Am I going bald? This is a question that most men will have to ask themselves at some point in their lives, with an estimated 80% of all males expected to experience noticeable hair loss by the age of 80.
For younger men, the prospect of hair loss is one that can cause genuine stress and anxiety. I went through this myself at the tender age of 17, and can empathise with the 40% of men who begin to lose their hair before turning 35.
In my experience, I found that my thoughts were dictated by emotions rather than basic logic during this time, making it hard for me to accurately determine the problem at hand and seek out viable solutions.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the clinical signs of balding, while also addressing the potential causes of long-term hair loss and how to respond.
What are the clinical signs that you’re going bald?
Let’s start with a basic fact: every man and women sheds around 100 hairs every single day. This is something that occurs indiscriminately, and you should never confuse this type of incidental hair loss with male pattern baldness or similarly irreversible conditions.
This should also serve as a useful yardstick when trying to determine whether you’re naturally shedding hairs as part of your growth cycle or actually going bald.
Clearly, leaving a few errant hairs on the headrest of your car or collar of your coat should not cause too much concern, but if this number increases then it may be a sign of something more progressive.
Similarly, if you begin to notice clumps of hair in your brush or on your pillow when you wake first thing in the morning, this could be a sign of balding.
This is what first alerted me to the fact that I was progressively losing my hair, as my previously flowing locks began to fall out in clumps and at an increasingly rapid rate.
As alarming as this was, it was a clear sign that I was losing my hair far quicker than anyone my age could have expected!
In addition to considering the rate of hair loss, you should also look for any identifiable patterns that present themselves.
This is because male pattern baldness, which is the primary trigger for premature hair loss in the UK, usually manifests itself as the front of the scalp first.
Commonly referred to as your frontal hairline, you may notice that this begins to forms a rounded ‘M’ shape as the hairs on your temple and crown start to fall away.
You will notice that this shape changes as the middle of the ‘M’ recedes further, eventually leaving you with the more familiar horse-shoe outline that stretches towards the back of the head.
This pattern of hair loss is progressive, often resulting in complete baldness as the horseshoe pattern continues to expand.
Even if this pattern starts to develop at a relatively slow rate, it is identifiable from an early stage and can help you to deal with the issue proactively.
Given that the crown is particularly susceptible to hair loss, this area may occasionally showcase signs of balding before your frontal hairline begins to recede.
One of the reasons that so many people notice hair loss at the front of the scalp first is that this is far easier to see, but this doesn’t mean that the first telltale signs of baldness have not already presented themselves on the crown.
It’s important to keep this in mind, especially if you’re serious about confronting hair loss and embracing it fully.
How to monitor your hair loss
Let me tell you, I wish I’d had this wealth of knowledge before I began to lose my hair. This would probably have saved me huge amounts of time and money, as it would have been far easier to confront the issue rather than investing in expensive and ultimately ineffective solutions.
This may also have helped me to monitor my hair loss, which is crucial if you’re going to identify the formative signs of male pattern baldness.
But what other steps can you take to determine whether or not you’re going bald?
To begin with, you need to keep tabs on your crown.
If you do begin to experience a slightly higher rate of hair loss but can see no obvious signs of change around the frontal hairline, it could well be the crown that is responsible.
To check, simply hold a portable mirror above your head while standing in front of another, in the same way that a barber does after trimming your locks.
You could also ask your partner or a close friend to check on your behalf, but the key is to monitor this regularly and over a sustained period of time.
Similarly, it may be worth keeping a diary and recording daily details of any hair loss you experience.
If you remove singular hairs from your comb or brush, count these and keep a log.
Or, if your hair is falling out in clumps, try to measure the size of these and make a note.
The key is to look for obvious signs of progression, as incremental increases in the amount of hair lost is a telltale sign of baldness.
If you want to be really smart, you could even consider sleeping with contrasting coloured pillow cover.
If you had dark locks, for example, you’d use a white or pastel pillowcase, while those with fair hair could go for a classic, black slip.
This will clearly highlight any hairs that are left on your pillow during the night, making it far easier to accurately count and determine the true extent of the problem.
Finally, don’t be afraid to listen to your comments of your friends and loved ones.
These are the people who see you the most, while they’ll also be comfortable enough to point out your receding hair loss or thinning crown.
This can be hard to hear, of course, but it’s a clear indication that your hair loss is tangible and noticeable to others.
I missed out on this feedback by trying to hide my burgeoning hair loss, but this only prevented me accepting the reality of the situation sooner.
What should you do next?
Once you’ve reassured yourself that you’re going bald, your first instinct may well be to hide away and disguise your problem.
Not only is this ultimately pointless, but it’s also potentially dangerous as your hair loss could be the result of a medical issue.
So, take it from me, your first port of call should be to visit your family GP, as they’ll be able to place the issue into context and test for any underlying medical triggers.
Firstly, there are several medical conditions that cause temporary hair loss, including numerous skin disorders and relatively common illnesses such as diabetes and anaemia.
The latter is definitely something to consider, as nutrient deficiencies like a lack of iron or a low protein intake can also interrupt hair growth cycles.
So, if your diet is imbalanced and lacks core nutrients, you may fell find that hair loss is a direct result of this.
Hormonal disorders (particularly those associated with the pituitary and thyroid glands) can also cause sudden and accelerated hair loss, so if you have noticed hairs falling out at a rapid rate (rather than progressively and over a sustained period of time) this could well an important consideration.
Then there’s telogen effluvium, which disrupts a particular stage of the hair growth cycle and can cause pronounced, but temporary hair loss.
This is typically brought on by physical or emotional stress, while it tends to occur during the telogen stage of the hair growth cycle when old follicles are shed.
Although there is no treatment for this, the problem will only persist while the underlying issue remains and the volume of your hair will usually return to normal within six to eight months.
The last word
Having closely monitored the rate of your hair loss and ruled out any underlying medical conditions, you’ll have a clear understanding of whether or not your actually going bald.
Regardless of whether this is the result of male pattern baldness or a type of alopecia, this is likely to be irreversible so it’s crucial that you confront this reality head-on!
If my own experience taught me one thing, it’s that acceptance is better than denial as there’s simply no sustainable fix for losing your hair.
Sure, you can do what I did and invest in supposedly revolutionary hair products (and treatments) and restyle your hair so that it conceals your emerging bald patches, but what does this achieve other than delaying the inevitable realisation that you’re going bald?
Ultimately, I decided to embrace my hair loss and shave my head, seizing control of the situation and creating a sense of empowerment in the process.
This is something that I’d recommend to anyone who finds themselves in the same position, as it’s a truly liberating act that can mark a new and exciting chapter in your life!