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Am I Balding? 6 Ways to Know if You're Going Bald

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/9/2021

It’s the conversation that nobody wants to have — am I going bald? The unfortunate truth is that the majority of men will experience male pattern baldness at some point in life. 

When the balding starts and how much hair we’ll lose is typically based on genetics. And while most of us can admit that male pattern baldness is something we’re seriously concerned about, many men don’t take action while there’s still time.

The biggest problem with hair loss is that the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to reverse the damage. 

If you wait to treat your hair loss, you may find it difficult to maintain a large amount of your hair as you get older. 

On the other hand, if you start a hair loss treatment program right when you first spot a receding hairline or thin patch, you’ve got a greater chance of holding onto your hair. 

Below, we’ve listed six common signs that you may notice if you’re starting to lose your hair due to male pattern baldness.

We’ve also explained what you can do to protect your hair follicles from further damage and, in some cases, regrow the hair that you’ve lost.

How To Tell If You’re Going Bald

Unlike the flu, male pattern baldness isn’t a medical condition that you’ll suddenly wake up with one morning. 

Instead, hair loss is typically a gradual process that takes place over a period of months, years and even decades. 

So, how do you know when it’s time to take action? These six early signs can often signal that you’re beginning to lose your hair:

1. Your Hair is Falling Out

This might sound self-explanatory, but excessive hair shedding is an obvious, common sign of hair loss.

Unfortunately, this sign is surprisingly easy to overlook. This is because most people lose about 100 strands of hair on any given day due to natural hair shedding that occurs as your hairs exit the final phases of the hair growth cycle

Because some degree of hair shedding is natural, finding a couple of hairs on your hairbrush or pillowcase doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going bald. 

However, when you start noticing a lot of hair around the house or stuck inside the drain of your shower, it’s often a good signal that it’s time to start looking into hair loss treatments.

2. Your Hairline is Receding

A receding hairline is a classic sign of male pattern baldness. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign that many guys ignore until it gets quite severe, either because they don’t notice it developing or just because it isn’t particularly pleasant to acknowledge.

You might notice that your hairline is beginning to recede when some hairstyles expose more of your forehead than you’re used to seeing. 

Alternatively, you might spot your hairline taking on an M-shape when you’re washing or drying your hair. 

Receding hairlines often start around your temples. Over time, the pattern usually worsens until your hairline is lower in the center than it is at the sides. About 25 percent of men ages from 40 to 55 have this type of hairline.

3. Your Scalp is Clearly Visible

Did you once have a thick head of hair that covered your scalp like the Amazon rainforest? It’s far from uncommon to have dense and thick hair that rarely, if ever, exposes your scalp during your teens and 20s. 

Over time, male pattern baldness can cause even the thickest head of hair to look much, much thinner, meaning your scalp might become visible when your hair is wet, parted or when you’ve applied wet-look styling products.

This happens because of hair thinning that occurs across your scalp, even if your hairline hasn’t changed in the meantime. 

For some men, this form of hair loss occurs at the crown, or vertex of the scalp -- the area that’s right at the top of your head. You might notice that your skin is visible through this hair when you look at the back of your head in the mirror. 

Like a receding hairline, this type of hair loss is common, with about 31 percent of men aged 40 to 55 displaying some signs of vertex baldness.

One side effect of this form of hair loss is that it may expose your scalp to the sun, meaning you might develop sunburn if you spend time outdoors without a hat.

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4. You’re Noticing Random Bald Spots

As we mentioned above, male pattern baldness can cause a bald patch to develop around the top of the head -- an area that’s often referred to as your crown. 

In addition to male pattern baldness, other forms of hair loss may cause you to develop patchy areas or random bald spots on your scalp.

One potential cause of bald spots is alopecia areata -- a form of autoimmune hair loss that can cause your hair to fall out in round or oval-shaped bald patches.

In addition to bald spots, this type of hair loss could also cause you to shed hair in a band-like pattern that straps around certain parts of your scalp. It can also affect your facial hair growth, resulting in small patches of missing hair in your beard area.

Other forms of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium, can occur after traumatic events or during periods of severe stress.

The good news, however, is that these forms of hair loss are usually temporary, meaning your hair should eventually grow back and fill in any bald spots or patchy areas.

5. Your Hair Takes Longer To Grow

The hair on your scalp grows about six inches a year, which means you’ll gain about an inch of new hair every couple of months.

Right now, there aren’t any scientific studies that show that male pattern baldness affects the speed at which your hair grows.

However, since male pattern baldness can affect your hair count (the total number of hairs on your head, or the density of hairs in any specific area), you may find that it takes a little longer for your hair to grow back to its usual look after a short haircut. 

You may also notice that your hair never seems to grow quite as thick as it used to -- an issue that’s caused by DHT-related damage to your hair follicles.

6. Your Scalp is Itchy or Flaky

Although an itchy scalp doesn’t necessarily mean you’re losing your hair, many conditions that can cause your scalp to itch can also cause hair loss.

For example, hair loss is a well-known symptom of tinea capitis -- a fungal infection that affects your scalp and causes your skin to itch.

Other conditions that can affect your skin and cause itching, such as seborrheic dermatitis, may cause hair loss if you scratch your scalp too aggressively. It’s also common to experience mild itching with alopecia areata hair loss.

With this said, there isn’t any scientific research to show that male pattern baldness -- the most common cause of hair loss in men -- results in an itchy scalp.

Why Am I Going Bald?

Hair loss can occur for a range of reasons. However, for men, the most common reason for hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. 

Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of your genes and the effects of an androgen hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

In men genetically prone to hair loss, DHT can bind to receptors in the scalp and miniaturize, or shrink, the hair follicles. 

This prevents your hair follicles from producing new hairs and results in the gradual loss of hair that many men experience during their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. 

Our complete guide to DHT and male hair loss explains this process and its hormonal origins in more detail. 

In some cases, other factors, such as medication, stress or skin infections, could cause you to shed hair. We’ve discussed these in more detail in our guide to the causes of hair loss.

How Long Does it Take to Go Bald?

Going bald isn’t something that happens overnight. For most men, hair loss develops gradually over the course of years and decades, with your hairline steadily receding and the hair on your scalp slowly getting thinner.

There’s no specific amount of time that it takes to go bald. Depending on your sensitivity to the effects of DHT, you may notice rapid hair shedding or slow but steady hair loss.

Regardless of how rapidly or slowly you’re going bald, it’s important to treat hair loss as quickly as you can to protect your hair and prevent it from worsening.

How To Stop Your Balding

Now that you know a little bit about what to look for, it’s time to cover some of the ways to stop male pattern baldness from becoming more severe. 

For starters, it’s important not to let yourself become stressed and upset about hair loss. Hair loss is something that happens to the best of us, and with modern medicine, you can protect yourself from further hair loss and keep your head of hair without breaking the bank.

The biggest problem surrounding male pattern baldness and hair loss isn’t coming up with an effective treatment plan -- it’s the ignorance and misinformation floating around. 

You’d be surprised to learn how many guys feel powerless when they notice the early warning signs of hair loss. 

They’ve often been told that homeopathic "remedies" like rubbing cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar on their head will cure them of their baldness. Not surprisingly, it won’t! 

But this doesn’t mean that you need to accept that you’re losing your hair. There are several science-based hair loss treatments that have been thoroughly tested in clinical trials and are viable solutions to baldness.

Currently, the two most effective medications for treating male pattern baldness are minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine®) and finasteride (Propecia®). 

Minoxidil is a topical treatment that works by stimulating growth and increasing blood flow to your scalp, while finasteride is an oral medication that works by reducing your DHT levels.

Both of these medications can be used together to stop your hair loss from worsening, shield your hair from further damage and, in some cases, even regrow lost hair in the areas of your scalp with noticeable thinning. 

We offer both minoxidil and finasteride together in our Hair Power Pack, which also includes other science-based products for treating pattern hair loss and improving hair regrowth.

Although these medications are effective, neither are one-time fixes for baldness. In order to keep your hair looking thick and healthy, you’ll need to actively use minoxidil and finasteride over the long term. 

You’ll also need to be patient. In general, it takes a few months before you’ll be able to notice any improvements to your hair from either minoxidil or finasteride.

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Ready to Prevent Hair Loss?

Hair loss is a common issue for men, with one study showing 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 and more than 50 percent of men in their 40s affected by mild to moderate male pattern baldness.

By looking out for the first signs of baldness listed above, you might be able to reverse hair loss before it takes a major toll on your hairline.

Our detailed guide to male pattern baldness provides more information about the mechanism behind hair loss, as well as your options for protecting your hair over the long term.

9 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Hair Loss. (2021, March 1). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/hairloss.html
  2. Cranwell, W. & Sinclair, R. (2016, February 29). Male Androgenetic Alopecia. Endotext. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/
  3. Hair Loss Types: Alopecia Areata Signs and Symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia/symptoms
  4. Do You Have Hair Loss or Hair Shedding? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  5. What Kids Should Know About How Hair Grows. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/parents-kids/healthy-habits/parents/kids/hair-grows
  6. Al Aboud, A.M. & Crane, J.S. (2020, August 10). Tinea Capitis. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536909/
  7. Seborrheic Dermatitis and the Link to Hair Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ucfhealth.com/our-services/dermatology/seborrheic-dermatitis-hair-loss-treatment/
  8. Alopecia Areata. (2019, January). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/alopecia-areata-a-to-z
  9. Hereditary-Patterned Baldness. (2019, April). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/hereditary-patterned-baldness-a-to-z

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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