Testosterone And Hair LossOne of the most common low testosterone myths is that too much testosterone can cause balding. Men with male pattern baldness, which is scientifically known as androgenic alopecia, often have unusual hormone levels compared to people who do not suffer from this type of hair loss. Overall testosterone levels of testosterone are usually lower in these men, although they typically have about the same amount of a type of unbound testosterone known as dihydrotestosterone, often abbreviated to DHT. This is one of the low lack of testosterone and hair loss myths that keeps on circulating, but studies show that it is probably not true. Follicle sensitivity is determined by your genes.
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Testosterone increases sex drive at the cost of a thinning head, so the story goes. The truth is a little more complex. They also have something else in common: The popular theory is that they have higher levels of the male hormone testosterone, which makes them more masculine and increases their sex drive, but they lose their hair at a younger age than average as a result.
The truth, though, is a little more complex. It is true that balding is dependent on testosterone. Back in a Yale doctor called James B.
Hamilton studied twenty-one boys who were undergoing castration. Shockingly this was sometimes done to boys diagnosed with behavioural or mental problems. He followed them up, some of them for as long as 18 years, and found that they showed no signs of developing male pattern baldness as they aged.
On the other hand, men of the same age who were still intact, and therefore producing testosterone, already had receding hairlines. Castrated men, who have almost no testosterone, may retain their hair, but men with low testosterone levels can still go bald. Several genes are thought to be involved, all resulting in hair follicles becoming particularly sensitive to tiny amounts of circulating testosterone. As the follicle shrinks, the growing cycle gets shorter and new hairs become finer and finer until only the finest so-called vellous hairs remain on the scalp.
Eventually the follicle becomes dormant and no more hair is produced. This starts on the top of the scalp and then moves down over the head in the characteristic shape of male pattern baldness. Bald men are genetically more predisposed to be more sensitive to dihydrotestosterone, but the follicles on the chin are unaffected by the hormone, which is why beards continue to grow.
As theories about the influence of testosterone have developed, so have various avenues of treatment. In the s there were curious attempts to treat baldness by adding more testosterone directly to the scalp. Still most men dropped out of the study before the ten months were up. A treatment called finasteride works on this principle, but it is expensive and needs to be used continuously or hair loss begins again. Meanwhile, scientists are still trying to understand the mechanism by which the hair stops growing.
This study raises hopes that one day hair could be grown on bald parts of the heads, if scientists can find a way of triggering growth or blocking whatever is preventing it, and researchers are currently investigating particular proteins that might provide that trigger. Baldness seems to involve more myths than many other conditions, possibly because its distribution feels so arbitrary that we look for explanations.
They passed on the genes after all. If you would like to comment on this article or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter. Disclaimer All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site.
The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health. What is BBC Future? Best of BBC Future. Medical Myths Human body Sex Are bald men more virile? By Claudia Hammond 11 December