“The answer lies in the hormones that are responsible for puberty and our transition to adulthood.”
We get asked a lot about the normal age at which men usually start to lose their hair. Let’s be clear – there is so such thing as a normal age at which men begin to lose their hair. Each man is different and there are many factors in play. Allow us to look at this in more detail.
First of all, male pattern baldness or Androgenic Alopecia can begin at almost any age and can develop at different rates. The question of when an individual will start to lose his hair seems to be down to genetics. But there’s more to it than that.
What causes hair loss?
Before we start explaining the relationship between age and hair loss, it’s useful to know what causes it. There are several different factors that can influence hair loss, including:
The role of hormones in hair loss
Another way to look at this is to ask the question: why is hair loss an adult problem? Why don’t we see kids running around with bald spots? The answer lies in the hormones that are responsible for puberty and our transition to adulthood.
Male pattern baldness occurs as a result of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is an androgen and a byproduct of the male hormone, testosterone. DHT is produced through the 5a-reductase enzyme, which converts a certain percentage of your testosterone into DHT in tissue such as your liver, prostate, skin and your hair follicles. Therefore, the more testosterone your body produces, the more DHT you end up with.
In boys, puberty is associated with a ramp up of hormones, including testosterone. In a way therefore, puberty triggers a silent countdown in those with a genetic susceptibility to male pattern baldness. How soon the signs of hair loss begin to develop, and how quickly they progress, depends largely on genetics.
You may have heard the idea that if your mum’s grandfather went bald, then you’ll go bald too. Well, it’s not quite that simple, although genetics do play a large role when it comes to hair loss.
Yes, it’s true that a variant on your X chromosome, inherited from your mother, is largely responsible for early-onset MPB – several studies have shown this. However, other studies have also shown that 29 different variants across six different chromosomes could be used to predict MPB, so the effect of genes on hair loss is a lot more complex than it often seems.
It’s well known that your diet can have an effect on your body, but did you know it can affect your hair too?
Research has shown that there is a link between diet and hair health. For example, vitamins are essential when it comes to maintaining your overall hair health – a deficiency of either Zinc and Iron can be very detrimental to hair growth.
When we talk about hair loss, we are more often than not referring to male pattern baldness. But there are actually other health conditions which can lead to hair loss, not related to MPB.
Thyroid disease, alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease which can affect facial hair growth, too) and scalp infections like ringworm, can all cause hair loss.
You’ve probably heard of people ‘pulling their hair out’ and you may be unfortunate enough to have had those moments yourself. However, not only is pulling out your hair going to cause hair loss – that much is obvious – it can actually damage your hair follicles, which can negatively affect hair re-growth, too.
In fact, this behaviour is so serious that it is treated as a health disorder by the NHS, known as Trichotillomania, or hair-pulling disorder.
What’s the earliest age at which hair loss can develop?
It is unusual for men to start losing their hair in their teens, but this can happen. Onset can begin as early as the age of 15 in extreme cases. While you’re probably not going to see a completely bald teenager, the early signs – such as a thinning crown or a receding hairline – might start at that age. But the incidence of male pattern baldness increases with age and the majority of alopecia sufferers start noticing their hair loss in their mid- to late-twenties. By the age of 35, up to two thirds of men experience some degree of hair loss. Of course, there are other causes of hair loss, including diet, illness and even stress – but DHT is the culprit in most cases.
How quickly does hair loss progress?
Everyone’s hair undergoes a natural cycle of growth, shedding and regrowth. If you are one of the many men that are genetically susceptible to hair loss, DHT causes your hairs to grow back thinner and weaker after each successive cycle.
These cycles are relatively slow. The average scalp contains around 100,000 hairs, with each individual hair living on average for four years. Hairs grow on average by half an inch per month. As an older hair is lost, it sometimes takes around 6 months for a new one to grow back. Therefore, even if your male pattern baldness is progressing very fast, the change shouldn’t be noticeable from one day to the next.
If your hair is falling out rapidly enough for it to be noticeable from one day to the next, it might be a sign of something more serious. In that case, it might be best for you to see your doctor.
How early should I start taking treatments for hair loss?
If you start to notice your hairline receding, or you see your hair starting to thin out on top, there’s no need to panic. Hair loss doesn’t happen overnight. But generally speaking, it makes sense to start as early as possible. This is because there’s no way of curing baldness once it has happened.
In terms of what to use, Minoxidil and Finasteride are both well-established treatments that are proven to work. With both treatments, you have the highest chance of success the earlier you start to use them. As soon as you start to notice your hair getting thinner or your hairline receding, using Minoxidil and Finasteride will help stop the hair loss and in some cases even regrow the hairs that have already fallen out. But you have to use the products consistently to see the results.
Male hair loss can start at any age but with advances in science, there’s no excuse for not taking action to protect your hair. After all, you and your hair look better together.