When Does Hair Loss Start? Let's Examine the Research
It’s a day like any other.
You look in the mirror and start brushing through your hair. It suddenly occurs to you that your hair looks a little thin today, a little flat. And it seems like a lot of it has been coming out in your brush lately.
Hmmm … maybe it’s all in your imagination.
But a month later, looking in the mirror, you notice it’s getting worse. Now you are almost sure of it—you are losing hair.
“But I’m only in my 20s!” you think. “I can’t be losing hair this soon, can I?”
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Actually, you could be experiencing age-related hair loss, even if you are quite young. It is actually very common. You might also be experiencing some unrelated kind of hair loss however, so that is another possibility to consider.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about age-related thinning and baldness as it affects both men and women, and I will also tell you about some other common causes of hair loss. Hopefully this will help you figure out what is going on.
Average Ages for Androgenetic Alopecia in Both Men and Women
Age-related hair loss is scientifically referred to as “androgenetic alopecia.”
If you are a man, the average age to start losing hair is in your 20s. That’s right, your 20s! It really is that early.
In short, if you are in your 30s and you have only now just started losing hair, count yourself lucky—you actually made it longer than a lot of your peers.
If you are a woman, you probably will not start losing your hair until you hit menopause. There are however some exceptions; some women experience hair loss in their 20s or 30s. There are even some cases where you could start losing hair in your teens (this is true for men as well).
What Determines the Age At Which Hair Loss Begins?
The age at which you can expect your hair to start thinning out depends largely on your genetics. Basically, certain genes can cause your body to be sensitive to androgen hormones like testosterone. Testosterone shrinks your hair follicles. These smaller hair follicles produce thinner hair or no hair.
You can read more about the genetic factors influencing age-related hair loss in this study.
By the time you reach age 50, there is a really good chance you will have experienced some degree of androgenetic alopecia. Why? Because by that age, around 50% of people will have some inherited hair loss.
The study I linked to above also mentions that by the time they reach age 80, 80% of men have some degree of male pattern baldness.
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Wondering if you there are other non-genetic factors which can impact the age at which hair loss begins? I got curious too, so I did some research.
I found this study on men aged 40-69 in Australia. Here were the findings:
- The researchers did not find any connection between hair loss and smoking or hair loss and benign prostatic hypertrophy—both of which have previously been hypothesized or reported by other sources.
- The researchers did discover that alcohol consumption could have an impact on hair loss. They also found that lean body mass at age 21 seemed to have an influence.
So it appears that some lifestyle factors may influence the age at which you start losing your hair, but more research is needed.
Another Common Type of Hair Loss in Middle Age: Chronic Telogen Effluvium
While androgenetic alopecia refers to age-related hair loss, there is another type of hair loss which is connected indirectly to age, and that is chronic telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is a condition which can actually strike at any age, and which is usually temporary. It is generally the result of severe stress, a lack of nutrition, surgery, an infection, or so on.
When your body is subject to that kind of stressor, around 90% of your hairs suddenly shift to the telogen (resting) phase, rather than the growing or transitional phases. This causes them to shed at an alarming rate. Usually the hair loss doesn’t start until several weeks or months after the original stressful event. Thankfully in most cases, regrowth begins shortly thereafter, and it does not take long to fill out your hair again.
If you are a middle-aged woman, however, you may experience a chronic form of telogen effluvium. This generally affects those between thirty and sixty. Sometimes there is a recognizable factor which kicks it off, while other times you may have no idea what the cause was. Sometimes this chronic form lasts for months, while other times it may even persist for years.
Patterns of Hair Loss in Men and Women
If you are a man, you probably will have an easier time recognizing age-related hair loss than you would if you are a woman. This is because the pattern is more distinct.
If you are a man with androgenetic alopecia, you have a “wreath” of permanent hair around the sides and back of your head. You may have receding hair at the forehead, and may eventually go bald on the top of your head. But the wreath of hair should stick with you for the rest of your life, unless you are robbed of it by disease.
This is not the case for women. If you are a woman with androgenetic alopecia, your hair loss will likely be diffuse rather than following a balding pattern. You will not have patches which are untouched and others which are gone; instead, you will have thinning hair all around your scalp.
In some cases you might have some patches which are more pronounced than others, but there is no part of your hair which is guaranteed to be untouched.
The reason I mention the patterns of hair loss common in androgenetic alopecia is that knowing them may help you figure out whether the kind of hair loss you are experiencing is indeed this type. This is of course easier to recognize in men than it is in women. If you are a man and your hair loss fits the pattern I described, then you can be fairly well assured that androgenetic alopecia has begun.
If you are a woman, figuring out what type of hair loss you are experiencing may be more of a challenge. You might be experiencing androgenetic alopecia, or you could be experiencing telogen effluvium or a different form of hair loss.
What Can You Do About Hair Loss?
In some cases, hair loss is temporary. After a few months or years go by, your hair may start filling in again. Of course, this is not the case with androgenetic alopecia, which is a progressive form of hair loss.
This isn’t great news if you have been frowning at your reflection in the mirror lately, wondering what to do. Even though hair loss is a cosmetic change, a lot of people love their hair and don’t want to lose it.
So how can you handle age-related hair loss? Here are some of your options:
- Try Rogaine. This medication can help to stimulate hair growth if you are suffering from age-related hair loss. Read more about using Rogaine (Minoxidil) for hair loss here.
- Instead of Rogaine, consider natural topical alternatives like peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has actually been shown in research trials to be more effective than Rogaine. Read more here.
- Take a healthy herbal supplement for hair growth. One of the best things you can do to stimulate hair growth is to provide your hair follicles with the nutrition that they need to produce healthy strands of new hair. You can do this by taking an all natural supplement which contains herbs, vitamins and minerals for healthy hair growth.
- Try laser hair growth devices. While some laser hair growth devices are gimmicks, others actually have produced results in research trials. Check this post for the skinny on laser hair growth and the devices which I can recommend based on my own research.
- Get hair extensions. Another option is to get hair extensions to hide bald patches and add density to different spots. This does require some maintenance, but it allows you to personalize your look and continue to express yourself through your hair.
- Go bald. Finally, one more option if you are losing hair is simply to accept it and make it a part of your look. Choosing to go bald is more socially acceptable if you are a man than if you are woman, but it is a look with aesthetic appeal for both sexes, and another way in which you can express yourself and stop worrying about hair loss.
Conclusion: Hair Loss Can Start Early—But There Are Steps You Can Take to Fight Back
Finding out that you are losing your hair is never a pleasant discovery, and it is one that you may have dreaded for years. If you are lucky, you may find that your hair loss is temporary, and soon your hair will grow back with its former density. But if not, know that it isn't just you—hair loss is almost ubiquitous as people get older. Nor do you have to just accept it; there are plenty of steps you can take right now for a fuller, healthier, youthful head of hair. So give these suggestions a try, and don’t despair. You could start seeing results soon!