It starts with a few hairs on your pillow. Then, while you’re in the shower, you notice a few more hairs than usual flowing into the drain. Once these incidents occur more often, you start to ask yourself the difficult question, “Am I going bald?”
It’s a tough question to come to terms with, but one that many people eventually find themselves wondering.
You may be going bald. Or you might not. Whatever the case, it’s better to face the question and find the answer now than to wait it out. Because if you are going bald, you need immediate attention to slow— or stop— the process.
Four Signs of Hair Loss
About 25% of men have experienced hair loss by the age of 21. By age 50, about 50% of all the men have had some level of hair loss. Women are not immune to losing their hair, either, with about 40% of women experiencing hair loss within their lifetime. So, when it comes to going bald, you’re not alone. (01, 02)
Hair loss happens to many people and there are steps you can take to address the issue. But before you seek out treatments for possible balding, however, you should evaluate whether or not you’re losing hair.
Here are four signs that may be going bald.
1. Gradual Loss of Hair
Sometimes, hair loss occurs suddenly. In rare instances, a physical or emotional trigger can loosen hair and cause large chunks of hair to fall out. Called telogen effluvium, this type of hair loss develops when scalp hair follicles lose their hair due to a shock (stress, illness, medication, or environmental factor). Hair follicles are most susceptible to this type of hair loss while in a resting state called telogen.
Although the condition can still cause feelings of panic about losing hair, most instances of telogen effluvium are temporary. Gradual hair loss, however, is something to be concerned about as it can be a sign of going bald. According to the Mayo Clinic, hereditary hair loss is the most common cause of baldness, and it happens slowly over time. Unlike telogen effluvium, hereditary hair loss is permanent. (03)
2. Developing a Receding Hairline
One of the most common types of hereditary hair loss is male pattern baldness, and the hallmark sign of male pattern baldness is a receding hairline. (04) Because a receding hairline occurs incrementally, it’s a sign that’s easy to ignore or overlook. The following are the most common signs of a receding hairline:
- You notice your forehead looks larger than usual.
- Your hairline begins to make an “M” shape.
- The temple area of your hairline appears thinner than before.
A receding hairline can happen due to headwear. Tight-fitting headwear like baseball caps and headbands may encourage loss of hair at the hairline by restricting blood flow and through repeated motions (taking the hat on and off). In some cases, men with male pattern baldness may attribute a receding hairline to their hats rather than a hair condition. So, if you notice your hairline is receding, you may be experiencing hair loss.
3. The Appearance of Random Bald Spots
Have you noticed bald spots or sparse areas that weren’t there before? Patchy, thinning hair and random bald spots may indicate the start of male pattern baldness or a condition called alopecia areata (03). With alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder, hair falls out in round patchy areas or a band-like pattern around the head. Alopecia areata may also affect facial hair – creating small bald patches in the beard area or eyebrows.
Another condition that begins with bald spots is hereditary baldness. Although hereditary baldness usually starts with a receding hairline, the condition can also begin with an expanding crown. Furthermore, women who experience female pattern baldness typically see different signs than men with male pattern baldness. (05)
A few of these signs are:
- Thinning at the crown or hairline.
- Widening of the center part in a Christmas-tree pattern.
- Front hairline typically remains unaltered.
Compared with male pattern baldness, hair loss associated with female pattern baldness doesn’t usually progress to full hair loss. Women typically keep most of their hair. Despite this, any hair loss can still be very distressing for women and may require treatment.
4. Your Hair Isn’t Growing
According to the Academy of Dermatology, hair at the top of your head grows at an average rate of about six inches every year. This means that you can expect about a half-inch of growth every month.
Your grows in three stages: (06)
- Anagen Phase: Active growth lasting about 2 to 8 years.
- Catagen Phase: Hair halts its growth, lasting about 4 to 6 weeks.
- Telogen Phase: Resting phase, then hair falls out of the follicle, lasts about 2 to 3 months.
Only about 5-10 percent of your hair is in the telogen phase at any given time. In contrast, most of your hair is in its growth phase. Your hair’s rate of growth depends on your age, health, genetics, and environmental factors.
If your hair is thinning and you notice your hair’s growth is slowing, however, it may be because you have less hair than before. As you lose hair, you have less hair in the growth phase. The reduction in hair may make it appear as though your hair is growing more slowly.
How Likely are You to Go Bald?
People who are experiencing hair loss often want to know when and if they’ll go bald. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict exactly if and when you will lose all your hair. Genetics plays a significant role in determining how much hair you’ll lose over time. Other factors, like stress, nutrition, and your health also affect whether or not you might lose your hair.
There’s no way to predict when you’ll go bald. You can, however, look at your family history. Genes are the primary factor that causes female and male pattern baldness. Also, women are much less likely to lose all of their hair when compared to men.
While researchers still have much to learn when it comes to hereditary baldness, its cause is thought to be polygenic – involving two or more genes. A few genes for male pattern baldness are thought to exist in the “X” chromosome (07), the chromosome inherited through a male’s mother. A 2017 literature review, however, also found 63 genes for male pattern baldness that exists in the “Y” chromosome inherited from a father (08).
These studies indicate that interplay between genes may be what leads to inherited hair loss. If you’re wondering if you’ll go bald, look at your family.
What You Should Do if You Think You’re Going Bald
There’s no timeline for how long it takes to lose all your hair. But if you really are going bald, it won’t happen overnight. Losing all your hair is a gradual process that takes years or decades. In spite of this, you should intervene as soon as you suspect you’re losing your hair. Why? Because the sooner you start managing your hair loss the better the results will be.
Think you’re going bald? Taking steps as quickly as possible to protect your hair and scalp can lead to improved hair retention. Whether managing hair loss means changing your lifestyle habits or taking a prescription-grade treatment for hair loss like Happy Head, quick intervention means keeping more of your hair.