Hair loss can occur at any stage of adulthood. You may notice you start to shed more hair than usual while still in your late teens or in the first half of your twenties. Or you could maintain a full, healthy head of hair well into middle age — and beyond.
However, the risk of going bald increases as you grow older. The most common form of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia (pattern baldness), affects around 50% of men aged 50+ and about 40% of women aged 70+.
Some forms of hair loss can be treated to prevent further shedding and encourage re-growth. But others lead to permanent baldness, and only a surgical procedure (such as a hair transplant) can restore growth.
The sooner you spot the signs of baldness, the sooner you can speak to a specialist about potential solutions. But what early signs should you watch out for?
What are the signs of balding in men?
The Hamilton-Norwood system illustrates hair loss occurring on multiple parts of the scalp, across seven main stages of balding. Early signs can show in the following areas:
The receding hairline is one of the most noticeable signs of balding in men: the hairline begins to thin and retreat back along the scalp. This may form an M-shaped hairline as the sides recede faster than the centre.
Hairline recession may not always lead to further baldness, though. It could be a mature hairline instead.
Hair loss at the temples and crown
Hair loss may start thinning at the temples and on the vertex (or crown), showing as a bald spot towards the back of the scalp.
Thinning on top of the scalp
Hair loss on top of the scalp usually develops gradually. You won’t wake up one morning to find most of your hair gone. Instead, incremental thinning may occur over a number of years until your baldness becomes noticeable.
What are the signs of balding in women?
Female pattern baldness can start to develop between the ages of 12 and 40, though it may begin much later in some cases. Experts use the Ludwig system to identify the following signs of balding in women:
One of the most common signs of female balding is a widening part, typically along the centre of the scalp.
Thinning on top of the scalp
Hair loss may progress on the top of the scalp but not at the sides. Balding commonly develops across the entire head in women, as the hairline doesn’t recede in an M-shaped pattern as it does in men.
What are possible causes of hair loss?
Male and female pattern baldness may be the most common types, but other conditions and issues can trigger hair loss. Some may be hereditary, or due to medication, injury, or an underlying problem.
Potential causes include:
Stressful life events (such as developing an illness, giving birth, or extreme dieting) can cause telogen effluvium. However, it should be reversible once the stressful period ends.
Men and women with alopecia areata experience hair loss in small patches of the scalp without showing other symptoms. It may also affect the eyebrows, beard, and body hair. The isolated patches can eventually connect and create more severe baldness.
This term applies to any hair loss that leaves permanent scars on the scalp: scar tissue forms after follicles are destroyed due to inflammation, and new hair is unable to grow.
Thyroid conditions can cause hair loss, as the thyroid hormone is crucial for healthy hair follicles. A disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example, can lead to hair loss.
You may have a nutritional deficiency if you fail to get a healthy amount of vitamins, iron, or protein. This can cause hair loss over time.
If you develop this fungal infection of the scalp, you’ll notice isolated scaly spots that may have pustules. It can lead to scarring and permanent hair loss.
What treatments are available for hair loss?
You may be able to naturally regrow lost hair after addressing the root of the problem, but various treatments can help if that’s not possible:
Topical treatments containing a moderate amount of topical retinoid (derived from vitamin A) may be applied to the scalp to stimulate growth.
Hair transplantation, such as Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), restores growth with natural results. Surgeons harvest healthy follicles from donor areas of the scalp and implant them into balding areas.
Minoxidil (sold as Rogaine) is a medication available over the counter. This is applied directly to the scalp to prevent hair loss and encourage growth. But it must be used frequently to maintain results.
Laser light therapy
Laser treatments focus on increasing the density of hair. Weak cells absorb photons from the laser, which can promote thicker, stronger hair.
Spironolactone (available as Aldactone) binds to receptors for androgen hormones to regulate testosterone and other androgens. This can fight hormone imbalances, and reduce the risk of associated hair loss.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
PRP therapy involves taking a blood sample, processing it into a platelet-rich plasma, then injecting it into the scalp. This can stimulate new hair growth in balding areas.
Doctors may prescribe various medications to treat pattern hair loss. One is finasteride, a common option for male pattern baldness.
When should you speak to a doctor about the signs of balding?
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms alongside hair loss:
- Excessive scaling or itchiness in balding areas
- Swelling at or near balding areas
- Sudden hair loss on any part of the body
- A stinging or burning sensation on or near balding areas
- Pus discharge on or near balding areas
- A current or recent high fever (above 38°C or 101°F)
- Complications from surgery
- Excessive, unusual hair growth on any part of your body
- Sudden weight changes, whether an increase or decrease
Your doctor should be able to identify the cause of your hair loss and any of these accompanying symptoms. They will be able to discuss potential treatments to address balding, including a hair transplant.
Who can you speak to about a hair transplant?
HairPalace’s expert team performs hair transplants using the latest FUE2 technique. We can restore hair across the scalp safely and effectively, to achieve natural results.