Balding 101: The stages of hair loss, what causes it and how to treat it

Put a stop to balding today.

Written by
Alexandra McCarthy
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 15, 2024
min read
Balding 101: The stages of hair loss, what causes it and how to treat it
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Balding can be a difficult topic to discuss. While baldness is incredibly common — hello Bruce Willis, Jeff Bezos, Stanley Tucci and Samuel L. Jackson! — you might feel insecure about your hair loss.

And, that's completely understandable! Your hair can play an important role in your self-confidence and experiencing hair loss can really affect that.

The good news is that you don't have to resign yourself to the fact that you're balding. In fact, there are a few things you can do to help halt hair loss and encourage hair regrowth. That's where we come in — Pilot is the place where you can come to chat all things hair loss with Aussie practitioner's and receive customised treatment for your individual situation.

But, before we dive into ways to treat hair loss, let's look at what causes balding, simple ways to tell if you're going bald and the stages of hair loss.

What are the causes of balding?

There are a number of causes of hair loss and balding and it can be influenced by everything from genetics to stress and the medications you take.

Here's what you need to know about the most common hair loss causes.


There are a number of factors that can influence hair loss, but in 95% of causes, it's a result of genetics [1]. This form of hair loss is commonly called male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia.

The genes inherited from your parents — yep, it's both parents, not just your mother's — will determine whether or not you experience significant hair loss [2].

Interestingly, it's not just one gene that affects this but rather the expression of many different genes, which is why male pattern hair loss tends to be a more complex condition.

You might be wondering how genetics influences hair loss and it comes down to a sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a hormone derived from testosterone. Both of these are known as androgens, which are sex hormones.

The issue with DHT is that it can shrink your hair follicles and impact your hair growth cycle, causing it to become shorter. This means that when your hair grows it's often thinner and much more brittle — this process is called miniaturisation [3].

According to research, 2 things need to occur to experience baldness — the first is that your hair follicles are sensitive to DHT due to your genes and the second is that you have high levels of androgens [4].

While this might sound far from optimistic, all hope is not lost. Thanks to modern medicine, there are treatments that help block the conversion of testosterone into DHT and in turn, help put a stop to hair loss and balding.


Traumatic events or prolonged periods of stress can cause hair loss. This is known as telogen effluvium and the good news is that its a form of temporary hair loss [5].

In most cases of telogen effluvium, the hair will generally grow back when the stress subsides.


There are a few medications that can also impact your hair, including certain treatments for high cholesterol, acne, depression and high blood pressure [6].

While this is a rare side effect, the hair loss will usually reverse itself once you stop the medication. But, be sure to consult your doctor before you stop taking the medication.

Thyroid conditions

In some cases, unexplained hair loss can be due to an issue with your thyroid. If you're unsure, your doctor can check your thyroid levels with a blood test.

Vitamin deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can play a significant role in hair loss, especially when it comes to your iron, zinc and vitamin D levels [7].

Too little of these vitamins can contribute to thinning hair so it's important that you can a vitamin-rich diet as this can help support the production of new hair follicles.

Autoimmune conditions

Autoimmune conditions can also play a role in hair loss. Alopecia areata is a rare autoimmune disease that can cause hair to fall out in patches and can affect your hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair [8].

Another condition, called lupus, can cause gradual thinning on your head and your body [9]. In some cases, both of these autoimmune conditions can cause permanent hair loss.

There are a number of factors that influence hair loss.

How to tell if you're going bald

In most cases, hair loss is a slow process and it can take you a while to realise that you're experiencing hair thinning. In fact, thinning hair usually only becomes noticeable after losing 50% of the hair on your scalp [10].

This statistic might feel incredibly alarming, but male pattern hair loss follows a pattern and there are a few early signs of balding to keep an eye out for so you can take action accordingly.

Receding hairline

One of the first major indicators of hair loss is the development of a receding hairline. It often starts out subtly as hair begins to recede around the temples and eventually causes an M-shaped hairline to appear.

Thinning at the crown

When the M-shaped hairline becomes more pronounced, you might experience a widow's peak. From here, you'll probably notice thinning hair at the crown, which can eventually lead to a bald spot.

Thinning all over

At this point, you'll begin to experience hair loss across the scalp, which is known as diffuse thinning.

You'll also find that your hair takes longer to grow and when you do experience hair regrowth, it'll be fairly fine and wispy. This is a common attribute of male pattern baldness, which as we mentioned earlier, is called hair follicle miniaturisation.

This means the hairs become shorter and wispier before they stop growing at all.

Maturing hairline

Another early sign of balding can be the maturing hairline. While a maturing hairline is technically a receding hairline, it tends to be a little more subtle.

In fact, it can take a lot longer to realise you've experienced a change in your hairline when it comes to a maturing hairline.

This is because the hairline usually moves about an inch above the highest wrinkle on the forehead but still remains defined and generally speaking, you don't experience hair thinning anywhere else on the scalp.

The 7 stages of balding

While there are a few ways to pinpoint the early signs of balding, there is actually a system that was developed in order to track the 7 stages of balding. Known as the Norwood scale, this tool helps men gauge the severity of their hair loss.

Stage 1

Mild and in most cases, unnoticeable hair loss around the temples usually occurs in stage 1. While there isn't much you can do to treat hair loss at this stage, you may want to look around at your family members and see how their hair follicles have fared.

If genetic hair loss is common in your family, you may want to start exploring preventative methods at this point. Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit is a great place to start.

This kit supports healthy hair growth and keeps your hair follicles happy. The Biotin Hair Gummies are packed with biotin (also known as vitamin B7), which supports the synthesis of keratin — the protective protein that makes up your hair and makes it stronger and less prone to damage.

The Thicken Shampoo & Keep Conditioner helps to give your follicles the best start to life with ingredients like saw palmetto, niacinamide, biotin, zinc and caffeine.

And, rounding out the kit is the Derma Roller — a handy tool that allows you to try derma rolling at home. The device has tiny needles that rupture the outer layer of the dermis, creating blood flow to the area and triggering a healing reaction in the scalp.

By activating the stem cells in the scalp, surrounding follicles are stimulated, which helps encourage hair growth.

Stage 2

This stage features hair thinning and the development of the M-shaped hairline. If you've noticed changes to your hairline, now is a great time to seek help — the earlier you take action, the better chances you have of keeping your hair in the long run.

Stage 3

At this point, you'll begin to notice balding and your hairline may have receded a bit further to create more noticeable M, V or U shapes.

Stage 4

This stage is known to be a little more severe as hair loss occurs at the back of the head. It's common for men to experience a band of hair separating the hairline from the balding areas on the crown.

This is when you might want to try experimenting with haircuts that help hide a balding crown like a crew cut, a faux hawk or a short pompadour.

The good news is that hair loss on the crown can be treated and there a clinically-proven hair loss treatments that you can access from the comfort of your own home.

Stage 5

By this stage, you would have experienced significant hair loss and it usually signals the development of a horseshoe-shaped hairline.

Stage 6

By stage 6, all of the hair that made up the hairline and vertex scalp will be mostly gone. While some whispy hair may still be on the scalp, the coverage is usually quite minimal.

Stage 7

This is the most severe form of hair loss and at this point, there is almost no hair left on the scalp.

How early can you start balding?

Hair loss can start as early as your teen years — especially if you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss. It's also incredibly common to experience balding in your 20s. In fact, about 16% of boys aged 15-17 experience male pattern baldness and around 25% of men experience balding before they reach the age of 21 [11][1].

While this is common, it can really affect your confidence and there's no need to deal with it on your own. That's where Pilot's personalised hair loss treatment can come in — we're here to help.

At what age do men usually go bald?

While hair loss can begin in the teenage years, it most commonly starts when a man reaches his 30s or 40s [11]. And, the risk of hair loss increases as you age.

In fact, about half of the men in the world will experience hair loss by the age of 50 and roughly 70% of men will lose their hair as they age [12].

There's no hard or fast rule when it comes to the timing of hair loss but if you're predisposed to male pattern hair loss, chances are it'll start to make itself known in your 30s and beyond.

How long does it take to go bald?

This will differ from person to person but it generally takes years to go completely bald — up to 15-25 years [13].

Some people may experience the balding process at a faster speed, while others may notice small changes over a period of 20 years. It can be helpful to take stock of the hair loss experienced by your close family members and if they had a rapid or slow change in their hair.

Can you stop balding?

The good news is that you can indeed take steps to stop further hair loss and treat balding. It's helpful to identify the potential causes of your hair loss — be it stress, vitamin deficiencies or genetics — as this will determine the best course of action.

Stress-induced hair loss will require a different treatment to hair thinning caused by certain foods. If it's a vitamin deficiency you're dealing with, it's best to chat with your doctor about how best to correct this with supplements and foods that can encourage hair growth.

Can balding hair grow back?

Yes! Balding hair can grow back. The important thing to know here is that the earlier you begin to treat hair loss, the better chance you have of experiencing hair regrowth.

Pilot's personalised hair loss treatment takes action to stop hair loss, while also encouraging hair to grow back. Our Keep Your Hair treatment works by blocking the action of the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT — the pesky hormone that stops hair growth and in turn, helps you hold onto your existing hair.

Our Keep and Regrow Your Hair plan, on the other hand, contains 2 active ingredients — one blocks DHT while the other improves the delivery of vital nutrients to the hair follicles.

And, when used together, 83% of men will keep their hair and 66% will regrow their hair — it's that good [14].

The beauty of Pilot is that you can access support via your phone — simply take our online consult and an Aussie Pilot practitioner will create a treatment plan based on your individual experiences with hair loss.

From here, your treatment is compounded just for you and delivered discreetly to your door — no need for an awkward face-to-face conversation with your GP or a trip to the chemist.

Plus, you can access unlimited practitioner follow-ups whenever you need and automatic refills will arrive every 3 months.

Hair loss can feel incredibly isolating at times and accessing treatment might feel overwhelming. But, there are easy steps you can take right now to treat balding and Pilot's practitioners are ready when you are.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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