The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to deal with male pattern baldness. It’s much harder to re-grow new hair as opposed to keeping the hair you’ve already got.
In this article you’ll learn the different causes of hair loss and how to identify the early signs of balding so that you can make an informed decision about what to do about it. If you’re going bald at 20-25 then read this.
The 8 Main Causes of Balding
Before you can understand how (and why) early balding occurs, it’s a good idea to understand the different causes of hair loss.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA)
Colloquially known as Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB), AGA is a genetic condition that affects both men and women. The eventual result of this condition is hair loss.
The exact cause of AGA is unknown, but the androgen DHT is believed to be a major culprit. So, how is it produced?
DHT is produced in three places in the body: the testicles, the prostate, and the hair follicles. It’s a result of the interaction between testosterone (the male sex hormone) and 5AR (an androgen). The excess DHT then attaches to the hair follicles and, in individuals with AGA, this leads to inflammation and irritation.
As the inflammation continues, it results in a process known as hair miniaturization.
This process makes it difficult for hair to grow, as the strands become shorter and shorter until, eventually, they can no longer push through the scalp.
Alopecia Areata (AA)
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition. It occurs when the immune system believes the hair follicles are foreign and attacks them.
The main symptom of AA is patchy baldness, which seems to come on out of nowhere. This balding typically happens on the scalp, though more advanced forms of the condition lead to total hair loss on the face and head (Alopecia Totalis) and hair loss on the entirety of the body (Alopecia Universalis).
While not incredibly common, this condition does affect more than 6 million men and women in the United States alone.
The foods we eat supply our bodies with crucial nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and potassium. However, a poor diet or malabsorption problems can mean your body aren’t receiving the vitamins and nutrients required to keep it running at its best.
Nutritional deficiencies aren’t a common cause of long-term hair loss, but they can result in temporary thinning and baldness. This is especially true if you’re low on a few of hairs most vital nutrients, including iron, niacin, biotin, and vitamin E.
Fortunately, nutritional deficiencies can be solved with an improved diet and, in some cases, vitamin supplements. With improved intake, you can then avoid the many symptoms of poor diet, such as anemia, weight loss, and hair fall.
Illness and Medications
Our bodies can be delicate in many ways, as they require balance and overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, these can be thrown off by both illness and medications which can then trigger short-term or long-term hair loss.
The two most common types of hair loss to occur from illness and medications are Telogen Effluvium (TE) and Anagen Effluvium (AE).
TE is the most common, and it occurs at the very last stages of the hair growth cycle. Hair fall begins weeks to months after an illness or medication, and it can take just as long to resolve.
AE is less common, but is often seen in patients undergoing chemotherapy. It occurs during the phase of active growth, and it can begin as soon as a few days after medication is administered, and it may take several months to resolve.
Mental and Physical Stress
Stress – both mental and physical – is a problem commonly faced by people throughout the world. It can take on many forms and have various triggers (including traumatic injury, surgery, or loss of a loved one).
The most common symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- General aches and pains
- Overall discomfort
It can also manifest as panic attacks, which include accelerated heart rate, quickened breathing, and feelings of chest tightness.
Another symptom of stress can be thinning and hair fall. It’s most commonly classified as TE, and it occur months after the triggering event.
In many cases, this form of hair loss resolves itself.
Whether due to medical treatment or illness, hormone imbalance can wreak havoc on your body and its various systems. One such system it can interfere with is the hair growth cycle.
The most common causes of hormone imbalance are Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disease, and hormonal birth control. If you suspect a hormonal imbalance is the cause of your hair loss, it’s best to speak with your physician.
Early Signs of Balding
Now, let’s take a closer look at the most common signs of early balding.
Excessive Amounts of Hair on the Pillow and in the Shower
Firstly, male pattern baldness is not necessarily about how many hairs you shed each day (so don’t go counting them) it’s more about how quickly you are replacing them.
Becoming paranoid and worrying about each hair that is lost won’t help with your stress levels either.
Pattern Hair Loss and Receding Hairline
The other thing to take note is that common blading takes place in a pattern (that’s why it’s known as male or female pattern baldness) so seeing clumps of hair come out will usually mean you have a different kind of hair loss.
MPB starts at the temples and forehad and typically recedes over time. The hairs at the front becomes thin and wispy over time and eventually fall out due to hair follicle miniazturization. However, there is a difference between a mature and receding hairline.
You can also find out more about if a high hairline will later lead to male pattern baldness here.
DHT (the male hormone that is believed to be primarily responsible for pattern baldness) causes hair follicle miniaturization where the dermal papilla is starved on the nutrients and minerals and oxygen it needs to grow.
DHT also causes hair to go in to a ‘dormant’ or ‘resting phase’ so hair that falls out isn’t replaced.
Itchy, Flaky Scalp
This isn’t necessarily a cause of effect of hair loss, but the two are often correlated. This is an excellent guide to help naturally remove the DHT from your scalp which may help.
Hair Takes Longer to Grow
Because pattern hair loss comes from hair follicles entering a resting phase, as well as often being starved on nutrients and minerals, quite often your hair will take longer to grow after a hair cut.
There are other factors involved as well and it can be hard to tell for sure but this often an early warning sign.
Thin, Wispy Hair
Hair follicles typically get thinner, less radiant and lose some of their shine before eventually falling out.
So if the front of your hairline around the temples and forehead seems to be getting thinner, and more wispy then this is fairly typical of male pattern baldness.
Consider Your Relatives
The mainstream convention is that hair loss is genetic, and while that is true to some extent, it doesn’t tell the whole truth. It’s actually more of a ‘genetic predisposition‘ which means it’s more likely that you’ll suffer from male pattern baldness but it isn’t guaranteed.
It also means that there are things you can do to prevent hair loss. Anyway, when you are looking for early signs of balding, you might want to consider your relatives (on both side of the family tree) to see if any of them suffer from pattern baldness.
Fathers, Uncles, and Grandfathers will give you a good indictor of the likelihood that you might be seeing the beginning stages of male pattern baldness.
What Are Your Options?
The earlier you catch pattern hair loss, the easier it is to do something about it. It’s incredibly hard to re-grow hair where it has been completely lost and the dermal papilla has healed over.
If you’re facing the reality of early balding, you’re likely wondering what your next steps are.
There are, of course, both over-the-counter (Minoxidil) and prescription drugs (Finasteride) you can consider. But their side effects are quite unpleasant, and they have to be used your entire life if you want to continue to see results.
So, what other options do you have?
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural methods you can use to stop your hair loss and, in many cases, even reverse it.
One way to stop hair fall in its tracks is with the use of essential oils. There are plenty of options to choose from, and some have even been proven to work just as effectively (if not better) than minoxidil and finasteride.
Some of the oils I recommend include:
Peppermint is often used in the kitchen, as well as in aromatherapy treatments and even pesticides. But what if I told you it has also been proven to be 60% more effective than minoxidil in treating hair loss?
In 2014, Korean researchers used mice to compare the efficacy of Minoxidil to two separate oils: jojoba and peppermint.
The mice were split into four groups, and these groups received either:
- Saline (SA);
- Jojoba (JO);
- 3% Minoxidil (MXD); or
- 3% Peppermint Essential Oil (PEO).
These treatments were applied to the skins of the mice six days per week over four weeks. And these were the results:
As is clearly seen, both saline and jojoba oil had minimal regrowth results. However, both Minoxidil and PEO showed positive growth starting at two weeks and continuing through the study.
Even better, PEO’s results were shown to be more effective than even Minoxidil:
What does this mean for hair loss sufferers?
While human studies need to be performed, PEO does appear to be a promising natural treatment option. It increases blood circulation to the scalp, while also inducing hair growth similar to Minoxidil.
Next up on the list is rosemary, a pine-scented oil that’s commonly found in aromatherapy blends. However, it’s also been shown to be helpful in inducing hair growth.
In 2013, researchers tested the efficacy of different rosemary leaf extract concentrations on mice. Their goal was to determine if it promoted hair growth and, if so, by how much.
The mice first had their hair growth interrupted by testosterone treatment, and the oil was then applied in various concentrations over a period of time.
Not only did rosemary extract prove to promote hair growth, but it was also found to display antiandrogenetic activity. This is beneficial to those with AGA, as androgens (namely DHT) are a major cause of follicle miniaturization and hair loss.
Carrier oils are an important addition to any essential oil treatment, and there are plenty to choose from. One of the best, though, is magnesium.
This oil is commonly found in cosmetic products, as it’s known to moisturize and cleanse the scalp and hair. It also plays a role in combating calcification, which is thickening of the skin as caused by excess calcium accumulation.
When applied to the scalp, magnesium oil can moisturize and hydrate. It also breaks down these calcium deposits, and makes it possible for healthy hair to grow.
You can apply magnesium oil alone, though I recommend combining it with one (or both) of the essential oils above. A good rule of thumb is 5mL of magnesium oil with every one drop of essential oil.
Scalp Massage and Exercises
One way to increase the efficacy of essential oils is to practice scalp massage and exercises. These boost blood flow to the scalp, which is essential in supporting healthy hair growth.
How to Perform Scalp Massages
If you’re ready to get started, here’s a basic rundown of the daily process:
- Place your thumb, index, and middle fingers on either side of your head (just above the ears). Use your fingers to massage in a circular motion, and apply varying levels of pressure as you do so.
- From the sides of the head, move up to the crown. Continue with circular motions, and backtrack to previous places on the scalp as you do.
- From the crown, slowly move to the middle of the hairline and temples. Continue applying varying levels of pressure.
- Finally, bring your fingers from the hairline to the crown, and finally to the base of the scalp.
This entire process should take about 10 minutes, though you can extend it if you’d like.
How to Perform Scalp Exercises
To further increase blood circulation, you can use using facial muscles to ‘exercise’ the scalp. Here’s how to do so:
- Lift your eyebrows as high as possible, and hold in place for 2 minutes. Return your eyebrows to the resting position.
- Furrow your eyebrows as deep as possible, and hold in place for 2 minutes. Return your eyebrows to the resting position.
- Lift your eyebrows as high as possible and hold for 3 minutes. Then furrow your eyebrows as deep as possible and hold for 2 minutes. Return to the resting position.
You can also use your fingertips to ‘stretch’ the skin of the scalp, by placing two fingertips on the scalp and pushing and pulling them away from each other.
If you want to further increase blood flow to the scalp (which I highly recommend), you’ll want to take your treatments to the next level. One way to do that is with microneedling.
Microneedling is a technique that uses tiny needles to puncture the scalp. As these wounds heal, they increase collagen levels in the skin (which is important for elasticity) as well as promote the proliferation of Dermal Papilla Cells (DPCs).
And while it may seem odd to cause intentional injury to promote hair growth, there’s actually proof that it works. In 2013, researchers compared microneedling and Minoxidil. The group to receive both Minoxidil and microneedling saw better results than the Minoxidil-only group:
How to Perform Microneedling
There are two common microneedling tools: the dermaroller, and the dermastamp.
I strongly urge against the dermaroller, as it can cause damage to surrounding hair structures. The dermastamp, on the other hand, is easy to target and much easier to control.
To use the dermastamp, you’ll first want to cleanse the scalp.
You can then use the stamp to puncture the areas of your scalp with thinning and hair loss. Applying light pressure, target the areas first vertically, then horizontally, and finally diagonally.
You can perform this technique once per week.