Early Signs of Balding & Hair Thinning

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Last Updated

Last Updated

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The thought of going bald is worrying. 

So, d’you want the good news or the bad?

Let’s start with the bad news – Going bald is a natural process that ultimately boils down to your genetics.

The good news – There are several products on the market claiming to prevent, or even reverse balding.
Now, you may or may not be worried about losing your hair. There's nothing wrong with going bald. It's a natural process that many men embrace. And they do so with style. However, chances are, if you've landed on this page, you probabaly want to keep or regrow your hair. 

With so many options available on the market, how does one navigate the remedies that are best for them? Or identify the ones that really work?

The best way to stop balding is to act as early as possible. You may be able to slow the balding process, and – if you’re early enough – potentially reverse it altogether. Fortunately, there are signs that you can use to identify if you are experiencing balding, also referred to as male pattern baldness (MPB), or androgenetic alopecia.
This article will examine how you can detect the signs of MPB and how to effectively treat the symptoms associated with this common condition.

 

What are the first signs of balding?

MPB doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process that can take years, or even decades. There are signs a man can recognise in order to begin combatting the effects of progressive hair loss. 

Let's take a look at some of the early signs of balding and hair thinning: 


First signs of hair thinning start to appear

Thinning typically begins around the temples and crown, however, some men will also notice hair thinning across the whole head. Unfortunately, at this stage, it will not grow back naturally. 

Whilst thinning doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experiece further hair loss, it usually one of the first signs of losing hair as a result of MPB. The later stages of balding may, or may not appear. 


Receding hairline

Many men notice their hairline receding as they age; this occurrence is usually related to the early stages of balding. 

It is common for the hairline to slowly take a ‘V’ shape, which may progressively become more prominent over time. You may have heard this type of hairline referred to as a ‘widow’s peak,’ where hair growth along the centre of the forehead is surrounded by hair recession on either side.  

The term ‘widow’s peak’ is thought to have originated from 18th century England, where a grieving widow would wear a black triangular hat or hood with a point falling in the middle of their forehead.

Whilst the ‘V’ shape, or widow’s peak is the most common sign of receding hairline, some men’s regression may take an ‘M’ shape, and others will resemble a horseshoe. 

The best way to identify signs of thinning hair or a receding hairline is to closely examine yourself in the mirror or photographs, and compare recent pictures to older ones. Keep in mind that signs of a receding hairline can begin to emerge as early as the onset of puberty in young men, and gradually progress over time. Some men may display signs of balding at 18, or even younger, whilst others will show signs of losing hair much later on.


Excess hair loss in the shower and on the bed

Contrary to what some men may believe, it is entirely normal to see hair in the shower or on the bed. The average man loses between 50-100 hairs a day, as part of a natural cycle. Each hair follicle progresses from a growth stage – also known as anagen – to a rest stage, called telogen, before eventually falling out. This cycle will repeat itself for as long as the hair follicle remains active and produces new hairs.

If you start to notice more hair that usual, for example in the sink, shower, bed, or anywhere else around your home, this could be one of the early signs of balding.

Before seeking treatment, it is also worth recognising that some significant life events or changes can also result in a sudden increase in the amount of hair you’re shedding. 

Keep the following circumstances in mind if you’re noticing a greater-than-usual amount of hair loss:

  • Sudden or dramatic changes in weight
  • Recovering from illness 
  • Recuperating after a operation
  • Grieving the loss of a loved one
  • Adapting to significant life changes, like divorce or job loss


Circumstantial-based hair loss may only last six to nine months before your hair recovers to its natural thickness and density. Of course, if you’re noticing large amounts of hair shedding that can’t be attributed to a dramatic event, you may be suffering from the onset of male pattern baldness.


Hair loss in clumps

As MPB progresses, you are likely to lose hair with greater frequency. However, hair falling out all of a sudden – or in large chunks – is not an indicator of this condition. Certain medical conditions such as an under active or over active thyroid, are among the medical ailments that exacerbate hair loss and can result in large clumps of hair falling out. 

Some autoimmune disorders such as lupus, as well as chronic infections, can also cause alarming amounts of seemingly instantaneous hair loss. In the event that you’re noticing this volume of ‘shock loss’ it is important to consult your doctor or medical professional.


Bald spots on the head

Balding that begins around the crown of the head will often progress to a bald spot – a clear indication of MPB. However, it is not necessarily a precursor to outright baldness. Each man is affected to varying degrees. Some men will experience balding towards the back of the head, with a thick volume of hair around the temples, while others lose hair equally across every part of the head. 

Look out for bald spots or patches of hair loss in random areas of the scalp. This is likely to be indicative of alopecia areata. An autoimmune disorder characterised by the appearance of circle like bald spots across the head, which will eventually progress to cause hair loss in all areas of the body. This is not indicative of MPB. Unlike MPB, there is currently no cure for alopecia areata.

 

Signs of balding at 20

Ever heard of the phrase 'early bird catches the worm'? Well, in the case of hair loss, the same principal applies. Catching on to a receding hairline early, increases the chances of stopping, or even reversing hair loss. Should a young man in his twenties notice that his forehead is getting a little higher, or that the hair around his temples is beginning to retreat, there is hope. 

Before examining some of the more effective methods of hair restoration, here are a few common signs of early balding:

  • Less hair on the crown of the head: Noticing your scalp in the mirror, or in pictures, is a clear indicator and one of the early signs of hair thinning.
  • Hairstyles fall out of place: If you use products to style your hair, you should be able to achieve a level of consistency with your hairstyle throughout the day. (Rain or other inhospitable weather conditions aside, of course.) If you notice that your hair falls flat, or you have trouble maintaining your intended style, you may have early stages of MPB. Thick hair will usually keep its hold, whilst thinner hair will lose it’s style and fall flat.
  • Scalp is prone to sunburn: A thick layer of hair acts to protect your scalp from harmful UV rays. Should you begin to notice an itchy scalp, and irritated sunburns on the top of your head, you’re likely losing some density.


Remember, signs of balding at 18 years old is a possibility – so keeping an eye on any perceived or real regression can make the difference between having hair and being bald later on in life.

 

How to stop and reverse balding

The Hamilton-Norwood scale is a classification system that medical professionals use to identify what stage of MPB you have. You have a much better chance of stopping and reversing hair loss the quicker you act. Commencing treatment at the first signs of hair thinning or receding, gives you a much higher chance of successful treatment.


Finasteride

Finasteride, commonly sold under the brand name Propecia, is amongst the most commonly used hair restoration treatments in the world.

This popular treatment is recommended by many established hair loss surgeons and clinics within the UK. It is recognised as an effective non-surgical hair loss treatment and is clinically proven to treat male pattern baldness in 90% of men.

Finasteride works to decrease levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a natural male hormone that is associated with MPB. Lowering DHT levels can result in the regrowth of hair and a reduced rate of hair loss. While finasteride works to halt the progression of male pattern baldness, it does not affect hair growth in other areas of the body.


Minoxidil

Commonly sold under the brand name Regaine, minoxidil is a topical solution for male pattern baldness. Regaine works by increasing the blood flow to hair follicles, stimulating them to regrow hair, as well as prevent further hair loss. Unlike finasteride, which is taken in the form of a pill, minoxidil is applied topically as a foam or liquid and is available without a prescription from most high street and online pharmacies. 

Available in the form of products like Regaine, minoxidil should be applied twice daily, and takes around 8 weeks to work. It is effective in around 80% of those that try it.

Minoxidil works by increasing the flow of blood to vessels in the scalp. In turn, there is an increased blood supply to the hair follicles, giving them access to a rich supply of oxygen and nutrients. This stimulates the hair follicles to produce thick and long hair, while also strengthening existing hair. This process, if consistently applied to the crown of the head, can contribute to the mitigation of further hair loss, and effectively combat MPB.


Hair Transplant

Hair transplants work by surgically removing grafts, or small pieces of skin, from donor sites at the back of the head – where hair is generally thicker and fuller – and implanting them onto the affected areas of the crown or at the front of the head

Once the skin heals, the treated areas should continue to produce and grow this healthy hair.

Typically reserved for men who have tried other treatment protocols, a hair transplant is an effective way to restore a hairline affected by MPB.

Hair transplants are carried out in the form of one of the two following procedures:

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT): Commonly referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of treatment procedures, FUT involves the removal of a thin strip of tissue along the back and sides of the scalp. Once removed, individual follicles are removed via stereo-microscopic dissection, and then implanted back into the thinning areas of the crown or forehead.

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE): This procedure is increasing in popularity due to automated procedures and the lack of a long ‘strip-scar’ post surgery. FUE procedures involve the harvesting of hair via small, circular incisions over a considerably larger area of the head, resulting in tiny round white scars.

If you’re considering a treatment option in order to halt or reverse the onset of androgenetic alopecia, consult your doctor or a medical professional to determine your best course of action.

 

So, what are the early signs of balding?

Whilst the first signs of hair thinning may be difficult to detect, there are giveaway signs that you may be experiencing early balding. The chances are, this is likely to go on to get progressively worse over time. 

Pay attention to the amount of hair that is left behind on your hairbrush, in the sink, the shower, or on the bed. It is perfectly normal to lose between 50-100 hairs per day – progressive thinning will leave behind a significant and noticeable trail once male pattern baldness has begun. 

Examine your scalp and hairline under direct overhead light to determine if you’re able to see the top of your head clearly. Should you notice that you’re seeing more and more of a shiny or grey scalp through the density of your hair, you may be balding.

Frequent and itchy sunburns, or hairstyles that won’t stay in place are also early indicators that you may be experiencing some form of MPB. 

If you’re noticing the onset of these symptoms – regardless of your age – you may wish to consider a treatment protocol to curb the effects of thinning or excessive shedding that could ultimately result in balding if left unchecked.

From finasteride to minoxidil, FUT transplants to FUE, there are a number of proven and effective hair loss treatments to combat the progression of male pattern baldness. 


Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.