Good Question: Why do men go bald?

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Every man has stood in front of the mirror at some point and wondered about the destiny of his hairline. The prospect of going bald can be scary. Why does the Angel of Destroying Hair condemn some heads and spare others?

Before we launch into the science of shiny melons, let’s get a couple of things straight:

  • We’re talking about male pattern baldness only, not female hair loss or baldness from medical conditions and treatments or malnutrition (all worthy topics).
  • Some men are comfortable with being bald. Some may even look better that way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with hair loss. Still, a lot of us would appreciate a choice in the matter!

Typical male hair loss is caused by a combination of three factors.

1. Genetics

You may have heard this explanation given to boys who worry about the fate of their pate:

“If your mom’s dad was bald, you’ll go bald too.”

That’s not the whole story. A lot of hereditary factors are in play, and although your mom’s genes have an undeniable influence, research indicates you are more likely to go bald if you have a bald father.

And you may simply go bald because of race. For instance, “Almost every white man develops some degree of baldness,” Medical News Today says.

“White men are more likely to develop baldness than are men of Asian, American Indian, and African heritage. Also, the extent of hair loss often is more extensive in white men than in men of the previously mentioned other ethnicities,” according to one study.

2. Age

But hair loss has its own calendar. Some guys get it straight out of high school or even before, and others don’t notice it until retirement.

“By the age of 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss, and by the age of 50 approximately 85 percent of men have significantly thinning hair,” the American Hair Loss Association says.

3. Hormones

If you look carefully at a bald man’s head (discretely, of course), you may see the hair isn’t actually gone — it’s just finer and shorter.

“What male pattern baldness sufferers are actually inheriting are hair follicles with a genetic sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT begin to miniaturize, shortening the lifespan of each hair follicle affected,” the AHTA says.

This involvement of male hormones has little to do with a man’s sex drive or “manliness.” That said, here’s a fun fact. Because of the hormones involved in male pattern baldness, Medical News Today reports, “Castrated men, who do not produce male hormones, do not become bald.”

Personal note

I still have most of my hair, although I’ve lost a good chunk above my temples and a little on the top. However, I have gone bald before.

Me in 2013 needing a haircut badly.

Me in 2014 after losing my hair. (And yes, I love that shirt.)

I underwent chemotherapy in 2014 (I’m better now). Although I wasn’t undergoing male pattern baldness, I experienced many of the psychological effects common to other men who have hair loss. I was worried about what others would think of my appearance. And I thought I had lost a part of who I was.

But then things stayed the same.

My wife hadn’t married me for my hairline. My kids didn’t run away from me in disgust. My friends were still my friends. And after the initial shock (the hair on my head fell out in a week’s time), I found I was still me. I often forgot about my bare head. It was a good reminder I was much more than my appearance.

Do you have a Good Question about anything? Send it to Robert! Email him at questions@eastidahonews.com, or visit him on Twitter @notthegeneral or Facebook.

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