If we could spot a virile man in a room by targeting the crosshairs on bald men, we would have it made – but apparently, it’s not that easy.
The association between baldness and virility has always been a popular topic but it probably is only because there are so many men who, despite being short of hair, are not short of brains, money, fame, or power – qualities that make them attractive to most women.
NBA legend Michael Jordan, veteran actor Bruce Willis, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos lead the pack of GQ’s 100 Most Powerful Bald Men in the World. Throw in Russian President Vladimir Putin, NBA player-turned-analyst Shaquille O’Neal, Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ive, and wrestling great Hulk Hogan to the list and the atmosphere is already oozing with testosterone.
The link between testosterone and bald men
Testosterone is a hormone produced mainly in the testicles and partially in the adrenal glands of men. Women also produce this hormone at lower levels – approximately a tenth to a twentieth of what men produce – in the ovaries and adrenal glands.
The level of testosterone in men’s bodies determines overall well-being as it is responsible for certain body functions such as keeping bones and muscles strong, making red blood cells, giving energy, making sperm and maintaining sex drive. Low levels of this hormone, which naturally occur in aging men, can lead to just the opposite: a decrease in strength and size of bones and muscles, sleep problems, inability to concentrate, low sperm count and declining libido.
Testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which attaches itself to receptors in the scalp’s follicles. DHT is notorious for shrinking hair follicles, which can lead to thinning and even a total loss of hair.
The American Hair Loss Association reports that men’s testosterone levels drop by 10% for each decade after thirty, while women’s hormone levels decrease as they near menopause, and drop sharply during and after menopause.
Although hormone levels rise and fall on certain periods in one’s life, the amount of DHT in the body is not the culprit that makes one bald. Some people are more likely to develop alopecia – the medical term for losing one’s hair in certain or all areas of the body – because of a heightened sensitivity of their hair follicles to bind with the DHT that’s circulating in the blood.
This all boils down to the kind of genes one inherits. People with normal or high DHT levels may not be candidates for alopecia if they are not genetically predisposed to the condition. Some may experience it despite having low levels in their system if their body chemistry demonstrates an over-sensitivity to certain hormones. For those who do suffer from DHT related hair loss, taking hair loss treatments that block DHT from binding to the follicle can help reduce their hair loss.
Baldness isn’t synonymous to virility
The fact that testosterone dictates a man’s size, strength, and endurance doesn’t necessarily mean that all bald men are Olympians in bed, or have more partners.
The Medical Journal of Australia documents a 1994-1997 study that measured if bald men were really more virile than their hairy, or “well-thatched” counterparts. The results, gathered from 2,205 men below the age of 70 years, measured baldness (ranging from nil, receding only, vertex only, and fully bald), the history of ejaculations between the ages of 20-49, and the total number of sex partners.
John Burton, who led the research, concluded that there was no significant evidence that linked baldness and virility. In fact, bald men were significantly less likely to have more than four female sexual partners.
So if you see men sporting the “hair today, gone tomorrow” look, don’t keep your hopes up. They may be in the GQ list, but so are Dr. Phil, Pope Francis, and the Dalai Lama.