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The truth about testosterone and hair loss

Hair loss is an extremely common problem for both men and women and it can be very troubling when experienced first-hand, especially if you aren’t prepared or expecting it to happen. With hair loss an issue in around 40% of men in their mid-thirties, it is important to know that you are not alone when it comes to hair loss. Of course, hair loss is also a serious issue for women but in this piece we are mainly focusing on male hair loss and the role of testosterone.

Those suffering from hair loss often look to find the primary reasons behind it, but there is a lot of mis-information around concerning why and how hair loss occurs. With hair loss being something that around 80% of men will eventually encounter, even 40% of women by the age of 40 will suffer from thinning hair, it is important to get the facts straight.

Chemical formula for testosterone
Chemical formula for testosterone

Causes of Hair Loss

There are a number of reasons why hair loss occurs and in some instances the effects aren’t always permanent. Certain cases of Alopecia, along with instances of Anagen Effluvium and Telogen Effluvium, are generally considered to only be a temporary cause of hair loss, with hair able to grow back normally in a period of months.

Male pattern baldness however, is a hereditary condition that is present in a large number of men. This permanent condition will eventually lead to significant hair thinning and a receding hair line. In some cases this can eventually lead to complete baldness. With the majority of cases of hair loss being caused by male pattern baldness, this is where most of the misconceptions lie and the truth about testosterone’s role becomes murky.

The Role of Testosterone

One of the biggest myths about hair loss is that it is the direct result of testosterone levels, a myth that many use to explain why women don’t suffer from hair loss to the same extent as men do. Men and women both contain varying levels of the testosterone hormone along with the oestrogen hormone. While testosterone is a factor in hair loss, the testosterone levels in your body aren’t the defining reason why hair loss may be becoming a problem, but they do play an important role.

It is not testosterone itself that can cause hair loss, but a molecule produced by testosterone, known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is produced when testosterone becomes synthesised with an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which is made naturally in the body. Over time, DHT makes hair follicles reduce in size, activating the thinning of hair until the follicles close completely and no more hair is able to grow.

DHT plays many important roles in the maintenance, protection and regulation of the human body, with hair loss being a potential negative result of its purpose. The process required to form DHT only happens with around 5% of the testosterone in the body. While this does mean that the higher the testosterone levels, the more chance that DHT will be produced, it is again, not a defining factor. Only people with a genetic predisposition to the negative effects of DHT will be prone to the effects of DHT production with the result of hair loss.

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