The Independent Pharmacy

How To Tell If You Are Going Bald Prematurely

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 17 Oct 2023

Experiencing premature hair loss can be a deeply distressing and emotional journey, evoking a range of feelings as you may find more hairs in the shower drain or on your pillow. You are not alone in this; many share similar experiences and concerns. Early signs of balding affect many people sooner than expected – so being able to detect it early is key.

The good news is that today, there are more options than ever to treat balding and thinning hair. While genetics play a role, other factors like hormones, medications, and stress can accelerate premature hair loss. Identifying the causes and signs early gives you the best chance for intervention and regrowth.

Learning the early signs and ways to prevent premature balding and severe hair loss can help you improve your well-being and bring you peace of mind.

Here's what you need to keep in mind when it comes to premature balding.

Early Signs of Premature Balding

Understanding the early signs is a step towards finding a solution. Here are some subtle indications that may signal the onset of balding:

Gradual Thinning on Top of the Head

One of the most common early signs is increased hair thinning and hair loss, specifically on the crown of your head. You may notice more of your scalp becoming visible when your hair is wet. Look for a wider part line on top, increased shedding in that area, and your hair feeling less dense on the vertex scalp.

This gradual thinning is often related to a receding hairline and increasing bald spots. It results from the hair growth cycle being pushed faster into the telogen phase (shedding phase), cutting the anagen phase (growing phase) short. With each new cycle, the follicles miniaturise more, producing finer, weaker hairs. Over time, the excessive shedding leads to bald patches.

Pay close attention to any thinning at the crown to catch male or female pattern baldness in the early stages when hair regrowth is possible. Use a hand mirror to regularly check this area. The sooner you detect thinning hair, the better chance treatments have of stimulating healthier new growth.

Receding Hairline

As hair loss progresses, you may notice your frontal hairline beginning to recede. An “M” shape often starts to form at the temples and forehead, with recession of the sides.

Look closely for widening of your part line in front and increased spacing between strands along the hairline. The frontal hairs may appear less dense. All these signs point to the early stages of androgenetic alopecia, also called male or female pattern baldness.

The receding occurs as hair follicles along the hairline and temples begin to shrink, a process called miniaturisation. Over time, the hairs in affected follicles grow back thinner and weaker in each cycle until they don’t regrow at all. So, monitoring your frontal hairline regularly helps detect balding early.

Loose Hairs on Pillow, Shower Drain, or Brush

Excessive hair shedding is often one of the first clues that balding has begun. Seeing noticeably more loose hairs left behind on your pillowcase, in the shower drain, hairbrush, or comb may indicate an issue.

Healthy hair loss is typically around 50-100 strands per day as old hairs shed and regrow. Amounts greater than that on a consistent basis could mean the hair growth cycles are disrupted, and premature shedding is occurring.

Collect the shed hairs and have them examined by your dermatologist. They can determine if the bulbs appear healthy and what growth phase they are in. This helps diagnose if excessive loss is due to telogen effluvium or genetic pattern baldness.

Changes in Hair Texture

Early miniaturisation of the follicles during male or female pattern baldness can cause the remaining hair to start feeling thinner and finer in texture. As the hairs grow weaker, you may notice them looking less vibrant.

Without the proper structural integrity, the hair shafts lack their normal lustre. They may appear duller and drier, even if the hair is clean and conditioned. A dermatologist can use a trichoscope to examine the hair shafts up close to determine textural changes.

Diffused Thinning All Over Scalp

In some cases of premature hair loss, shedding progresses fairly evenly all over the scalp. There may not be one distinct balding focal point. Instead, you notice less density overall, as if the volume is turned down.

With diffuse thinning, that's what we call when your hair is thinning all over your head, hairs across the scalp shift prematurely from the anagen growth phase to the telogen resting phase before reaching their full length. This disruption often relates to internal causes like nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or autoimmune disorders.

Noticing increased translucency across the scalp is an early clue. Have your thyroid and iron levels checked to identify any correctable causes. Addressing diffuse thinning early helps prevent worsening over time.

Scientific Tests to Check for Early Balding

If you notice any signs of premature hair loss, remember it's a common issue, and there's help available. Scheduling a visit with a dermatologist is a positive step towards understanding and addressing your hair loss. Early detection and treatment will give you the best chance of reviving thinning hair.

The doctor has a few methods of examining your scalp and hair to pinpoint what’s causing premature balding and what type of hair loss you're experiencing. Here are 3 common tests explained simply:

Scalp Biopsy – Looking at Your Hair Follicles Under the Microscope

This simple in-office procedure removes a small skin sample from the balding area of your scalp. The healthcare provider numbs the area first, so it’s painless. The biopsy provides a close-up view of your underlying hair follicles and any changes happening to them.

The biopsy helps the dermatologist to identify specific issues like certain types of hair loss or fungal infections. It can also confirm if the follicles are shrinking, which happens in male and female pattern baldness. The biopsy may reveal scalp inflammation or scarring damaging the follicles.

Having a baseline from the biopsy allows tracking over time, too. Further, shrinking and reduction in follicle density indicate progressive balding. Identifying these issues early allows specific treatment to stimulate regrowth.

Trichoscopy – Scanning Your Hair and Scalp with a Special Microscope

This test uses a handheld microscope with a built-in camera to examine your hair and scalp in detail. The specialised “trichoscope” can magnify up to 70 times, showing individual hairs and follicles.

Using trichoscopy, the doctor can take close-up images to check the thickness and health of your hair and scalp and look for signs of infection or inflammation. Trichoscopy also helps diagnose conditions like patchy hair loss (alopecia areata), provides guidance on hair transplants, and monitors treatment progress by visualising the follicles. This level of insight can help you get started with an early intervention.

Blood Tests – Checking for Internal Causes of Hair Loss

Since factors like hormones, vitamins, and stressful events can influence premature hair loss, blood tests help identify any internal causes. Checking levels of:

  • Hormones like testosterone and thyroid
  • Iron and ferritin levels
  • Vitamin deficiencies of zinc, vitamin B and other nutrients
  • Inflammation

If hormone imbalances, iron deficiency, or thyroid issues are caught early, treating the underlying medical condition can help stabilise hair loss. Targeted supplementation also supports healthier hair.

Getting to the root of why your hair is thinning gives you the best shot at reviving it. Discuss these tests with your dermatologist and take action at the first signs.

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Easy At-Home Checks for Early Signs of Hair Loss

Between doctor visits, simple at-home checks can also be empowering and help you monitor any changes in a gentle, self-compassionate way. Try these simple monthly self-checks:

The Hair Pull Test

This quickly clues you into any excessive shedding:

  1. Wash and mostly dry your hair as normal. When it’s about 90% dry, it’s easier to assess the amount that sheds.
  2. Gently hold about 50-100 strands of hair near the scalp between your fingers.
  3. Divide hair into sections. Gently grasp 50-100 hairs close to the scalp between your thumb and index finger.
  4. Slowly pull away from the scalp with light, even tension. Count the hairs that get extracted.
  5. Repeat on sections all over your scalp. Consistently more than 10-15 hairs released indicates increased shedding.

Track your hair pull counts monthly to watch for changes. Bring the results to your dermatologist. They can determine if genetic pattern hair loss or temporary shedding is occurring.

The Comb Check

This simple technique reveals excessive hair loss you don’t see in the shower drain. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Shampoo and condition as usual. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Use a fine-tooth comb to gently detangle sections of towel-dried hair.
  3. Pay attention to any hair strands that remain stuck in the comb after strokes.
  4. Repeat combing across all areas of your scalp. Look for variations in strands shed.

An increase in hair being combed out could indicate abnormal hair shedding or early genetic balding. Make notes to discuss with your doctor.

DIY Scalp Inspection

Doing periodic checks with a hand mirror allows you to closely inspect your scalp section by section and monitor any changes:

  1. Examine your hairline, crown, and overall density when your hair is freshly clean.
  2. Use a hand mirror to view the top/crown area first. Note any widening of part lines or areas that look less dense.
  3. Examine the hairline in front, on the sides, and at the back. Look for thinning spots.
  4. Check diffuse density all over. Is there less volume? Can you see more scalp?
  5. Document findings and track ongoing changes. Bring maps to show your dermatologist.

Being proactive keeps you one step ahead. At-home checks are a smart addition to doctor visits.

Early Intervention to Treat Premature Hair Loss

If you spot those first signs of thinning in your hair, now is the time to take action. Combining medical treatments with lifestyle changes, under professional guidance, can provide a nurturing path towards healthier hair and self-acceptance.

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Using Proven Hair Loss Products

See your dermatologist early to get access to effective treatments while your follicles are still active. They may suggest some of the products that you can get from The Independent Pharmacy and our expert team:

  • Minoxidil (also known as Regaine) - This topical solution helps prolong the hair growth cycle and prevent premature shedding. Rubbed into the scalp, it helps to make the anagen phase (growth phase) longer, so you shed less. It works by increasing blood flow and nutrition to the follicles. Using it at the first signs of loss allows more time for regrowth between hair cycles. And while women should avoid the standard Regaine for men, there is also Regaine for women.
  • Finasteride (also available in the branded version Propecia) - These pills work by blocking a hormone in your body, known as DHT, that causes common types of hair loss in men and women. Halting DHT prevents further miniaturisation and thinning.
  • Dutasteride (also known as Avodart) - This oral medication also works to block the DHT hormone that causes pattern baldness. It prevents further shrinking and thinning of follicles.
  • Alpecin shampoo - The caffeine in it can stimulate hair follicles to strengthen while you wash. Increased circulation can support thicker regrowth.

To start your journey with The Independent Pharmacy, fill in a short assessment, and our team will be in touch with the best options for you and your condition.

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Adopting a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

While genetics drives male and female pattern baldness, internal and external factors can accelerate it. Getting ahead of these triggers boosts hair health:

  • Eat more lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and omega-3s. These provide nutrients that support scalp circulation and healthier hair cycles.
  • Reduce sugary foods, refined carbs, and saturated fats that may increase DHT production and inflammation.
  • Take supplements like iron, biotin, vitamin D, and saw palmetto to counter deficiencies. However, remember to consult your GP before starting any new supplements.
  • Practice stress management techniques. Chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol and hair loss.
  • Quit smoking and minimise sun exposure. Both factors can damage follicles and skin cell function over time.

Staying Consistent for the Long Haul

Starting the right treatments and lifestyle changes as soon as thinning is noticed gives you the best long-term outlook. Being consistent is vital to stabilising progressive loss and stimulating stronger regrowth.

Early intervention preserves more active follicles and helps return them to healthy cycling. Partner with your dermatologist to customise a plan for your hair loss pattern and causes.

Consulting a Hair Loss Expert for Help

If you spot signs of progressive thinning or bald patches, make an appointment with a hair loss specialist right away. Here’s what to expect:

Making an Appointment with a Trichologist or Dermatologist

Ask your primary doctor for a referral to a trichologist or dermatologist who specialises in treating hair disorders. Look for ones experienced in diagnosing and managing premature balding. This ensures you get a proper assessment and the latest treatment options.

Check reviews and before/after photos of previous patients to choose a provider you feel comfortable with. Many offer virtual as well as in-office consultations for convenience.

What to Expect During the Hair Loss Consultation

The specialist will ask detailed questions about your health history, diet, medications, and family baldness patterns and perform an exam:

  • They’ll examine your hair density, thickness, and scalp closely and may use trichoscopy or scalp biopsy to evaluate follicles.
  • They’ll analyse hair shedding patterns - how much is coming out versus growing back.
  • Blood tests to check for imbalances in hormones, nutritional deficiencies, and thyroid issues may be ordered.
  • They’ll determine if generic male or female pattern balding is occurring or if alopecia areata, fungal infection, or another cause is to blame.

This comprehensive assessment provides clues to what’s accelerating your hair loss and the best treatment approach.

Developing a Customised Treatment Plan

Based on the exam and test findings, the specialist will discuss options to stabilise shedding and stimulate regrowth specific to your hair loss type and pattern:

  • Prescription medications like minoxidil, finasteride, or dutasteride
  • Hair regrowth light therapy to improve scalp circulation
  • Targeted supplements and diet changes to optimise hair health
  • Hair transplant if follicles are permanently damaged
  • Stress reduction techniques and lifestyle changes

Getting an expert diagnosis and plan gives you the best chance of halting progressive balding early. Be proactive and schedule a visit at the first signs of thinning hair.

Frequently Asked Questions About Premature Balding

Knowing answers to common questions can help you identify and treat hair loss early. Here are some key FAQs:

How do you tell if I am going bald?

Look for gradual thinning focused on the crown and hairline, increased spacing between strands, wider part line, miniaturised hair texture, more than 100 hairs shed daily, and positive pull/comb tests. Discuss symptoms with your dermatologist.

Am I balding or just losing hair?

Shedding 50-100 hairs daily is normal. But consistent loss beyond that coupled with seeing more scalp indicates balding, especially in the frontal and top areas for male and female patterns.

Am I bald or just paranoid?

Use a hand mirror monthly to inspect all over your scalp and track changes over time. Gradual thinning is easy to miss. Seeing a dermatologist provides an objective assessment to either put your mind at ease or diagnose hair loss.

At what age does balding start?

Male pattern baldness often begins after 30 but may start in the late teens. Female hair loss usually occurs after menopause but can begin in the 20s. Earlier loss is considered premature balding. Know the signs.

Get informed, examine your hair closely, and seek professional advice. There are solutions to restore your locks.

Conclusion

Acknowledging the early signs of premature hair loss can be emotionally challenging, yet it also opens the door to proactive care and self-compassion. Catching thinning early allows you to take action to stabilise shedding and reactivate healthier regrowth. But remember that the treatments you explore may have side effects that you should take into consideration.

Being aware of the subtle signs like increased crown/hairline thinning, excessive shedding, and textural changes enables proactive intervention. Combining medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and expert guidance gives you the best chance of restoring a full head of hair.

While genetics play a role, factors like hormones, medications, illness and stress often accelerate premature balding. Identifying and addressing these triggers makes a difference. Consistency is key—the earlier you start, the better for long-term outcomes.

Empower yourself with information, do monthly self-checks, and see a hair restoration specialist at the first indication of thinning. You can assess causes, create a hair loss treatment plan, and take control. Don't wait for pronounced baldness – early action lets you get ahead of premature hair loss for fuller, healthier hair.

Sources:

An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition - PMC (nih.gov)

Treatment options for androgenetic alopecia: Efficacy, side effects, compliance, financial considerations, and ethics - PMC (nih.gov)

Hair loss - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Scalp Condition Impacts Hair Growth and Retention via Oxidative Stress - PMC (nih.gov)

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