For both men and women, hair changes the older they become. Most adults understand that some hair loss is inevitable with age. But when it begins to occur, spotting the signs of hair loss and balding can still be tricky. Detecting the signs of balding is essential because early intervention is the key to successful hair loss treatment.
What Are the Early Signs of Hair Loss?
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 50% of men and women will experience hair loss in their lifetime. And although hair loss occurs in more men than women, the emotional impact of hair loss affects both equally. Because emotions can affect how each person faces hair loss, becoming familiar with the signs can help individuals approach the experience objectively and sensibly.
Here are a few signs to look for if you suspect you’re experiencing hair loss:
Sunburns on Your Scalp
Like the skin on the rest of the body, scalp tissue is vulnerable to sunburns. Fortunately, a full head of hair offers excellent protection against the sun’s harsh rays. Thick hair typically provides enough sun protection to keep the scalp from sunburning. The more hair thins, however, the less cover there is to protect the scalp. Sunburns on the scalp develop when there isn’t enough hair to sufficiently shield the area from direct sunlight. If your scalp is typically not sensitive to sunlight, but you find that scalp sunburns are occurring more frequently – you may be experiencing balding or profuse hair loss. (01)
A Receding Hairline
A receding hairline can be tricky to spot if hair loss occurs gradually. The process happens bit by bit, making it hard to determine whether a receding hairline is more about lighting and angles and less about actual hair loss. Before deciding your hairline is receding, become familiar with what kind of hairline you have.
- Low hairline. Low hairlines are closer to the brow line, with a smaller forehead space. A receding hairline is more challenging to spot with low hairlines because they are less noticeable.
- Middle hairline. Middle hairlines are what most people would consider a “normal” hairline. These hairlines are set toward the upper-middle portion of the forehead. A receding hairline typically appears as an M-shape with a middle hairline, with the hairline receding further up on the sides.
- High hairline. High hairlines start at the crown, making the forehead space appear larger. A high hairline may seem as if the hairline is already receding, although it simply is a person’s inherited appearance.
- Straight-lined. Straight-lined hairlines don’t follow the natural curvature of the head. Instead, the hairline flows straight across the forehead, with sharp 90-degree angles on either side. Some men may style their hair this way, or it can be an inherited trait. A receding hairline may create a crooked hairline where one was typically straight, making it easier to spot.
- Triangular hairline. Triangular hairlines start low at the temples and reach a high point in the center. Receding hairlines may be more apparent on triangular hairlines because of how low the hairline typically begins at the sides.
- Uneven hairline. Uneven hairlines are common because most hairlines aren’t perfectly shaped or symmetric. Uneven hairlines can also result from excessive hairstyling or tight headwear, making receding hairlines difficult to detect.
Men, in particular, are prone to a hairline that recedes when they start balding. For example, one of the most common signs of androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, is a receding hairline. Anyone wanting to check their hairline for signs of balding or hair loss should first familiarize themselves with their typical hairline. Taking periodic photographs can give you a baseline for comparison.
A Bad Hair Day, Every Day
Are you noticing that your hair won’t fall in the same hairstyle you’ve worn for years? If you see that your hair is tougher to manage or doesn’t look the same way it used to, it may be a sign of hair loss or balding. Keep in mind that the weather, new hair products, or hard water can affect your hairstyle. However, if you’re struggling to shape your hair into its typical “look,” it might be because you’re working with less hair. Hair loss can influence how your hair flows and falls, changing how your hair appears in the morning or when styled.
A Larger Crown Area
In men with androgenetic alopecia and females with female pattern baldness, balding may start at the crown. Hair follicles become sensitive to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of the hormone testosterone, resulting in thinning hair, particularly in the crown area. Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) is another type of hair loss that begins at the top of the head or the crown as an expanding bald area. (02)
Unfortunately, the crown area is probably not something most people see, making it hard to assess for changes. If you’re concerned about balding, it’s a good idea to become familiar with your crown area. Use two mirrors to get a good look at the crown of your head or enlist the help of another person. If you notice more scalp showing through than usual – or there’s an obvious gap that’s visible to others – then you may be experiencing balding or hair loss.
More Stray Hairs Everywhere
Just like animals, humans shed their hair naturally each day. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), humans shed about 50 to 100 hairs daily. (03) Keep that number in mind when evaluating the stray hairs you see in the shower drain or on your pillowcase!
In some instances, however, humans shed more hair than usual. Telogen effluvium, for example, occurs when stress or illness causes the temporary shedding of an excessive amount of hair. Furthermore, women experiencing female pattern baldness may need to rely on this sign of balding (excessive stray hairs) more than others.
Unlike men, women don’t typically lose all their hair or become bald in one spot. For women, severe hair loss is generally scattered throughout the head. Their crowns and hairline may remain the same, though the hair cover in these areas may be lighter. Because of this, women may need to rely on spotting hair loss by keeping tabs on the number of stray hairs they find instead. (03)
Unreliable Signs of Balding
Often mistaken for definitive signs of balding, the following lead people to believe they are balding but are usually not connected to any actual hair loss.
- Hair that appears thin when wet. After a shower or swim, hair can look stringy, and your scalp might appear more exposed. This is typical for wet hair and not a sign of hair loss.
- An itchy, flaky scalp. Some people associate an itchy scalp with hair loss. In most cases, however, an itchy scalp is due to something easier to treat — like dandruff or eczema.
It Looks Like I’m Balding. Now what?
If you spot signs that you’re losing an excessive amount of hair or going bald, seek advice from a doctor right away. A thorough evaluation, whether in person or online, can determine whether you’re experiencing typical hair shedding or if you’re going bald. An expert can ease your fears by answering your questions and finding effective interventions. Treating hair loss as quickly as possible can keep you from losing more hair in the long run.
At Happy Head, we schedule customer consultations with a board-certified dermatologist. Our doctors work with you to determine whether you’re a good candidate for our customizable topical hair loss medication. Want more information? Start a free consultation now.