Hair loss can start at any age.

You are more likely to see balding when you are middle aged and older, but there is a lot of variation from person to person. People notice hair loss as early as their late teens and early 20s. Other people will be in their 60s and beyond with a full head of hair.

Some hair loss is temporary and others permanent.

If you need treatment for a condition that causes hair loss, you should know how to tell the difference between natural balding and other causes.

Language matters

Hair loss can be an emotional topic that can affect people of all genders.

“We use the term male and female to refer to someone’s sex as determined by their chromosomes, and men and women to refer to their gender, unless we quote from nonspecific language.”

Sex and gender can be different between time periods and cultures. Both aspects are acknowledged to exist on a spectrum.

The signs of balding can be different for different people. Some people might see hair loss at their temples, while others might see a change in their hair color. Not everyone with hair loss will experience every sign of balding.

Common signs of balding include:

1. Thinning temples

Your hair is starting to fall around your temples. Thin hair at the crown and back of your head are some of the things you will notice.

2. Receding hairline

The process of hair on the front and sides of your head starting to thin and move away from your face is calledceding hairline. People with this type of hair loss often notice that their hair is not growing as fast as it is in the middle of their head.

Male hair loss is very common.

3. Thinning on top of the head

Thinning of the hair on the top of your head is a sign of hair loss. Thinning and receding on the sides of your head will not be seen in this type of hair loss.

This type of hair loss tends to progress slowly. It can take years before thinning hair becomes a bald area on the top of your head. This hair loss pattern is very common in certain racial groups. For instance, Asian males are more likely to experience this pattern than a receding hairline, according to this 2012 study.

4. Widening part

“The part line is caused by another type of hair loss, and it’s where your hair splits on the top of your head.”

6. Thinning across the whole head

Some people experience hair loss equally over their entire head. The hair thins equally with no patterns or shapes. While hairline recession is a very common hair loss pattern for males, females are more likely to experience hair thinning across their entire heads.

7. Hair falls out in clumps

Hair loss is a slow process. Dramatic changes to your hair can happen. Your hair can fall out in clumps, instead of slowly.

Hair falling out in clumps could indicate an underlying health condition. It’s a good idea to see a healthcare professional and find out what’s causing this type of hair loss.

8. Losing hair all over your body

Hair loss can happen on your body. It can happen on the other parts of your body that grow hair.

You might notice your body hair thinning or not growing back after shaving. Hair loss on your legs, arms, and other body parts can be due to aging. However, it can also be a symptom of some health conditions. Tell a doctor about this type of hair loss if you experience it.

At what age do people typically start to lose their hair?

Hair loss can start as early as your teenage years or might not occur until you’re well past retirement.

People begin to notice hair loss in their 30s and 40s. People reach their 60s and beyond can experience more significant hair loss.

“It is common to be concerned about hair loss. Many people are on the lookout for hair loss. There are other hair and scalp symptoms that you don’t need to worry about.”

Signs and traits that aren’t symptoms of hair loss include:

  • An itchy scalp: An itchy scalp might be a sign of an allergy to your shampoo or of a skin condition such as scalp eczema, but it’s not a sign of hair loss.
  • Dandruff: Dandruff or scalp flaking can indicate that you might need to change your haircare routine or see a dermatologist, but they’re not signs of balding.
  • Dry hair or split ends: Hair that’s dry or unhealthy can be caused by medical conditions, nutrition, environmental factors, or haircare products, but it’s not connected to hair loss.
  • A widow’s peak: A “widow’s peak” is a natural hairline and isn’t caused by hair loss.

Androgenic alopecia is a common cause of hair loss in all sexes and is sometimes called “male pattern baldness.” It occurs when hormones disrupt the way your hair grows and cause your hair to fall out. Hair loss of this type generally follows a pattern, such as M-shaped hairline recession or thinning at the top of your head.

It is not the only cause of hair loss. There are many reasons you might notice hair loss. Some of the causes of hair loss are easy to fix, while others need medical treatment.

Other causes include:

  • Family history: Genetics are the most common cause for hair loss. If older members of your family tend to loose their hair as they age, there’s a good chance that you will as well.
  • Hormonal changes or imbalance: Hormones play important parts in the regulation of many of your body’s systems, and hair growth is just one of them. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of hormonal imbalance in females and has been known to cause hair loss.
  • A physical injury: If your follicles get damaged due to an injury or burn, there’s a chance they may no longer be able to produce hair.
  • Alopecia areata: This is a small, circular area of sudden hair loss that appears without any symptoms. A person’s beard and eyebrows and other body hair can also be impacted.
  • Telogen effluvium: This type of hair loss is reversible and occurs as the result of a stressful event, such as a hospitalization. It might also occur as a result of a new medication.
  • Tinea capitis: Tinea capitis, a fungal infection on your scalp, can cause small localized scaly spots on your scalp that may also have pustules. This can result in permanent scarring hair loss.
  • Cicatricial alopecia: This is a general term referring to hair loss that creates permanent scarring. The hair follicles left behind are destroyed and scar tissue forms rather than grow more hair. This term refers to several conditions that permanently damage hair follicles.
  • Nutritional deficiency: If you’ve experienced rapid weight loss, or your body is lacking a sufficient amount of protein or iron, among other vitamins, it can result in hair loss. However, a true vitamin deficiency is very rare.
  • Thyroid conditions: A problem with your thyroid is a well-known cause of hair loss. Doctors often recommend checking this if you have hair loss that appears to have no underlying cause.
  • Certain hairstyles/hair treatments: Some hair styles, like tight braids, may put strain on your hair follicles and damage them over time.

There are several ways to slow down the hair loss process. There are newer treatment options that are being developed. New treatments might help with hair regrowth.

Treatment approaches include:

  • Minoxidil (Rogaine): This is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can be rubbed onto the scalp regularly to help prevent more hair loss.
  • Spironolactone (Aldactone): This medication for women may be prescribed for off-label use. It works by binding to receptors for androgen hormones in your body, keeping androgens such as testosterone in check to prevent hormone imbalances.
  • Topical retinoids: Some dermatologists recommend specially compounded hair topicals that include a small amount of topical retinoid.
  • Hair transplant: This procedure involves your hair that’s harvested from one area and transplanted to the bald regions.
  • Laser light therapy: Low power light therapy and lasers can increase the density of your scalp hair.
  • Prescription medications: Certain medications can be used to treat androgenic alopecia-related hair loss. Finasteride (on-label for male pattern baldness) and dutasteride (off-label) are two examples.
  • Platelet-rich plasma: This involves a process of using a person’s own blood, which is processed into platelet-rich plasma and then injected into the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
  • Stem cell therapy: Stem cell therapy is a new treatment for hair loss that involves using a person’s own stem cells to restore natural hair follicles.
  • Follicular unit extraction: This type of hair transplant is done by taking hair follicles from one area of your body and transplanting them to an area where hair has thinned.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if your hair loss or baldness pattern is accompanied by any other painful or uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • There is swelling around the areas of baldness.
  • There is excessive itching around balding areas.
  • burning, stinging, or discharge around balding areas.
  • Hair loss on other parts of your body.
  • There is excessive hair growth on other parts of your body.
  • Weight loss or gain are sudden changes in weight.
  • a recent high fever (over 101°F, or 38°C)
  • adverse effects from surgery

Balding is a part of aging for many people, but it can be caused by health conditions and injuries. It might take years before you notice the changes to your hair.

New developments in hair loss treatments, such as stem cell therapy, might be able to regrow hair and restore your hairline.