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Home / Hair Loss / How to Stop Hair Loss: 5 Early Signs of Balding and Treatments That Can Help

How to Stop Hair Loss: 5 Early Signs of Balding and Treatments That Can Help

Man noticing signs of hair loss

If you’ve noticed that your locks aren't what they once were, you’re not alone: as many as two-thirds of men experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 35, with 80% of men Trusted source Taylor & Francis Online Peer-reviewed Journals Social Sciences and Humanities Go to source experiencing it by the age of 80.

Although hair loss is common, losing such an integral part of yourself can be upsetting. Hair can make up an important part of your identity, and many men may feel distressed over a lack of control of the process. While factors such as diet and stress can play a role in some forms of hair loss, most cases of hair loss are determined by genetic factors and cannot be prevented through lifestyle changes alone. Additionally, it can be difficult to find out which treatments actually work - with so many people looking for a quick fix, there are an abundance of different products and procedures that claim to restore hair or prevent hair loss, leading to confusion over which ones, if any, to use.

Below, we've detailed some of the early signs of male pattern baldness and the effectiveness of different treatments so that you can decide which ones are the best for you.

What are the causes of hair loss?

During a normal hair growth cycle, you will typically lose around 50-100 hairs a day, which are usually replaced with new hair growth. Alopecia, the medical term for hair loss, happens when more hair is lost than replaced.

There are many different types of hair loss. Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is one of the most common causes of hair loss in men.

Your mother may have warned you about hat-wearing and using too much shampoo, but neither are to blame for male pattern baldness, which is due to a sensitivity to the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone shrinks hair follicles, preventing the growth of strong hair. Over time, the hair that grows back is thinner and shorter, and the follicles eventually shrink so that no hair grows at all.

Contrary to popular belief, your likelihood of losing your hair is not based solely off of your maternal grandfather. However, there is some truth to the myth - the sensitivity to DHT is inherited, so if you grew up watching your male relatives lose their hair, you will likely experience some balding as well.

If you are unsure of what is causing your hair loss, consult your GP or a dermatologist, as it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Other causes of hair loss include:

  • telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss that is usually temporary and has many causes, including medical conditions, such as a thyroid imbalance or a nutritional deficiency - it can also be caused by hormonal changes or weight loss
  • traction alopecia, which can cause breakage and make your hair fall out when it is damaged over time due to tight hairstyles such as ponytails and braids - this type of hair loss can be avoided with safe styling and hair care techniques
  • anagen effluvium, the type of hair loss that occurs as a result of medical treatment, such as chemotherapy
  • alopecia areata, a result of an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks healthy tissue such as hair follicles

What are the early signs of hair loss?

Receding hairline

If you're here, you're likely already worried that something is up - or rather, out! But hair loss is a gradual process, and it may take some time to realise that it is happening. Below, we've listed some of the first signs you may notice if you are beginning to lose your hair.

Finding excess hair in your comb or shower

Although some hair shedding is normal, finding more hair than usual in your comb, on your pillow, or in the shower is usually one of the earliest signs of hair loss.

A receding hairline

The hair that grows near the temples is more sensitive to DHT. You can tell if your hair loss is due to male pattern baldness if you have thinning hair near the temples, but it is normal on both sides and in the middle.

Thinning hair

While baldness is usually associated with patches of hair loss, such as a bald spot or a receding hairline, you may notice that your hair has thinned overall.

A widening part

More of your scalp may be showing along your part as your hair density decreases and the space between your hair follicles begins to widen.

A sensitive scalp

Our hair protects us from the elements - you may notice that your head feels colder on windy days or that you are starting to get sunburns on your scalp.

How can I stop hair loss?

While male pattern hair loss is hereditary and cannot be entirely prevented, there are many treatments available that can slow or delay hair loss, helping you keep existing hair and promote the growth of healthy hair. These methods are most effective when started early.

Over-the-counter hair loss treatments

Man using hair loss shampoo

From shampoos to supplements, there are many over-the-counter treatments which claim to help restore hair. Some products may help strengthen your existing hair, but are not proven to support regrowth or prevent hair loss.

There are a variety of shampoos marketed as preventing hair loss, but none are currently clinically proven methods of treating male pattern baldness. Even if the right ingredients are used, hair products like shampoo are not left long enough on the scalp to make an impact.

Vitamins are another product often touted to reduce hair loss. Our body needs certain nutrients to support the growth of healthy hair and skin, which is why vitamin A, E and biotin pills are often sold to support hair growth. However, as long as you are eating normally and have no diagnosed nutritional deficiencies, your diet likely already contains enough of the right nutrients to keep your hair healthy.

For those who prefer a more holistic approach, essential oils like lavender and rosemary oil are a popular remedy. They are mixed with a carrier oil and applied directly to the scalp. However, there is limited data on their effectiveness.

Scalp massage

Scalp massage is thought to increase blood flow to the hair follicles in the scalp, which can promote hair growth and improve thickness. It is also purported to reduce stress, which is a possible component of hair loss. However, research supporting its effectiveness in preventing or restoring lost hair due to male pattern baldness is limited.

Surgical treatments

Man receiving hair transplant

The most common surgical hair restoration treatment is a hair transplant. During a hair transplant, hair follicles are removed from healthy areas of hair and grafted into tiny cuts in the scalp in areas affected by hair loss.

The two commonly used procedures are:

  • follicular unit transplantation (FUT), which involves removing a strip of skin with thicker hair from the back of your head, and then dividing the follicular units under a microscope before transplanting them, and
  • follicular unit extraction (FUE), a newer technique where individual follicles are removed with a circular punch directly from the back of the head

While hair transplants can be a saving grace for your hairline, there are many factors to consider. As it is a surgical procedure, there is a long recovery time. It can take up to a year or a year and a half for the full results to be seen, and depending on how much hair has been lost, you may need multiple appointments to get the look you desire. Hair will also continue to thin around the transplant through the years, making it look less natural, which is why it is important to find a surgeon who will take into account how your hair will change over time.

Scalp reduction surgery and scalp flap surgery are two other common surgical hair restoration treatments. Scalp reduction surgery involves removing an area of the scalp affected by hair loss and stretching an area of thicker hair over it, while flap surgery involves putting a healthy portion of your scalp over a small area of hair loss. Both are lesser-used procedures, as they can cause scarring and an unnatural appearance.

Surgical treatments can work, but they are often expensive and invasive, and they may not always restore growth.

Laser therapy

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a type of hair loss treatment that uses low-level lasers on the scalp to stimulate circulation and encourage hair growth. These are usually in the form of laser caps and combs. While some studies have shown positive results, there is inconsistent evidence for this treatment.

Minoxidil (Regaine)

Minoxidil, the active ingredient found in the over-the-counter brand Regaine, is a topical hair loss treatment available as a foam, liquid, and a cream. It works by increasing blood flow to areas where hair has thinned, but does not help areas where the follicles have stopped producing hair.

It is applied directly to the scalp twice a day, with hair regrowth usually taking a few months.

Finasteride (Propecia)

Man taking hair loss tablets

Finasteride, available under the brand name Propecia is a popular prescription treatment used for male pattern hair loss. Originally developed for prostate enlargement, a side effect of finasteride was that it stopped hair loss and even promoted new hair regrowth.

The medication works by targeting the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the primary cause of male pattern hair loss - it attacks hair follicles and causes hair to fall out. Finasteride prevents the body from converting testosterone to DHT, reducing the amount of DHT levels in the scalp. This keeps hair follicles from shrinking and allows them to stay healthy.

It works best on the crown (the top) of the head, but can treat both the front and crown. It should be taken once daily, and needs to be continued long-term for best results. Clinical trials have found that 83% of men who took finasteride stopped losing hair Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source .

Hair loss can be frustrating, but you are not alone, and there are many treatments that can help.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 04-10-2023
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Further reading

Common causes of hair loss: a complete guide

Common causes of hair loss: a complete guide

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Natural remedies for hair loss: do they work?

Natural remedies for hair loss: do they work?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Things you can do to prevent hair loss early

Things you can do to prevent hair loss early

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
The most common finasteride results - what should I expect?

The most common finasteride results - what should I expect?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
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