You may panic if you start to lose your hair, but there are many types of hair loss — and not all of them will lead to baldness.
In this post, we’ll look at 10 signs of balding to help you recognise what type of hair loss is affecting you, what treatments are available, and when you should speak to a doctor.
10 signs of balding
- Hairs on pillow / in shower drain
- Changes in the hairline
- Scalp becomes more visible through hair
- Hair falling out in patches
- Itchy scalp
- Hair becomes thinner and more brittle
- Widening part
- Balding on the crown
- Losing your body hair
- Hair takes longer to grow
1. More hairs on pillow or in shower drain
One of the most obvious signs of balding is finding more hairs on your pillow or in your shower drain than you usually might.
It’s considered normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day, though you may only notice the odd strand coming loose as you brush or wash your hair.
But if you become aware of extra shedding over a number of weeks, it may be a sign that you’re losing your hair.
Hair loss can be reversed in some cases, though it depends on the cause. For example, if you discover excess hairs on your pillow while you’re experiencing more stress than usual due to work or family issues, it’s possible that the shedding will stop if you can resolve the problems causing your stress.
If you’re concerned about what appears to be a sign of balding, speak to your doctor or a hair loss specialist. They will be able to examine your hair and scalp before reaching a diagnosis.
They may recommend a specific treatment depending on the cause of your hair loss. If stress is to blame, they might help you find ways to address the source and handle it better.
Or they could advise you to speak to a specialist (such as a trichologist) if they feel unable to provide you with a precise diagnosis and treatment.
Hair loss could also be due to poor nutrition, such as a lack of protein. In this case, dietary changes may help to reduce shedding.
2. Changes in the hairline
It’s natural for the hairline to evolve over time. It usually recedes a tiny amount at the temples and brow, so that the forehead appears slightly larger. This is known as a mature hairline.
Not everyone’s hairline will change in this way, and you may not even notice if it does. But if your hairline is clearly starting to recede, it could be an early stage of male (or female) pattern baldness.
You may not need to speak to a doctor or hair loss specialist if you believe your balding is hereditary — if your father or mother has thinning hair, it’s possible that you will too.
This is usually irreversible, though a topical treatment (such as minoxidil) may be recommended in some cases. These tend to achieve mixed results and demand a long-term commitment.
A hair transplant may be the most effective way to restore growth once the pattern baldness has run its course. These are available at competitive prices and can achieve incredible results, thanks to cutting-edge techniques.
3. Scalp becomes more visible through hair
Another of the most obvious signs of balding involves the scalp becoming more visible through the hair.
It’s normal to see some of the scalp when the hair is wet, but if you can see it when your hair is dry, that could indicate that your hair is thinning.
Furthermore, if you find that you can feel areas of skin when running your fingers through your hair, that might be another sign.
If you’re concerned, speak to your doctor. Again, this may be down to dietary issues or genetics (if one or both parents have thinning hair).
Proper nutrition may help, as could a small hair transplant to restore growth in the affected areas.
4. Hair falling out in patches
Alopecia Areata (AA) is a condition that causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles under the false belief that they’re a foreign presence invading the body. This causes hair to fall out in patches, leaving a distinctive pattern of baldness across the scalp.
If you believe you may be affected by AA, visit your doctor immediately. They may refer you to a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment.
You might find that minoxidil stimulates hair growth, though you would need to apply this every day to maintain positive results. Corticosteroid creams can also aid in immune system suppression and reduce hair loss too.
5. Itchy scalp
An itchy scalp is both irritating and a potential sign of balding. This may be the result of a sebum build-up on the scalp or scalp psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a common condition affecting more than a million people in the UK. Symptoms of scalp psoriasis include:
- Red patches
- Dryness with possible bleeding
- Hair loss
Fortunately, hair loss tends to be temporary with scalp psoriasis. This occurs due to miniaturisation of the hair follicles and a decrease in growth.
You should speak to a doctor if you notice the above symptoms. They may treat the condition with topical steroids or vitamin D derivatives. Both can help to control symptoms and combat hair loss.
6. Hair becomes thinner and more brittle
If your hair is becoming thinner and more brittle than before, it could be one of the signs of balding.
This can be caused by follicular miniaturisation: new strands become finer, weaker, and shorter over time as the follicles shrink.
This may be genetic if hair loss is common amongst your relatives, or it could be the result of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is a sex hormone responsible for certain traditionally male characteristics, such as a deep voice and increased muscle mass. But it can adhere to hair follicles in the scalp and lead them to shrink over time.
Speak to your doctor and they may be able to treat your thinning, brittle hair with DHT blockers or inhibitors.
Alternatively, they might suggest a course of finasteride or minoxidil — though both will cease working if you stop using them. The excess DHT should be addressed before you consider a hair transplant, to ensure new hairs remain unaffected.
7. Widening part
A widening of the part on the top of the head is another potential indicator of balding. This could be down to a number of issues, such as genetic hair loss, DHT, stress, or almost any other known contributing factor.
Visit your doctor. A thorough examination of your scalp, your medical history, and your lifestyle may help them to identify the cause.
8. Balding on the crown
Balding on the crown (or vertex) can be a sign of pattern baldness, either by itself or alongside hairline recession.
Your doctor may advise you to speak to a dermatologist or hair loss expert for further examination and treatment.
Pattern baldness cannot be reversed, but a hair transplant could restore growth in the affected areas. But it’s vital that the balding be allowed to end before undergoing a transplant, to maintain the results.
9. Losing body hair
If you’re losing body hair in addition to hair on your scalp, this could be a sign of an advanced form of Alopecia Areata known as Alopecia Universalis. This causes hair loss across the entire body.
Make an appointment with your doctor immediately if you notice that you’re shedding body hair (e.g. on the arms, groin, legs, face, etc.). Potential treatments include steroids and topical immunotherapy.
10. Hair takes longer to grow
Your hair may be taking longer to grow for a number of reasons. One could be your diet: you might lack the nutrients required for healthy hair growth.
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
Other contributing factors could be stress or dehydration, as water is essential for your cells to function properly (including those that make up the hair follicles). Lifestyle changes could help to restore the hair growth cycle to a healthier condition.
Certain medications may also affect your hair growth. In this case, your doctor might be able to help you find alternatives that won’t trigger this side effect.
A number of factors can contribute to balding, from stress and poor diet to genetics. It’s crucial to speak to an expert who can identify the cause(s) and potentially suggest a suitable treatment.
The first sign of balding is typically more of the scalp becoming visible, whether this manifests as bald patches, a receding hairline, or thinning hair. Any of these could indicate a temporary problem or the start of permanent hair loss.
You should see a doctor when you notice changes in your hair or its growth that cause you concern. If you have a family history of baldness, you might feel it unnecessary to speak to a doctor, but you should make an appointment if your hair loss is accompanied by any changes to your health.