Is your hair not as thick as it used to be? While hair loss is completely normal, it can be incredibly frustrating. Wondering if you're headed for balding?
Well, there are 3 main ways to tell if you might be going bald: 1) your parents or grandparents are bald, 2) your hairline is receding at your temples and 3) your hair is thinning at the top of your head.
Keep on reading for more details on how to know if you'll go bald. And, if you're not so keen on losing your hair, there are better solutions than rocking hairstyles like a buzz cut or comb-over to hide your balding crown.
Why do men go bald?
Hair loss is extremely common among men — in fact, almost two-thirds of men will experience some form of hair loss throughout their life . And for the overwhelming majority, it simply comes down to genetics.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common reason for balding and it is hereditary. Around 95% of hair loss cases are diagnosed as androgenetic alopecia . It's also known as male pattern baldness, although women can be affected by this hair loss syndrome too.
When a person experiences male pattern baldness, they have a gene that triggers the conversion of testosterone into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The typical hair growth cycle can range from 3-6 years, however, DHT is believed to reduce the growth cycle to a few weeks or months. DHT also shrinks the hair follicles (the tiny openings in your scalp from which hair grows), leading to finer hairs and eventual hair loss .
Although genetics is by far the biggest cause of balding, there are a couple of other reasons why your hair may be falling out.
Stress can be one factor. Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that can occur when you're going through a significantly stressful time in life, for example, going through a divorce or grieving the death of a loved one .
Trichotillomania is another hair loss syndrome that can develop as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety. This type of hair loss occurs because of a mental compulsion to physically pull out your hair .
Hair loss can also be a side effect of other illnesses such as thyroid disorders and lupus .
How to know if you're going to go bald
While there are some genetic testing services that claim to predict whether or not you may experience balding in the future, they are generally considered to be unreliable at this point in time .
Although it's not guaranteed, your best guess at whether you've inherited male pattern baldness is by looking at your parents and grandparents. The genes that cause this type of hair loss are dominant, meaning that 50% of children whose parents have androgenetic alopecia have inherited the baldness gene .
While male pattern baldness can affect people of a broad age range, as well as any gender and ethnicity, research has found that some ethnicities are more affected by balding than others.
Male pattern baldness is more common in Caucasian people, with around 50% of Caucasian males experiencing some form of hair loss by the time they are 50 years old. It seems to be the least prevalent among Asian ethnicities .
What are the signs and stages of balding?
Hair loss caused by male pattern baldness typically occurs in a characteristic pattern.
The actual balding process is called hair miniaturisation. Normally, healthy hair on your head grows from your hair follicles in clusters of 3 or 4. When the follicles shrink, normal hair is shed and replaced by thinner strands of hair. Progressively, each cluster loses hair until the area is bald .
The hair loss journey for those with male pattern baldness usually starts with a receding hairline. Small patches of hair loss begin around your temples and recede back to form an 'M' shape, also known as a widow's peak.
You may then experience thinning hair at the very top of your head. Over time, the thinning crown may become completely bald and connect with the receding hairline, leaving hair only on the back and sides of your head .
While male pattern hair loss is fairly distinct, a doctor will be able to confirm this diagnosis for you. Importantly, they will also make sure that the underlying cause of hair loss isn't stress or other illness.
Is there a purpose for going bald?
So, if male pattern baldness is caused by our genetics, does that mean there is some evolutionary purpose for going bald? Well, no one really knows for sure but some academics have developed theories as to why so many men lose their hair as they get older.
One study presented participants with photos of several men with different amounts of hair and asked them to rate the personality traits of each man.
The bald and balding men were consistently thought to be more intelligent, influential, honest and helpful compared to men with a full head of hair. In psychology, these traits are known as social maturity
This led to the theory that baldness is mother nature's way of visually signifying mature, high-status men from adolescents who may be more confrontational .
Another theory is that male pattern hair loss developed as a way to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Vitamin D can only be naturally produced by the body when it is exposed to sunlight and having low levels of this vitamin is a risk factor for prostate cancer. Perhaps going bald is an evolutionary way of increasing UV radiation absorption, since less hair means more exposed skin.
Statistically speaking, men who have a receding hairline or bald spots before they are 30 years old are up to 45% less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life .
Can balding hair grow back?
As promising as these theories may sound, it's important to remember that they have not been undoubtedly proven through research at this stage. Plus, these days vitamin D can be taken as an oral supplement, without the risk of too much sun exposure.
And, while some people may perceive baldness as a sign of social maturity, we also know that thinning hair and hair loss can impact a person's self-esteem.
So the good news for those who don't want to say goodbye to their locks is that it is possible to regrow hair that has been lost due to male pattern baldness.
There are two main non-surgical treatment options for regrowing hair. One is a topical formula that can be used as a liquid solution, foam or aerosol and is applied directly to a bald spot on the scalp.
Although hair growth may be seen after around 4 months of use, it's important to know that it will fall out again if the treatment is stopped .
Oral treatment is actually considered to be the first line of treatment for male pattern baldness because it can prevent hair loss as well as support hair regrowth.
One study has found that it can prevent further hair loss in 90% of men even 5 years after treatment, and can support healthy hair growth in 65% of men 2 years after treatment .
What should I do if I'm going bald?
Pilot's personalised hair loss treatment has these 2 types of medication to support different stages of hair loss.
The treatment starts with an online consult with a practitioner to determine whether you only need a treatment plan to keep your hair, or if you have more significant hair loss that requires treatment to keep and regrow hair.
Following the consult, the medication is discreetly delivered to your address and it can be automatically refilled every 3 months so you don't run out. The treatment plan also includes unlimited follow-ups with your Aussie practitioner so that you can have peace of mind throughout your hair restoration journey.
Aside from medication, there's evidence that certain vitamins and minerals, such as biotin and zinc, can support healthy hair growth. Plus, saw palmetto is a herbal remedy that has been found to slow hair loss .
These ingredients are included in Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit in the Biotin Vitamin Gummies and the Thicken Shampoo and Keep Conditioner. Using these products in your grooming routine can supplement the oral treatment plan to maintain a healthy scalp and hair follicles, so that hair has the right environment to grow.
How long can it take to go bald?
Going bald is generally a long and slow process that happens over decades, although for some it may happen within the space of a few years.
Androgenetic alopecia can start causing hair loss as early as 12 years old and about 25 % of Caucasian men will have noticeable signs of baldness by the time they are 30 years old . By the age of 60, 67% of Caucasian men are generally bald or have some form of the characteristic balding pattern .
Treating hair loss early can prevent further balding, and it also increases your chances of growing your hair back. So even though you may not be completely bald yet, if you've noticed thinning hair or a receding hairline it may be wise to seek treatment for hair loss early, rather than waiting until later in life when it can be more challenging.
Photo credit: NBC