The Genetics of Hair Loss

While there are many factors that contribute to hair loss, genetics is one of the most common and frustrating. Although millions of people experience genetic hair loss each year, it’s still a topic that is uncomfortable and stigmatized. Let’s dive into the genetic causes of hair loss and options available to treat it.

What Causes Hair Loss?

The primary baldness gene sits on the X chromosome, which is passed to men through their mothers. However, there are a number of other factors at play, too. Although hereditary hair loss is slightly more dominant on the mother’s side, scientists have also found that men with bald fathers are more likely to experience thinning hair.

Genetic hair loss boggles scientists to this day. Amazingly, researchers have found that more than 280 genes influence hair thinning. Hopefully in the near future we’ll have established means to identify genetic signals to predict who is vulnerable to hair loss. This way, you’ll be able to take preventative measures early on to preserve and nourish your hair.

What Exactly Do Scientists Know, Then?

Hair loss science is complex and ever-changing, but scientists have made breakthroughs in recent years.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • In 2005, German Scientists released a memorable study noting that hair thinning can be traced to having more androgen receptors in the scalp. The gene for androgen lies in the X chromosome, which comes from our mothers.
  • In 2008, one of the same scientists from 2005 conducted a collaborative follow up study and found that genetic variants on “chromosome 20” increase the risk of male hair thinning. This supported the theory that DNA from both our mother and father can affect baldness.
  • In 2013, scientists studied over 3000 Korean individuals and found that environmental factors, such as smoking and drinking, can also contribute to hair thinning. However, genetic factors seem to be far more influential than environmental ones.
  • Males who are prone to hair thinning are likely to have smaller hair follicles on their scalp, and each follicle produces less hair than average. Over time, the follicles thin and eventually die.
  • Hair thinning has also been found to be caused by the sex steroid hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which exists in both men and women. While women have far less DHT in their systems, the conversion of testosterone to DHT, which leads to damaged hair follicles, affects both genders.
  • Telogen Effluvium is another form of less permanent hair loss that occurs in both men and women. It’s triggered by a shift in hormones, the environment, or as a side effect from medication.

Do Men and Women Have The Same Hair Loss Genetics and Patterns?

Although the genetic factors for hair loss are similar for both men and women, the way in which they lose hair is different.

Female hair loss begins at the scalp and the hair tends to thin slowly over time. In males, hair loss occurs far more rapidly, begins at the temples, and fades over the crown, leaving a horseshoe shape on the head. It’s quite uncommon for women to lose hair in a similar pattern to men, unless they have an excessive production of the androgen hormone in their bodies.

While there’s still much to be discovered, scientists have made immense progress over the past few decades in unlocking the causes of male and female hair loss. If you’re struggling with thinning strands, let us know! The science may be evolving, but our Activating Serum is a proven step in the right direction.

Kathy Watson

Over her 10-year career as a journalist, Kathy has worked as a columnist and reporter for both print magazines and digital publications. She started as a beat reporter for her college newspaper covering biosciences and general science. Kathy holds a B.A. in political science. Reviewed by Collective Laboratories' Medical Advisory Board

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