Understanding Signs and Stages of Male Pattern Baldness

Understanding Signs and Stages of Male Pattern Baldness

Whether you’re experiencing slight or severe hair thinning, hair loss can leave you feeling frustrated and distressed. Not only that, but talking to others about your situation isn’t always easy. Maybe you want to avoid hearing things like “you’re too young to lose hair” or “you’ll be fine, it’ll grow back.”

Whatever your reason for discomfort about your hair loss, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep things private. However, bottling up your feelings and thoughts won't stop your hair loss from progressing.

Information is essential if you want to manage, fix, or just simply live confidently with male pattern baldness. Read on to learn more about male pattern baldness.

What is male pattern baldness?

Male pattern baldness—also referred to as androgenetic alopecia (AGA)—is hair loss that affects men  and women of all ages due to genetic influences and hormonal changes over time. Though male hair loss usually begins in a man’s late 30s, research indicates that male pattern baldness is hereditary with onset as beginning as soon as the early 20s.

Aging greatly influences the hair thinning process and causes it to worsen over the years. According to the American Hair Loss Association, by the age of 35, around 65% of American men will experience some degree of hair loss. By the age of 50, approximately 85% of men will have significantly thinning hair.

Is male pattern baldness a dominant or recessive trait?

When it comes to genetic inheritance, things can get a little murky. Thinking back to biology class with Gregor Mendel’s pea plants, many people ask, “is male pattern baldness dominant or recessive?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear cut: Research has shown that androgenetic alopecia is highly correlated with genes on the X chromosome, but that many genes influence the development of hair loss and baldness. This is what’s known as a polygenic trait.

Signs of male pattern baldness

The signs of male pattern baldness are what you’d expect: excessive hair loss. At first, you may notice that you’re losing more hair strands than what’s normal for you. People tend to shed about 100 strands of hair a day, so if you’re losing significantly more than that, you may have a hair loss problem.

Other early signs of male pattern baldness include a receding hairline, bald patches, or lots of hair breakage. Be sure to monitor the products and styling tools you use in your hair to rule those out as factors in your hair thinning first.

Stages of male pattern baldness

Male pattern baldness is a gradual process, and there are seven stages of hair loss that occur as that baldness progresses. To help you determine how serious your hair loss is, use the Norwood scale and its specific classifications. See them below:

  • Stage 1: There is no noticeable hair loss.
  • Stage 2: There is a slight hair recession of the hairline near the temples.
  • Stage 3: Significant hair loss begins to occur. Hair loss starts to form a U, V, or M shape on the top of the head.
  • Stage 4: Hair loss worsens and coalesces into a noticeably large thinning area on the top of the head—the vertex—with hair encircling it.
  • Stage 5: The receding hairline and the bald spot on the vertex grow larger until they nearly merge.
  • Stage 6: The hair on the vertex is completely gone, joining the receding hairline to cause a large U-shaped patch.
  • Stage 7: This stage is the most intense stage of hair loss. Hair loss spans the entire head, leaving small amounts of hair on the sides of the head.

How male pattern baldness can affect you

Male pattern baldness can severely impact your self-esteem. It’s an insecurity that is difficult to navigate for many men, making it hard to live comfortably and confidently. When you’re worried about your hair, speaking during an important board meeting, going on a date, or even simply going to the grocery store can feel like the most arduous, anxiety-ridden experience.

Being in a constant state of anxiety, embarrassment, or stress isn’t good for your health long-term, either. Constant feelings of anxiety without reprieve can affect your cognitive functioning, cause panic attacks, or even lead to digestive disorders. Transient bouts of anxiety and stress are normal and understandable; however, if the feelings are prolonged, they could contribute to more serious conditions like depression. As depression only exacerbates those feelings of helplessness and isolation, it becomes difficult to break the self-sustaining cycle of negativity.

Potential treatments for male pattern baldness

Although your predisposition to male pattern baldness may be encoded in your genes, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things early on to help slow down the process of thinning hair. With the right hair care routine, you can keep your hair for longer.

Take care of your scalp

It's easy to neglect the scalp when beginning a hair regimen. People generally focus on the ends of the hair, despite the scalp being just as important. As the scalp is the home for your hair follicles, you want to ensure that you properly take care of it. Since your scalp sheds skin and produces oil similar to other places on your body, exfoliation is crucial. Without proper exfoliation, your scalp accumulates buildup that may impact your hair follicles' ability to facilitate growth.

You can use specific products like a scalp scrub to help you get rid of dead cells on your scalp. Better yet, get yourself a scalp massager. The shower tool is a straightforward way to encourage blood circulation to your scalp and remove excess buildup.

Hair loss medication

Hair loss medications are a viable option for people experiencing hair thinning if you want to treat hair loss in its early stages. Most hair loss solutions work to stimulate hair growth and can help to reduce widespread shedding.

See a professional to discuss what treatments are appropriate for the stage of hair loss that you’re experiencing. When you determine what’s best for your situation, monitor it closely. That way, you can easily reference any significant concerns or questions in conversation with your doctor while tracking any progress in regrowing your hair.

Hair growth aids

In addition to medications, you can use other helpful hair growth aids like biotin gummies and hair serums. You can buy these products over the counter and use them at your discretion.

Look for the clinically tested tag when considering these hair growth products. It'll ensure that you can comfortably insert them into your regimen. Often, you can use these in tandem with other hair loss solutions. However, confirm with a medical professional if you need any clarification first. 

Profile photo for David Zhang

Reviewed by: David Zhang, PhD |

David is an immunologist and bioengineer with over a decade of medical research experience. He completed his PhD at Harvard University, where he worked on developing life-saving cancer therapies. He received his undergraduate degree in immunology from McGill University and his master's degree from the University of Toronto

Written by: Enzo Benfanti, MEng |

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