The myths surrounding testosterone and balding are plentiful and persistent. The ever-enduring misconception you may have heard from a mate or read online is this: more testosterone = less hair. In reality, the links between testosterone and hair loss are far more complicated.
With all the medical information available out there, why do people still believe that the two are inherently connected? Perhaps it’s because hair loss is such a touchy topic, and it’s easier to read up on it on Reddit than consult a medical professional. After all, it offers a far more simple explanation than reality. Hair loss results from a mix of genes and hormones interacting with the scalp and hair follicles.
Knowledge is power, so here’s the low down on how testosterone does and doesn’t affect your precious dome.
Do bald guys have more testosterone?
The legend has it that bald guys are simply victims of their steep testosterone levels. Perhaps this myth is so persistent due to the many famous men with an ultra-masculine image rocking their shiny domes with pride. Think the likes of the Rock, Joe Rogan, Vin Diesel… Yet, testosterone is not the reason some men go bald and others don’t.
Plenty of bald guys have low testosterone levels, and plenty of guys with flowing locks have high testosterone levels. Male pattern baldness comes down to how sensitive your hair follicles are to the effects of hormones, which is genetic.
However, bald guys may have higher levels of 5-alpha-reductase. We’ll tell you more about this crucial enzyme in the next section.
The link between testosterone and baldness
There is a link between androgens (male sex hormones) and balding, but more testosterone doesn’t equal less hair.
Androgenetic alopecia (also known as male or female pattern baldness) is a type of hair loss affecting both men and women. It’s hereditary, and the most common reason men go bald.
People with androgenetic alopecia start to lose hair due to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. It’s an androgenic hormone that harms the dermal papilla, a layer of skin on the scalp. It shrinks down hair follicles, rendering them unable to support hair growth.
In our bodies, an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (told you we’d come back to it!) converts testosterone into DHT. In men, the conversion mainly happens in the liver and the testes, with some also happening on the skin.
While women have way less testosterone than men, women can still suffer from genetic balding brought on by DHT. Female pattern baldness presents differently but occurs for the same core reasons as in men.
To put it simply, the genetic component of balding is not having more testosterone. It’s having hair follicles that are more sensitive to the effects of DHT, in men and women alike.
Treatments that block DHT
Genetic hair loss is purely about luck of the draw. We don’t get to choose our genes, so it can be a rude awakening to realise you’re losing hair way sooner than you would have liked. The good news is, there are treatments available to halt the biological processes that kick off balding.
Hair loss medications can slow down, stop or even reverse balding by blocking alpha-5-reductase. Blocking the enzyme stops it from converting testosterone into DHT, so it can’t go and wreak havoc on your follicles.
There are two clinically proven and approved medications that a doctor can prescribe to you for hair loss. We can’t name these treatments here due to Australian law, but the doctors at our online clinic can offer more information.
When it comes to natural remedies, some research has indicated that saw palmetto extract may help block alpha-5-reductase, but the research is limited at this point. However, many hair loss supplements contain saw palmetto for this reason.
A permanent solution: hair transplant microsurgery
Did you know some of our hair follicles are resistant to balding? You’ve probably noticed that even men with advanced balding keep a ring of hair on the sides and the back long after the top and front are gone.
This is because the follicles on the back and sides of the head are genetically resistant to the effects of DHT. With modern hair transplant technology, they can be implanted on other areas of the head where they continue to grow for a lifetime! It’s the only way to reverse genetic balding permanently, with your own, natural hair.