The Truth About Male Pattern Baldness

If you’re a man approaching middle age, the threat of hair loss may be looming. But here’s the thing: All men (and women) lose hair. Men of a certain age are especially prone to hair loss, at least from the top of their heads.

Male pattern baldness, or gradual thinning of hair on the scalp, is typically hereditary. It happens as hormone levels change over a man’s lifetime, particularly starting in middle age. Other factors that contribute to hair loss include illness, aging, even overly aggressive grooming habits.

More than half of all men over the age of 50 have some degree of male pattern baldness, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). But despite the large number of men who are losing their hair, there are a lot of myths and misinformation about how and why hair loss happens.

Here are some misconceptions about baldness:

Wearing hats leads to baldness: You don’t need to offload your favorite fedora just yet. There’s zero evidence to suggest that wearing hats — even on a daily basis — leads to hair loss or hair follicle damage. Hats that are dirty, however, can lead to an infection, which can increase the odds that you’ll lose some hair. So it’s a good idea to wash and rotate your hats frequently.

Baldness is your mother’s father’s fault: Moms’ lineage has long been blamed for male pattern baldness, but the reality is, hair loss is a genetic trait you can inherit from either parent. So look at both parents, check out your siblings and even pay attention to first cousins. If baldness is a recurring trait, you may want to pay closer attention to your mane.

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Hair loss means you’re carrying around too much testosterone: The amount of hair on your head has very little to do with the testosterone circulating in your bloodstream. Instead, male pattern hair loss comes down to hair follicle sensitivity to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Stress speeds up male pattern baldness: True, traumatic events and emotional overwhelm can trigger temporary hair loss, but this type of hair loss is not the same as male pattern baldness, which is permanent. With trauma-induced hair loss, your hair follicles press pause. After the threat has passed, they resume their “normal” cycle again.

Baldness happens from too much sun exposure: While there are plenty of reasons to steer clear of the sun, the threat of going bald is not one of them. Your follicles continue to function with ultraviolet radiation from the sun, but your hair shaft may degrade and become brittle over time.