The Bald Truth on How Baldness Is Inherited

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If many of the older men in your family are distinguished by a shiny bald patch on their heads, their younger male relatives may be wondering if it’s only a matter of time for them, too. There’s a common claim that baldness is inherited from the mother’s father. How much truth is there in this claim?

Male Pattern Baldness

Most of the research that’s been conducted on hair loss has focused on male pattern baldness (MPB) as opposed to female pattern baldness. Maybe this is because the latter is less striking. Females don’t tend to develop completely bald patches — instead, their hair tends to thin.

Research shows that approximately 30% of males experience a degree of hair loss by the age of 30, 50% by the age of 50, and 80% by the age of 70 (Hamilton J.B., 1951).

Male pattern baldness usually begins with a receding hairline, most pronounced around the temples, and then with a small bald spot at the back of the head that eventually grows larger. At the end of the process, most men with MPB are left with only a small amount of hair behind the ears and at the back of the head in a kind of horseshoe pattern.

How Does Hair Grow, and Why Does It Stop?

Hair grows from a root, located at the bottom of the hair follicles on your scalp. It’s composed of proteins, mostly keratin, built by the various types of cells located in the follicle. As the cells add more proteins to the hair, it pushes out from the root and grows. The unique characteristics of the hair follicles determine the characteristics of hair, such as its color and whether it’s curly or straight.

A chemical derivative of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is responsible for the hair loss process. DHT causes the hair follicles to shrink, and the hair growing in those follicles thins and eventually falls out. The fact that DHT is derived from testosterone may explain why baldness is so much more common among men than among women.

DNA and Baldness

Several large-scale genetic studies (Hagenaars et al, 2017; Heilmann-Heimbach et al, 2017; Pirastu et al, 2017) have shown that DNA plays an important role in determining whether an individual will develop MBP. One of the genes associated with hair loss is the AR gene. This gene codes for a protein which helps hair follicles detect hormones that affect hair growth (such as testosterone), and it’s located on the X chromosome — a chromosome that biological males inherit from their mothers. This is probably the source of the claim that baldness is inherited from the mother’s father. After all, if the gene is on the X chromosome, and the X chromosome is inherited from the mother, it couldn’t have been inherited from the father, right?

Well, as with many things in genetics, it’s not as simple as that. One of the studies (Hagenaars et al, 2017) showed that MBP is a polygenic condition: a condition associated with numerous genetic variants, not just one. (Some of the conditions the MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry test looks for are polygenic conditions, such as heart disease and breast cancer.) Moreover, many of the genetic variants associated with MBP aren’t located on sex chromosomes — and Hagenaars’s study found that those ones more accurately predict whether someone will develop MBP than the ones located on sex chromosomes.

In other words, there is a little grain of truth to the claim that men inherit a tendency for baldness from their mothers’ fathers… but not a whole lot. There are many other factors that are more important when it comes to predicting whether a man will develop MBP.

Is there male pattern baldness in your family? Share your stories in the comments!

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  • Ross


    November 10, 2019

    Maybe you can include it as a polygenic condition in your Health report?

  • Virgil Owens


    November 11, 2019

    It appears to skip generations along the paternal male line in my family i.e. myself, my grandfather, my 2nd great-grandfather were all fully bald by our 60’s. My mother’s father had only a slightly receding hairline but an otherwise full-head of hair in his late 60’s. Her grandfather appears to have a full head of hair in old photos.

  • Tim Walsh


    November 11, 2019

    My dad was bald at 28. I’m 65 & still have a full head of hair. My only other brother aged 56 is going bald.My mother’s father was not bald.

  • Jean Mayo


    November 21, 2019

    My husband, at age 71 has lost over 50% of his hair on the top of his head. His mother’s father was the same way. We haven’t tracked past his maternal grandfather so we can’t see if it is in previous generations. His paternal ancestors all had lovely heads of thick hair. However, his brother and only sibling had a full head of hair. The only grandchild is female and also has lovely thick hair. So in his case MBP is 50-50.

  • Vivian Shirley


    November 22, 2019

    All the males in our family are 50 % bald by age 30. There are at least 10 genes listed in our genetics that contribute to this issue. The guys in our family are certain to have it. I cant think of any who were able to keep their hair!

  • Hylton B.


    November 23, 2019

    I am 67, and I am nearly bald – I have just the “horse-shoe” band left.
    My twin brother, who lives on the opposite side of the planet from me, is the same.
    So is my younger (by 4 years) brother in the same state.
    My sister, my youngest sibling, has hair that is thinning.
    All the mothers & grandmothers on both sides of my family kept all their hair, though I’m not certain about my grandmothers – they _may_ have had thinning hair; I was too young to notice or care when they passed on.
    By 80, my dad was totally bald.
    Both my grandfathers were bald.
    My son is now 33, and still has all his hair, but there are already signs of grey.
    BUT his other grandfather, at 86, still had a full head of white hair.
    Will my son go bald?

  • Patti


    January 21, 2020

    I have 3 sons in their 30’s. Two have MPB and the 3rd has a full head of hair.

  • Kerry Dreggors


    January 21, 2020

    My Paternal grandfather, great grandfather, and My brother (fathers son),We’re balding. Paternal grandfathers #1 son , my Father died young. #2 son is 90 now, full head of hair. Their mother, my Paternal grandmother, very thick hair, her father not bald,

  • mack


    January 21, 2020

    I and my twin have male pattern baldness. My father’s side of the family had receding hairlines, but did not go bald. My mothers, father and his father were not bald. But my mothers uncles on her father’s side tended to be bald. Thus I have assumed it came from the female side of my family.

  • Marion Williams


    January 22, 2020

    My son appears to have inherited his baldness to my father.

  • Kathy Meadows


    January 22, 2020

    I have had no luck on my paternal grandparents. His name was Clarence Preston Miller. My grandmother was Elsie Trout Miller. They and their information is shown on my family tree. They were born in WV. They lived in Alderson WV. He died in hospital in Beckley WV. I believe she was born in Alderson and died in Hinton WV. They both are buried at Sunset Cemetery in Beckley WV. I have no information on great grandparents. I remember seeing Elsie’s mother as a young child. Her last name was Trout and was elderly. Most of my grandmothers siblings lived in Alderson and one sister named Mable lived in Hinton WV. Please help me build on my dad’s side of family.

  • Sandra Cook


    January 22, 2020

    I would like to know about Female Pattern Baldness. My grandmother, mother had it and know I am losing my hair. By the way, my maiden name was Baldwin. My family calls me Bald One.

  • Harold


    January 22, 2020

    My father was bald, his father was bald, and his father and uncle were bald. My mother’s father was bald but my mother’s mother’s father was not. I am 68 with a full head of thick hair. I always assumed I got it from my mother since her hair was thick, too. I have two sons and neither show obvious signs of balding. They are in their late 30’s and early 40’s.

  • Eileen Phelps


    January 22, 2020

    I have two living sons. One is bald on top from his thirties and forties. The other has experienced thinning hair on the crown in his sixties. My father never lost his hair even in his mid-seventies. My husband never lost his hair but died in his early fifties. His father never lost his hair into the nineties. I’m in my eighties and have female pattern problems. I have one grandfather who went bald. My husband had an uncle who went slightly bald. We are from Northern European stock, which seems to be rife with the problem.

  • Dylan


    January 22, 2020

    My mother, father, father’s father, and mother’s father all have/had beautiful heads of hair their whole lives. I am 27 and have a worse receding hair line than anyone in my entire family. Was I switched at birth?

  • Rose


    January 22, 2020

    My Dad was horseshoe bald when past at 59, my two brothers are now in early 70’s both bald, their sons are, my son is 44 and losing it from front! I am 67 always had fine hair, still have but after chemo I grew back with more hair and a slight wave! Amazing! So I say yes it’s your Mothers side of relations!

  • Mindy


    January 22, 2020

    My mother’s side of the family has no bald men at all through at least five generations. Everyone has an extremely thick head of hair but very little body hair. My father’s side has thinner hair with a receding hairline but no men that would be called “bald.” My husband and all the men on his father’s side are bald on top. His mother’s side has the receding hairline. I have two sons. One has very thick hair and the other is more fine. They are both under 20 so we’ll see how it goes.

  • Hendrik Whiteman


    January 23, 2020

    I am 73 years old and have a balding patch at the back and the front is starting to recede. I have the same type of hair as my mother, sparsely populated and very thin and light. My brother, 7 years my junior, has hair like my father, course and thick. Both my grandfathers were bald. My dad’s father died at 79 due to a heart attack he was a farmer in the district of Standerton (wore a hat for many hours each day) had 7 sons and 5 daughters, while my mother’s father co-owned a general dealer store (was the bookkeeper) in Paarl and later in Hermanus where he died of a heart attack at the age of 66, had 2 sons and 2 daughters. Neither of my grandfathers drank alcohol other than at communion. Theoretically my brother and I should be bald.

  • Jimmy


    January 24, 2020

    Also regarding the X chromosome associated AR gene remember that any particular bald man’s mother will get one of her X chromosomes from her mother who can be a carrier while her father is not and he may have a full head of hair while his grandson is bald. Just to muddy the waters a little more…

  • Gary Moran


    January 24, 2020

    I’m a 74 year old man and I still have all my hair and it has just started going a touch of grey! But my older brother has lost most of his hair when he turned 50.

  • Terry Kinyon


    January 25, 2020

    My mother’s side had baldness as do I but my dad’s side of the family had full thick hair. My brother is in his mid 70’s with thick blond hair and I have thin balding hair brown and gray. My mother’s only sibling was male and bald.

  • Gayle Hadfield


    January 25, 2020

    Two of my sons have Male Pattern Baldness. The claim that it is inherited from the Mother’s Father has always baffled us. My Father died at 84 with a full head of hair, and high hairline at the temples. However, my Fathers’s father had MPB at a very young age. This is the same experience my oldest son has had.

    My husband has a full head of hair. His father passed at 94 with just the beginning of MPB. My husband’s Grandfather passed away very young with high hair line at the temples. This is the hair line that my oldest son inherited.
    My oldest son began going bald at 21. He never had the bald patch at his crown. His front hair line just receded and receded until complete baldness. I would love to know how to predict the MPB prospects of my grandsons. Two are experiencing rapid MPB at ages 25 and 23.

  • Anubhav


    June 25, 2020

    My father, mother and maternal parents aren’t bald. My Father’s brothers aren’t bald either, and I don’t know about my paternal grandparents as they are no more, can you please reply what are my chances of not going bald? Please reply

  • dmofrad


    July 20, 2020

    I don’t understand the ‘mother’s father being bald’ myth constantly being repeated?!

    People need to provide examples of men who went bald at 21 for instance who have fathers who have amazing hair… I have NEVER seen this.

    Most genes and traits are polygenic and a mixture of genes, why would hair loss be randomly because of a gene your mother’s father has!? It makes no logical sense, why that ONE trait is from ONE person; your mother’s father’s parents are not your parents so why would his hair loss genes be the exact same as yours.

    My dad is 67 with a full head of hair like his own father who died in his 80s with a full head of hair… every male on my dads mothers side is/was bald, his mother’s father went bald in his 20s… my dad has two brothers who are not bald or anywhere near it.. explain that one… It’s obviously not the mothers father. MY DAD AND HIS BROTHERS OBVIOUSLY TOOK AFTER THEIR DAD.

    My mother’s father died in his 80s with more hair than I ever had… and my moms mother’s side has even better hair… pretty sure I got my dads hairline etc, we both have thick Norwood 2s. My mother’s side is all Norwood 1.

    People need to show PROOF that baldness ACTUALLY comes from their mothers father at least half of the time for me to actually belief this outdated myth….

    Show pictures/evidence of men who went bald early like their mothers father’s who have fathers with excellent hair….. I bet you there aren’t many!

    If the statement ‘baldness comes from your mother’s father’ is true to some degree at least my dad or one of his brothers would he bald by now or at least balding.

    * My belief is that it is like any other trait; a mixture of many genes that express themselves uniquely in each individual.