Hair Loss and Male Pattern Baldness (Androgenic Alopecia)

Male Caucasian Forehead Hairline

Teenage guys and young men may sometimes notice their hair is becoming thinner or even hair loss.  Male pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss among adolescents and young men.. In fact, it’s the most common cause of hair loss among adolescents, so if you have it, you’re not alone. Read on to learn more.

What causes this type of hair loss?

The medical term for male pattern baldness is androgenetic alopecia.  This type of hair loss is  caused by a combination of androgens (hormones) and genetics (features that you inherit). In guys, androgens work to develop male sexual characteristics such as penis growth, muscle development, and hair growth. Your genes are what determine the physical traits that are passed down to you from your biological parents.  These physical traits can include your height, eye color, hair color, and whether or not you have hair loss.

Why is it called male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness gets its name because the hair falls out from the scalp in the same pattern in most guys.  It typically follows this pattern:

  • Hair thinning and/or loss along your temple region
  • Receding hair line. This means the hair line along the edge between your scalp and face moves back.
  • Hair loss along the top of your head
  • Hair loss along in your occipital region – this is the part at the back of your head, right above your neck.

If you are experiencing hair loss and it’s not following this pattern, you can have a different form of hair loss.

When girls or women lose their hair it’s called “female pattern hair loss” because their hair falls out in a different “pattern” than a guy’s does.

Is male pattern baldness common?

Yes. About 16% of boys ages 15-17 have male pattern baldness. A research study showed that 30% of Caucasian (white) males showed signs of male pattern baldness by age 30, 50% by age 50, and about 80% of males have hair loss by the time they are 70. Male pattern baldness is less common among Asian and African American men than Caucasian men.

When do guys usually start losing their hair?

Male pattern baldness usually begins when a guy is in his 30’s or 40’s, but it can also happen during the teen years after puberty, although it is much less common. Guys often say that they notice that their hair loss “comes and goes” meaning that at certain times they realize their hair is becoming thin and other times they may not notice anymore hair loss for a while.

I’m losing my hair – should I see my health care provider?

Yes. If you’re losing your hair, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your health care provider to get checked out. Sometimes hair loss can happen as a result of medical conditions such as low thyroid levels. It can also happen as a side effect of using certain medications such as anabolic steroids.  Your health care provider may order lab tests or even refer you to a skin/hair specialist, a dermatologist.

I heard that you’ll only lose your hair if someone on your mom’s side of the family lost his hair. Is that true?

No, that’s a myth. Male pattern baldness can be inherited (passed down) from either side of your biological family, moms or dad’s.

What can I do about my hair loss?

If you have male pattern hair loss, you have options to consider after seeing your health care provider. You could do nothing at all, shave your head, or use medication that helps hair growth.

Doing nothing: If your hair loss isn’t due to a physical condition, there’s no medical reason for you to treat it. Losing your hair won’t make you any less healthy. Some guys feel totally comfortable with their hair loss, and that’s great! If you don’t feel comfortable, that’s totally normal too.

Shaving your head: Some guys start shaving their head, and like how it looks.

Some bald men you might recognize:

  • Kevin Garnett, NBA all-star
  • Vin Diesel, actor
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, actor and former professional wrestler
  • Terry Crews, actor
  • Pitbull, musician

Medication: If you  would like to treat your hair loss, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved two medications for use in men in the United States.

  • Minoxidil: Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine®) is a medicine that works to promote hair growth. It comes in two forms that are applied to your scalp: a solution or a foam. You can buy it over-the-counter at a local pharmacy or supermarket. If you use Rogaine®, make sure to read the directions carefully. Minoxidil should be taken for at least two times a day for at least 4 months to see any early results.
  • Finasteride: Finasteride (also known as  Propecia®) is another medicine that supports hair growth. It comes as a tablet (or pill). You need aa prescription from your health care provider in order to get this medicine.
Remember: Always talk with your health care provider before starting a new treatment or medicine. While there are many products or supplements that claim to re-grow hair, not all of them actually work.  Before purchasing any hair growth products talk to your health care provider. The ONLY medicines that are approved for use in men are Minoxidil (Rogaine®) and Finasteride (Propecia®).

Light therapy: Studies have shown that low levels of light therapy may help stimulate hair growth. Further studies are needed to figure out how much light and how often works the best.

Topical products that lessen the appearance of hair loss: You may discover products and hairpieces that disguise hair loss. These include: wigs, toupees, and sprays/powders that color the scalp.

Surgery: Hair transplantation using “follicular units” or taking a group of hair follicles from a nonbalding area is the most common and effective surgical procedure. It is a complicated procedure and it’s rarely covered by insurance.

If you’re concerned about male pattern baldness, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your provider: “I noticed that my hair is getting thinner. Is there anything I can do?” Also, make sure to let your health care provider know if your hair changes are affecting your mood.

If you’re concerned about male pattern baldness, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your provider: “I noticed that my hair is getting thinner. Is there anything I can do?”