Getting to the bottom of male pattern baldness

If you’re sitting in a public place, you won’t have to look around for long before spotting one balding male. Going bald is quite a natural phenomenon for men and is called male pattern baldness. If you want to be fancy about it, you could use the medical term for it – androgenic alopecia.

The basics of hair

Each of us has about one lakh hair follicles. Hair follicles are tiny pouches under our scalp. Usually 1 hair grows from each follicle for about 3 years, after which it falls out and a new hair grows from it.

A loss of 50-100 hair strands per day is normal, and does not cause significant hair loss because new hair will soon replace it. As long as this cycle functions perfectly you are guaranteed a head full of hair.

But more often than not, especially in men, it doesn’t. As you grow older, your hair follicle sometimes grows smaller.

The hair that grows out of this shrunken follicle is thin and weak, and as a result falls out much before the three years.

As this happens we begin losing more hair than is replaced and balding begins.

What makes follicles shrink?

One of the most recognized factors causing balding is a hormone called testosterone. Testosterone is sometimes converted into another hormone called DHT (DiHydroTestosterone) in the hair follicles. The follicles are very sensitive to DHT.

Too much of DHT prevents the absorption of vital nutrients required for hair to grow. This causes hair follicles to shrink. DHT is said to cause about 95 per cent of all the male pattern baldness cases

Why does it happen more in men?

Testosterone is a sex hormone found more in men than in women. This is why DHT-caused balding is more common in males than in females.

The amount of DHT produced is determined by your genes. Luckily, male pattern balding is usually a harmless condition. So if you’re otherwise healthy and confident then there’s no reason to worry.

nandita.j@thehindu.co.in