Why don't women go bald?

21 October 2012

Question

Hello Naked Scientists, :) I was wondering -

If men are hairier than women, why do they lose the hair from their head when women don't? Regards,
Janet France (Welshpool)

Answer

Ginny - Women can go bald, is the first thing I should say. There are various illnesses. One is called alopecia universalis which is thought to be an autoimmune disease which attacks the hair follicles and can cause you to lose all your hair including eyelashes, eyebrows, everything, and that affects both men and women. But if we're talking about male pattern baldness which affects up to 80% of Caucasian men by the time they're 70, so a lot of men. You're right. It doesn't affect women quite the same way and this is because it's caused by a male hormone.

It's highly genetic and can be inherited from either parent, contrary to popular belief. But it's caused when you have high amounts of dihydrotestosterone which is a derivative of testosterone which as we all know is in much higher concentrations in men than in women. This causes the hair follicles to atrophy. They actually shrivel up and the hair produced then becomes progressively smaller and thinner and finer, until it's practically invisible or it may even disappear completely.

Hormones do also play a role in women. So, sometimes people experience hair loss during pregnancy, menopause, anytime when hormone levels may vary. But as I said, it's mainly testosterone that's the culprit, so that's why it affects men much more that women.

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