It may seem inevitable. At some point when we get “old”, men’s hairlines will recede and may start balding on the crown, and women’s hair will start thinning, usually starting at the crown or natural parting.
But for many, this transition away from a full head of healthy-looking hair occurs earlier than expected, often to men as young as in their early twenties.
In the society that we live in, hair loss holds such an important place, with hairstyles denoting your trendiness, and healthy, voluminous hair being applauded.
In light of this, early hair loss (or any hair loss for that matter) can create feelings of worry, sadness, anxiety, and self-consciousness, as it’s perceived as a negative bodily change that is out of our control.
However, as we’ll explore in this article, this is not true: halting hair loss and getting a fuller head of hair is actually within our control, even if we have a genetic predisposition to balding.
Male baldness that occurs gradually and is caused by genetics or the male sex hormones is known as “pattern” baldness or alopecia androgenetica. It is more likely to affect you the older you are and occurs in approximately 67% of men over their lifetime.
Usually, the marked changes occur gradually, although changes can occur rapidly depending on genes and other bodily or environmental factors.
Male pattern baldness tends to occur because of the interaction with DHT and the hair follicles in the scalp. Some testosterone is converted to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the body, but this can cause the hair follicles in the head to shrink in diameter, meaning the hair strands are thinner and more brittle.
Additionally, DHT has the effect of speeding up the hair growth cycle, meaning that hair sheds quicker. A common assumption is therefore that high levels of testosterone equate to high DHT, and this causes more hair loss, but instead, hair loss is determined by the sensitivity of the scalp to DHT.
This can be down to individual differences, but it is more likely that it is passed down genetically.
With hair loss, it’s important to acknowledge the early signs as soon as you can, as acting early will give you the best chance of preventing hair loss and regrowing hair to your liking. Appropriate treatment can help to block DHT or stimulate the hair follicles for regrowth.
Likely causes of your hair loss:
There are several possible factors that affect hair loss, some more than others. Here is the full list, below:
Male baldness is also sometimes called hereditary baldness as genetics play a large role in determining the likelihood of your future hair loss. Pay close attention to the patterns in your family in terms of hair loss, as this will give you a good indication of whether you’ll likely experience symptoms.
The release of hormones changes throughout the course of your life, and hormones associated with aging slow hair production and may result in balding.
Smoking cigarettes may cause the blood to circulate less in the hair follicles, getting in the way of natural hair growth and causing damage to the scalp. Early research points to this as true, although more research is needed for this factor to be conclusively outlined as a key contributor.
When you face stress, your body releases cortisol as a response. This is fine in moderation, but extended periods of stress, or periods of extremely intense stress, can cause cortisol levels to interfere with non-essential bodily functions, such as head hair growth.
Therefore, stress can be a contributing factor to hair loss. In the event of a significantly stressful period, the body might experience a condition called telogen effluvium.
This is characterized by sudden hair loss 3 to 6 months after the stressful event, caused by the body halting production of hair and transitioning all hair into the resting phase, meaning the strands will then fall out almost simultaneously.
The association with depression and hair loss is twofold. Not only might the prolonged bouts of stress result in hair loss, but medication for depression may also cause hair loss as a side effect.
Identifying Hair Loss Early:
Common signs linked to hair loss:
Receding hairline –
An early indication of male pattern baldness is when the front of your hairline recedes. Typically, the center front of your hair will stay, with curved portions on either side receding back, forming a W sort of shape.
Usually, men experience a receding hairline after they’re 25 years old, with it going back until eventually bald or mostly bald, but can also occur in younger men. It doesn’t tend to affect women.
Thinning hair –
A slightly more initially subtle form of hair loss, men might experience hair all over their head thinning, each strand reducing in diameter and perhaps revealing the scalp more visibly.
Whilst receding hair tends to begin from the front of the head, thinning hair typically starts at the crown, before working its way outwards circularly.
Because this eventuality is not in as noticeable a location to the individual sufferer, this type of hair loss might go untreated for longer than it should, reducing the chance of medication fully restoring the hair. Checking in the mirror periodically will help keep an eye on the hair health of your crown.
There are a number of unrelated signs that are often mistaken as being indicative of early hair loss. These factors have no correlation with hair loss, and include the following:
Hairs on the pillow –
Healthy adults shed roughly 50 to 100 hairs per day, so seeing the odd hair on your pillow is to be expected.
A white blob on the hair strand –
This white dot can sometimes be seen on the root end of a fallen-out hair and means nothing other than the hair fell out during the resting phase.
Widow’s peak hairline –
This is a particular appearance of the hairline where it forms a point at the front of the head. It may be interpreted as an early sign of receding since the sections on either side of the hairline will be further back, but this is not the case.
The widow’s peak hairline is not in any way a precursor to hair loss, but keep a close eye on whether the hairline remains in the same location or appears to be moving back, in which case this may be receding.