Baldness involves the state of lacking hair where it often grows, especially on the head. The most common form of baldness is a progressive hair thinning condition called androgenic alopecia or "male pattern baldness" that occurs in adult male humans and other species. The amount and patterns of baldness can vary greatly; it ranges from male and female pattern alopecia (androgenic alopecia, also called androgenetic alopecia or alopecia androgenetica), alopecia areata, which involves the loss of some of the hair from the head, and alopecia totalis, which involves the loss of all head hair, to the most extreme form, alopecia universalis, which involves the loss of all hair from the head and the body.
The average human head has about 100,000 hair follicles. Each follicle will grow an average of about 20 individual hairs in a person's lifetime. Average hair loss is about 100 strands a day.
Incidence of pattern baldness varies from population to population based on genetic background. Environmental factors do not seem to affect this type of baldness greatly. One large scale study in Maryborough, Victoria, Australia showed the prevalence of mid-frontal hair loss increases with age and affects 57% of women and 73.5% of men aged 80 and over. According to Medem Medical Library's website, male pattern baldness affects roughly 40 million men in the United States. Approximately 25 percent of men begin balding by age 30; two-thirds begin balding by age 60.
Male pattern is characterized by hair receding from the lateral sides of the forehead, known as "receding hairline". Receding hairlines are usually seen in males above the ages of 25 but can be seen as early as mid-teens.
An additional bald patch may develop on top (vertex). The trigger for this type of baldness (called androgenetic alopecia ) is DHT, a powerful sex hormone, body, and facial hair growth promoter that can adversely affect the hair on the head as well as the prostate.
The mechanism by which DHT accomplishes this is not yet understood. In genetically-prone scalps, DHT initiates a process of follicular miniaturization. Through the process of follicular miniaturization, hair shaft width is progressively decreased until scalp hair resembles fragile vellus hair or "peach fuzz" or else becomes non-existent. Onset of hair loss sometimes begins as early as end of puberty, and is mostly genetically determined. Male pattern baldness is classified on the Hamilton-Norwood scale I-VII.
It was previously believed that baldness was inherited from the maternal grandfather. While there is some basis for this belief, both parents contribute to their offspring's likelihood of hair loss. Most likely, inheritance is technically "autosomal dominant with mixed penetrance" (see 'baldness folklore' below)
There are several other kinds of baldness:
There is no consensus regarding the details of the evolution of male pattern baldness. A number of other primate species also experience hair loss following puberty, and some primate species use an enlarged forehead, created both anatomically and through strategies such as frontal balding, to convey increased status and maturity. The assertion that MPB is intended to convey a social message is supported by the fact that the distribution of androgen receptors in the scalp differs between men and women, and older women or women with high androgen levels often exhibit diffuse thinning of hair as opposed to male pattern baldness.
One theory, advanced by Muscarella and Cunningham, suggests baldness evolved in males through sexual selection as an enhanced signal of aging and social maturity, whereby aggression and risk-taking decrease and nurturing behaviours increase. This may have conveyed a male with enhanced social status but reduced physical threat, which could enhance ability to secure reproductive partners and raise offspring to adulthood.
In a study by hector by Muscarella and Cunnhingham , males and females viewed 6 male models with different levels of facial hair (beard and mustache or clean) and cranial hair (full head of hair, receding and bald). Participants rated each combination on 32 adjectives related to social perceptions. Males with facial hair and those with bald or receding hair were rated as being older than those who were clean-shaven or had a full head of hair. Beards and a full head of hair were seen as being more aggressive and less socially mature, and baldness was associated with more social maturity. A review of social perceptions of male pattern baldness has been provided by Henss (2001) .
Baldness is not only a human trait. Some other primates, such as chimpanzees, stump-tailed macaques, and South American nakari show progressive thinning of the hair on the scalp after adolescence. Adult stump-tailed macaques, in fact, are commonly used in laboratories for the testing of hair-regrowth treatments.
The different predecessors of Old World and New World vultures convergently evolved a bald head, preventing feathers from retaining material from the vulture's diet of rotting meat, as well as helping in heat regulation.
Large studies in 2005 and 2007 stress the importance of the maternal line in the inheritance of male pattern baldness. German researchers name the androgen receptor gene as the cardinal prerequisite for balding. They conclude that a certain variant of the androgen receptor is needed for AGA to develop. In the same year the results of this study were confirmed by other researchers . This gene is recessive and a female would need two X chromosomes with the defect to show typical male pattern alopecia. Seeing that androgens and their interaction with the androgen receptor are the cause of AGA it seems logical that the androgen receptor gene plays an important part in its development.
Other research in 2007 suggests another gene on the X chromosome, that lies close to the androgen receptor gene, is an important gene in male pattern baldness. They found the region Xq11-q12 on the X-chromosome to be strongly associated with AGA in males. They point at the EDA2R gene as the gene that is mostly associated with AGA.
Other genes involved with hair loss have been found. One of them being a gene on chromosome 3. The gene is located at 3q26. This gene is also involved in a type of baldness associated with mental retardation. This gene is recessive .
Another gene that might be involved in hair loss is the P2RY5. This gene is linked to hair structure. Certain variants can lead to baldness at birth while another variant cause “wooly hair”.
The psychological effects for individuals experiencing hair loss vary widely. Some people adapt to the change comfortably, while others have severe problems relating to anxiety, depression, social phobia, and in some cases, identity change.
Alopecia induced by cancer chemotherapy has been reported to cause changes in self-concept and body image. Body image does not return to the previous state after regrowth of hair for a majority of patients. In such cases, patients have difficulties expressing their feelings (alexithymia) and may be more prone to avoiding family conflicts. Family therapy can help families to cope with these psychological problems if they arise.
Psychological problems due to baldness, if present, are typically most severe at the onset of symptoms.
Some balding men may feel proud of their baldness, feeling a kindred relationship with famous charismatic bald men, much of whose perceived masculinity and handsomeness derives from their most obvious distinguishing feature. Baldness has, in recent years, in any case become less of a (supposed) liability due to an increasing fashionable prevalence of very short, or even completely shaven, hair among men, at least in western countries.
Many companies have built a successful business selling products that reverse baldness, by allegedly regrowing hair, transplanting hair or selling hairpieces. While some of these products show improvements in a moderate amount of users, people should always be cautious about claims for hair regrowth, and research these products and alternatives before investing in expensive treatments.
Treatments for the various forms of alopecia have limited success. Some hair loss sufferers make use of clinically proven treatments such as finasteride and topically applied minoxidil (in solution) in an attempt to prevent further loss and regrow hair. As a general rule, it is easier to maintain remaining hair than it is to regrow; however, the treatments mentioned may prevent hair loss from Androgenetic alopecia, and there are new technologies in cosmetic transplant surgery and hair replacement systems that can be completely undetectable.
In the USA, there are only two drug-based treatments that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and one product that has been cleared by the FDA for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male or female pattern hair loss. The two FDA approved treatments are finasteride (marketed for hair loss as Propecia) and minoxidil.
Weight training without aerobic exercise may increase testosterone. ; One study suggests that both heavy exercise and increased fat intake, in combination, are required for increased free testosterone in strength trainers. Increased total or free testosterone would help them build and repair muscle, but may cause susceptible individuals to lose hair.
However, there is at least one study that indicates a decline in free testosterone combined with an increase in strength due to an (unspecified) strength training regimen.
Immunosuppressants applied to the scalp have been shown to temporarily reverse alopecia areata, though the side effects of some of these drugs make such therapy questionable.
Saw palmetto extract has been demonstrated to inhibit both isoforms of alpha-5-reductase and does not interfere with the cellular capacity to secrete PSA
One method of hiding hair loss is the "comb over", which involves restyling the remaining hair to cover the balding area. It is usually a temporary solution, useful only while the area of hair loss is small. As the hair loss increases, a comb over becomes less effective. When this reaches a stage of extreme effort with little effect — it can make the person the object of teasing or scorn.
Another method is to wear a hat or a hairpiece — a wig or toupee. The wig is a layer of artificial or natural hair made to resemble a typical hair style. In most cases the hair is artificial. Wigs vary widely in quality and cost. In the United States, the best wigs — those that look like real hair — cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. Organizations also collect individuals' donations of their own natural hair to be made into wigs for young cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy or other cancer treatment in addition to any type of hair loss.
Though not as common as the loss of hair on the head, chemotherapy, hormone imbalance, forms of alopecia, and other factors can also cause loss of hair in the eyebrows. Artificial eyebrows are available to replace missing eyebrows or to cover patchy eyebrows. Micro tattooing is also available.
Instead of concealing hair loss, one may embrace it. A shaved head will grow stubble in the same manner and at the same rate as a shaved face. The general public has become accepting of the shaved head as well, but female baldness is less socially accepted.
There are many myths regarding the possible causes of baldness and its relationship with one's virility, intelligence, ethnicity, job, social class, wealth etc. While skepticism is warranted due to lack of scientific validation, some of these myths may have a degree of underlying truth.
The term bald likely derives from the English word balde, which means "white, pale", or Celtic ball, which means "white patch or blaze", such as on a horse's head.
Environmental factors are under review. A 2007 study indicated that smoking may be a factor associated with age-related hair loss among Asian men. The study controlled for age and family history, and found statistically significant positive associations between moderate or severe androgenetic alopecia and smoking status.
In February 2008 researchers at the University of Bonn announced they have found the genetic basis of two distinct forms of inherited hair loss, opening a broad path to treatments for baldness. The fact that any receptor plays a specific role in hair growth was previously unknown to scientists and with this new knowledge a focus on finding more of these genes may be able to lead to therapies for very different types of hair loss.
July 31, 2008 Lamnin-511 molecule discovery.