The Early Signs of Balding

Written by the Manual Team · Medically approved by Dr Earim Chaudry - MD

In 30 seconds…

Most hair loss in men is caused by Male Pattern Baldness (MPB), which can begin as early as your teenage years. By the age of 50, 50% of men will experience MPB. Baldness doesn’t set in overnight – this is a very gradual condition that often progresses slowly over many years.

Classic early signs of MPB are a receding hairline and a bald spot at the crown. It’s possible to halt and even reverse this hair loss – particularly if you get started early with treatment.

It’s a fact that we all lose hair every day, and anything between 50 and 100 hairs shed per day is completely normal. This is just the result of your natural hair growth cycle – old hairs being evicted so new hairs can grow in their place.

So how can you tell when your hair loss stops being normal? And what are the signs that the balding process has begun? In this article we look at how to detect the beginnings of male pattern baldness and what you can do to halt the hair loss.

Why Do Men Go Bald?

Male pattern baldness (MPB) is responsible for 95% of the hair loss experienced by men. It’s an extremely common condition: half of all men will have MPB by the age of 50. MPB generally develops very gradually; you won’t see all your hair fall out overnight – but in the most severe cases it eventually leads to complete baldness at the front and top of the head. 

What causes MPB? Well, it’s the activity of a hormone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is converted from testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) and when this happens at the site of the hair follicle, this is bad news for your hair. DHT causes the hair follicle to shrink and become less healthy, so the hair it produces is also weak and slower to grow.

After a while, the hair follicle may stop producing hair altogether.

Your genes can make you more sensitive to the effects of DHT, which is why MPB often runs in families. Genetics are complex though, so don’t go thinking you’re fated to get granddad Jim’s exact bald spot!

Other less common causes of hair loss in men include: stress, medical conditions such as alopecia areata, and medical treatments like chemotherapy. Micronutrient deficiencies such as a lack of iron or B vitamins in the diet can also contribute to hair loss.

The Early Signs of Balding

At first, it might be difficult to spot the signs of balding caused by MPB, as hair loss is so gradual. It can help if you compare two photos of yourself, with similar lighting, taken at least several months apart. Early signs that you have MPB include:

  • Receding hairline: If you take a look at the Hamilton-Norwood Scale and its seven stages of male pattern baldness, you’ll see a receding hairline is usually the first indication that the balding process has started. Hair starts to be lost at the temples, creating an “M” shaped hairline.
  • Crown hair loss: Another early sign of MPB is where your hair starts to thin at the crown (just off the top or vertex of your head) and begins to produce a bald spot.
  • Less healthy hair: In the areas where your hair is thinning, you may also see that individual hairs are weaker and more brittle, and they take longer to grow than hair in less-affected areas.
  • Excessive hair loss after a shower: It’s totally normal to lose a few hairs when you wash, dry, and comb your hair, but if you’re noticing a lot of hair left behind on the towel or comb that could be a sign of MPB beginning.
  • No change to hair on the sides or back of your head: The hair follicles in these areas are not as sensitive to DHT, so if you have thicker hair there while you’re losing it up top, that’s a strong sign that your hair loss is caused by MPB.

 

If you experience sudden hair loss, you have multiple bald patches, you’re losing hair in clumps, or you have an itchy or burning scalp, it’s likely that your hair is caused by a different condition to MPB and you should seek medical advice.

 

What to do When You Notice the First Balding Signs

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It may be that hair loss doesn’t faze you – you’re happy to go for a close cropped hairstyle and let nature take its course. However, if you’re keen to treat your hair loss then it’s best to start early, when you first notice the MPB warning signs. That’s because it does become harder to stop or reverse hair loss over time, as the hair follicles become more damaged.

The most effective licensed treatments for MPB hair loss are Finasteride and Minoxidil:

  • Finasteride is a tablet taken once a day, which blocks the enzyme 5-AR from converting testosterone to DHT. This protects your hair follicles from the harmful effects of DHT, helping them to recover and produce strong, healthy hair again. Finasteride is a good choice if you want to tackle your receding hairline early on.
    Important note: Finasteride should never be taken by women; it is only licensed as a treatment for male pattern baldness.
  • Minoxidil is a topical hair loss treatment available as a foam, spray, or solution, which is applied to the areas of the scalp where hair is thinning. It helps to increase blood flow to your scalp and revitalise your hair follicles. If you want to target specific areas of hair loss then Minoxidil could work well for you.

For a comprehensive approach to hair loss treatment, you can also try combining Finasteride and Minoxidil. Together, they provide positive results for more than nine out of ten men.

 

Can You Regrow Hair on a Bald Spot?

When you’re in the early stages of MPB and a small bald spot develops, with the right treatment you have a good chance of being able to regrow hair in that area. That’s because the hair follicles, though damaged, could still be revived with the help of Finasteride or Minoxidil.

On the other hand, if your MPB has been developing for a while and you have large areas where no hair has grown for some time, it won’t be possible to regain full coverage. With treatment, you might be able to thicken up the hair around the edges of the bald areas, though, which could provide you with a little extra flexibility regarding hair styles.

 

Key Takeaways…

Spotting the first signs of balding is key if you want to get the most out of hair loss treatments. Finasteride and Minoxidil are very effective for early-stage MPB, whether it’s a receding hairline or a bald spot you want to tackle. 

Hair loss doesn’t have to be final if you get help in good time. While your MPB is still restricted to smaller areas, this is the ideal opportunity to give your hair follicles a bit of TLC.