to be polygenic, meaning it involves more than one gene.

People have 23 pairs of chromosomes that contain their genetic information. Everything from your eye color to the length of your baby toe is coded for by these chromosomes.

One of these pairs of chromosomes, called the “X” and “Y” chromosomes, determine your biological sex. Women have two “X” chromosomes while men have one “X” and one “Y” chromosome.

Men inherit their “X” chromosome from their mother and “Y” from their father.

Baldness is strongly associate with the AR genefound on the “X” chromosome. A large study looking at 12,806 men of European ancestry found that people with the gene had more than twice the risk of developing MPB than people without it.

However, this isn’t the only gene that determines whether you’ll go bald. A 2017 review found 63 genes that may play a role in male pattern baldness, with only six of them found on the “X” chromosome.

Research has also found that more than 80 percent of people experiencing noticeable balding had a father who also lost their hair.

Female pattern baldness

The genetic component of FPB is still widely unknown, but like with MPB, it’s thought to involve many different genes.

Genes that code for the production of an enzyme called aromatase convert testosterone to estradiol may play a role in FPB, and explain why many women lose their hair after menopause.

Along with genetics, a variety of other factors can contribute to hair loss in people of any gender. Women often notice hair loss following menopause due to hormonal changes whereas men often notice balding start in early adulthood.

  • Hormonal changes. Women commonly experience hair loss after menopause, childbirth, and pregnancy due to hormone changes. Both men and women may experience hair loss from changes in thyroid hormone levels.
  • Alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an immune condition that causes patchy hair loss.
  • Trichotillomania. Trichotillomania, also called hair-pulling disorder, is a mental disorder that causes the urge to pull out your own hair.
  • Other medical conditions. Medical conditions like ringworm infections, cicatricial alopecia, and traumatic alopecia can also lead to hair loss.
  • Certain hairstyles. Hairstyles that put stress on your hair like tight ponytails can lead to a form of hair loss called traction alopecia. This type of hair loss can be permanent or temporary.
  • Drugs and supplements. According to the Mayo Clinic, drugs used to treat the following medical conditions may lead to hair loss:
  • Birth control. Discontinuing the use of birth control pills may also lead to temporary hair loss.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is commonly used in cancer treatment and commonly causes hair loss. Often this hair loss is temporary.
  • Stress. Prolonged periods of physical or mental stress can lead to temporary hair thinning.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. Not getting adequate protein or other essential nutrients like zinc can negatively impact your hair growth.

Hair loss caused by genetic factors is permanent and there’s little you can do to stop it. However, there are several ways it can be slowed down.

  • Healthy lifestyle habits. Eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, minimizing stress, and exercising regularly can help support your overall health and hair health.
  • Topical medications. Topical medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) are often the first line of treatment. Usually, you apply these creams directly to your scalp in balding areas.
  • Oral medications. Your doctor may recommend oral medications like finasteride (Propecia) to treat MPB. Finasteride is also used to treat an enlarged prostate.
  • Hair transplantation surgery. Follicular unit transplantation and follicular unit extraction are two types of hair transplantation surgeries that move hair follicles from one part of your scalp to balding areas.
  • Laser therapy (red light therapy). Laser therapy may help improve hair density if you’re dealing with genetic hair loss or hair loss from chemotherapy. However, more research is needed to determine how effective this treatment option is.
  • Platelet-rich plasma injections. Platelet-rich plasma injections may help stimulate hair growth in areas experiencing hair loss. Like with laser therapy, more research is needed to understand its effectiveness.

Genetics strongly influence hair loss, no matter your gender. The genetic component of balding still isn’t well understood, but it’s thought that it involves many different genes.

Although genetic hair loss is permanent, medications, laser therapy, and platelet-rich plasma injections may help stimulate hair growth in balding areas. Some people also get hair transplants to cover areas of hair loss.