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6 First Signs of Hair Thinning: How to Stop Balding

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 09/14/2017

Updated 01/10/2024

One morning you wake up and look in the mirror to find that your hairline is further back than it used to be. As you run your fingers through your hair, you realize it’s also not as full and thick as it once was. 

You think: “Yikes… when did this happen?”

Don’t worry, gents. These are just a few of the first signs of hair loss men typically experience.

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, for most men, going bald is a gradual process that sneaks up on us as we age.

  • A change in your hairline 

  • Noticeable thinning of your hair

  • Excessive hair loss after showering or brushing

  • Photographic evidence is showing

  • Hair is taking longer to grow

  • Your barber or hair stylist mentions something

If you’re wondering how to avoid hair loss, one of the keys is to learn about the common signs of baldness and take action as early as possible. The earlier you make an effort to prevent hair loss, the more hair you’ll be able to save.

In this article, we discussed some of the early indications of hair thinning, the reasons why you may be experiencing these symptoms, and highlighted some of the treatment options available for keeping your manly mane full and healthy.

Male pattern baldness occurs in stages. So, even though it’s sneaky, if you learn how to recognize the signs early and are quick to start treating it, you may be able to not only keep the hair you have, but even get some of what you’ve lost back.

Of course, that’s if you know what to look for.

A Change in Your Hairline

The most obvious of the stages of hair loss is the painfully slow receding hairline. This progressive-yet-predominant hair loss can start right after puberty, but typically kicks into high gear for men in their 30s and forties. 

We know… One day you’re wondering how to build up your credit score, and the next, you’re wondering how to build back your hair.

Baldness often begins in the hairline. The flat or mildly receded hairline you previously had has transformed into a distinctly M-shaped one.

For most people, this begins with hair thinning at the crown of the head and temples and often starts with thinning hair, rather than total hair loss.

Over the course of a year or two, you should be able to determine whether or not you’re losing hair around your hairline.

If you’ve noticed a receding hairline and want to know what your next steps need to be, you can read more about them in our guide, How to Stop a Receding Hairline

Noticeable Thinning of Your Hair

There’s no rhyme or reason when it comes to hair loss. Sometimes it comes on suddenly, sometimes it starts at the crown of the head and sometimes it's a slow but persistent thinning that creeps in over a few years. 

Diffuse thinning — a type of hair loss that can affect the entire scalp or specific areas — results in baldness that starts from the back or top or the crown, rather than from the hairline.

Just like a receding hairline, the easiest way to spot diffuse thinning is to see how your hair feels daily. Pay attention to what it feels like when you run your fingers through it, when you get out of the shower or when you comb it around. 

If you notice that your hair looks and feels thinner, it could be the result of male pattern baldness.

Excessive Hair Loss After Showering or Brushing

On average, people lose between 50 and  100 hairs a day. So, the four or five hairs you notice in your hands after shampooing your hair this morning probably aren't anything to be concerned about.

Some hair shedding on your pillow or at the bottom of the shower drain is normal, but if it's starting to appear excessively, you may be experiencing hair loss and you may want to schedule a consultation with a dermatology provider. 

Photographic Evidence Is Showing

You’re having one of those days where you’re feeling real nostalgic. You decide to flip through some old photos when you notice something startling. It’s your hair. And we’re not talking about the mullet you decided to rock that one week back in high school. 

So you check in the mirror to make a side-by-side comparison. While you still have a head of hair, it's not the same as your glory days. It’s thinner, it’s definitely receding and somehow, those luscious locks of yesterday feel further away from you than ever before.

You might also notice signs of balding by comparing two photos that were taken a few months to a year apart. If this is the method you choose to assess your hair loss, be aware that lighting conditions can affect the appearance of your hairline. 

Hair may appear thinner in bright downlighting (fluorescent light is particularly bad for making your hair look thin, even when it’s perfectly normal).

This makes it important to compare photos with similar lighting conditions.

If you’re really concerned about hair loss, you can photograph your hairline or the top of your head every few months in the same lighting conditions to see if your hairline is receding. 

Hair Is Taking Longer to Grow

If you’re the type of guy who visits his local barbershop religiously every two or three weeks and you’ve noticed you’ve had to slow down to every three to four weeks or even four to five weeks, hair loss might be the culprit. 

Male pattern baldness doesn’t affect the speed at which your hair grows, but it does affect the thickness of your hair and your total hair count, which can make it seem as though your hair is growing extra slowly. 

While this slow growth can be throughout the head, it can also be in just one area or on one side of your head. 

Your Barber or Hair Stylist Mentions Something

And speaking of your regular barber shop visits, nobody knows the top of your head better than your go-to barber. In some cases, if your hair is thinning or you have balding areas on the back of your head, you might not even be aware of it.

Your barber gets a bird’s eye view (literally) of your hair and can assess whether or not your hair is thinning or receding. Use this time with them to discuss your concerns and ask them to keep an eye out for any changes to your hairline. 

And if it turns out you are starting to lose your hair,  they’ll probably be able to recommend other hairstyles that may make your hair look fuller or conceal any thin spots. 

While this is obviously a Band-Aid® over a bullet hole kind of temporary solution and won’t actually promote any hair growth, it can make you feel more comfortable and confident as you start other forms of hair loss treatment.

The signs above are the real-deal best ways to help you identify where your hairline stands. However, there are also some common "signs" of baldness that aren’t actually signs at all. These include:

  • An itchy scalp, which is typically caused by dandruff or other scalp conditions.

  • Thin-looking hair after you swim or shower, which is more often a result of your hair clumping together and revealing your scalp than actual hair loss. 

  • A widow’s peak, which is a dominant genetic trait. It may be an indicator of hair loss or susceptibility to hair loss, but can also be regular ol’ genetics. 

  • A few hairs on your pillow or bar of soap, which are completely normal and not a reliable indicator that you’re losing an abnormal amount of hair.

  • A depigmented “bulb” on hair that falls out naturally. This is a natural part of the hair growth process and isn’t a cause for concern. 

  • A bald grandfather on a certain side of your family. While scientists don’t know exactly how male pattern baldness is inherited, they do know that this old wives’ tale is nothing more than a myth.

LEARN: Does masturbation cause hair loss? Fact or fiction?

If you’re wondering how to stop hair loss, welcome to the club. It’s one of the worst clubs on the planet. The view sucks. But hey, at least we’re all in it together, right?

While you may not be able to reverse your balding completely, understanding the source of your issue may help you at least be able to slow down the process. 

Male Pattern Baldness

If you’ve taken a moment to Google, “Why am I balding?” chances are male pattern baldness was the first result that came up. Also known as androgenetic alopecia, this common cause of hair loss is predominantly genetic and affects the majority of men who suffer from hair loss. 

With androgenetic alopecia, hormonal changes cause an increase in the androgen hormone, dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which causes hair follicles to shrink and makes hair thinner and shorter. This shrinkage of hair follicles prevents new hairs from being produced, resulting in hair loss.

Our complete guide to DHT and male hair loss explains this in greater detail. Our guide to the causes of hair loss gives more information on other factors in hair loss, such as medication, stress, or skin infections.

Medical Conditions

While the most common cause of hair loss is male pattern baldness, there are other medical conditions to make note of when considering why your hair falls out. Some of these include: 

  • Thyroid conditions. Severe thyroid disorders (like Hashimoto’s Disease, for instance) can cause hair loss. However, if this is the cause, you will likely experience other symptoms, like fatigue or weight gain. 

  • Malnutrition. According to some research, severe malnutrition — especially in protein — can result in hair changes. However, this cause is unlikely without an extremely low intake of calories and protein. 

  • Alopecia areata. This condition causes hair loss in small, typically discrete, circular bald patches anywhere on the scalp. Alopecia areata is a disease that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, causing them to fall out. 

  • Telogen effluvium. This is a temporary type of hair loss often caused by very stressful, anxiety-inducing or traumatic events, hospitalization or even as a side effect of medications. It can be confused with permanent hair loss, but it’s reversible. And the best news is that it usually resolves on its own.

  • Tinea capitis. This condition is a fungal infection on the scalp that causes small, scaly spots and pustules on the scalp. Tinea capitis, if left untreated, can lead to hair loss from permanent scarring. Luckily, tinea capitis is almost never seen in adults. 

  • Trichotillomania. Sometimes, people experiencing a mental health issue will pull out their own hair. If this is the cause of your hair loss, seek out the help of a mental health professional, as therapy or medication may be able to help.

Other Causes Of Hair Loss

  • Excessive styling with harsh hair care products (bleach, chemical straighteners) can cause further hair loss

  • Tight hairstyles (braids, cornrows, ponytails)

  • Rapid weight loss

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The balding process is about as predictable as a 10-day weather forecast. It’s unique for everyone and can happen quickly and unexpectedly or take decades depending on several factors, including things like: 

  • What type of hair loss you're dealing with

  • Your body's individual sensitivity to DHT 

  • Your genetic predispositions to it

  • The types of product you use in your hair

That being said, there’s no definite timeline to tell you when you’ll go bald. 

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When it comes to balding and hair loss, it’s no surprise that finding a solution usually goes straight to the top of the priority list. Luckily, it might not be too late to kickstart hair regrowth with a variety of proven balding treatments.

Minoxidil (generic for Rogaine®)

Minoxidil is an FDA-approved topical treatment for hair loss. Because it’s topical, you may experience fewer side effects compared to other treatments like finasteride. You also can get minoxidil over the counter in the United States, making it an easy option for anyone looking to take action right away. Hims offers both minoxidil solution and minoxidil foam.

Finasteride (generic for Propecia®)

This FDA-approved oral treatment is very effective at treating male pattern baldness. Finasteride works by reducing the androgens (DHT) that lead to male pattern baldness. Through Hims, you can also get finasteride as a topical finasteride spray. 

In some cases, drugs like finasteride and minoxidil can cause you to regrow some of your lost hair, although there’s no guarantee that this will happen.

Related Articles

Biotin Vitamins 

While biotin vitamins aren’t a hair loss treatment, biotin is an essential building block for new hair. According to a systematic review, these supplements may help your body grow healthy hair with an extra biotin boost, particularly if you suffer from a deficiency.

Hair Thickening Shampoo 

People use shampoos for several reasons — itchy scalps, dandruff prevention, standard cleaning. Well, you can also lather some nutrient-rich hair thickening shampoo onto your locks to help spruce them up, and keep them looking and feeling their best.

Saw palmetto (ketoconazole shampoos) is a popular ingredient in hair thickening shampoos and is used to boost hair thickness and keep the scalp clean and healthy.

In a study conducted by ISRN Dermatology, researchers found that 15 men who used a unique hair lotion composed of finasteride, minoxidil and ketoconazole for a 90-day period experienced noticeable hair growth. 

Stress Reduction

You may not know it, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, stress affects your health in a number of different ways. It can zap your energy, make you feel physically ill and even cause your hair to fall out. 

That’s right, stress can play a role in contributing to thinning hair in men. On its own, stress-related hair loss is usually temporary and usually resolves itself over time.

Hair Transplantation Surgery

If you’re looking for results and money is no option, hair transplantation surgery might be up your alley. 

A hair transplant is a type of surgical procedure that involves harvesting healthy hair from your scalp or body hair that is not affected by male pattern baldness and transplanting them into areas that are experiencing thinning or baldness.

While there are several types of hair transplant surgeries available today, they tend to be costly and can involve a lengthy recovery time. 

For more information on this hair restoration process, check out our guide, Hair Transplants: Cost, Time and Side Effects.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Long story short, if you think you’re experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone. Most men lose at least some of their hair at some point. 

But the worst thing about hair loss may not be the physical loss of hair as much as all the variables involved in it. Aside from there being many different causes, it can happen at varying speeds, to varying degrees, at various times in our lives. 

In short, it’s a real pain in the ass.

But here’s what you should take away from this:

  • Learn to spot the signs. You don’t have to wake up bald one day to know you’re experiencing hair loss. If you notice visible thinning, or an abnormal amount of hairs at the bottom of the shower drain, that it’s taking longer to grow, noticeable changes in your hairline, etc., these are things you should take to a dermatology provider as soon as possible.

  • Act quickly. When it comes to hair loss, there’s a threshold. If you get to a point where you’ve lost too much hair, no amount of medication is going to help you grow back what you’ve lost — the best you’ll be able to do is make sure you get to keep what little you have left. The earlier you catch it, the better your odds are of saving it.

  • Know your treatment options. Because there are different types of hair loss, what you use to treat one type may not be what you use to treat another. Using things like hair thickening shampoos, taking vitamins like biotin, or even taking medications like minoxidil and finasteride are all considered gold standards. If your hair loss is severe, you might have to resort to more drastic measures, like hair transplantation surgery.

If you want to learn more about your options to treat hair loss, our guide to how to fix thinning hair is a great place to start.

If you’ve already made the decision that you’re ready to dive in and get a healthcare provider-recommended hair loss treatment today, meet with one of our medical providers online from the comfort of your home.

9 Sources

  1. Hughes EC, Saleh D. Telogen Effluvium. [Updated 2022 Jun 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  2. Ho CH, Sood T, Zito PM. Androgenetic Alopecia. [Updated 2022 Oct 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  3. Guo, E. L., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual, 7(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.0701a01 Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2016, September 1). Trichotillomania. The American journal of psychiatry. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5328413/
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Hashimoto's disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease
  5. Badri, T. (2021, April 13). Minoxidil. StatPearls internet. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  6. Castelo-Soccio, et al. (n.d.). A review of the use of biotin for hair loss. Skin appendage disorders. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28879195/
  7. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot study of 15 patients receiving a new treatment regimen for androgenic alopecia: The effects of atopy on aga. ISRN dermatology. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/
  8. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  9. Malkud, S. (2015, September). Telogen effluvium: A Review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/
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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