In a world where our external appearance often acts as an extension of our identity, hair holds a crucial place. But what happens when our crowning glory starts to thin and eventually disappear?
In both men and women, this phenomenon is most frequently attributed to a condition known as androgenetic alopecia. It’s a genetic, patterned hair loss disorder, influenced by hormones. Despite the common perception, it doesn’t discriminate based on gender.
However, the manifestation, progression, and psychological impact of androgenetic alopecia often significantly differ between men and women.
This blog aims to shed light on these differences, helping us better understand this widespread yet frequently misunderstood condition.
Understanding Androgenetic Alopecia
Androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness, is a genetic hair loss condition affecting millions of people worldwide. The name stems from ‘androgens’, the hormones implicated in its development, and ‘genetic’, denoting its hereditary nature.
At the root of androgenetic alopecia are androgens, specifically dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is derived from testosterone through the action of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. While necessary for certain bodily functions, DHT can bind to androgen receptors in hair follicles, particularly in those genetically predisposed individuals. This binding causes the follicles to shrink over time, leading to shorter and finer hair until, eventually, the hair growth cycle halts completely.
While both genders have androgens, their levels and actions are regulated differently, causing distinct patterns of hair loss.
Male vs Female Androgenetic Alopecia
Despite its common root cause, androgenetic alopecia manifests quite differently in men and women. This is due to the differences in androgen levels and the unique physiological characteristics of each gender.
Men usually experience a well-defined pattern starting above both temples, hence the term ‘receding hairline.’ Over time, the hairline recedes to form a characteristic ‘M’ shape. As it progresses, the hair becomes finer, shorter, and sparser at the crown, leading to complete baldness in many cases.
In contrast, women with androgenetic alopecia typically maintain their hairline. They experience diffuse thinning over the crown, while the frontal hairline remains largely unaffected. It’s less common for a woman to go completely bald; instead, hair loss often leads to overall volume reduction.
Treating Androgenetic Alopecia
Regardless of gender, androgenetic alopecia is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management. However, numerous treatment options have proven effective in halting progression and, in some cases, even promoting hair regrowth.
Minoxidil is a topical medication widely used for both genders. It is believed to prolong the growth phase of the hair cycle, promoting thicker and longer hair. Finasteride is an oral medication, usually prescribed to men. It works by inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, reducing DHT levels, and consequently, its detrimental effects on hair follicles. Due to potential side effects, its use in women is generally limited.
Low-level laser therapy is another option that has been gaining traction in recent years. This non-invasive treatment is believed to stimulate cellular activity in the hair follicles, promoting hair growth.
For women, hormonal treatments like oral contraceptives or anti-androgen drugs may be beneficial, particularly if their hair loss is associated with a hormonal imbalance.
It’s essential to consult with a professional before starting any treatment. The best choice of treatment largely depends on your medical history, and the severity of hair loss. To determine the best course of treatment for your hair loss, book an appointment with a dermatologist specialising in hair loss. Call 0207 580 8356 to arrange a consultation.