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Signs of Balding: How to Stop Hair Loss

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/14/2022

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.

If you’re wondering how to avoid hair loss, one of the keys 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 hair loss that you can use to identify and deal with hair loss. 

Early Signs of Balding: What are They?

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

  1. thinning hair all over your head 

  2. a receding hairline

  3. hair that is slow to grow

  4. more hairs on your brush or pillow than normal

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 reverse hair loss or prevent any further damage to your hairline. The stages of balding are relatively universal, so learning how to recognize them is crucial. 

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.

A Change in Your Hairline

The most obvious of the stages of hair loss 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 — basically, bald with hair on sides.

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

If you can compare two photos taken years apart and see a clear balding hairline or that your hairline has clearly 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. You may not be able to stop hair loss completely, but there are things you can do to slow it down and stop it from getting worse.

Learn more about a receding hairline.

Noticeable Thinning of Your Hair

Not all people experience hairline hair loss. 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 crown hair loss, it’s worth taking action to prevent hair loss further.

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 shedding 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, sudden 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 balding crown.

We also answer the question: "Does hard water cause hair loss?" in our article if you'd like to learn more.

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What Not to Look For

The 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.

LEARN: Does masturbation cause hair loss? Fact or fiction?

Why am I Balding?

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

Male Pattern Baldness

Also known as male pattern baldness, this is the most common cause of hair loss, according to an article published by StatPearls. With androgenetic alopecia, hormonal changes cause an increase in the androgen hormone, dihydrotestosterone, or DHT,  which causes hair follicles to shrink and makes hair thinner and shorter. 

This shrinkage of hair follicles prevents new hairs from being produced, resulting in hair loss starting in your 20s and continuing on as you age.

This usually happens gradually over time and often runs in families (check out your family history for clues). If you’re experiencing it, learning how to stop alopecia can be tricky.

Our complete guide to DHT and male hair loss explains this in greater detail. Our guide to the causes of hair loss gives more information on other factors in hair loss, such as medication, stress, or skin infections.

Medical Conditions

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: 

  • Thyroid conditions: Severe thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease can cause hair loss, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 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, according to an article published in the journal, Dermatology Practical & Conceptual. However, this cause is unlikely without extremely low intake of calories and protein. 

  • Alopecia areata. This condition causes hair loss in small, typically unnoticeable bald 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.

  • Trichotillomania. Sometimes, people experiencing a mental health issue will pull out their own hair, according to an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. If this is the cause of your hair loss, seek out the help of a mental health professional, as therapy or medication may be able to help.

Other Causes Of Hair Loss

  • Excessive styling with harsh hair care products (bleach, chemical straighteners) can cause further hair loss

  • Tight hairstyles (braids, cornrows, ponytails)

  • Rapid weight loss

How Long Does it Take to Go Bald?

If you’re going bald, don’t expect to see major changes overnight. Balding can happen across a span of decades and will slowly make itself present by hairline thinning and and your scalp receding hair over time.

Depending on how much your body reacts to your DHT levels, the faster or slower your rate of hair loss will be. That being said, there is no definite amount of time it will take for you to go bald. 

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How To Stop Hair Loss

When it comes to balding and hair loss, it’s no surprise that finding a solution can be priority number one. Luckily, it might not be too late to kickstart hair regrowth with a variety of proven balding treatments.

Finasteride (generic for Propecia)

This oral treatment is very effective at treating male pattern baldness. Finasteride works by reducing the androgens (DHT) that lead to male pattern baldness. Through hims, you can also get finasteride as a topical finasteride spray. 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.

Minoxidil (generic for Rogaine)

 According to an article published in the journal, Stat Pearls, Minoxidil is an FDA-approved topical treatment for hair loss. Because it is topical, you may experience fewer side effects than a treatment like finasteride. You also can get minoxidil over the counter in the United States. Through hims, you can get both minoxidil solution and minoxidil foam.

Biotin Vitamins 

While biotin vitamins are not a hair loss treatment, biotin is an essential building block for new hair. According to an article published in the journal, Skin Appendage Disorders, they may help your body grow healthy hair with an extra biotin boost.

Hair Thickening Shampoo 

Saw palmetto or ketoconazole shampoos can ensure that your scalp is clean and healthy to help that hair grow.

In clinical trials published in the journal, ISRN Dermatology, researchers found that 15 men who used a unique hair lotion composed of, among other ingredient, finasteride, minoxidil, and ketoconazole for a 90-day period benefitted from hair growth, getting a noticeably thicker head of hair than what they had at the beginning of the studies.

Stress Reduction

You may not know it, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, stress affects your health in a number of different ways. It can zap your energy, make you feel physically ill, and even cause your hair to fall out. 

That’s right, stress can play a role in contributing to thinning hair. On its own, stress-related hair loss is usually temporary and may grow back over time, according to an article published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.

Hair Transplant

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.

Other Treatments

 If you think your hair loss might have a cause other than male pattern hair loss, see your healthcare provider or dermatologist. Your medical provider can run tests to ensure that nothing else is going on, like a thyroid problem.

Learn about hair loss treatments from Hims.

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Finasteride & Minoxidil

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Signs of Hair Loss: A Final Thought

Long story short, if you are experiencing hair loss, you are not alone. You may be in a great position to treat your hair loss and prevent any further balding. 

If you are curious about your options to treat hair loss, read more about how to fix thinning hair on the hims’ blog. 

If you are ready to dive in and get a healthcare provider-recommended hair loss treatment today, meet with a medical provider online from the comfort of your home.

7 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. Badri, T. (2021, April 13). Minoxidil. StatPearls Internet. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  2. Castelo-Soccio, et al. (n.d.). A review of the use of biotin for hair loss. Skin appendage disorders. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28879195/
  3. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  4. Guo, E. L., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual, 7(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.0701a01 Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2016, September 1). Trichotillomania. The American journal of psychiatry. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5328413/
  5. Malkud, S. (2015, September). Telogen effluvium: A Review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/
  6. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot study of 15 patients receiving a new treatment regimen for androgenic alopecia: The effects of atopy on aga. ISRN dermatology. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Hashimoto's disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease

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. Learn more about our editorial standards here.