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Early Signs of Balding and How to Stop Hair Loss

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 6/3/2021

Like most signs of aging, androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, for most men, going bald is a gradual process.

One of the keys to stopping hair loss is learning about the common signs of baldness and taking action as early as possible. Simply put, the earlier you take action to prevent hair loss, the more hair you’ll be able to save.

Unfortunately, identifying hair loss isn’t always easy. With many myths about balding circling the internet, it is easy to mistake normal hair loss (from non-damaged hair follicles, which will return during your hair growth cycle) for male pattern baldness.

Luckily, there are some real signs of male pattern baldness that you can use to identify and deal with hair loss. Learn about hair loss treatments from Hims.

What Are The Signs of Balding?

There are several different signs that you might be starting to experience hair loss (or have been losing hair for quite some time). 

From thinning hair all over your head to a receding hairline, male pattern baldness comes in many forms.

Recognizing the signs of male pattern baldness is an important part of the treatment or prevention process. 

Because male pattern baldness occurs in stages, it may be possible to recognize the signs early enough to prevent any further damage to your hairline. 

Below, we’ve listed three warning signs that you should be aware of, as well as simple but effective ways that you can take action to prevent your hair loss from getting worse.

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A Change in Your Hairline

The most obvious first sign of balding is a noticeable change in your hairline that you can clearly see.

Baldness often begins in the hairline, with the flat or mildly receded hairline you previously had turned into a more obvious M-shaped hairline. 

For most people, this begins around the temples and the crown and often starts with thinning hair rather than total hair loss.

If you can compare two photos taken years apart and see that your hairline has receded, it’s an obvious sign that you’re suffering from hair loss.

One important thing to be aware of is that lighting conditions can affect the appearance of your hairline. 

Hair may appear thinner in bright downlighting (fluorescent light is particularly bad for making your hair look thin, even when it’s perfectly normal).

This makes it important to compare photos with similar lighting conditions, not one photo taken in natural light and another taken in bright artificial light.

If you’re really concerned about hair loss, you can photograph your hairline or the top of your head every few months in the same lighting conditions to see if your hairline is receding. 

Over the course of a year or two, you should be able to determine whether or not you’re losing hair around your hairline.

Photos are a great way to work out whether or not you’re losing hair, as they let you take a look at yourself from another person’s perspective. 

If you notice hair loss, it’s important that you take action as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse.

Learn more about a receding hairline.

Noticeable Thinning of Your Hair

Not all people go bald from their hairline. Some men experience what’s called diffuse thinning — a type of hair loss that either affects the entire scalp or specific areas like the top of the head— resulting in baldness that starts from the back or top, rather than from the hairline.

Just like a receding hairline, the easiest way to spot diffuse thinning is to compare photos from different time periods. 

If you notice that your hair looks thinner now than it does in photos taken several years ago, there’s a chance that it’s the result of male pattern baldness.

Since you don’t normally take photos from behind you, the easiest way to compare the level of thickness in your hair over time is to take photos every two to three months in your bathroom mirror.

If you notice the hair around your crown thinning every year, it’s worth taking action to prevent any further loss.

Worried about hair thinning? Here are the signs of hair thinning to look for.

Excessive Hair Loss After Showering or Brushing

It’s normal to lose hair when you shower, brush or comb. 

On average, people lose between 50 and  100 hairs a day, meaning that the four to five hairs you notice in your hands after shampooing your hair aren't anything to be concerned about.

However, if you start to notice an excessive amount of hair falling out throughout the day, there’s a risk that it could be the result of male pattern baldness.

Before you panic, it’s important to know that temporary hair loss can happen and that shedding a lot of hair for a day or two isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. 

Less alarming yet common causes of hair loss range from high fevers to psychological stress to side effects of medication.

This type of hair loss is usually temporary, meaning you’ll notice a larger number of hairs in your hands and on your brush for anywhere from one to six months (usually around three months, on average).

You might also notice loose hairs on your pillow in the morning.

If you notice a large amount of hair loss every day for a long time, you should seek medical advice. 

After all, it may not take as long as you’d think for a modest amount of daily hair loss from a full head of hair to turn into a receding hairline or a visible bald spot on your crown.

What Not to Look For

The three signs above are good indicators that you should think about taking action to stop your hair loss. 

However, there are also commonly repeated "signs" of baldness that aren’t as reliable for identifying hair loss. These include:

  • An itchy scalp, which may have one or more causes, such as dandruff, but which generally does not indicate long-term hair loss.

  • Thin-looking hair after you swim or shower, which is more often a result of your hair clumping together and revealing your scalp than real hair loss. To accurately check for hair loss, it’s always best to compare photos of your hair when it’s dry and unstyled.

  • A widow’s peak, which is a dominant genetic trait and may be an indicator of hair loss or susceptibility to hair loss.

  • A few hairs on your pillow or bar of soap, which are completely normal and not a reliable indicator that you’re losing an abnormal amount of hair.

  • A depigmented ‘bulb’ on hair that falls out naturally. This just indicates that the hair was in the telogen phase when it fell out, and doesn’t mean that it won’t grow back as normal.

  • A bald grandfather on a certain side of your family. Scientists still don’t know exactly how male pattern baldness is inherited, and a bald father or grandfather is no guarantee that you will also go bald.

More reading: Does masturbation cause hair loss? Fact or fiction?

How To Stop Hair Loss

Understand What Causes Balding

In order to properly treat balding, it is important to understand why you are losing hair in the first place. 

While the most common cause of hair loss is male pattern baldness, there are other potential conditions to make note of when considering why your hair falls out. Some of these include: 

Medical Conditions

  • Thyroid conditions: Severe thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease can cause hair loss. However, if this is the cause, you will likely experience other symptoms, like fatigue or weight gain. 

  • Malnutrition. Severe malnutrition, especially in protein, can result in hair changes. However, this cause is unlikely without extremely low intake of calories and protein. 

  • Alopecia areata. This condition causes hair loss in small, typically unnoticeable patches. Alopecia areata occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles 

  • Telogen effluvium. This is a temporary type of hair loss often caused by very stressful, anxiety inducing or traumatic events, hospitalization, or even certain side effects of medication. It can be confused with permanent hair loss, but it is reversible.

  • Tinea capitis. This condition is a fungal infection on the scalp that causes small, scaly spots and pustules on the scalp. Tinea capitis, if left untreated, can lead to hair loss from permanent scarring.

Other Causes Of Hair Loss

  • Excessive styling with harsh products (bleach, chemical straighteners) 

  • Rapid weight loss

​Learn more about the causes of balding.

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Find The Hair Loss Treatment That is Right For You

If you’ve noticed hair loss and want to stop it, one of the most effective ways is to block the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) — the hormone that causes hair loss — using a combination of finasteride, minoxidil and a hair thickening shampoo.

The most effective hair loss treatments, such as 5α-reductase inhibitor finasteride, are designed to stop further hair loss. This means that the earlier you start taking them, the more of your hair you’ll be able to preserve.

In some cases, drugs like finasteride and minoxidil can cause you to regrow some of your lost hair, although there’s no guarantee that this will happen.

Our guide to DHT and hair loss explains more about how hair loss treatments like finasteride work, and the potential effects you can expect from starting the treatment.

If you are worried about whether or not you can grow your hair back, a hair transplant may be the option for you.

You can also complete an online consultation with our healthcare providers to learn more about what’s causing your hair loss and how you can encourage hair growth.

Learn what to expect when taking finasteride.

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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