Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/18/2022
It’s the conversation that nobody wants to have — what can I do should I go 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 thinning hair, 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.
Unlike the flu, male pattern baldness isn’t a medical condition that you’ll suddenly wake up with one morning.
Instead, the bald spot men wake up with one day 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? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these early signs can often signal that you’re beginning to lose your hair:
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.
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 (which looks like the top of your head is bald with hair on sides), or notice a little more scalp showing in back of your head.
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, according to an article published in the book, Male Androgenetic Alopecia.
Like a receding hairline, overall hair thinning is common, with about 31 percent of men aged 40 to 55 displaying some signs of vertex baldness, according to the same article published in the book, Male Androgenetic Alopecia.
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 type 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.
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.
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.
The bad news is bald is still bald. But the good news is if you’re going bald with long hair, it may be easier to catch before things get too out of hand.
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.
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. So, if you’re worried you’ll go bald entirely, don’t freak out.
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.
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, the male hormone, 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, rapid weight loss, tight hairstyles (braids, ponytails or cornrows), certain medical conditions (like thyroid issues or high blood pressure), 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.
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.
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.
Other ways you can try to get back lost hair are biotin supplements, eating a balanced diet, reducing stress and limiting tight hairstyles.
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 minoxidil, finasteride or the other treatment tactics. If you still aren't seeing your desired results after you've actively made your attempt at treating your hair loss, you may start to consider a hair transplant or wigs.
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. Make sure to seek medical advice about any treatment options from your dermatologist or healthcare provider before starting them.
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.