The role of genetic predisposition and the influence of sex steroid hormones are indisputable to the pathogenesis of male androgenetic alopecia (MAGA). The role of sex steroid hormones in female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is less known. A good knowledge of the pathophysiology underlying MAGA and FPHL empowers the clinician to confidently counsel patients and make informed therapeutic decisions. Vigorous research in recent years has provided greater insight into the role of genetics and sex steroids in physiological hair growth and cycling, as well as in hair follicle miniaturization, the histological hallmark of MAGA and FPHL. In the present review article directed towards clinicians, we discuss the current understanding of the role of androgens and oestrogens, as well as genetic associations with MAGA and FPHL. We also briefly discuss the interpretation of direct-to-consumer genetic testing for baldness to help clinicians understand the limitations of such tests.
© 2011 The Authors. Australasian Journal of Dermatology © 2011 The Australasian College of Dermatologists.