Balding is a serious matter, especially in men. One factor that we commonly correlate with balding is age. Some people will start to go bald near middle age or so.
Balding can begin as early as the late teens at around 18 or so. However, balding usually sets in at around the 40s for men and goes downhill from there for most people. It’s impossible to go bald before puberty unless the cause of the balding is something besides the typical androgenic alopecia that causes balding in men.
Losing your hair, especially when you are still young, can be a bit of a traumatic event. You don’t want to spend your youth without the healthy tuft of hair you have always had. Unfortunately, early pattern hair loss does occur in some people. The condition is genetic in a lot of cases. If you have parents or relatives who have experienced hair loss very early in life, you should take note.
The most common perception of hair loss is that it happens mostly in men. Men are indeed more susceptible to hair loss. However, women also have their share of hair loss problems.
The formal term for pattern hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, or male/female pattern baldness.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of baldness in both men and women. However, there are also other causes. Androgenetic alopecia has to do with androgens, hormones that regulate sex characteristics and hair growth. However, androgens alone are not the only factor. Androgenetic alopecia is likely brought upon by several other factors.
Genetics, age, and family, for example, are some associated risks. You will lose hair as just a normal part of aging, even if you had no androgens in your system.
In men, male pattern baldness can be related to prostate and heart problems. In women, on the other hand, hair loss is a symptom of PCOS.
A loose estimate of how many people get androgenetic alopecia is that around 50% of men over 50 are likely to have experienced balding. In women, balding tends to set in after menopause. However, as mentioned above, it could start as early as the late teens. Remember that hair loss is a long process. On average, it can take at least a decade for hair to go from a full head to bald in men completely. For women, the pattern is different, and they are less likely to experience complete baldness.
The way hair loss progresses is different in men and women. There are separate scales at which to measure the progression of hair loss.
For women, it is a Ludwig system. Unlike in the men’s scale, the Ludwig system does not have room for receding hairlines. Instead, the top of the head thins slowly. And the hair part expands to make room for the thinning of hair. Each experience with female pattern hair loss is different. Sometimes the whole top of the head thins out. Sometimes, it is only the part that slowly thins out. The common denominator between hair loss types in the Ludwig system is that only the top parts get erased. The sides of the head are mostly left alone.
In men, the Hamilton-Norwood scale best describes the progression of hair loss. Take note of how most hair loss is again on the top of the head and the back. This image is the characteristic bald, middle-aged guy look. Sometimes, it may even end up in total baldness.
When Is the Earliest Age You Can Go Bald?
As previously mentioned, balding can begin as soon as early adulthood (or even in the late teens). This risk only increases and compounds with age. And by the time you are in your 50s, the risk is incredibly high, and you probably have a degree of hair loss already. However, hair loss is not an overnight process. When it begins, hair loss is no more than just a fine thinning of hair or a minute receding of the hairline.
It is essential to catch pattern hair loss early on. Doing so could help with prevention. It is much easier for medication to help retain what is already in the head of hair than to regrow hair. It is unnatural for hair loss to happen very abruptly from a sudden event. In that case, the hair loss is called telogen effluvium, and the hair goes back to normal after several months.
Other causes of telogen effluvium are:
People who are taking medication for their illness may experience hair loss as a side effect. This cause is prevalent in certain cancer medications that make hair fall away. It also manifests in medication for high blood pressure and depression.
2. Hormonal Changes
If you are here because your hair is suddenly falling off, don’t worry, as you may not be going bald. It could be just temporary hormonal changes in your body. This is common when taking performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids or SARMs, causing your pattern baldness to speed up. Regardless, you should check with your doctor if you feel uncomfortable with the level of hair falling out of your head.
3. Severe Stress
Severe stress levels could also be the reason behind hair loss. In this case, hair can even start to come off in clumps or handfuls. While it usually resolves over time (or when the cause goes away), it is still best to see a doctor about it. Medical guidance is a huge relief, especially when you want to retain your head of hair.
4. Nutritional Deficiencies
Your hair also needs nutrients to stay healthy. You may lack certain components such as protein or iron in your diet. If you are undergoing a new diet plan, it could be the culprit of your hair loss. Make sure that you are eating healthy and getting enough nutrients for the day.
Treatments for Hair Loss
There are two widely known medications for pattern hair loss. Namely finasteride and minoxidil. Each of them has its pros and cons, and we will look at them in turn.
You may have also heard of finasteride as Propecia, the most common brand name. This medication is only available for men, and it could have very negative effects on pregnant women.
The goal of this medication is to block DHT (the most potent androgen) to reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth. Many people report side effects for this drug, however, and it does not address testosterone.
This is an experimental drug that’s not FDA approved and only available for research purposes. It’s essentially a topical anti-androgen. It stops both DHT and testosterone from attacking the hair follicle and is very effective against androgenic alopecia.
Between finasteride and RU58841, you have what is essentially a cure for androgenic alopecia, provided that you can ignore any side effects.
This medication is an over the counter solution that you can apply topically. The most common brand for minoxidil is Rogaine. But, there are also other brands available on the market. The medication comes in variants of 2% and 5% concentration. However, results are more evident in the 5% version (Suchonwanit, 2019).
Many people prefer Minoxidil since the application is only topical. However, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t get absorbed. Many people get symptoms on minoxidil, such as chest pain. Despite its amazing track record for three decades, it doesn’t work for everybody. Minoxidil is one of the few medications that are FDA approved to treat androgenetic alopecia.
The downside of minoxidil is that it does not treat the root cause of hair-loss: androgens. It is just a band-aid fix to regrow hair.
For more info on hair loss and how to stop it, visit our hair loss guide.