The first stages of male pattern baldness (MPB) typically occur in men as young as 20 years of age. We are covering the first signs of male pattern baldness and how to identify this condition within yourself. The great news is that there are precautions you can take to delay the progression of hair miniaturisation and hair restoration solutions such as hair transplantation that can reverse the implications of male pattern baldness.   

What is Male Pattern Baldness

Male pattern baldness is an age, hormonal and/or genetic-related condition in which men undergo a gradual loss of hair over time. This condition is split up into 7 stages of male pattern baldness which are outlined by the Norwood scale, in which stage 1 outlines a light form of hair loss and stage 7 outlines the most severe form of hair loss.

The relation between the hair growth cycle and male pattern baldness

A typical hair growth cycle combines the anagen phase, catagen phase and telogen phase, with each phase lasting for an approximate duration of time before the hair transitions into the next phase. The hair will transition between the phases freely, with each phase active at any given time. This is to ensure that not all the hair sheds at the same time, which would leave you with a completely bald head every time your hair transitions out of the anagen phase.

The anagen phase is described as the development phase, in which hair continues to grow longer until you cut it. This phase lasts approximately 3 to 6 years depending on your personal hair growth cycle and accounts for approximately 90% of the hair at any given time.

From the anagen phase, your hair will transition into the catagen phase, which marks the end of active hair growth from that hair follicle within that particular hair growth phase. This phase accounts for approximately 3% of your hair at any given time and lasts for roughly 20 days. Within this short period of time, the hair detaches from the blood supply

Lastly, the hair will enter the telogen phase, in which the hair becomes dormant for up to 3 months. At some point during this dormancy period, the hair enters the exogen phase which is basically an extension of the telogen phase. The dormant hair will then begin to shed, making way for new hair growth to start once the anagen phase kicks in.

This picture-perfect cycle of growth is hindered once male pattern baldness kicks in. The duration of each phase decreases resulting in shorter, finer hair strands until the follicle no longer produces hair at all.

The causes of male pattern baldness

The stages of male pattern baldness are influenced by your genetic disposition which is all the characteristics and fundamental health ailments you may have inherited from your parents. These genes you have inherited from your parents will significantly govern your sensitivity to androgens which are male sex hormones responsible for puberty and other things such as hair maturation. For this reason, male pattern baldness is considered a form of androgenic alopecia. The androgen we will be focusing on now is a hormone known as dihydrotestosterone or DHT.

Elevated levels of DHT hinder hair growth

Although higher levels of DHT offer benefits such as enhanced muscle mass, there are some complications associated with inflated levels of the hormone. Amongst these complications include a higher risk of developing depression, prostate enlargement, and male pattern baldness.

This is because men possess an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) which is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into a more potent hormone called DHT. The higher the level of 5-AR that you have, the more DHT your body will produce which will speed up the hair thinning or balding process.

For many men, the hair loss process commences in the course of puberty, while the skull is still developing. The development of muscle in the forehead and neck leads to heightened tension and tightness over the top of the head as the skin and stretches. The higher levels of DHT cause the band of tissue to thicken which results in restricted nutrient and blood flow to the hair follicles.

Therefore, the reason why hair follicles are transplanted from the sides or back of the head is that they are less vulnerable to the hair thinning or balding effects of DHT.

Genetics play a role in baldness

You may be familiar with a common myth that male pattern baldness is a trait that is solely inherited from your grandfather on your mother’s side of the family. This may not be the case entirely, although there is truth in this statement. Male pattern baldness is believed to be polygenic which means that there is more than one specific gene that will influence the launch and progression of this hair miniaturisation condition.

Your body is made up of 23 chromosome pairs, each containing your genetic information and influencing thousands of characteristics about you, including your hair colour, height, the length of your nose and susceptibility to balding. Your pair of X and Y chromosomes will establish your sex at birth. Women possess two X chromosomes and men possess a single X and single Y chromosome. The X chromosome in men is inherited from their mothers while the Y chromosome is inherited from their father.

A study conducted and published by a reliable source suggests that there are up to 63 genes that contribute to male pattern baldness. The significant part about these findings is that only 6 of those genes are found in the X factor which means that it is entirely possible and likely that thinning of the hair in the form of male pattern baldness can also be inherited from your father.

Age-related hair loss

Over 50% of men will succumb to the hair loss effects of male pattern baldness by the time they reach 50 years old if their genetics and hormone levels do not encourage the onset of it sooner. Reasons for this are often related to stress, nutritional deficiencies as a result of other medical conditions or a general decrease in health and welfare.

The signs of male pattern baldness

The further hair loss progresses through the stages of male pattern baldness, the more prominent hair loss becomes. Identifying the signs of male pattern baldness early on may help prevent further hair loss and deterioration of your hairline. Below you’ll find the signs of male pattern baldness and effective ways of preventing further development of hair loss.

A visible difference in the aesthetic of your hairline

The first sign of male pattern baldness is usually an observable receding hairline, taking on an M-shape. The best way to ensure you stay on top of your hair longevity is by comparing old photos of your hairline with your current hairline.

TIP: It’s best to compare your old photos with a current photo taken under natural light and continue recording your hair growth or loss under the same lighting conditions.

Diffused hair loss

Not all male pattern baldness starts from the hairline, with many men noticing the first signs of hair loss affecting the entire scalp, being observed as a general thinning of the hair from the top or back of the head. This may result in a patchy appearance the more your hair loss progresses through the stages of male pattern baldness.

Naturally, it’s better to identify diffused hair loss sooner rather than later. The easiest way to identify a change is to compare photos of your scalp every 3 to 4 months the same way you would compare your hairline. A visible thinning of the crown area is a sure sign of male pattern baldness.

Significant shedding after combing or washing your hair

It is normal to lose hair after you shower or brush your hair. However, knowing the difference between excessive hair shedding and regular hair shedding may help you safeguard the longevity of your hair. It is normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day so observing a few strands on your hair after washing or in your comb after styling should not alarm you.

Should you notice a significant amount of hair shedding, it’s essential to remember that brief hair loss that lasts for a couple of days or so is completely normal. Any hair shedding that lasts for weeks is an indication of male pattern baldness.

Less-reliable signs of male pattern baldness

In comparison to the signs above, the following signs of hair loss are not tell-tale signs of male pattern baldness, although they may be observed. This is because they may also be very common side effects of other conditions. A few examples of unreliable male pattern baldness side effects include:

·       Scalp itchiness

·       Hair that appears finer when wet

·       Hair on your pillow when you get out of bed in the morning

·       A transparent bulb attached to the end of hair shafts that have shed

·       A familial history of balding or thinning

Preventing further hair loss

By identifying the signs of hair loss before it progresses too far, you are keeping your hair restoration options open. The most successful hair restoration option is a hair transplant which yields permanent, natural-looking results. However, the first thing any surgeon will consider when discussing your hair transplant candidacy with you is whether you have enough donor hair to reverse or camouflage the hair loss that has transpired as a result of male pattern baldness.

This means that you possess enough donor hair, which is located at the back of the head between the ears to transplant to your problem areas without subjecting the back of your head to balding, which counteracts the fundamental purpose of hair transplantation.