Like most signs of aging, male pattern baldness doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, for most men, going bald is a long and slow process that can take anywhere from a few short years to several decades.
One of the keys to stopping hair loss is noticing the signs of baldness and taking
Unfortunately, identifying hair loss isn’t always easy. Many of the most common "certain signs" of hair loss you can find online aren’t reliable, making it easy to mistake normal hair loss (from non-damaged hair follicles, which will grow back) 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. Below, we’ve listed three 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.
Noticeable change in your hairline
The most obvious sign of balding is a noticeable change in your hairline that you can clearly see in photographs.
Baldness often begins in the hairline, with the flat or mildly receded hairline you previously had turned into a more obvious V-shaped hairline. For most people, this begins around the temples and often starts with thinning 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. Many people’s hair looks thinner in bright
This makes it important to compare photos with similar lighting conditions, not one photo
If you’re really concerned about hair loss, you can photograph yourself 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.
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 crown -- 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.
Excessive hair loss after showering or brushing
It’s normal to lose hair when you shower, brush or comb. On average, people lose around 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. Hair loss can occur due to many causes, ranging from travel-induced jetlag to sunburn, weight loss or fever.
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 a week or two. 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 period of time, you should seek out help. After all, it doesn’t take as long as you’d think for a modest amount of daily hair loss 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 is usually caused by dry, irritated skin or excessive amounts of sebum, neither of which contribute to 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 not 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 white ‘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.
How to take action to stop your hair loss
If you’ve noticed hair loss and want to stop it, one of the most effective ways is to block DHT -- the hormone that causes hair loss -- using a combination of finasteride, minoxidil and a DHT blocking 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.
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.
You can also complete an online consultation with our doctors to learn more about what’s causing your hair loss and how you can stop it.
This article was reviewed by Brendan Levy, MD.
Important Safety information
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.
Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.
What is Finasteride?
Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).
It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).
Finasteride is not for use by women and children.
Who should not take Finasteride?
Do not take Finasteride if you:
- are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
- Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
- If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.
What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:
have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.
How should I take Finasteride?
- Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
- You may take Finasteride with or without food.
If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.
Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.
What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?
decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.
There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.
The most common side effects of Finasteride include:
- decrease in sex drive
- trouble getting or keeping an erection
a decrease in the amount of semen
The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:
- breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
- decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
- allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
- problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
- testicular pain;
- difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
- male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
in rare cases, male breast cancer.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.
How should I store Finasteride?
- Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).
Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.
General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.
Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.