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What is Hair Miniaturization?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 09/28/2021

Updated 05/27/2024

If you have a receding hairline or bald patch on your crown, you can blame hair miniaturization. This is a process in which your hair follicles slowly become smaller and less capable of producing new hairs.

Hair miniaturization is what’s responsible for male pattern baldness — the condition responsible for thinning hair on your hairline or at the top of your head.

Over time, miniaturization can affect your hair density, causing everything from mild hair shedding to near-total, severe hair loss.

The good news is that if you’re starting to experience hair loss, there are several things that you can do to stop the hair miniaturization process and maintain healthy hair growth.

Below, we’ve listed the causes of hair follicle miniaturization, as well as the symptoms you might notice if your hair follicles gradually begin to shrink.

We’ve also shared the most effective treatments for thinning hair and miniaturized follicles, from hair loss medications such as finasteride to procedures such as hair transplant surgery.

Hair follicle miniaturization is a process in which your hair follicles gradually constrict, affecting your ability to maintain normal hair growth.

Hair grows from your follicles as part of a multi-phase hair cycle, referred to as the hair growth cycle.

The hair growth cycle is made up of three distinct phases:

  • The anagen phase, where your hair grows to its full length

  • The catagen phase, where your hair starts transitioning to the next phase

  • The telogen phase (or resting phase), where your hair stops growing but remains in the hair follicle

After the telogen phase, your hair falls out of the follicle. Then, the new hair begins to grow in its place, continuing the cycle.

With hair miniaturization, some of your scalp hair follicles become physically smaller, causing new hairs to lose part of their hair shaft thickness and grow less effectively. Because the hair is thinner and more fragile, it breaks and falls out more easily.

Hair follicle miniaturization also leads to a shorter anagen phase (growth phase) in the hair growth cycle. This means that the hair shaft has less time to grow to its full length before it falls out again.

Eventually, your hair becomes so thin and weak that it’s incapable of penetrating through your scalp.

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Hair follicle miniaturization is a hallmark of several common types of hair loss.

These include:

  • Male pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia

  • Female pattern hair loss, which is also a form of androgenetic alopecia

  • Alopecia areata, a form of hair loss caused by an autoimmune reaction within your body

Let’s look at what causes hair miniaturization in these hair loss conditions.

Causes of Hair Miniaturization

The process of how miniaturized hairs develop is complicated, involving both genetic factors and certain hormones that are produced by your body.

Here’s a quick-hit version of how hair follicle miniaturization happens in androgenetic alopecia.

This type of hair loss occurs when a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) attaches itself to receptors throughout your scalp and causes your hair follicles to shrink — that is, hair miniaturization.

DHT is an androgen (male hormone), but it’s produced in both men and women. The hormone is a byproduct of testosterone. It plays a major role in the development of secondary sex characteristics in men, such as your voice and body hair.

As an adult, DHT causes hair miniaturization. This causes the follicles to gradually shrink in size. They’ll stop producing terminal hairs — thick, pigmented hairs — and start producing vellus hairs — thin, lightly-colored hairs.

Eventually, you may notice hair thinning in specific areas of your scalp. This can get progressively more noticeable over time, possibly leading to full-blow baldness.

But DHT isn’t the only cause of hair miniaturization. Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss caused by your immune system attacking your hair follicles, causing them to gradually shrink and stop producing healthy hairs.

Miniaturization from alopecia areata generally affects the hair follicles on your scalp and face, causing small patches of hair loss.

Symptoms of Hair Miniaturization

The most common symptom of hair miniaturization is hair loss.

This can look like:

  • A thinning or receding hairline

  • Hair thinning around your crown (the area at the top of your scalp)

  • In the case of alopecia areata, patches of thinning hair

  • Diffuse thinning that affects your entire scalp

If you’re starting to develop hair loss due to hair miniaturization, you may notice the corners of your hairline slowly moving upwards, creating a more pronounced V or M shape.

Your hair might also shed more easily than before, especially when it’s brushed or washed. For example, you might notice more hairs on your pillow, in your shower drain, or in your hair brush than you did a few years ago.

Our guide to the early signs of baldness goes into more detail about these symptoms.

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The good news is that there are proven hair loss treatments available for slowing down the hair miniaturization process, allowing you to maintain your hair and, in some cases, even regrow hair that’s starting to thin and fall out.

Finasteride

Finasteride is an FDA-approved prescription medication for male pattern baldness. It works by blocking 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT. This lowers your levels of DHT by approximately 70 percent.

By reducing DHT levels, finasteride can slow down hair miniaturization, which could prevent further hair loss. Using finasteride can even lead to hair regrowth in some of the affected areas of your scalp.

One study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy found that 80.5 percent of balding men showed improvements after taking finasteride for 12 months.

We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a topical, over-the-counter hair loss medication. Although it doesn’t block DHT and prevent hair follicle miniaturization directly, it can reduce many forms of hair loss by increasing the speed of your hair follicle cycling process and putting your hair in a growth phase.

Minoxidil may also increase blood flow to your scalp, ensuring your hair follicles have access to the nutrients required for consistent growth.

We offer a minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution online. You don’t need a prescription to purchase either.

Research shows that minoxidil is effective on its own, but minoxidil and finasteride are more effective when used together. In the same study linked above, more than 94 percent of balding men showed improvements after using finasteride and minoxidil for one year.

We have a topical finasteride and minoxidil spray that could be useful in fighting against hair miniaturization due to male pattern hair loss.

Hair Growth Shampoos

Certain shampoos — particularly those with DHT-blocking ingredients — might slow down the hair miniaturization process.

Our hair thickening shampoo contains saw palmetto. Saw palmetto may block DHT’s effects on your scalp, thus protecting your hair follicles.

There is some evidence to suggest that pumpkin seed oil could also reduce DHT levels. More research is needed, though.

While hair growth shampoos aren’t as effective as finasteride and minoxidil, they can be a useful addition to your hair care routine if you’re worried about hair miniaturization.

Hair Growth Supplements

There’s no evidence that any supplements actually stop the hair miniaturization process.

Still, it’s important that you get the nutrients your body needs to create hair cells. Nutrient deficiencies cause hair loss — specifically, a temporary form of hair loss called telogen effluvium.

To keep telogen effluvium at bay, make sure you’re eating a balanced, healthy diet. You can also take supplements like our biotin gummies, which are brimming with hair-loving vitamins.

Although supplements won’t stop male pattern hair loss, they can go a long way if nutritional deficiencies are a concern of yours.

Hair Transplant Surgery

Hair transplant surgery, or surgical hair restoration, is a surgical procedure that involves moving healthy hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp to your hairline, crown, or other balding areas.

The exact process of a hair transplant depends on whether you’re getting a follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or a follicular unit extraction (FUE). Regardless of the procedure, both can be effective at reducing the effects of hair loss.

While a hair transplant won’t stop the miniaturization process, it can “replace” follicles that have been damaged by DHT with healthy hair follicles from elsewhere on your scalp. This leads to hair regrowth in the affected areas.

Our guide to hair transplants provides more information about this type of procedure, as well as its costs, potential complications and more.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Hair miniaturization is a part of the process of male pattern balding. Fortunately, the right treatments can help slow down the miniaturization process, helping you keep your hair for longer.

  • Hair miniaturization leads to hair loss. And it gets worse over time: your follicles can go from producing thinner, more fragile hairs to producing no visible hairs at all.

  • Take action sooner for better results. If you’ve recently started to notice signs of hair loss, it’s best to take action as soon as you can to prevent further hair loss.

  • The treatment options are promising. Finasteride blocks DHT production, slowing down the hair miniaturization process. Other treatments, like minoxidil, can help stimulate hair growth.

Ready to put a stop to that receding hairline or thinning crown? We can help you book a hair loss consultation with a healthcare provider. They can help you identify the cause of your hair loss and suggest an appropriate course of treatment — taking you a step closer to a fuller, healthier, thicker head of hair.

9 Sources

  1. Badri T, et al. (2024). Minoxidil. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  2. Hoover E, et al. (2023). Physiology, Hair. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/
  3. Ho CH, et al. (2024). Androgenetic Alopecia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  4. Hu, R., et al. (2015). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
  5. Kinter KJ, et al. (2023). Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557634/
  6. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2021). Alopecia Areata. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/alopecia-areata
  7. PROPECIA- finasteride tablet, film coated. (2021). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/spl/data/3c8dff7e-41ab-46db-bacf-c41cc237f9d9/3c8dff7e-41ab-46db-bacf-c41cc237f9d9.xml
  8. Yazdabadi A, et al. (2012). Miniaturized Hairs Maintain Contact with the Arrector Pili Muscle in Alopecia Areata but not in Androgenetic Alopecia: A Model for Reversible Miniaturization and Potential for Hair Regrowth. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3500053/
  9. Zito PM, et al. (2022). Finasteride. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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