Why Do Men Go Bald? Explanations for Balding People
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Rachel Sacks
Have you run your hands through your hair and noticed a few too many strands falling out? Or maybe you’ve seen bald spots slowly grow bigger over the years.
You’re certainly not alone. Androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia — the medical term for male pattern baldness — is very common. This can also happen to women and is referred to as female pattern baldness in that case.
But why do men go bald? When do men go bald? And can you stop or reverse balding? We’ll answer all these questions and more to shed some light (pardon the pun) on male pattern baldness. And if you’re explicitly wondering what percentage of men go bald, we’ll cover that too — just know you’re not alone.
What Percentage of Men Go Bald?
Going bald may seem like the end of the world — and we get it. A full head of healthy hair is seen as a sign of youth for many and it can be alarming when you notice strands of hair falling out. You might feel less attractive or be reminded of your mortality — neither of which are fun things to think about.
But to find the silver lining about male pattern baldness, this condition is actually incredibly common. You may find some comfort in the knowledge that 30 to 50 percent of men experience male pattern baldness by 50 years old.
So how is male pattern baldness defined? Is it a full-on, completely bald head or thinning hair? Do bald spots count?
The Norwood scale (or Hamilton-Norwood Scale) measures and categorizes different stages of male pattern baldness on a seven-type scale. Many men notice the first signs of hair loss when their hairline begins to recede around the temples. Others develop a receding hairline accompanied by a small bald patch on the scalp.
So now that we know how many men go bald and what it looks like, let’s talk about why men go bald.
Why Do Men Go Bald? Common Causes
If you’ve noticed your hairline beginning to recede or your hair beginning to thin, there’s a good chance you can find the root (sorry again!) cause listed below.
The majority of male pattern baldness is thanks to your family — in other words, your genetics, primarily how they affect the number of male hormones your body produces and your hair’s susceptibility to them.
Certain people have hair follicles that are more sensitive to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (or DHT, a naturally occurring male steroid hormone) than others.
For people with hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT, even normal amounts of the hormone can cause hair follicles to shrink and eventually fail to grow, which creates the horseshoe-shaped hair pattern that’s natural for bald men.
Studies have also predicted an overlap between certain genetic factors — like height, hip-to-waist ratio, the age when your voice drops and more — and hair loss.
Luckily, genetic male pattern baldness is easy and affordable to treat, which we’ll cover further below.
Not only is stress a serious health problem that can affect everything from your immune system to your mental health, but it can also impact the thickness of your hair.
If you’ve been working long hours, dealing with a frustrating project or have an issue that’s tough to resolve, you could experience hair loss from stress.
Stress can cause two main types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and trichotillomania.
Telogen effluvium causes hair follicles to enter a resting phase as a result of your body’s stress hormone levels. These hairs don’t fall out right away, but they can begin to fall out within weeks of the increase in stress hormones. Everything from medical conditions to weight loss to emotional stress counts as “stress” in this case, as they can all potentially cause telogen effluvium.
While a few tough days at work likely aren’t going to cause your hair to start falling out, months and months in a stressful environment could trigger this condition in some people.
There also may be some truth to stress making you want to pull your hair out. Trichotillomania is a serious disorder that results in people having an extreme urge to pull out their hair, causing patches of hair loss on the scalp and/or body.
Stress can often result in temporary hair loss, but there’s no single solution to this problem.
You are what you eat and what you eat (or don’t eat) can affect your hair health.
Certain diets, particularly those that lead to deficiencies in minerals and vitamins such as vitamin D, can cause your hair to shed prematurely. And protein isn’t just important for building muscle — you may also experience hair thinning if your diet has a protein deficiency.
Several vitamins play a major role in hair health so if you’re cutting out certain foods, hair loss on a diet is a very real possibility due to missing key vitamins and other nutrients.
Drugs, especially those that increase the levels of stress hormones or androgens in your body, can occasionally cause hair loss.
While most over-the-counter drugs are unlikely to trigger hair loss, several medications that cause hair loss include:
Retinoids — like isotretinoin and tretinoin, two commonly prescribed medications — may cause hair loss. However, there are conflicting studies about “tretinoin hair loss.”
Thyroid medications, in rare cases, can cause diffuse hair loss due to thyroid overactivity or thyroid inactivity. However, it’s also worth noting that it may be difficult to determine whether hair loss is caused by a thyroid condition or the drugs used to treat it.
Blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers propranolol or ACE inhibitors like lisinopril, can sometimes have a side effect that results in hair loss.
Certain types of medical conditions, including thyroid conditions, as mentioned above, can cause you to go bald.
One particular medical cause of hair loss is called alopecia areata. This immune condition causes your body’s immune system to attack your hair follicles, resulting in rapid hair loss that usually grows back over time (though not always).
Want to know how to tell whether you have male pattern baldness or alopecia areata? Look at your hair loss pattern — alopecia areata causes patchy hair loss vs. the receding hairline of male pattern hair loss.
Just as your diet and stress levels can have an impact on the health of your hair, so can other aspects of your lifestyle. If you drink, party and barely get any sleep, your hairline could suffer.
Sleep plays an important role in so many aspects of your health, including your hairline. Research data shows that lack of sleep can contribute to stress, which in turn can often lead to telogen effluvium.
Low-quality sleep also results in lower production of essential hormones, many of which play a major role in promoting hair growth.
Of course, you don’t have to completely give up drinking, going to parties or staying out late simply for the sake of your hair. But reducing alcohol consumption, smoking and late nights could all positively affect damaged hair.
You can also browse this guide for other lifestyle changes and more tips for hair growth. Just remember that hair loss is still mostly hormonal and genetic. While improving your lifestyle is a great way to avoid stress-induced hair loss, it won’t do anything to stop genetic male pattern baldness — that requires a different solution.
We hate to say it but as your age increases, so do your chances of going bald. But exactly when do men go bald?
A really not-so-fun fact: we mentioned earlier that up to 50 percent of men will notice some degree of hair loss by the time they’re fifty, but male pattern hair loss can begin as early as our teens.
While you may think losing hair is associated with an AARP membership, hair loss and thinning hair can begin at any age — even in your 20s. Research shows that up to 30 percent of Caucasian men deal with some form of hair loss before they turn 30 years old, while that number is slightly lower for people of other races and ethnicities.
Research published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery also found that 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 and 53 percent of men in their 40s already have moderate to extensive hair loss.
As we age, our hair naturally begins to thin out, with individual hair strands getting smaller and taking on a lighter pigment as some follicles cease to grow new hair altogether.
Our bodies also produce hair more slowly as we get older, with the average person’s hair growth cycle lasting between two and six years.
While aging is one reason people go bald, there can be other ways to know if you're going bald. Looking out for these and other signs of balding as well as speaking to your healthcare provider can help narrow down the possible culprit.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Hair Growth Solutions for Balding Men
Now that you know a bit more about what causes baldness in men, you’ll be relieved to know there are several treatments for male pattern hair loss, no matter what the cause.
Hair loss treatments like finasteride (a daily pill) and minoxidil (a topical treatment used twice daily) stimulate hair growth in areas where hair is more likely to thin or fall out. You can either use a minoxidil foam or a minoxidil solution, or a healthcare provider may recommend a combination topical finasteride and minoxidil spray.
Eliminating, or at least attempting to decrease, stress in your daily life could be a helpful way to reduce hair loss.
Take a hair-strengthening vitamin supplement, such as biotin, to support your hair preservation. Biotin gummies are packed with B7, an essential building block for hair growth. But remember that while getting your vitamins is always a good idea, this hair loss treatment works best for people with a true biotin deficiency, which is rare.
You may consider getting a hair transplant (taking hair from the areas of your scalp that aren’t affected by male pattern baldness and moving it to areas that are) or at least talking to a healthcare professional to see if it’s the best option for you.
But the real question is where hair can grow back after balding. Don’t get your hopes up — most balding is permanent. But the above hair growth solutions may help improve hair thickness and health, as well as provide you with a boost of confidence.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Causes of Baldness in Men: Final Thoughts
Balding — it happens to so many men and so many men want to avoid it (or at least know why it happens).
Why do men go bald? Men (and women) can go bald for several different reasons. Genetics are a major cause, while stress, diet, lifestyle choices, certain medications and age can also cause people to experience hair loss.
There are different types of balding and hair loss, but common signs of hair loss include a receding hairline, bald patches, thinning hair or hair loss from the back of the head.
Up to 50 percent of men go bald by the time they’re 50 years old. But age is sometimes just a number when it comes to hair loss — men can experience thinning hair or a receding hairline as early as their 20s.
While you can’t reverse age or genetics, there are ways to grow hair back. Hair loss treatments like a healthy diet, proper sleep, treatments like finasteride and minoxidil and more may help you grow a thicker head of hair.
If you’re seeing more hair fall out or your hairline moving further back on your head each day, talk to your healthcare provider about the possible cause. You can also explore hair loss treatments to help grow back your hair and your confidence.