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How To Spot The First Signs of Hair Thinning and Balding

According to statistics, 85% of men by the age of 50 will have experienced balding or another type of hair loss. The majority of these cases will start around the late twenties and early thirties [1].

If you’re a man in his mid to late twenties, going bald from male pattern baldness may be something that you’re already starting to worry about. However, it’s not like your hair is going to fall out all at once. Hair will most commonly start thinning first, your warning sign of what’s potentially to come.

Hair thinning and balding are also something that’s not necessarily only experienced by men. There are plenty of women (around 8 million in the UK [2]) who have to deal with the implications of female hair loss at some point in their lives.

A lot of our self-confidence is tied to our physical appearance, which includes our hair. It can be a very stressful experience when hair loss occurs and you start to notice your hair thinning out or bald spots appearing.

The good news is that it’s usually relatively easy to tell when you are starting to go bald. Here are some early signs of balding that should help you tell whether your type of hair loss will be permanent.

Table of Contents

What are the first signs of hair thinning?

Hair loss such as female or male pattern baldness is often something that happens in stages rather than all at once. It’s easy to ignore some of the earliest signs of hair thinning but, the sooner you notice them, the quicker you’ll be able to do something about it and prevent further hair loss.

Some of the common first signs of thinning include:

  • A change in your hairline: Your hairline may start to recede or change shape over time.
  • Noticeable thinning hair: We all look at our hair multiple times throughout the day, eventually you will be able to easily notice that your hair is thinner than it was before.
  • Excessive hair loss after showering or brushing: Noticing more lost hair on the floor after your shower and in your hair brush.
  • Photographic evidence is showing: You may be looking through old photos of yourself and noticing the difference in your hair.
  • Hair is taking longer to grow: If you find that you’re not needing to visit the hairdresser as often as you once were, it could be a sign that your hair is thinning and not growing as quickly.
  • Your barber or hair stylist mentions something: Our hairdressers have a very different view of our heads than we do, so they should be able to clearly see when your scalp is more visible and thinning is occurring.

What are the usual signs of balding?

Balding is a personal thing, so it’s hard to say that it will look the same for everyone. Some people may notice their hair becoming progressively thinner over time, which then leads to baldness. Others may realize that their hairline has receded significantly, even if the rest of their hair doesn’t seem to be that thin.

However, female and male pattern baldness usually follows some sort of pattern. Male pattern baldness is classified through the Norwood Scale while the Ludwig scale is used to to diagnose the stage of hair loss for individuals suffering from female pattern baldness.

The Norwood Scale used to classify the level of male pattern baldness
Image showing the 7 stages of male pattern balding according to the Norwood scale. Image credit: Healthline
The Ludwig Scale used to classify the scale of female pattern baldness
The 3 stages of women’s hair loss according to the Ludwig Scale. Image credit: Classifications of Patterned Hair Loss: A Review

How to tell if hair thinning will lead to baldness

A lot of our self-confidence is tied to our physical appearance, which includes our hair. It can be a very stressful experience when hair loss occurs and you start to notice your hair thinning out or bald spots appearing.

The good news is that it’s usually relatively easy to tell when you are starting to go bald. Here are some early signs of balding that should help you tell whether your type of hair loss will be permanent.

Excessive hair shedding

The first thing to pay attention to is the amount of hair that’s left after using a hairbrush, or in the sink, shower, or bed. On average, we lose around 100 hairs a day [3]. It’s very normal to lose hair after washing and brushing, so noticing some hair left over on the brush or in the shower shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern, it’s normally just hair shedding naturally (which will grow back).

100 hair strands in a person with short hair (left) and long hair (right)
Photo showing 100 hairs from a person with short hair (left) and longer hair (right).

If you start to notice that your hair is falling out more than usual, or that large clumps of your hair are starting to fall out, this may be a sign that male or female pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia) has started.

You can also check your hair and scalp under a strong light, doing this you’ll be able to clearly see the top of your hair and identify how thin your hair has become. The thinner it gets, the easier it will be for you to see your scalp.

Visual representation of hair loss in bundles

Hair shedding of varying degrees.

Changes in your hairline

One of the most common changes that people suffering from balding will notice is a change in their hairline.

Of course, your hairline will change as you mature anyway, but if you notice any drastic changes when comparing old photographs, it could be an early sign of balding. There are many different types of hairlines, including M-shaped hairlines, that will normally start off being flat before turning into a more obvious V-shape over time. Usually hair recession will become around the temples, or you will notice that the hair is just a bit thinner around the hairline, especially for women with a receding hairline.

If you have started to notice that your hairline looks like it’s changing, we’d recommend starting to document it. The best way to do this is by taking a picture on a monthly basis in similar light conditions where you can check the appearance of your hair.

Hair thinning

A receding hairline is not the only tell-tale sign of balding, it can happen over time through something called diffuse thinning characterised by hair thinning that affects all areas of your head, not just the hairline. It should be noted that this type of hair thinning is more commonly observed in women than in men.

Sometimes this thinning can happen all across your scalp, on one side of your head, or even just around your hairline. The easiest way to spot this is by documenting pictures of your scalp on a monthly basis or just comparing older photos of yourself to see if there have been any changes and if your hair really is thinning or you’re just being paranoid.

Significant hair loss after brushing or showering

As we’ve said, losing hair is something that happens naturally but, when it starts to be more excessive or you think that you are experiencing sudden hair loss, you may want to keep an eye on it.

It could also be that you’re experiencing temporary hair loss, which could be caused by a range of different factors, including:

Although there are many reasons why you may be losing more hair than usual, you should never rule out the possibility that it could be balding. Even if it just begins as losing a few hairs here and there, it can quickly turn into a receding hairline or significant hair loss.

The earlier you’re able to notice the signs of hair loss and rule out some of the causes that we’ve mentioned above, the quicker you will be able to find a solution that prevents any further hair thinning or balding.

Bald spots on the head

For many men who go on to experience hair loss, they will start to notice bald spots on their crown, others may notice bald spots on other parts of their scalp – each man, or woman, experiences balding and hair loss very differently.

Bald spots can sometimes be a sign of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that presents itself as bald spots around the head. In some cases, it may also develop in random locations across the scalp, not just areas that are typically affected by male or female pattern hair loss.

examples of alopecia areata on the scalp
patchy bald spots caused by alopecia areata

What isn’t a sign of balding?

Changes in the way your hair and scalp look and feel don’t always mean that you’re heading toward full-scale balding.

Here are just some of the things that may be seen as signs of balding but, in reality, are not always indicators of hair loss:

bald man scratching his head

1. An itchy scalp

For many people, having an itchy scalp can be a sign that your scalp is dry, that it’s producing too much sebum, or that it’s just a bit dry.

Haircut spot first signs of hair thinning & balding

2. Hair looking thinner after being in water

If you’ve just got out of the shower or swimming, your hair will clump together which can make it look like your hair is thinner than normal. However, in most cases, your hair will look back to normal once it’s dried.

Celebrity examples of widow's peaks
Examples of a widow's peak

3. Having a widow’s peak

A widow’s peak hairline is what’s called a morphogenetic trait [4]. This hairline is caused by genetics and not an indicator of hair loss.

shedded hair from hair brushing

4. Daily hair loss

We all lose hair every day, so it’s not uncommon to see some hair on your pillow or at the bottom of the shower.

How to stop and reverse balding in men

The earlier you spot the signs of balding, the easier you’ll find it to reverse the effects and prevent it from getting more severe.

Men who are suffering from male pattern baldness can use the Hamilton-Norwood scale to classify how bad their hair loss is as it shows how hair loss can progress over time. If you do find that your hair falls on the scale and you are experiencing balding, here are some hair loss treatments that you can turn to to help stimulate hair growth and prevent further loss of hair.


One of the most popular ways to treat hair loss for men is Finasteride, which you’ll commonly find under the brand name Propecia.

This drug is part of a group known as 5α-reductase inhibitors which block the production of DHT, which is a major cause of male pattern baldness. It works by binding itself to androgen receptors in your hair follicles, making them shrink and eventually preventing them from producing new hair.

How DHT works to shrink hair follicles

This hair loss treatment is popular for a very good reason, it is effective at preventing hair loss. In studies, they found that the drug decreased scalp DHT levels by 64% after just 42 days of treatment [5] and that there were long-term improvements in hair regrowth, density, and hair loss prevention [6].

Importantly, it’s not recommended for women to use drugs like Finasteride to treat female pattern baldness due to the potential side effects.

How to stop and reverse balding in women

For women, diagnosing hair loss can be a bit more complex. You are able to use something known as the Ludwig Scale to classify the extent of hair loss, but it’s important for women to seek a proper diagnosis. This is especially important if you notice a receding hairline, which could also be a sign of FFA.


If you’re female or did not experience any results when using oral drugs like Finasteride for hair loss, another treatment option is topical Minoxidil.

You can normally find this hair loss treatment under the brand name Regaine. Unlike Finasteride which blocks DHT production, Minoxidil increases the blood flow to your hair follicles and stimulates them to regrow lost hair.

Studies have also found that Minoxidil is an effective treatment for those who are suffering from major types of hair loss such as the following:

The good news is that Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved hair loss medication for female pattern hair loss, which means that women who are suffering from hair loss still have an effective treatment they can turn to,

However, if Minoxidil doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other Minoxidil alternatives, and natural DHT blockers which could be useful for those suffering from male pattern baldness. Although, it’s important to note that many of these treatments do not have enough scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness just yet.

Hair transplantation to restore lost hair

For some people, particularly if you have experienced severe hair loss, many treatments may not be able to turn back the hands of time and get your hair to grow again.

If you haven’t been able to find a treatment that works for you, or you have severe hair loss already, another option that you may want to look into is getting a hair transplant.

The most popular types of hair transplantation are FUE and FUT transplants.

FUT hair transplant

FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) hair transplants involve removing a strip of skin that contains healthy hair follicles. This is then cut up into very small sections to separate the hair follicles, which then get reimplanted into areas of your scalp where you are balding.

There is a risk of scarring, and you will have to go through a fairly long recovery period, but you will be able to achieve a natural-looking hairline that will blend in perfectly with the rest of your hair.

The difference between FUE vs FUT hair transplants informational graphic

FUE hair transplant

FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) involves removing healthy hair follicles from areas of your scalp where hair is still growing normally. Then, these follicles will be reimplanted into the areas of your scalp where you are no longer experiencing hair growth.

The procedure is carried out using techniques that provide natural results with minimal scarring. After a short recovery period, no one will be able to tell that you’ve had a hair transplant.

Hair transplants at Wimpole Clinic

If you do start to notice hair thinning, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re definitely going to go bald, although it can be an indication of this for some people. Once you do start to notice thinning, it’s important to take action as soon as possible to prevent further hair loss or have it turn into permanent hair loss.

If you think that getting a hair transplant could be a good option for you or you are interested in any other medical treatments that might stimulate new hair growth, we’d love to talk to you. Our hair loss specialists are happy to talk you through the process and answer any questions about hair transplants that you may have.

We offer free, no-obligation sessions for all new customers where you can sit down with one of our experts. Book your consultation today.

How To Spot The First Signs of Hair Thinning and Balding, Wimpole Clinic

The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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