There are many theories as to what causes balding, but we think this one tops them all!
Dr Emin Tuncay Ustuner, a plastic surgeon in Ankara, Turkey, believes gravity pulling down the skin of the scalp is to blame for hair loss. Dr Ustuner believed the answer is the weight of the scalp on the hair follicles. Younger men’s scalps have sufficient fat tissue under the skin, and it is ‘capable of keeping itself well-hydrated’, taking the pressure off the hair follicles. However, as a man ages, the fat tissue under the skin becomes thinner, and therefore the pressure on the hair follicles increases.
The thinning of the layer of fat is reportedly due to declining levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone. As the layer of fat grows thinner, the follicle is affected by the growing levels of pressure and needs more of the hormone for normal growth.
To respond to this, a potent form of the male sex hormone testosterone, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), builds up in the scalp. The hair growth cycle accelerates in response to DHT, but it’s not enough to overcome the increased pressure. Over time, the hair follicle becomes smaller and smaller, resulting in progressively increasing hair loss.
However, Dr Ustuner points out that it is a vicious circle – because higher DHT levels also cause fat to melt away. If the pressure created by the weight of the scalp is the cause of balding, then hair loss should occur at the top of the head – ‘and this is exactly what happens in male pattern baldness’, Dr Ustuner claims.
He believes that individual hair loss patterns are affected by differences in the shape of the head, reflecting variations in scalp pressure. The weight of the facial soft tissues adds to the pressure at the front of the scalp, contributing to hair loss there. In contrast, the ears help resist the effects of gravity on the scalp, lessening hair loss on the sides of the head.
The research is published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.