Photo Illustration by Simon Abranowicz
Like most things that happen with aging, male pattern baldness doesn’t just happen overnight. Balding is usually a slow process that takes anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades to fully manifest.
For most guys, going bald is a nightmare. A 2013 survey in Ireland found that about 38% of men were worried about losing their hair, while only 19 percent were worried about not finding a wife. The same survey also found that around four out of every ten men are already experiencing some degree of hair loss. For these guys, the side-effects were more than just aesthetic – more than half of them said that balding reduces confidence.
Clearly, men don’t want to go bald. So instead of me sitting here and telling you that you should embrace it, let’s go through how you can notice the early signs of balding and what you can do to help stop them or, at least, slow them down.
One of the keys to stopping hair loss in its tracks is catching it early. The earlier you take action to prevent hair loss, the more hair you’ll be able to save.
Here’s the problem. Hair loss isn’t always easy to identify. In fact, many of the common signs of hair loss that you’ll find online aren’t reliable and can lead you to mistake normal hair loss (that’ll grow back) for male pattern baldness.
Luckily, there are some real signs of male pattern baldness that you can keep an eye out for. Below, we’ve listed a couple of signs that you should look out for as well as some actions that you can take to slow it down.
Early Signs of Balding: Noticeable Thinning of Your Hair
One major sign of balding is something called diffuse thinning – a certain type of hair loss that affects the entire scalp or the crown area (top of your head). This results in balding that starts from the back/top instead of from your hairline.
How can you find out if your hair is thinning? Compare photos from different time periods. Just like any transformation, you won’t recognize the difference until you compare photos of yourself from two different time points. If you notice that your hair looks thinner than a photo you took a few years ago, there’s definitely a chance that it’s because of male pattern baldness.
But let’s be real, nobody stands there and takes photos of the back of their head. You probably can’t even see your crown or scalp in any of your photos. If that’s the case, now is the time to start. Take a selfie (headlfie?) of the top of your head (or have someone else take it) and compare it with another photo a couple of months down the line. If you see thinning, it might mean that you’re balding.
Early Signs of Balding: Your Hairline is Receding
Another major sign of male pattern baldness is a receding hairline. Over time, your hairline may get pushed further and further up and, unlike a thinning crown, you’ll probably notice a receding hairline in your photos.
Baldness usually starts here. Your flat hairline turns into a more V shaped hairline, with balding usually starting around the temples.
Again, like a thinning crown, make sure to take photos of yourself every few months in the same lighting conditions (different lighting can make your hair seem more or less thick). Over the course of a couple of months or years, you should be able to tell if you have a receding hairline.
Early Signs of Balding: Your Hair is Falling Out
Pay attention next time you shower or brush your hair. Are you losing a lot of hair? While it’s completely normal to lose a few hairs after an intense shampoo session, you shouldn’t be experiencing excessive hair loss.
If you’re losing a lot of hair throughout your day, it might be a sign of male pattern baldness. But before you panic, you need to know that hair loss can happen for plenty of reasons – autoimmune conditions, sunburns, stress, poor nutrition, fever – the list goes on.
But if you rule those out and you’re still losing a large amount of hair every day, you should start to take action. It doesn’t take very long for a couple of hairs falling out to become a receding hairline or thinning crown.
The signs above are pretty good indicators of male pattern baldness. But like we said before, there are a few commonly repeated signs of baldness that may not always truly indicate that you’re going bald. Here’s what not to freak out over:
- Thin looking hair after a shower or swim – When soaking wet, your hair clumps together and can expose more of your scalp. It may make it appear like you’re losing hair, but you might not be.
- Thin looking hair when using hair gel – Like when it’s wet, some hair products can clump your hair together and show more of your scalp. Try out a clay or puddy for a fuller look minus the scalp-show.
- A couple of hairs on your pillow or clothes – While excessive hair loss is a sign of male pattern baldness, a few hairs here and there are nothing to worry about. In fact, humans lose hundreds of hair a day, so it’s perfectly normal.
- A widow’s peak – This is that little inverted triangle some people have in the middle of their hairline. It’s just a genetic trait and nothing to worry about.
- Bald relatives – Although male pattern baldness runs in families, having a few bald relatives doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll lose your hair. It may manifest if you don’t take care of it or it might not happen at all. Regardless, there’s no need to stress out over a few bald family members.
- An itchy or dry scalp – While an itchy or dry scalp may accompany hair loss, it’s not necessarily a sign that its happening. It can be caused by dandruff, psoriasis and a whole number of other conditions.
How to Stop Hair Loss
Now that you know some of the signs of male pattern baldness, here’s how you can stop it (or at least slow it down a little bit).
Medications: Minoxidil and Finasteride for Hair Loss
Your best bet is to try out some medications. You need to block Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a form of testosterone that causes some hair loss. Products like minoxidil and finasteride have delivered results for some people, and you may benefit from using them. But of course, make sure you consult your doctor before using them.
While there’s no guarantee that these products will stop hair loss or bring back lost hair, they may help slow down the process.
Diet and Nutrition
Next up is your diet. There are plenty of vitamins you can take to make your hair stronger – biotin is always mentioned in forums and blogs about hair loss. In general, however, a well-balanced diet comprised of healthy fats (omega-3, fatty fish, avocados, protein, veggies, nuts etc.) can help cover some of your bases.
Other nutrients like collagen, silica and zinc can also give your hair the nutrients it needs to grow and stay luscious.
Stress and Hair Loss
Finally, take it easy on yourself. Stress is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to hair loss. Stress can raise levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can disrupt normal hair growth. Considering we’re all running around trying to balance a career, social relationships and our health, it’s no wonder that us guys are losing our hair – we’re all stressed!
Overall, there are a few reasons why you might be losing your hair. Aside from normal hair loss, male pattern baldness is the usual culprit. Luckily, there are a few ways to stop it or, at the very least, slow it down - keep an eye out for thinning hair, a receding hairline or excessive hair loss and take it easy if you see some of the “false alarms” we listed above. If you do notice that you're losing your hair, taking some of the steps we talked about in this article may help you take control of your male pattern baldness.
Now go out there and maintain your luscious locks, good lookin'.