Male pattern baldness

Hair loss can be disconcerting, but if you have male-pattern baldness, it may be inevitable.

Also known as androgenic alopecia, balding is quite common: It affects half of all men older than 50. For some men, it can begin as early as adolescence, with the risk becoming higher as they get older.

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Causes of Male Baldness

Male-pattern baldness gets its name from the fact that it involves male sex hormones (called androgens) and follows a recognizable pattern of hair loss.

The problem is largely tied to genetics: That is, you’re more likely to develop male-pattern baldness if you have relatives who also have the condition. Your risk is greater if men on your mother’s side of the family (such as your mom’s father or brother) have male-pattern baldness.

This type of hair loss occurs when the follicle — the tiny hole through which hairs grow — shrinks. When this happens:

  • The hairs become thinner and shorter.
  • Eventually, the follicle stops growing new hair.

In male-pattern baldness, you typically begin losing hair at front of your head, causing the hairline to recede and form an “M” shape. Over time, most men are left with thin, fine hair that forms a horseshoe pattern around the sides of their head.

Dealing with Male-Pattern Baldness

If you’re not concerned about hair loss, you don’t need to do anything about male-pattern baldness.

Many men simply embrace the change and address their receding hairline by shaving their head or experimenting with different hairstyles.

Wigs, hairpieces, and weaves are other options for those who aren’t ready to change their look. Some men may try hair transplants, which involve removing hair from areas where it continues to grow and moving it to bald spots. However, this technique is expensive and can cause complications, such as scarring and infection.

Can you reverse balding?

There are currently two medical treatments for male-pattern baldness:

  • Minoxidil. This over-the-counter topical solution stimulates hair follicles when you apply it to your scalp regularly. It can slow hair loss and may trigger new hair growth in some men, but it only works as long as you use it.
  • Finasteride. This prescription drug is an oral tablet that interferes with a form of the sex hormone testosterone, slowing hair loss. Dutasteride is a similar medicine. Like minoxidil, these drugs stop working once you no longer take them.

Your doctor can tell you more about male-pattern baldness and help you decide which approach, if any, is right for you.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.