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What Are the Common Causes of a Receding Hairline in Men?

By Nya Bruce
Updated May 21, 2024
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The problem of receding hairline in men, also called male pattern baldness, stems from a medical condition known as androgenetic alopecia, which occurs when the hair follicles in a man's scalp thin out and finally stop growing back altogether. The condition generally can be identified by the thinning of hair on a man's head and the subsequent formation of an M-patterned hairline where it remains. It might also recede even further into a horseshoe shape, where the center of the scalp is bare and hair only remains on the back and sides of the head. This type of baldness is common among older men, but age is not the only cause. The other two known reasons for male pattern baldness are genes and hormonal changes.

There is a strong coincidence between age and a receding hairline in men. About 25 percent of men older than age 30 start to lose their hair, and by the age of 60, it rises to more than 60 percent. Age, however, merely elevates the risk of male pattern baldness and determines the time of its onset; in rare cases, it also happens to teenagers. Although age is popularly considered the primary cause of progressive hair loss, it is more of a contributing factor or a catalyst for other underlying factors.

Changes in hormones is one of the underlying causes of a receding hairline in men. At some point in a man's life, his body produces an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which binds itself to the male hormone known as an androgen. This interaction results in the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), another form of the male sex hormone. DHT partially blocks vitamins and proteins from reaching hair follicles, and as a result, the hair in the affected follicle will not grow as long or as thick as it used to grow. Eventually, the hair follicle starves from lack of nourishment because of a complete blockage, and hair that falls out fails to grow back.

Genetic inheritance is another major factor that affects the onset of hair loss. The gene known as the androgen receptor (AR) gene was the first gene that was specifically identified as the cause of a receding hairline in men. The stronger the AR gene, the earlier and more pronounced the hair loss will be. Originally, the AR gene that is responsible for hair loss was identified as being passed down from mother to son, but more recent studies have shown that it also can be inherited from the father. Further research has identified another gene on the 20th chromosome that can trigger male pattern baldness even for men who do not have a strong AR gene.

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Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Mar 25, 2014

Some hair loss in men is going to occur regardless of what these men do to prevent it. As the article mentioned, hormone changes associated with aging are just a part of the accepted aging process, and these changes can cause receding hairlines and balding. However, poor nutritional habits can also promote hair loss.

Men should consume healthy amounts of zinc and protein as well as other nutrients associated with promoting healthy hair follicles. Also, fatty foods may promote hair loss, so fast food in large amounts should be avoided.

By Drentel — On Mar 25, 2014

The news in the world of male balding is that there are so many more options to combat the condition today than there were a short time back. In addition to the commercials I see promoting hair transplants and hair growing procedures, I am reading more impartial news articles about the promise of some of these procedures.

By Feryll — On Mar 24, 2014

I thought I had read somewhere that if a man wanted to know whether he was going to develop male pattern baldness then he should look at his maternal uncles. However, I couldn't remember where I had read the information. I was beginning to think that it was just wishful thinking on my part.

I was pleased to read in this article that studies had found this to be true. However, I was not as pleased to learn about the later studies showing that the balding gene could be passed along from my mother or father.

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