Signs of Balding and FAQs
Baldness is characterized by thinning patches of hair, excess hair fall out, or a receding hairline. Baldness is different in every person but is most common at the top of the head and around the hairline framing the face. The most obvious sign of balding is looking in the mirror and noticing your scalp shining through. However, there are early signs that may help you catch hair loss, referred to as alopecia before it gets too severe. It may be easier to prevent future hair loss than to try and regrow lost hair. Some of these early warning signs include:
- The formation of a new widow’s peak, horseshoe shape, or “M” shape in your hairline above your forehead.
- Noticeable thinning around the crown of your head.
- More hair than usual falls out when running your hand or a brush through your hair.
If you think you may be noticing early signs of hair loss, especially if hair loss runs in your family, you may want to talk to your doctor about prevention and solution as early as possible. Many researchers don’t fully understand hair, so if you are faced with balding as a new dilemma (or personal crisis), you may have some questions. We tried to cover all the bases:
Q: How much hair loss is normal? Should I be concerned?
Answer: You lose hair every day, which is perfectly normal. Typically, a full scalp has between 90,000 and 150,000 hairs. The average amount of hair varies by hair color, with redheads having a count on the lower end or an average of 90,000, and blondes having the most, closer to 150,000. Humans typically lose between 50 and 100 hairs from their scalp per day, which also varies by hair color. Seeing a few stray hairs in your hairbrush is no reason for concern. However, if you notice that your hairline is receding around your face, thinning in areas that used to be thick or full of hair, or that you have bald patches throughout your scalp, especially at the top, you may be suffering from hair loss.
Q: What causes hair loss?
Answer: Your hair follicles, which work to produce the keratin cells that make up each strand of hair on your head, have three phases of new hair growth. The first phase, called the anagen phase, is the growth phase when new keratin cells are produced. This phase can last anywhere from two to eight years. At any given time, on a normal scalp, about 85% of hair follicles are in this phase. The second phase, called the catagen phase, which is much shorter (usually around two weeks), involves binding the new cell to the old hair shaft, thus making it longer. The third phase, or the telogen phase, is a resting phase in which your follicles do not produce new cells, which usually lasts around three months. At the end of the resting phase, the hair falls out. On a normal scalp, around 10% of the hair follicles are in this resting mode at a time, which accounts for the 50–100 strands of normal hair loss every day.
However, the body sometimes tells more hair follicles to go into the telogen phase than normal. The condition called telogen effluvium is characterized by a scalp with about 30% of the hair follicles in the telogen phase, which is more than double the normal amount. This can increase daily hair loss to around 300 strands a day. After a period of time of hair loss at this rate, you will begin to notice bald patches, thin areas, or a receding hairline. Researchers are not entirely sure what causes this hair loss or other types of balding, but most agree that hair loss is often affected by stress, hormone imbalances, poor diet, illness and disease, medicine and medical treatments, drugs, and heredity.
Q: Can I prevent balding?
Answer: There is no 100% sure-fire way to prevent hair loss, especially if baldness is prevalent in your family history. However, there are some methods that researchers say may help lower your risk for certain types of hair loss. Some of these include:
- Avoiding stress: Stress can cause hormonal imbalances that can cause your hair to fall out on its own, or lead to psychological disorders, such as trichotillomania, where one pulls out their own hair as a nervous habit.
- Drinking plenty of water: Some researchers have linked frequent dehydration with increased risk for balding in men.
- Changing your diet: Enriching your diet with healthy fats and proteins, such as duck, lamb, and fish could help prevent hair loss. Fish is especially full of omega fatty acids, which promotes hair follicle health. Because iron deficiency is also one of the leading causes of hair loss, you may benefit from increasing the iron-rich foods in your diet, like many leafy greens and red meat. Maintaining a healthy diet full of essential vitamins, like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the B vitamins, will promote hair health. You can usually get all the vitamins you need from four servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol: Some researchers have linked hair loss to high consumption of alcohol. Habitual smoking has been linked to an increased risk of hair loss, and the smoke can make your existing hair look unhealthy and thin, which makes existing baldness more obvious.
- Care for your hair, but not too much: You should wash your hair regularly with a mild shampoo, get trims to prevent splitting, and brush your hair regularly from the root to tip to stimulate and distribute the production of natural oils. Avoid over processing your hair, brushing it when it’s wet or applying heat, chemicals such as dyes and bleach, and too many products. All of these things have been linked to hair loss and thinning.
Q: Are there treatments for hair loss?
Answer: There are multiple treatments for hair loss, including pills like DHT blockers, vitamins that are meant to stimulate cellular regeneration in your hair follicles, topical solutions like corticosteroid ointments, and surgical solutions like hair transplants. Most doctors will recommend that you try other solutions before opting for costly transplants. Depending on your medical history and the severity of your hair loss, transplants may not be very effective. In some cases, all treatments for hair loss may fail. You and your doctor can discuss your hair loss problem, lifestyle, and family history to determine what type of lifestyle changes and treatments may work for you.
Q: Will supplements prevent balding?
Answer: Some supplements claim that they promote hair growth. While some vitamins and nutrients, such as fish oil, iron, zinc, vitamin D and biotin, may promote healthy hair growth, much of the evidence is inconclusive. Because the reason for hair loss can vary greatly person to person, it is hard to tell if any supplement will prevent balding for you. However, you may want to discuss supplement options with your doctor, as many supplements are formulated with a combination of vitamins and minerals specifically to reduce hair loss, and they may be worth a try.