Unlucky on the Scalp, Lucky (?) on the Back (and Chest)
In the early years of this century (i.e., 2000-2003 or so), I started noticing that the vast majority of people that I saw in the gym or at the pool who had very hairy backs also tended to be heavily balding. If I had to put a figure to it, I would guess that 75 percent of men with very hairy backs tend to be balding severely. In contrast, for those without back hair, the balding rate is much lower. In fact for young and middle-aged adults without any back hair whatsoever as well as little to no chest hair, the balding rate is probably less than 30 percent. I doubt that I am off by much in both my above percentage guesses.
Besides at the gym and in the pool, I also noticed this trend among my own immediate family members and in-laws. My father has zero back hair and very little chest hair, but he had an absolutely stellar head of hair into his 60s. Even in his early 70s, he still has better hair than I have in my 30s and of course I have a lot more body hair then him. My brother-in-law is bald and has a hairy back. Same case with several of my current best friends.
When I first started noticing this phenomenon, I was a big tennis (and sports in general) fan, and the two superstars of the game at the time, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, were both very hirsute in their bodies, but not so much on their scalps. Agassi used to wax his chest and back hair regularly. Since retiring, balding Sampras has been rumored to have had one or several hair transplants, and I would guess that his scalp would look more like his father’s if not for the transplant(s).
A common sight at American sporting events (source):
East Asian People — Lucky on the Scalp, Unlucky (?) on the Back (and Chest)
Native Americans/American Indians (related to East Asians) have almost zero body hair, and not surprisingly, I have rarely seen balding native Americans. The one native American that I did see with major hair loss turned out to be half caucasian. Chinese, Japanese and Korean people (all part of the East Asian family) rarely have chest or back hair, and tend to have much less balding in comparison to other races.
It should be noted that even among Asians, there are some exceptions to the stereotype:
Finasteride Works Better for People with Excessive Body Hair
Around a year ago, I discovered a very interesting 2014 study from Japan that found that people with more body hair (i.e., men who were “pileous” in areas other than the scalp) tended to respond better to finasteride treatment for androgenetic alopecia. I found this to be a fascinating discovery. Its all the more interesting because very few Japanese people are likely to be very “pileous”. I wish someone would do the same study on very hairy caucasian men (I am including Armenians, Greeks, Persians, Turks, Afghans, East Indians, Middle Easterners etc… all as part of the caucasian race here).
Countless People on Finasteride or Dutasteride Have Seen a Subsequent Reduction in Body Hair
Over the years, I have read countless testimonials on various hair loss forums of people who were taking 5α-reductase inhibitors finasteride or dutasteride (to treat their scalp hair loss) seeing a significant reduction in body hair. People taking anti-androgens such as spironolactone and cyproterone acetate also report similar side effects.
However, to me, the surprising thing is that there are probably far more people who see no or negligible reduction in body hair than are those who see a reduction in body hair while on finasteride or dutasteride. I would have guessed that drastically reducing DHT levels is bound to reduce body hair in most people, especially in those who have a ton of it to start off? Yet, less than half of those hirsute people seem to be see a reduction in body hair when on those drugs.
In any case, below are a few recent examples of people who noticed a reduction in body hair while on finasteride or dutasteride:
- In an excellent recent thread worth bookmarking, HLT forum member “dnpuntold” stated: “body hair looks a lot thinner and less which is nice since I’m a freaking gorilla.”
- On this very blog, in the comments to my post on the cost of generic finasteride, “paddy” stated: “I have been taking Propecia (non generic) for 18 yrs, I agree with the “hold the line” comment above. It pretty much stopped by hair loss when I started it. Have experienced no negative side effects that I know of but a nice bonus is that much of my other body hair (back, butt, arms, chest, etc) has thinned dramatically as if it reapportioned that hair back to my head. Was a welcomed “side effect”.
- Also on this very blog, in the comments to my post on dutasteride success and failure stories, six (!) people thus far have mentioned body hair reduction after taking Avodart.
Do Men with Excess Body Hair and Balding Scalps Have Higher Testosterone and DHT Levels?
One of the biggest myths ever purported in the hair loss world is that balding men are more virile and have higher levels of testosterone. This is not true. I also do not think that balding men have significantly higher levels of dihydrotesterone (DHT) in comparison to non-balding men, although I have not read any data on that subject. What is true is that balding men’s scalp hair follicles are more sensitive to the damaging effects of DHT.
For me, the more interesting thing is that it seems like balding men’s body hair is also more sensitive to the effects of DHT — but in the opposite direction. DHT seems to make a high proportion of balding men grow copious amounts of body hair (a condition called hypertrichosis).
To my big surprise, two hair transplant surgeons that I have talked to about this phenomenon have told me that they are not sure of such a correlation regarding men with hairy backs and chests being more likely to bald then men without hair backs and chest. I am 100 percent convinced of such a correlation. In recent years, I have also read many hair loss forum members suggest the same thing. However, since there are always exceptions to the rule (e.g., most balding Asians with little body hair), this correlation theory does not get as much attention as it should. There is always some person who will ruin a thread on this subject by writing “I have no body hair and am still balding. So I do not buy this theory!”
Exception: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has more scalp hair then would be expected based on his plentiful body hair:
Body Hair Transplants (BHT)
In the headings for the first two sections of this post, I implied that people with hairy backs are lucky, but added a question mark (?) there. My reasoning for this ambiguity was that while most people with robust back hair would probably consider themselves unlucky, a somewhat recent trend in the hair transplant world has resulted in many people being grateful to have more body hair. This trend involves moving body hair to balding regions of the scalp and is termed as body hair transplants (BHT). I have discussed this a few times over the years, and will probably have more posts on the subject in the near future.
For now, its worth noting that only certain types of body hair are usually worth transplanting (beard, chest and back seem to be the most utilized, in that exact order), and body hair will never be as good as scalp hair that is moved from the permanent donor region at the back of the head. Nevertheless, there are now 100s of video documented cases online of people who have been happy with body hair transplants. For many people with very limited scalp donor hair (i.e., those with very extensive balding patterns), robust thick back hair and chest hair might now be considered to be a good/lucky thing! Dr. Ray Wood’s first BHT patient video is worth watching.
Hairy Balding Women
While this post has been focused on men (since I doubt there are many women in the world who have their backs covered with thick lengthy hair), it should be noted that a high proportion of balding women also complain of excess body hair (usually in areas other than the back). Many of these women suffer from a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in which they have high levels of male hormones. Here is a good resource for such women.
And Last and Definitely the Least: Ernie Primeau
In the history of the online hair loss world, there has never been anyone more insane and crazier than a certain Mr. Ernie Primeau. I briefly discussed him in a post here. Ernie holds the all-time record of number of forum and hair loss group posts….a record that will never be surpassed by another human. Even into his old age, the man is still present online and continues to promote his theory that removing all of ones body hair via plucking will regrow scalp hair!! Of course I do not believe it. However, perhaps it might very well have been Mr. Primeau who got me thinking about the inverse correlation between body hair and scalp hair over a decade ago, even though I believe it was probably my fellow gym and pool members and my family members. In any event, I hope to never mention him again on this blog after today.