Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Instead of settling for socks, coupons, or tacky sweaters, families all across the nation have been giving each other a more exciting holiday gift — DNA testing kits.
In addition to assessing your ancestral history, these kits also test for the presence of different genes that range from the trivial — whether you prefer salty foods — to the more serious, like your likelihood to get Parkinson’s Disease.
23andMe, one of the more popular DNA testing kits, also looks for the balding gene and the chance of hair loss in men.
Plenty of myths surrounding hereditary hair loss cause men to panic and freak out for no good reason.
For this installment of myth-busting, we will explain hereditary hair loss and unpack how accurate these widely popular DNA testing kits actually are.
You’ve probably heard this myth: if your mother’s father is bald, you’re most definitely going to lose your hair.
Sometimes, the myth gets more specific — if your grandpa started going bald when he was 25, you should expect to start losing hair by then; so buckle up and enjoy college.
Before you start frantically asking your mom for grandpa’s old photos to look at hairlines, there are some things you should know.
A study from The Journals of Gerontology: Series A demonstrated that 79 percent of male pattern baldness is heritable.
Another study published in the US National Library of Medicine found that the androgen receptors (AR) gene, (which cause baldness) can be found on your X chromosome.
Biological males have both an X and Y chromosome, while biological females have two XX chromosomes.
Since men get their X chromosome from their mothers, looking into maternal genetics makes sense.
When a trait gets passed to the X chromosome in men, it is likely to express itself because it won’t get balanced out by another X chromosome.
Women, on other hand, need genetic traits to pop up in both X chromosomes to express themselves. Mothers carry one X chromosome from their fathers, making their grandfather’s genetics a likely indicator for what hair growth traits they will pass on to men.
That being said, it would be reductive to claim that hair thinning just comes from your mom’s genetics. Here is why:
This is still a relatively young field of research and discoveries are happening every day.
Some studies have found balding genes on the Y chromosome, complicating this myth by making fathers’ genetic traits also an important factor in hair loss.
Despite being popular, DNA testing kits are new terrain for science. With most DNA testing services, theoretically, all you have to do is spit in a tube, send it to a lab, and then wait a few weeks to see your risk for going bald.
Though this process may seem super convenient, it’s not one hundred percent accurate. These testing kits are prone to some degree of error.
For some non-caucasian ethnicities, the data is also limited and could lead to flawed results. It’s important to note that just because variants are present in someone’s DNA doesn’t mean those variants will always express themselves.
This is a prediction, not a diagnosis. There’s a difference between being a carrier of a gene and having the symptom or disease.
You could likely pass down the balding gene to your children without going bald or having a receding hairline yourself.
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If your DNA test says you’re likely to go bald, remember that it’s one of many factors that lead to hair loss.
Even though the majority of cases of male pattern baldness do stem from genetics, other factors can’t easily be determined from DNA testing kits.
Remember, it’s important to contact a physician if you start experiencing hair loss because it could foreshadow serious health issues. What are some non-hereditary factors that could lead to hair loss?
Medications: Cancer chemotherapy treatments are detrimental to follicles.
Autoimmune diseases: Lupus,, heart disease, and Hashimoto’s Disease all can lead to hair loss — more specifically, a certain type of hair loss called alopecia areata.
Stress: According to the Mayo Clinic, stress-induced psychological conditions like
Telogen effluvium and Trichotillomania (hair pulling syndrome) also can result in losing one’s hair.
Female pattern hair loss: People who are born female can experience female pattern baldness after the onset of menopause, along with the other medical conditions above.
These factors can’t be treated by the medications that hims offers and in the specific cases of telogen effluvium and trichotillomania, may require psychological or psychiatric assistance.
Unfortunately, you can’t simply delete the balding gene. If you start experiencing signs of balding or pattern hair loss, however, there are steps you can do to prevent it from worsening. For all of its folklore, most hair loss comes from chemical reactions in the body.
When you are genetically bound to go bald, DHT shrinks and subsequently destroys your hair follicles — resulting in hair loss.
Luckily, some treatments can stop this by blocking DHT. The medication finasteride inhibits DHT production, preventing you from losing more follicles.
Okay, so you can't completely prevent the baldness gene from taking its effect. However, you can make moves to encourage healthy hair growth for as long as possible.
Overall health is important. Believe it or not, the way you treat your body can affect your hair growth.
Factors such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, reduced stress and a regular sleep schedule align your body with feeling its healthiest and can promote healthier hair.
A common option that many men turn to is minoxidil. This topical treatment, often sold as Rogaine, is applied directly to the scalp in balding areas to encourage hair growth.
Additionally, finasteride can be prescribed as a topical spray to treat hair loss. Talk to a hims healthcare provider about topical finasteride now.
We get it; you've tried all of these options and you're at your wit's end. A hair transplant may be the option for you.
Hair transplants take hair follicles and move them from one part of your body to another, effectively working around the baldness gene.
While this option still isn't totally explored, laser therapy (a.k.a. red light therapy) is growing in popularity among patients recovering from chemotherapy. This option may help improve your hair's density.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
So, is baldness hereditary? In short, yes. Finding out you're genetically predisposed to losing hair can be scary and nerve-wracking.
But it’s important to put results regarding hair genetics from DNA testing kits and old family photos of your grandpa into perspective.
At hims, we want to provide the information you need to take the important steps to move forward. Read our article on Is Hair Growth Genetic? for another deep dive.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about how our products can alleviate your hair loss stress and reduce your degree of hair loss, take a look at our hair loss products.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.