You might think it’s uncommon to start experiencing symptoms of hair loss in your thirties, twenties, or even teens. Surprisingly, though, it’s more common than you’d expect.
Balding at a young age? All’s not lost.
Not all hair loss is the same. There are different types, with conditions and causes that vary from person to person. Genetics and environment play a part, as does your general physical health.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, however, 95 percent of cases in American men are due to a condition called androgenetic alopecia. It’s also frequently referred to as male pattern baldness.
As the “genetic” in androgenetic alopecia suggests, it’s passed on through your family. Initially, it was believed that if you inherited a recessive gene from your mother, you were more likely to develop male pattern baldness. Recent research suggests that your father’s genes play a significant role too, though.
If you’re losing your hair due to male pattern baldness, you’re probably thinning at your temples first, and noticing a bald patch developing around the crown of your head. You’ll see a receding hairline become more pronounced over time.
In male pattern baldness, this problem is primarily caused by a reaction to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is derived from testosterone. When hair follicles are exposed to DHT, they shrink and stop growing completely after a while. Whatever the reason, you’re still losing hair.
Although hair loss during college or before middle-age is pretty common, it probably won’t make you feel much better, as, like any unwanted change to your appearance, it can affect your personal life and self-esteem. The good news? It’s easy to grow your hair back if you identify the problem early. Even if you think you’ve left it too late to act, there are still options. However, the treatments available for those with more extensive hair loss are likely to be more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming.
So, at what age do guys lose their hair?
Research in the South Medical Journal by experts on male pattern baldness, Drs. O’Tar Norwood and James Hamilton, studied the progression of hair loss with age. They developed the Norwood-Hamilton scale, which measures and classifies this into different stages of hair loss.
The study indicated that:
- around 20 percent of men younger than 25 years old will notice the first signs of balding
- by the age of 35, roughly 40 percent of men will experience some hair loss
- meanwhile, more than 50 percent of men will have significant hair loss by the time they reach 50 years of age
Another study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings also showed that balding increases with age. Taking a sample of 68 males, the study found that 73.5 percent of men aged 80 or more had significant hair loss on their crown and hairline.
A study of Korean men from the British Journal of Dermatology, also noted that male pattern baldness increased significantly with age, but at a much lower prevalence than in Caucasian males. Only 2.3 percent saw any signs of balding in their twenties, 4 percent in their thirties, and 24.5 percent in their fifties. A significant portion of participants had a family history of baldness (48.5 percent).
So, even if you’re young and healthy, hair loss can still be a problem. It might feel like you’re the only one going through it, but research shows that it’s pretty likely you have friends or acquaintances who are starting to see similar changes to their hair.
Other causes of hair loss
While male pattern baldness is undoubtedly the most common condition, it’s not the only cause of hair loss. If you’ve read about androgenetic alopecia, but aren’t quite sure it’s the reason you’re losing hair, the following are three more leading causes of hair loss.
The American Academy of Dermatology describes alopecia areata as an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks hair follicles to stop them from growing. In this condition, hair loss occurs in patches and may fall out suddenly. People with alopecia areata can also experience total hair loss, but this is quite rare.
Most sufferers only have the condition during childhood or teenage years. In many instances, their hair even grows back without any treatment. So, when asking the question, “what age do men go bald?” the answer is that some can actually start to lose hair as early as infancy, but it isn’t necessarily permanent.
Unlike androgenetic alopecia, which only affects hair on your scalp, alopecia areata can also affect all hair on your body, from eyelashes and eyebrows to your beard, sideburns, and even the hairs inside your nose and ears.
Although stress can cause mild hair loss, it often starts to resolve once the source of the tension is managed. If you’re under a considerable amount of stress, it’s possible to suffer from a condition called telogen effluvium. Stress can disrupt the hair growth cycle and cause your hair to shed more rapidly by forcing hair follicles into the resting phase. There hasn’t been any conclusive research on whether stress further speeds up the rate of male pattern baldness.
Some medications can also cause significant and sometimes sudden hair loss. If you have been prescribed medications for acne that contain isotretinoin, the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology says that hair loss could be a side effect. Keep in mind that this is only likely to occur if you’ve been taking the medication for a while or in high doses. However, if you suspect a medication is affecting your hair, it’s worth talking to your doctor or dermatologist about alternatives.
According to studies in the journal Haematologica and the British Journal of Haematology, antibiotics can lower your levels of B-complex vitamins and hemoglobin, which can cause anemia and prevent optimal blood supply to tissues. This is usually a temporary issue, however, and any hair loss as a result of taking antibiotics should cease once you stop taking them.
A study in the Dermatologic Clinics journal reported that blood thinners and drugs that regulate your blood pressure can also cause hair loss. Other medications that can induce alopecia include chemotherapy drugs and certain contraceptives and antimicrobials. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers have also been identified as medications that may cause hair loss as a side effect of treatment.
If you have concerns about your hair thinning, check with your doctor about both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. You might find that your concerns are put to bed by something as simple as switching up your pills.
So, at what age do men start balding? Well, theoretically, it can happen at any age, but it depends on what kind of hair loss condition you have, your lifestyle, medication, stress, and other factors.
If you’re fairly sure you have male pattern baldness, though, you should learn more about hair loss, treatment options, and other ways to prevent further hair loss or increase hair growth.