Understanding Hereditary Hair Loss

Hair loss, whether occurring in men or women, is normally hereditary. The full name for hereditary hair loss or male/female pattern baldness is Androgenetic Alopecia. If someone’s parents or grandparents suffered from hair loss, the chances are that they will too.

This isn't the only reason we lose our hair, but it is the most common – accounting for 95% of all hair loss. Causes for the other 5% include stress, bad diet or medical disorders.

What causes hereditary hair loss?

The trigger that causes this type of baldness is thought to be related to an increased sensitivity to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

As people get older, DHT is thought to act on the hair follicles that make the hair, causing them to shrink. The result is that the hairs become short and thin so they are barely visible to the naked eye. Eventually, the hair follicles shut down completely and no more hair is produced. Bald areas appear as old hair falls out and is no longer replaced by new hairs.

How to recognise the symptoms

Hereditary hair loss is easy to identify because it has a classic set of symptoms. First, the hairline starts to recede at the brow and temples. Then the hair becomes thinner and lighter on the crown, while the sides and back stay pretty much the same.

Of course, you can also look at other members of your family to see if your hair is following a similar pattern to theirs. But remember that age and testosterone are also believed to be factors in the onset of hereditary hair loss too.

Living With Hair Loss

About hair loss

Losing hair affects people in different ways. Some people simply accept the fact as a natural process of getting older, while for others it can have a dramatic effect on their self-esteem particularly if they are young and female.

Hair Loss in Men

If you are a man experiencing male pattern baldness, the easiest and best thing to do may be just to accept it. Short hair and bald heads are common place and can be made to look very fashionable. Allowing hair to grow on other parts of the scalp in an attempt to conceal bald patches can often make things look worse than they are. A good barber or hairdresser will be able to change your hairstyle to one that is right for you. If you are considering the use of drugs to restore hair growth, think about what is involved before starting treatment. Improvement is not guaranteed to work, hair loss is never fully restored and if there is any improvement, treatment has to be continued to sustain the effect. These drugs are not available on the NHS to treat baldness, which means that you will have to pay for them yourself for a long time.

Whether a woman or a man experiencing hair loss, a good hair style can make the hair look much better. Colouring the hair to make it a closer colour to the scalp can make hair loss less noticeable. Other options include wearing hairpieces or having hair woven to the existing hair. There are also a number of surgical procedures available, such as hair transplants. Anyone considering any type of surgery should always discuss their thoughts with their doctor who will be able to provide advice about the techniques available. If your hair loss is sudden and dramatic, for example because of recent treatment for cancer, advice will be given to you during your treatment about the availability of wigs and hair pieces.

Useful Tips

  • Don’t blow-dry your hair using a high heat setting
  • Avoid using harsh chemical dyes
  • Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner
  • A very short haircut can detract from a receding hairline