Yes, hair loss is genetic. And yes, the common theory that the gene is passed down on your mother’s side is only half-true. Your dad’s side of the family will also determine whether you’ll be more like The Rock or Rocky by age 50.
Let’s dive into the scientific details so you can understand what’s happening on top of your head.
According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a hair loss tendency on both sides of the family is suggestive of a person’s predisposition to hair loss, with heredity accounting for 80% of the condition.
Not only can you inherit similar hair loss patterns from your parents, but you can also inherit a sensitivity to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a male sex hormone that causes hair follicles to thin out and miniaturize over time, which is what leads to male pattern baldness.
Male pattern baldness (MPB) is a genetic condition that accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men and affects two out of every three guys by the time they are 35.
It’s determined by your hair follicles’ sensitivity to DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, an androgen (male sex hormone) that is a byproduct of testosterone. The androgen receptor (AR) gene creates the receptor on hair follicles that interact with testosterone and DHT, and if your receptors are sensitive, hair loss can occur.
The androgen receptor is on the X chromosome, which is what leads many people to incorrectly assume that male pattern baldness comes from the mother’s side of the family.
In fact, it can actually come from either side of the family. (Quick lesson, in case you snoozed off during your high school biology: A male inherits the X chromosome from his mother and the Y chromosome from his father.)
The AR gene doesn’t deserve all of the blame, however.
As Adriana Heguy, Professor of Pathology and Director of the NYUMC Genome Technology Center, notes, “There are genes in basically all chromosomes that have been implicated in androgenetic alopecia, and this is what makes it so difficult to unravel, as we would have to examine the overall contribution that each gene variant (single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP) play in hair loss, and also how these genes interact with each other and the environment to result in the phenotype.”
Although MPB is primarily genetic, there are two FDA-approved treatments that are proven to treat the symptoms of MPB, including stopping loss and promoting some hair regrowth.
So if you’ve noticed a receding hairline or thinning hair, learn how you can keep your hair with Keeps, and ensure that your hair doesn’t start looking like Dad’s or your mom’s father, or Uncle Vince, or Cousin Greg anytime soon.
To sum it up: Yes, hair loss is genetic—but the exact genetics involved are complex and not fully understood. So instead of placing all the blame on mom or dad, find a solution to keep the hair you have, and get on with your life.