That first clump of hair in your brush or comb can make your heart skip a beat. Is it just stress? Does your uncle on your mother side have it? Or are using too much hair dye? About 40 million men suffer from male pattern baldness (MPB). Other conditions, such as alopecia, can wreak havoc with your hairline - and your love life. Once you get over the shock, your mind may turn to the likely hair loss causes, around which many myths still abound.

Hair Loss Cause 1: Genetics and Hormones

In men, male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia takes center stage among hair loss causes - and you can blame it on your family tree. According to American Hair Loss Association (AHLA), if you have MPB you've actually inherited hair follicles that have a genetic sensitivity to the dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative or by-product of testosterone.

Hair follicles sensitive to DHT begin to get smaller, which cuts the lifespan of each hair follicle short. Eventually, these affected follicles stop producing normal hair growth. Your hairline will start to recede, and hair on the crown will begin to thin out. The AHLA states that hair in these areas, and along the temples and mid-anterior scalp seem to be the most sensitive to DHT.

Male pattern baldness can begin as early as your 20s. Currently there's no cure, but effective treatments include a hair lotion called Minoxodil, and finasteride (Propecia® or Proscar®), an oral prescription medication men can use to block the formation of the active male hormone in the hair follicle.

Hair Loss Cause 2: Autoimmune Condition

Alopecia areata is a rare autoimmune condition that causes hair loss. It targets just the scalp, or your entire body (alopecia universalis). Most frequently it begins with totally, smooth round patches around the size of a coin or larger, explains the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). The hair follicles do not die, they're just waiting for a signal to resume growth - and in most cases this will happen, with or without treatment.

Treatment for alopecia areata includes cortisone pills or injections, a special light treatment, or topical immunotherapy to produce an allergic rash that stimulates hair growth, states the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Hair Loss Causes 3: Illness or Disease

According to the AAD, telogen effluvium is another cause of hair loss. Illness, stress and some diseases push too many hairs into the resting (telogen) phase of the hair grown cycle, which leads to a dramatic increase in hair shedding (effluvium). Some of the causes of telogen effluvium the AAD lists are:

  • high fever, severe infection, severe flu
  • cancer treatment
  • medications
  • low blood iron levels
  • poor nutrition (low protein or iron)
  • thyroid disease
  • major surgery or chronic illness
  • stress

Hair Loss Cause 4: Hair Care

Allan Iverson recently shocked his teammates and fans by shaving off his signature cornrows, but there are plenty other men who still braid or cornrow their hair. These hairstyles can cause traction alopecia, which results from excessive tension on the hair follicles. It also affects men who wear pony tails or hair accessories such as baseball caps, hats, or turbans. Traction alopecia is usually permanent.

Miscellaneous Hair Loss Causes

Some other rare hair loss causes listed by the AAD include tinea capitis (scalp ringworm), trichotillomania (hair pulling largely induced by stress or a psychological problem), and cicatricial alopecia, inflammation and scarring around the hair follicle.

While certain chemicals such as dyes or permanent waves will damage your hair, they are not likely to be among hair loss causes.

Hair Loss Treatment

Aside from pills, injections and topical treatments, hair loss can be treated with hair restoration surgery, hair transplants, scalp reduction, laser treatment, and even wigs. Consult a dermatologist, who can determine the causes of hair loss and recommend the most appropriate treatment.


Sources: American Academy of Dermatology, National Alopecia Areata Foundation, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the American Hair Loss Association, The Mayo Clinic