Tag Archive for: autoimmune alopecia

Is There a Genetic Test that Can Predict Hair Loss?

Nowadays, there’s a genetic test for just about everything.  Even to determine our dog’s lineage.   Just one quick saliva sample or blood test and, within days, you can find out if you’re destined for cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.  There’s even a DNA test to determine whether you’re likely to experience anxiety.  

Suppose a genetic test can give you accurate information to guide your health care plan and prevent future disease.  Can it also accurately predict whether you’re predisposed to losing your hair?  If a genetic test shows that you are likely to inherit your Great Uncle Bernie or Aunt Bonnie’s hairline, is there a way to ensure that you don’t follow in their footsteps?  Are genetic hair tests reliable?  Do dermatologists use DNA tests to help make diagnoses? Before you click “Buy Now” to order a genetic test kit, keep reading.  We’re here to answer your questions about genetic testing for male and female pattern baldness.

Can Alopecia Really be Inherited?

When people hear the word “alopecia,” they often think of hair loss caused by a medical condition.  Types of alopecia such as alopecia areata and lichen planopilaris are caused by autoimmune conditions.  Androgenetic alopecia, however, is a type of alopecia that is inherited.  It’s the most common type of alopecia.  As many as 80 percent of all men will experience male pattern baldness in their lifetime. (01)  In addition, many women experience female pattern baldness, usually around menopause.  

What’s the Link Between Genetics and Pattern Baldness?

A study conducted on twins confirms what we’ve long suspected.  Male and female pattern baldness have a genetic component. (02)  About 79 percent of men who were balding in the study could attribute their hair loss to their genes.  But, there’s a catch.  Researchers are still working to fully understand which genes are affected.  We’re still learning.  Here’s what we do know.  There are 63 genes that could potentially cause baldness.  Six of those are associated with the X chromosome, where the Androgen Receptors (AR) are found.  It’s also possible that not one isolated gene is the culprit.  Several genes working together may be to blame.

Can You Take a DNA Test to Determine Whether You Will Go Bald?

Ads make genetic testing very tempting, especially if your Mom or Dad starts losing their hair in their 20s.  It would be nice to know whether you will lose your hair too.  But, unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet.  As mentioned previously, there are still too many unanswered questions about which genes are involved and how the genetic process affects your locks. Also, false positives are not unusual with genetic testing.  You don’t want a test to tell you that you’ll experience androgenetic alopecia if that isn’t really the case. (03)

How do you Know if the Type of Alopecia You Have is Genetic?

When men and women experience androgenetic alopecia, they see specific hair loss patterns.  The first sign for men is usually a receding hairline.  The hair loss then progresses to the top, creating a horseshoe pattern above your ears that circles around to the back of your head.  Female pattern hair loss typically presents differently.  Women usually notice thinning on the top and crown.  Often, women will notice a widening of the center part.  Many other conditions cause hair loss besides androgenetic alopecia.  If you think your hair loss is genetic, be sure to have your dermatologist confirm your findings.  Early diagnosis is key to preventing further hair loss and to stimulating new growth.  You also want to make sure you’re addressing the right condition with the right treatment.  

Do Dermatologists Use Genetic Testing to Diagnose Male and Female Pattern Baldness?

The truth is that dermatologists don’t need high-tech tests to determine whether or not patients have androgenetic alopecia.  Most of the time, they can tell from your hair’s appearance and your hair loss pattern.  If there is any doubt, he or she may use a densitometer to magnify your hair follicles to see if miniaturization is occurring.  Miniaturization is when the hair follicles shrink, causing existing hair to fall out and preventing new growth.  Your dermatologist may order a biopsy and blood test to rule out other causes. Patients often ask about the benefits of running a hair analysis based on what they hear about on social media.   Hair analysis is not used to diagnose male or female pattern baldness.  Instead, it’s used to determine whether there’s lead, arsenic, or another substance causing your hair loss.  

What Can You Do to Treat Hair Loss Caused by Genetics?

Treatment for male or female pattern baldness is designed to meet two goals.  The first is to stop the progression of your hair loss.  The second is to promote new hair growth.   The best way to accomplish those two goals is by using a combination of medications simultaneously.  Here are medications often included in treatment plans for androgenetic alopecia:

  • Minoxidil topical foam – A vasodilator that enlarges the hair follicles
  • Finasteride, Dutasteride, or Spironolactone  – Prevents testosterone from converting to DHT that attacks the hair follicles and causes hair loss
  • Topical or oral cortisone – Treats any redness or irritation (not needed for evey patient)

Some men are concerned about experiencing sexual side effects with oral Finasteride.  If this is the case, topcial Finasteride has been proven to be just as effective without the side effects. (04)  Even better, topical solutions which mix Finasteride with Minoxidil, Cortisone and Retinol offer an even more effective all-in-one solution.  The retinol improves absorption of the other three medications.  

Are There Other Causes of Hair Loss Besides Genetics?

Male and female pattern hair loss are the only types of genetically induced alopecia.  However, other types of alopecia exist and treatment plans are designed to treat the type of alopecia you are experiencing.  Examples of other types of alopecia include:

  • Temporary Alopecia (Telogen Effluvium) – Occurs due to sudden illness, stress, or shock and usually reverses itself without treatment
  • Autoimmune Alopecia (Alopecia Areata and Lichen Planopilaris) – People experience flares and periods of remission
  • Trauma-induced Alopecia (Traction Alopecia and Trichotillomania) – Alopecia results from hairstyles that pull on the hair follicles or when people pull out their hair as a stress response)

Can You Prevent Hereditary Hair Loss?

Let’s play pretend for a minute.  Let’s say that a genetic test does exist that will determine whether or not you will lose your hair.  The tests come back showing that you are genetically predisposed to androgenetic alopecia.   Is there a way to prevent hair loss before it begins?  Sure, eating right, exercising, and managing stress never hurt.  But, even with that, you can’t necessarily fight Mother Nature.  That would be nice, though.  If male or female pattern baldness does rear its head, then it’s time to take action.  

Can You Reverse Hereditary Hair Loss

If you’re experiencing male or female pattern baldness and want to learn more about products available, contact us.  Although there isn’t a way to prevent androgenetic alopecia from occuring in the first place, there are things you can do to reverse the condition.   Minoxidil, Finasteride and other medications have been found to be safe and effective. Our board-certified dermatologists and hair specialists are available to answer your questions and help you develop the ideal treatment plan for your needs and lifestyle. 



(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538178/

(02) https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/60/8/1077/545174

(03) https://www.nature.com/articles/gim201838

(04) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6609098/


Devastated About Your Hair Loss? Tips to Help You Cope.

Hair loss can be devastating. At Happy Head, we always have tips ready to help our customers cope with the loss of their hair. You can also get treatment while you work through the effects. Don't worry, Happy Head is here to help.

“It seems to me that being “not okay” is a perfectly acceptable response to this unwanted, unannounced situation.  There’s nothing wrong with feeling “not okay” on some days or in some situations.  We are grieving the loss of our hair, the loss of our identity, the loss of our sense of self, and the loss of our confidence.”

– Sarah, Member of Alopecia Areata, Find a Cure (01)

In January of 2020, Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley made an announcement with a video that she has alopecia.  Much like Jada Pinkett Smith, Pressley is in the public eye and tried to hide her condition as long as she could.  Pressley decided that she was done hiding.  She took off her wig and shared her story.  The video helped Pressley make peace with her condition.  Coming forward helped Pinkett Smith in a similar way. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends,” said Pinkett Smith.  

Alopecia may not be life-threatening, but it’s upsetting no matter what type you have.  Whether you have androgenic alopecia, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, or any other kind of alopecia, men and women go through a similar grieving process when losing their hair. (02)   

Society’s expectations of what’s attractive don’t make it easy to accept your hair loss. Somehow we can talk about sex, curse, and even be openly rude to each other, but revealing that you’re balding or completely bald is shocking and newsworthy.    

So how do you get to the point when you’re “okay” when it feels like you never will be? We asked Rachel, one of our staff writers with lichen planopilaris, an autoimmune alopecia, how she got there. 

Q. How did you find out that you had alopecia?

Rachel: When my son was about one and a half, I noticed a lot of hair in the shower and sink. My hairline also started to recede on one side.  I had just had two babies back-to-back, and I figured that my hair was falling out from the hormonal changes.  I thought it would grow back.

Then, during a routine visit to the dermatologist, I had my doctor take a look.  He took a biopsy, which I thought was overkill for a slight hormonal imbalance, and I didn’t think about it again until I got a phone call.  The call wasn’t from a nurse or an assistant.  The dermatologist called me himself.  I knew right away that the news wasn’t going to be good. 

Q. How did you react when you found out that you have alopecia?

Rachel: I remember being really upset and desperately hoping that my dermatologist was wrong.  I was a ballet dancer all of my life and always had my hair back in a ponytail or a bun.  There wasn’t a way to hide the recession, and I wasn’t sure how to make my hair look presentable. 

Q. How did your alopecia diagnosis affect you emotionally?

Rachel: It was a tough time.  I hated the way my hair looked, and I kept imagining what I would look like as the rest of it fell out. On top of that, I felt guilty about being so vain.  People get all kinds of horrific diseases as they age, yet I was lucky enough only to get something cosmetic.  I didn’t think I had the right to be so upset about my hair.  Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self that it’s okay to be upset.  It’s a natural part of the healing process.    

Q. How did you treat your alopecia? Did it help?

Rachel: Shortly after I was diagnosed, I found a top dermatologist in my area who specializes in hair loss. Initially, I was treated with steroid injections (yes, they hurt), topical Clobetesol, five percent Minoxidil, and Tacrolimus. The goal was to prevent further hair loss and strengthen the surrounding hair.  

My alopecia went into remission for over ten years, but recently flared up again. My treatment this time around is a bit different.   It’s amazing how much research has been conducted and how much has been learned since I first started on this journey. My dermatologist added Finasteride to my treatment plan.  Much to my surprise, I’m seeing small areas where hair is growing back.  I didn’t expect that to happen.

Q.  What did you do to get to a better place emotionally when you were feeling down about your hair loss?

Rachel: I set a time limit to allow myself to be upset. I gave myself a week and decided that after the week was over, I would let my sadness go and focus on other things. The time limit gave me power over my emotions and the situation when I didn’t have any control.   

When the lichen planopilaris flared up after being in remission for so long, I regressed a bit. I wasn’t as upset as I was the first time because I had some experience, but I definitely got emotional. I had to go through the same process of limiting my grief.  I think emotions tend to ebb and flow with alopecia. Everyone has to find what works for them when managing those strong emotions.

Q. A lot of people with alopecia are at a loss about how to style their hair.  What did you do?

Rachel: I visited my hair salon and got a sassy, short haircut.  I wasn’t sure that I would like short hair, but it’s since become my style.  If my alopecia gets so bad at some point that I have to cut it shorter, I will.  

Ironically, this process has given me confidence and taught me to own my look, whatever that is at the time.  Although it’s not a choice that everyone would make, I found that cutting my hair was liberating. I followed the protocol that my doctor prescribed for me, but I stopped fretting about every hair that I saw in the sink.

Q. What advice do you have for other men and women who are experiencing hair loss?

Rachel: Most importantly, find a board-certified dermatologist who you like and respect. You’re going to need a supportive partner. If you don’t think you have the right professional on your side, get second opinions until you find the right person.   

Secondly, I’m in a few Facebook groups for people with alopecia and read about how many are apprehensive about testing.  If your dermatologist recommends getting blood work or a biopsy, do it. The blood test isn’t a big deal, and the biopsy area is small.  Your dermatologist will numb the area. You won’t feel anything, and the site heals quickly. The small bit of aggravation is worth knowing if you have a form of alopecia. You can then move quickly into treatment.  

Lastly, be kind to yourself. It takes time to come to terms with your hair loss. If you visit online or in-person support groups, you’ll see that you’re not the only one experiencing alopecia. Millions of other people are in your boat. It’s common for people with alopecia to suffer from anxiety or depression. (03) If this is the case for you, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional therapist or psychologist.  

Healing from the sting of learning that you have a form of alopecia isn’t easy. Now that we’ve heard Rachel’s story, we would love to hear yours. What tricks have you used to make yourself feel better emotionally when dealing with alopecia? And if you’d like to get your FREE consultation with a Happy Head dermatologist and get prescribed a custom hair loss treatment all online, take the questionnaire here



(01) Name has been changed for confidentiality

(02, 03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1261195/#ref11