Is Hair Loss Hereditary?


We’re hesitant about wading into the field of ‘boys and their mums’ psychology, because no one really wants to discuss stuff like the Oedipus complex.  

Even so, popular culture, gender roles and Tony Soprano have made blaming our mothers for all of our shortcomings something of a global past time. So it makes sense that some balding bros blame mum for their diminishing hairline. Let’s break down why our poor mothers face such bald-faced (sorry) accusations and why you should consider treatments like Finasteride and Minoxidil if you’re not quite ready to embrace the bald:

Why Baldness Occurs

Baldness is caused by the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is an androgen, the collective term for male hormones, that shortens the growing phase of your hair follicles. The more sensitive you are to DHT, the slower your hair will grow. Left untreated, new hair will be unable to replace the old, causing a gradual fade to scalp. What Finasteride does is reduces the amount of DHT in your blood, by targeting the enzyme that produces it. It tackles the agents of baldness right at their source. Another enemy of a receding hair line, Minoxidil is an effective, clinically proven treatment for male pattern baldness and works by expanding the blood vessels in your scalp, improving blood flow to the hair follicles so they produce stronger, healthier hair.

The androgen receptor gene determines your sensitivity to DHT. The more sensitive you are to DHT, the more susceptible you are to hair loss. This is where mum comes in.

The X Chromosome

The androgen receptor is on the X chromosome, and a male inherits the X chromosome from his mother. As such, conventional wisdom has suggested that Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) is passed down via the mother’s side of the family. If a concerned pre-MPB youngster wants to discover whether or not he’ll lose his hair, he need only look at old photos of his maternal grandfather. Or so some corners of the internet and/or the man in the pub claim.

The Truth

In reality, the genes that determine MPB can be inherited from either side of the family. In a 2017 interview with HuffPost, Dr. Christopher Cunniff, clinical geneticist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, explained this familial split: “There’s no good support for the idea that hair distribution or baldness is something that is more inherent in the maternal side than the father’s side.”

“It really has to do with how those multiple genes combine, because obviously, every one of us is a combination of each of our parents.”

Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, a clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University, reiterated this view: “Genetic hair loss is polygenetic and the expressivity is very variable, so both sides can contribute to someone’s hair loss.”

To answer the original question: no, your mother is not to blame for your baldness. It is, in fact, far more likely the fault of your entire genetic lineage. Luckily, you can beat hair loss!

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