stages of balding
Written by
Morgan German

Balding is not a sudden event, especially when it comes to male pattern balding. Men with this condition don’t one day have a full head of hair and the next absolutely none. Balding, particularly male pattern balding is a process, taking place over several years.

It happens in stages that most dermatologists describe in the Norwood Scale. Knowing the various stages of balding can help you understand not just where you stand on the scale, but it can help give you a starting point for treatment, and manage your expectations with an appropriate prognosis.

Relevant reads:

Understanding the hair growth cycle

All hair grows in a cycle that lasts anywhere from two to six years. The cycle begins with the anagen phase, where hair cells are rapidly multiplying and forming a new hair in the hair follicle. This phase of the hair growth cycle lasts between 3 and 5 years.

After the anagen phase, the catagen phase stops the growth. This phase lasts around 10 days and is followed by the telogen phase. During the telogen phase, follicles are at a stage of rest, and are inactive for approximately 3 months. The final stage of the hair growth cycle is the exogen phase, during which hair strands fall out, leaving the follicle ready to start the next cycle. This final phase lasts between 2 and 5 months.

What is male pattern hair loss and why it happens?

If male pattern baldness runs in your family, a male hormone called DHT can shorten the hair growth cycle and negatively affect the follicles, causing your hair to regrow thin and brittle, and fall out sooner.

DHT is a male androgen hormone, thought to play a part in male development in utero and during puberty. The acronym stands for Dihydrotestosterone. While the hormone is necessary, DHT is also thought to be the main cause of  male pattern baldness, or Androgenic Alopecia. As a result, a lot of treatments of male pattern baldness (like DHT blockers) focus on blocking DHT.

DHT flows freely through the male body via the bloodstream. When it reaches the scalp, it attaches to receptors on the hair follicles, causing them to shrink and weaken, becoming less capable to maintain and support a strand of hair.

DHT affects men differently depending on their genetics. If men in your family are affected by male pattern baldness, DHT is more likely to cause you to lose your hair. If you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness you should take extra note of the stages of balding so you know to seek treatment at the first sign of hair loss.

The stages of balding and the Norwood Scale

Hair loss can affect anyone at any age,depending on the cause, but when it comes to male pattern baldness the Norwood Scale helps identify and describe the various stages of the balding process.  The process of male pattern hair loss starts when the hairline starts to thin and lose hair eventually ending in hairloss on the crown of the head and baldness.

The Norwood Scale describes 7 stages of male pattern hair loss. Each stage has its own look and severity of hair loss.

Balding Stage 1

Stage 1 has no significant hair loss. Stage 1 of the Norwood Scale involves a hairline that is in tact, with no receding or thinning becoming apparent yet.

Balding Stage 2

At stage 2, you will notice minor hairline recession particularly in the region of the temples. Other than this slight change, the male pattern hair loss is minimal.

Balding Stage 3

The iconic M- , U-, or V-shape starts forming at stage 3. The hairline has receded quite drastically at this point, particularly at the temples.

Stafe 3 Vertex is a second version of the Norwood Scale stage 3. In this variation, hair loss starts to take place at the crown on a spot called the vertex. This hair loss happens at the same time as the noticeable recession at the temples.

Balding Stage 4

Stage 4 of the balding process involves more severe hairline recession as well as significant hair loss at the vertex. In stage 4, the vertex has very little hair left, if any, and a strip of hair separates the bald areas of the hairline and the vertex.

Balding Stage 5

Stage 5 is a more exaggerated version of stage 4. The strip of hair separating the vertex and the temples is very narrow and is also losing hair.

Balding Stage 6

In stage 6 of balding, the temples and the vertex join and the two areas is thin, if there at all.

Balding Stage 7

Stage 7 is the final stage of balding. It is classified by the most severe hair loss. The only hair left on the head is  a strip stretching from one ear to the other. The hair remaining is fine and thin, and may be brittle.

How do I know if I’m at one of the balding stages?

Because it happens over time, it can be tricky to tell if you are balding or not, but there are a number of things to look at for that will help you know for sure. Looking out for how much hair you lose, the state of your hair line, and how fast your hair appears to grow can all indicate whether or not you are experiencing male pattern baldness.

You lose a lot of hair on a daily basis.

It is normal to lose hair every day, in fact, most people lose about 50 hairs on a daily basis. If you notice that you are losing more hair daily than you used to, you could be at the early stages of balding. Typically, to go bald, you need to be losing upwards of 100 strands of hair per day.

Hair loss can be caused by other things, however, so if you suspect male pattern balding pay attention to other signs like the pattern of hair loss at your temples to be sure.

You have a receding hairline and it is receding in a pattern.

The hairline shows the earliest signs of male pattern balding by receding and thinning, especially around the temples. If you can already see this on your scalp but the hair loss is limited to the hairline only, you are in the early stages of balding, and now is the ideal time to seek professional help. Early treatment is best as it will give you the best chance at recovery.

Male pattern hair loss is identified by the unique M-shape, V-shape, or U-shape it forms in the hairline. If your hairline is starting to form a shape like these you are most likely losing your hair to male pattern baldness.

Your hair regrows slowly.

If your hair appears to be regrowing slower than it has before, you may have male pattern hair loss. If you have male pattern balding, your less hair regrows when it falls out, and it may look as though your hair is regrowing slowly.

Your hairline in the early stages of balding.

If your hairline fits into the Norwood scale between stage 1 and 3, you are in the earliest stages of balding. Or, check out our medically-reviewed early signs of balding to figure out if you are.

It is understandable that you might worry about balding but rest assured that this is the perfect stage to start treatment or start a new haircare routine targeted at male pattern hair loss.

Your follicles may have already started to tighten and grow infertile from DHT, but at these early balding stages they are not completely inactive. You can still save your hair with the right treatment.

The important thing to remember if are in these first stages is that you should get treatment soon. At this point, the longer you go on without treatment, the lower your chances of full recovery are.

How to treat male pattern hair loss?

If you are in the early stages of balding you are probably concerned about keeping as much of your hair as possible. The good news is you can find a range of hair loss treatments to suit your budget and your unique lifestyle. But first, you need to know where in the hair loss journey you are.

Using the balding stages in the Norwood Scale will help identify how much hair you’ve lost and what your chances are for recovery. This is an important starting point, so that you can see what options are available to you to help prevent and slow male pattern balding and hair loss.

Hair loss home remedies

Hair products

The products you use on your hair can play a significant part in slowing and preventing further hair loss. Using products specifically to help hair growth are key. Strengthening products and growth-stimulating products will help keep your hairline together and help keep the rest of your hair thick and healthy. You can also give your hair the nourishment needed to grow and maintain hair strands by improving circulation in the scalp with a hair growth serum.

Plant-derived hair loss solutions

Aloe vera, peppermint oil and pumpkin seed oil are great hair growth treatments and anti-inflammatories that are derived from plants. All you need to do is massage them into your scalp directly or add them into shampoo to soothe areas affected by hair loss and promote new growth.

Scalp massage

Scalp massage is a natural and effective way to boost circulation to the scalp. Doing this helps your follicles get all the nutrients and minerals they need to recover from male pattern hair loss. Our expertly designed scalp-stimulating massager is perfect for this.

Pharmaceutical treatments

  • Minoxidil
  • Finasteride

Minoxidil and Finasteride are FDA-approved hair loss treatments. They are both well-known in the hair loss world and are a popular choice of treatment for men dealing with male pattern hair loss. When used together, they help promote growth and reduce the effects of DHT on the hair follicles. The early stages of balding is the best time to start these treatments to give them time to work effectively.

Medical and surgical hair loss treatments

  • Hair transplant
  • Laser therapy

Hair transplant surgery and laser therapy are the last resort for male pattern hair loss patients. They are a viable treatment for the later stages of balding, like the Norwood stages 6 and 7. They are not used for the first balding stages.

It’s important to note that these treatments are expensive and can be painful. It’s also vital that if you consider these hair loss treatments, you find a reputable doctor so that your results are not only good but also natural in appearance.

Final thoughts

Knowing the different stages of balding is helpful if you are concerned that you may be losing your hair, or if you are seeking treatment for male pattern hair loss. Each stage is different and brings with it its own symptoms, severity, and potential viabl treatments.

The earliest stages of balding start with the thinning and receding of your hairline. The later stages of balding affect your hairline and your crown and may even result in total baldness.

By knowing the various balding stages, you can more easily identify where you are in the male pattern baldness timeline and find out what treatment options are best for you and most suitable in your case.

Resources

https://www.jle.com/en/revues/ejd/e-docs/the_investigation_of_insulin_resistance_and_metabolic_syndrome_in_male_patients_with_early_onset_androgenetic_alopecia_287719/article.phtml

https://www.jocpr.com/articles/aloe-vera--a-potential-herb-and-its-medicinal-importance.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289931/

https://www.healthline.com/health/rosemary-oil-for-hair#benefits

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746222/