There are many myths and superstitions surrounding health and well-being, and one such myth is that men who lose their hair are more virile, with stars such as Andre Agassi and Bruce Willis held up as masculine idols. Certainly from the perspective of the men in question, it is nice to think that as a trade-off for losing their hair, they could indeed prove to be more masculine, and a more effective ‘mate’, (suggesting that the hair loss is as a result of high levels of testosterone in the body) but is this just legend or is there some truth behind it?
Science versus speculation
It was thought for a while that male pattern baldness was caused by higher levels of testosterone, however it has since been clinically proven that hair loss is more complicated than that, and that the most common cause (called androgenetic alopecia) results from a combination of genetic and hormonal factors. Men with lower testosterone levels have been found to be as susceptible to balding, throwing this urban legend into doubt.
Like many myths and legends, it is likely that the origins of this one were based more on hear ‘say and gossip, and not necessarily on scientific fact. Recently, scientists have been working to explore the link, and the bad news is for young, balding men is that findings from a new study suggest that the opposite could actually be the case.
Results published recently in the scientific journal Dermatologica Sinica share the results of a test undertaken amongst over two hundred men (with an average age of 31). This research focussed on men who suffered from differing degrees of the hair loss condition androgenetic alopecia. The men were divided into two groups, those whose alopecia was classed as ‘normal to mild’ and those who were classed as ‘moderate to severe’. In this study, the urban legend was refuted, with poorer quality semen detected in the group with ‘moderate to severe’ alopecia.
It is now widely recognised that the lead cause of androgenetic alopecia is how the body responds to the hormone ‘dihydrotestosterone’ (DHT). Presence of this hormone in the bodies of those who have a genetic predisposition to the condition, mix to create an environment that can lead to hair loss, typically in the tell-tale areas of the hair line, temples and top of the head. DHT causes shrinking of the hair follicles, which is then compounded with a reduced hair growth cycle. This is turn leads to hair thinning and hair loss.