Does Baldness Skip A Generation?

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You might have heard the popular theory that balding skips a generation. While this can obviously happen sometimes, it’s a myth that it always happens. That’s not how genetics works.

The science behind hair loss is complex and fascinating.

I’ve unraveled the subject below by detailing how the hair loss gene is passed down the family tree, how you might be able to tell if you’ll go bald in the future, and what to do if you’re losing your hair.

Does baldness skip a generation?

It’s a myth that baldness always skips a generation, although it obviously can happen. A combination of various factors will determine whether a specific person will lose their hair, but there’s no scientific basis for the idea that the gene is predisposed to skip a generation.

I’ve been shaving my head for nearly 20 years due to male pattern baldness. And guess what? My dad is bald too.

bald man and younger man
Me, thinning (and my Dad)

Firstly, it’s important to know why male pattern baldness occurs. Baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is caused by a sensitivity to hormones called androgens.

Specifically, a hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is created in men when the testes process testosterone. DHT has a particularly strong effect on hair follicles, causing a process known as miniaturization which reduces the ability of the follicle to produce new hair.

Sensitivity to DHT is a genetic trait, so judging whether you’ll go bald based on older members of your family can be helpful. However, it’s not an exact guide.

Can balding skip a generation?

Baldness can absolutely skip a generation, but it doesn’t happen every time. If your grandfather on either side is bald, the MPB gene is in your family. However, it can stay hidden as a carrier gene, and you may pass it on to your children without going bald yourself.

Or, you might be affected by increased sensitivity to androgens during or after puberty, when DHT production increases.

bald man and young son
He’s not there yet

Siblings in the same family will receive the same genetic makeup, but some can go bald while others are unaffected. However, when they have children, the carrier gene can cause hair loss if paired with another carrier gene.

If the above sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Genetics is far from simple, which is why two brothers can be affected by the MPB gene in completely different ways.

Will I go bald if my dad is bald?

While it’s a myth that baldness skips a generation, your dad’s hair loss doesn’t mean you’ll go bald just because he is. However, you have an increased chance of losing your hair if the baldness gene runs in your family and has already affected your father.

My family is a great example. Both my grandfathers had a full head of hair, but my dad was bald. I always thought I’d keep my hair, until my early 20s proved to me that baldness doesn’t always skip a generation.

At first, I could only see my scalp through my hair when it was wet. Then the temples started to recede. Now my dad and I now have the exact same hairline, easily a Norwood 6-7 AKA completely bald on top.

But again, just because your dad is bald doesn’t mean you’ll lose your hair. To understand this, we need to understand how our genes are passed down to us through our family tree:

Baldness and genetic inheritance

When it comes to hair loss and baldness, genetic inheritance is a complicated subject.

Male pattern baldness is a sex-limited trait, which means the gene is present in both sexes but only expressed in one, in this case in men.

Is male pattern baldness X-linked?

One specific baldness gene is X-linked, which means it is found on the X chromosome. Everyone gets one X chromosome from their mother, but only female children get one from their father:

chromosomes passed from mother and father to son and daughter

Because sons only receive the X-linked chromosome from their mother, this has led to the popular theory that baldness is inherited from the mother’s side. After all, the Y chromosome inherited from the father can’t carry the baldness gene, so it must be true, right?

Well, not quite. It turns out there are other genes in your chromosomes that play a role in whether you’ll go bald. If the X-linked baldness gene was the only factor, it would be fair to point to your mother’s contribution to your genetics, but your DNA is more complex than that.

Is baldness hereditary from the father?

While the primary baldness gene has been identified in the X-chromosome passed from the mother, there are genes in the Y-chromosome that also affect baldness. This means your father’s genetics can cause you to go bald, even if your mother’s DNA doesn’t carry the baldness gene.

As shown in the diagram above, every male child inherits a Y chromosome from his father. If that Y chromosome contains the baldness genes that aren’t X-linked, it’s more likely the son will experience some level of hair loss.

Which genes cause baldness?

We’ve established that we can get our hair genetics from our mother or father’s side by inheriting genes from either or both. According to Dr. Alan Bauman, the combination of “roughly 200 different genes that regulate your hair growth” is unique to everyone, which is why siblings can exhibit completely different levels of hair loss.

So while an X-linked androgen receptor (AR) gene is a key factor, it’s not the sole factor as previously believed. The 200 genes that Dr. Baumann refers to will determine the speed at which you’ll lose your hair and your particular pattern of baldness, as well as the color and other characteristics of the hair on your head.

What’s more, scientists are still discovering genes that contribute to baldness. Research from 2008 found a newly associated locus at chromosome 20p11.22. Research into the genetic causes of male pattern baldness is ongoing, and scientists are still discovering new genes that contribute.

Is baldness dominant or recessive?

Baldness is a dominant trait in men and a recessive trait in women. Genes such as those that cause male pattern baldness are said to be recessive when they are ‘overruled’ by another, which is why women don’t suffer from pattern baldness as often as men.

The baldness gene is dominant in men, meaning it is not overruled by another allele (meaning two or more versions of DNA sequence). 

How do I know if my hair loss is genetic?

In the majority of cases, hair loss is predetermined by genes passed to you from your mother or father. However, there is no way to know for sure which genes have caused your baldness, and in some cases hair loss can be caused by external factors.

Although the Baumann Medical article above states that doctors can take a swab from the inside of your cheek to test your sensitivity to DHT, this is only useful for predicting future baldness. Doctors can’t say for sure whether this is the cause of hair loss in someone who is already bald.

bald head

Lifestyle factors such as diet, sleep, stress, alcohol intake, smoking (tobacco and weed), and many others can influence your hair health and cause or accelerate hair loss. Sensitivity to certain medications can also be a factor in baldness.

The good news is that it’s much easier to change your lifestyle than it is to re-engineer your genetic code, so in some cases, hair loss can be reversed if it’s due to factors like stress or diet.

How to tell if you’re going bald

Most men experience some form of thinning or recession between their late teens and early 20s. A lot of the time, the hairline stops receding quickly and settles into a ‘mature’ hairline. In other cases, the hairline continues to recede into male pattern baldness.

If you’re seeing more hair in the drain than usual after a shower, or finding a few more hairs on your pillow, don’t panic just yet.

Reading up on what a mature hairline is may reassure you that while baldness may be on the horizon, it’s far from a certainty. There are plenty of examples of Norwood 2 hairlines that never recede any further.

What to do if you’re going bald

If it becomes obvious that you are losing your hair, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Balding hair looks terrible and causes unnecessary anxiety about whether other people have noticed or find it unattractive. It’s better to decide what action to take, and take it quickly.

A lot of the time, people will advise you to shave your head right away. However, this isn’t the only option, and nobody should be pressured into taking any course of action before they’re ready to do so.

Option 1: shave your head

If you decide a shaved head is for you, amazing. Welcome to the club.

But shaving before you’re mentally ready can be a shock to the system that can knock your confidence. Instead, weigh up your options and make sure that when you do shave, you’ve prepared yourself physically and mentally.

What I mean by this, is there are ways to look good bald. If you have a relatively athletic physique, tanned skin, and a badass beard, you’re going to look better than a pale, skinny, clean-shaven guy when you shave your head.

weights at gym
Adding some muscle is one of the best ways to look better bald

Now, nobody should be under pressure to look a certain way. If the gym isn’t for you, that’s fine. But in terms of looking your best with your bald head, these are things you can do to make what can be a difficult process a little easier.

My advice is to look for anything that adds contrast to what can be a plain-looking shaved head. Glasses look great on bald men as they break up the face, while pairing a shaved head with a beard offers the contrast in color and texture that you’ve previously relied on your hair for.

Make sure you’re up on the latest bald men’s fashion trends, and you’ll have everything in place to rock your newly bald head. Then you just need to make sure you have the correct tools for the job. Check out my guide to the best electric shaver for your head to find the right piece of kit.

shaving head with skull shaver pitbull
Shaving with my Skull Shaver Pitbull head shaver

Personally, I recommend the Skull Shaver Pitbull head shaver. It’s specifically designed for head shaving and ticks all the boxes you want to see in an electric shaver:

Skull Shaver Pitbull Platinum PRO

  • Wet & dry shaving
  • 90 seconds and done
  • Flexible shaving heads
  • Cordless use up to 90 mins

If the Pitbull is a little pricey, there are cheaper alternatives to Skull Shavers to choose from.

Of course, you can progress to wet shaving your head with a razor. I shave my head bald every 2-3 days, and while the technique takes some getting used to, I’d recommend anyone with a shaved head tries it at least once.

I use the Leaf Razor, simply because it gives me the smoothest finish. I also love knowing that it’s completely plastic-free, so I’m helping the planet, too. You can get 10% off the Leaf Razor and any other Leaf Shave products that take your fancy by clicking the button below and using the code HAPPY10 at checkout:

The Leaf Razor

  • 3-blade design reduces the number of strokes needed to shave
  • Pivoting head maintains the correct blade angle for you
  • Non-proprietary blades, compatible with any standard safety razor blade
  • Eco-friendly: completely eliminates plastic waste from your shave
  • 10% off sitewide with code HAPPY10

If you’re not ready to invest in a premium razor like the Leaf, here are my other recommendations for the best razors for shaving your head.

Finally, remember that shaving is just the start. To find out which other items you’ll need to invest in to keep your bald head looking and feeling great, read this post on all the best products for bald heads.

Other options if you’re losing your hair

Shaving your head isn’t your only option. If it’s not for you or you’re just not ready, don’t listen to people who will inevitably encourage you to buzz your balding hair just because they think it’s the default option. It’s your hair.

Plenty of people use DHT-blocking medication like Finasteride or Minoxidil to slow or stop hair loss. It doesn’t work for everyone, and blocking DHT does have side effects that you’ll need to be aware of. Always consult your doctor before you go down this route.

Hair transplants are a much more common solution now the technology is producing such good results. A hair transplant is permanent, and not as expensive as you might expect, although they are the most costly option in the short term. Hair transplants also aren’t as painful as you might think.

Hair transplant donor area growth after surgery
Hair transplant donor area growth after surgery

There are also hair systems to consider, although they require a lot of maintenance and aren’t the most practical. If you’re happy to shave your head but want a full hairline, you could consider SMP (essentially a hair tattoo):

SMP before and after
Image courtesy of enhancedscalp.com, Toronto

If you’re thinking about shaving your head, don’t go from long hair to a full wet shave right away. It’s too drastic, and not only will you be shocked by the new person facing you in the mirror, but your friends will be, too.

Instead, choose gradually shorter haircuts until you’re ready to try a close buzz cut. You’ll probably find that you get a lot of compliments on your new look, which will give you confidence that life isn’t over just because your hair is on the way out.

If you’re unsure whether a shaved head is for you, try this free flowchart that I made to help with the decision:

The main thing is not to delay taking action as balding is a terrible look. Personally, life as a bald man has been good to me and I’d recommend that anyone experiencing hair loss at least tries the shaved head/buzz-cut look.

Many people agonize over hair loss only to find that they’re relieved when they shave their head because they’re free from the worry of whether people can tell they’re losing their hair.

By taking action they feel a sense of control, rather than the helplessness of knowing they’re losing their hair (they’re taking action rather than having something happen to them).

If you can have the confidence to face the world as a bald man, it’s an attractive quality to have.

FAQs

How many generations does baldness skip?

Baldness can skip one or multiple generations, but there’s no scientific basis for the theory that this always happens. There is a baldness gene passed from the mother’s side on the X-chromosome, but your father can also pass on other genes that cause baldness, making it unpredictable.

Is balding 100% genetic?

Balding is heavily influenced by genetics, but hair loss can also be caused by other factors, too. Poor diet, alcohol intake, and smoking are big contributors, but baldness can be a symptom of anything from lack of sleep to excess stress levels.

Can I go bald if no one in my family is?

Even if nobody in your family is bald, your parents and grandparents can be carriers of baldness genes. Everyone’s genetic makeup is different – baldness can occur in one sibling when the other is unaffected. If your parents or grandparents are bald, it’s more likely that you’ll lose your hair.

Summary

While doctors can test whether you’re more likely to lose your hair, nobody can tell you for sure if you’re going to go bald.

You certainly can’t rely on old wives’ tales that baldness skips a generation or that it’s completely dependent on your mother’s side of the family. Genetics is far more complicated than that.

If you’re concerned that you’ll go bald, the best thing to do is to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility. It’s not the life-changing process that you might think, but if you derive a lot of your confidence and self-worth from your hair, it’s probably time to address that.

If you can work on yourself as a person to the point where superficial things like a luscious head of hair aren’t the basis of your personality, you’ll be in a better place to handle hair loss.

bald man with laughing woman

Many people even find that shaving their head gives them more confidence. If you can face the world as a happy, well-adjusted bald man, that confidence is not only freeing, but also a really attractive quality to have.

If you’re still unsure what’s right for you, download my free PDF flowchart to help you decide whether to shave your head:

Did baldness skip a generation in your family? I’d love to know how genetics played a role in your hair loss (or lack of it!) in the comments below.

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This post was written by Matt:

I've been shaving my head for nearly 20 years. I'm here to share that experience, good and bad, help you embrace your hair loss, and live your best bald life.

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