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Hair Thinning On One Side Of The Head: Causes & Treatments
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Updated on April 5, 2024

Losing hair on one side of the head can be a common occurrence, however, it can still be mentally, and emotionally jarring for those experiencing it. Around 80% of men and 50% of women will experience hair loss in their lifetime, and this could manifest as one-sided hair loss [1].

With many people worrying about hair thinning on one side due to aesthetic reasons, they seek to cover it up before consulting a doctor, however, this can lead to undiagnosed conditions.

Non-scarring alopecias like male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness generally develop symmetrically, meaning it is less likely to see one-sided hair loss. Stress, trauma, and medications are also factors that are more likely to cause one-sided hair loss.

This article will cover:

  • Why you could be losing hair on one side
  • The link between one-sided hair loss and male pattern baldness
  • If sleeping on one side can cause one-sided hair thinning
  • How to disguise hair loss on one side
  • Treatments for one-sided hair loss.
Table of Contents

Why am I losing hair on one side of my head?

It can be worrying when you begin to lose hair on one side of your head, and you’ll likely be asking yourself why this is happening. Here are some of the conditions which may cause one-sided hair loss.

Traction alopecia

It is important to tread with caution when it comes to hairstyling, as some styles can cause hair loss through consistent pulling on the hairs. This type of hair loss is known as traction alopecia, and it’s caused by damage to and consistent pressure on the hair follicles.

This type of hair loss is more likely to happen evenly, affecting either the parting or the hairline depending on the style. However, if you wear your hair in a style which puts more pressure on one side, it is likely to affect your hair. It is most often seen in women who wear tight ponytails or braids. However, it can occur in men too. Learn more about how ponytails cause hair loss.

Patient with traction alopecia, leading to hair loss on one side of the head.
Patient with traction alopecia, leading to hair loss on one side of the head.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata causes noticeably round patches of hair loss to form on the scalp, and it is common to see it on one side only. Some people look into hair transplants for alopecia areata, but unfortunately, this isn’t usually suitable. Most researchers agree that alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition [3].

Patient with alopecia areata, leading to characteristic bald spots at the side of the head.
Patient with alopecia areata, leading to characteristic bald spots at the side of the head.

Scarring alopecia

Scarring alopecia is caused by a specific condition or scalp trauma which damages and scars the hair follicles. Any direct trauma to a specific part of the scalp may cause hair loss in that area.

Primary scarring alopecia includes incidents such as dissecting cellulitis and frontal fibrosing alopecia, whereas secondary scarring alopecia refers to burns, surgery, trauma, and radiation.

You are more likely to see hair loss on one side with either secondary scarring alopecia or dissecting cellulitis, as this causes painful cysts to develop on the scalp in unpredictable areas, as seen below.

Patient with dissecting cellulitis
Patient with dissecting cellulitis, a type of scarring alopecia that leads to uneven hair loss across the scalp.

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a type of non-scarring hair loss triggered by stressful events or medication. The condition can affect both men and women.

Like female pattern baldness, telogen effluvium first presents as diffuse thinning, with the scalp becoming visible through the thinning hair.

Unlike other genetic hair loss conditions, hair loss due to telogen effluvium usually affects less than 50% of the scalp and does not follow a typical pattern, so it is very common for thinning hair to appear on one side of the scalp [4].

Patient with reduced hair density due to telogen effluvium
Patient with reduced hair density along the parting due to telogen effluvium. If you have a side parting, it may seem like hair loss affects one side more than the other.

Telogen effluvium is temporary and usually goes away once the stress factor or any medications that cause hair loss are removed.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a mental health condition in which sufferers repeatedly pull out their own hair. It’s more common among women. A study carried out in 1991 found that 3.6% of people experience this condition, while more recent studies performed on college-aged individuals reported a prevalence of more than 11% [5].

Pulling your hair out from one place on the scalp may be the reason your hair feels thinner. Since many people tend to focus on a specific area, they often see thinning on one side due to follicular damage, as seen below.

Patient with Trichotillomania
A patient with trichotillomania, leading to hair loss on one side of the head.

Compound hairs

A compound hair develops when clusters of hair shafts form in one follicle. It is thought to be genetic and is classed as uncommon. When this happens on one side of the scalp, it can give the appearance that one side of the hair is denser and one side is thinner.

The condition mainly affects elderly, overweight, or very hairy men. However, one study reported seeing compound hairs in an 18-year-old woman of average build with no genetic history of compound hairs [6].

Is losing hair on one side a sign of male pattern baldness?

Hair loss on one side of the head can sometimes be a sign of male pattern baldness. According to the Norwood scale, you are unlikely to have noticeable hair loss until the third stage, when you will see visible balding and a receding hairline.

Norwood scale used to diagnose the stage of hair loss in individuals who are suffering from male pattern baldness

Male pattern baldness can affect one side more at first. England captain Harry Kane, for example, is at Norwood stage 3, and has more hair loss on his left temple than his right — Kane may have had a hair transplant to address this:

Harry Kane before and after possible hair transplant

However, male pattern hair loss is progressive and often leads to near-complete baldness if left untreated. Any one-sided hair loss will eventually spread to both sides of the head. 

Treating temple hair loss early with an effective male hair loss treatment can help stop the progression of the condition, prolonging the lifespan of your thick, healthy hair.

Can sleeping on one side of your head cause hair loss?

It is a little-known fact that predominantly sleeping on one side of your head can cause hair loss. If you tend to sleep on one side more than the other, and you sleep for 8 hours a night, the blood vessels on that side are being suppressed for 8 hours every day. This consistent suppression of circulation in one part of the scalp causes the hair follicles to weaken, and creates thinning and balding.

Try sleeping on your back or on the other side of your head. If you can do this consistently for a few months, you should eventually start to see healthy hair regrowth on the affected side.

How to disguise hair loss on one side

Here are some ways to disguise thinning hair on one side of the head.

Short hair

Hiding hair loss on the crown when you have short hair can be easy. Simply brush the hair from the front of your head backwards and over your crown. This may mean you need to grow your hair out a little to cover it, but it is the easiest and cheapest way. This can also help disguise balding around a double crown.

man styling his hair to cover up bald spot

For a receding hairline that is stubbornly creating hair loss on one side more than the other, you could try combing your hair over to one side, or brushing the hair forwards over the temples.

hairstyle to cover up receding hairline

You could also try a fade hairstyle, with the fade beginning where your hair loss starts, and leaving thicker hair on top.

fade hairstyle to cover up hair loss

Long hair

With long hair, it is a lot easier to disguise thinning hair on one side as the hair provides more coverage. The first thing you could try is changing your parting line. Simply style your hair to cover the thinning. This should move your parting to the other side of your head (and may reduce your normal parting width).

changing hair parting to cover up hair loss

If you’re not keen to change your parting line, an updo is an effortless hairstyle for hair thinning on one side. This style is versatile and can be in the form of a messy bun or a loose ponytail.

Gathering the hair into an updo will cover the thinning hair. Don’t tie your hair up too tightly, as this can make hair loss worse.

up-do styles to hide hair loss

A side plait or side ponytail is also a great way to cover one-sided hair loss, as you can gather your hair over the thinning side and style it.

side ponytails to cover up hair loss on one side

How to treat hair loss or thinning on one side of the head

Hair loss on one side can sometimes be treated, especially if it is due to a habit such as sleeping on one side more often, subconscious behaviours, or hair products/styles.

If your one-sided hair loss is caused by medication, it should stop once you cease taking the medication. However, if your medication is long-term, it is worth consulting your doctor about your options.

Medication

Medications for hair growth, such as Minoxidil and Finasteride can treat hair loss. Minoxidil is available as a topical liquid which can be applied to the specific affected area of the scalp, which makes it an efficient option for those losing hair on one side.

Finasteride is an oral medication which is usually taken for a longer time and is prescribed alongside other treatments for hair restoration, such as a hair transplant. It’s usually only suitable for men with male pattern baldness, so it can’t treat traction alopecia or other common types of one-sided hair loss.

Scalp micropigmentation

Scalp micropigmentation may also be suitable. This is a semi-permanent procedure which covers bald, or thinning patches with pigment, giving the appearance of density.

If you don’t choose the right SMP clinic, you may end up with certain scalp micropigmentation regrets — so do what you can to avoid these beforehand.

Hair transplant

For those looking for a more permanent hair loss solution, a hair transplant may help and is a viable option even for those with long hair. Of course, not everyone is a candidate for a hair transplant which is why you should discuss this with a trichologist. They can assess your hair loss and devise a plan for the best course of action.

When it comes to a hair transplant for one-sided hair loss, most patients opt for an FUE transplant, as this is less invasive and causes the least amount of hair transplant scarring.

Are you experiencing hair loss on one side?

We provide hair loss treatments for anyone looking to restore hair loss on one side of their head, including:

Book your consultation at the Wimpole Clinic to find out more about how our hair loss specialists can create a treatment plan that will not only restore your lost hair but also prevent further hair loss.

Hair Thinning On One Side Of The Head: Causes & Treatments, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)Updated on April 5, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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