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The Baldness Gene: Exploring the Genetics of Hair Loss

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 04/23/2018

Updated 04/03/2024

Though you can’t predict the future, your DNA and family history can hint at what’s to come in terms of health conditions and physical traits — including hair loss. We know male pattern baldness has a genetic connection, but is there really a baldness gene? Is balding hereditary?

It’s true that some forms of hair loss have a genetic link. However, no single baldness gene can definitively tell whether you’ll lose your hair.

Read on to learn how your DNA can affect your hairline and how to prevent and slow hair loss.

Claims and myths about hair loss and male pattern baldness genetics are everywhere.

A couple of the most widespread balding gene rumors:

Another myth? A single recessive baldness gene determines whether or not you’ll experience early-onset hair loss.

Male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia) mostly results from genetics. So there’s definitely a family connection, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Then where does baldness come from, exactly? Keep reading to find out.

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A study published in The Journals of Gerontology suggested that 79 percent of male pattern baldness comes from genetics.

Another study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the androgen receptor gene (or AR gene), which plays a role in baldness, is on your X chromosome.

A large 2012 meta-analysis of studies involving nearly 13,000 men of European descent suggested that people with the AR gene have significantly higher susceptibility to genetic baldness than those without it.

Biological males have X and Y chromosomes (XY), while biological females have two X chromosomes (XX).

Since men get their X chromosome from their mothers, looking into maternal genetics makes sense.

When a trait like baldness gets passed to the X chromosome in men, there’s a good chance it’ll express itself (meaning the trait will eventually appear) because it won’t be balanced out by another X chromosome.

But in women, genetic traits need to pop up in both X chromosomes to express themselves. Women carry one X chromosome from their fathers, making their grandfather’s genetics a likely indicator of what hair growth traits they’ll pass on to male offspring.

But it’s oversimplifying to say that hair thinning just comes from your mom’s genetics. Here’s why:

  • Genetics is still a relatively young field of research, and experts are constantly learning new things about it — including its link to hair loss.

  • Some studies have found balding genes on the Y chromosome, suggesting that your dad’s genetic traits might also be a risk factor for hair loss.

Deep breath. At-home DNA testing kits are all the rage, but they’re not necessarily a hundred percent accurate — you can expect some degree of error.

For instance, there’s limited data to pull from non-caucasian ethnicities, which could potentially lead to flawed results.

Think of your DNA test results as a genetic prediction of male pattern baldness rather than cut-and-dried facts or a diagnosis.

And just because genetic variation is present in your DNA doesn’t mean these mutations will for sure express themselves. There’s a difference between being a gene carrier (meaning you could pass it down) and having a symptom or disease (phenotype) from an inherited gene.

In other words, you could pass down the balding gene to your children without going bald or having a receding hairline.

The genes that make up your genome are one of many factors that can lead to hair loss.

What are some non-genetic factors that could contribute to other types of hair loss?

  • Medication. Some medications can affect the hair growth cycle and lead to temporary hair shedding. For example, chemotherapy treatments for prostate cancer and other forms of cancer can affect your hair follicles.

  • Autoimmune diseases. Medical conditions like lupus, heart disease, type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s disease can make you more likely to experience a form of hair loss known as alopecia areata.

  • Stress. Mental and physical stress can lead to a condition known as telogen effluvium. In women, for example, menopause can trigger hair thinning. Environmental factors can play a role in stress-induced hair loss too. Trichotillomania (hair-pulling syndrome) is a mental health condition that can also lead to bald spots.

Check out our blog for a rundown of ways to know if you’re going bald.

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You can’t delete your genes.

But if you’re experiencing signs of balding or pattern hair loss, you can take steps to prevent thinning from worsening.

Hereditary hair loss is caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen produced with testosterone. All biological males make DHT.

In guys with a genetic predisposition to baldness, DHT shrinks and destroys hair follicles — resulting in hair loss.

Some treatments can stop genetic hair loss by blocking DHT.

The medication finasteride inhibits DHT production, preventing you from losing more follicles. You could also try hair thickening shampoo with saw palmetto — saw palmetto is a plant-sourced ingredient that blocks DHT.

Your genes make you you, and you can’t change them. But you can make moves to encourage healthy hair growth.

Here’s what might help.

Lifestyle Changes

Your overall health directly impacts your hair health.

Healthy lifestyle habits — like eating nutritious, well-balanced meals, regularly exercising, reducing stress and keeping a regular sleep schedule — can help you feel your best and potentially promote healthy locks.

Oral Hair Loss Medications

If you’re experiencing hair thinning, consider asking a healthcare professional about prescription oral medications like finasteride (generic Propecia®).

Read more about this hair loss medication, including how long it takes to work, in our helpful guide to finasteride results.

Topical Hair Loss Treatments

Another research-backed treatment for hair loss is the topical medication minoxidil (generic for Rogaine®). You apply it right to your scalp in balding areas to encourage the hair growth cycle.

Topical minoxidil is available in a foam formulation or liquid solution.

Finasteride also comes in topical form, as with our two-in-one topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.

Hair Transplant Surgery

We get it. You’ve tried all these options, and you’re at wit’s end. In that case, hair transplant surgery could be the answer to male or female pattern hair loss.

Hair transplants involve taking healthy hair follicles from one part of your body and moving them to another.

Consider talking with a dermatologist or follicular surgeon about whether this male pattern hair loss treatment is right for you.

Red Light Therapy

Studies on this hair loss treatment are mixed. But there’s some evidence that laser therapy or red light therapy may help improve hair density.

See our guide to low-level light therapy for hair loss to learn more.

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So, is baldness hereditary? Technically, yes.

Finding out you’re genetically predisposed to losing hair can be scary and nerve-wracking. But genetics aren’t the whole story when it comes to hair loss.

Here’s what to remember about the balding gene:

  • Your genetics may make you more likely to develop hair thinning.

  • But your family history isn’t a definitive death sentence for your hair follicles.

  • Not everyone with a family history of balding will develop male or female pattern baldness.

  • You can lose your hair for other reasons. Other causes of hair loss include things like stress or medications.

  • Regardless of why you’re losing your hair, effective treatment options exist.

If you’re concerned about hair loss, it’s best to consult a medical professional, such as a dermatology specialist or an online medical provider at Hims.

Is hair growth genetic? Read our article for a deep dive into the link between genetics and hair growth.

Want to learn more about how hair loss treatments might help prevent future shedding? Set up an online consultation today.

10 Sources

  1. Helle Rexbye et. al. (2005, August). Hair Loss Among Elderly Men: Etiology and Impact on Perceived Age, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 60(8), 1077–1082.
  2. Hagenaars, S. P., Hill, W. D., Harris, S. E., Ritchie, S. J., Davies, G., Liewald, D. C., Gale, C. R., Porteous, D. J., Deary, I. J., & Marioni, R. E. (2017). Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS genetics, 13(2), e1006594. PubMed.
  3. AsapSCIENCE. (2013, March 14). The Science of Hair Loss/Balding [Video]. YouTube.
  4. TED-Ed (2017, April 18). Secrets of the X chromosome - Robin Ball [Video]. YouTube.
  5. Sample, I. (2008, October 12). Scientists uncover new gene link to male pattern baldness, The Guardian.
  6. Brown, K. (2018, January 16). How DNA Testing Botched My Family's Heritage, and Probably Yours, Too, Gizmodo.
  7. Masunaga, S. (2017, April 14). What the new, FDA-approved 23andMe genetic health risk reports can, and can’t, tell you, LA Times.
  8. Chandler, S. (2018, December 18). Autoimmune Diseases That Cause Hair Loss, Healthfully.
  9. Hall-Flavin, D. (2019, April 5). Can stress cause hair loss?, Mayo Clinic.
  10. Li, R., et al. (2012, May). Six Novel Susceptibility Loci for Early-Onset Androgenetic Alopecia and Their Unexpected Association with Common Diseases. PLos Genet. 8(5). Retrieved from
Editorial Standards

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]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 





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