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Hair loss is often seen as a natural part of getting older, especially for men. Contrary to popular belief, though, this doesn’t just affect men during the later stages of aging. In some cases, it can begin as early as high school.
Around 25% of men who are experiencing hair loss started before age 21. It’s not something anyone wants to see, but the blow is especially painful when it's dealt at such a young age. Many don’t consider how important a full head of hair is to a man’s confidence level, and when it starts to fade, the impact can be pretty devastating.
If this resonates with you, you’re not the only one worrying about going prematurely bald—not by a long shot. It might feel like you’ve lost control of the situation, but there’s more to it than you might think. By looking at your diet, genetics, and other lifestyle factors, you may be able to keep hair loss at bay.
A Look at Hair Growth and the Early Signs of Balding
Healthy hair follows a cycle where it grows, falls out, and gets replaced by new hair. Premature balding occurs when there is an irregularity in the hair’s natural growth cycle.
Your hair grows in a series of four phases. These are the:
- Anagen phase, or its growth phase, which lasts anywhere between two to six years
- Catagen phase, which follows a few days after the growth phase and causes the follicle to slightly shrink
- Telogen phase, where the hair maintains a stable state on your head
- Exogen phase, where the hair finally falls out
In other words, your hair goes through cycles where it grows, enters a resting phase, then eventually falls out. During these cycles, it’s perfectly normal to lose around 50 to 100 hairs per day. This allows for natural shedding, as well as sufficient time to regrow new hairs before the old ones fall out.
In cases where individuals go prematurely bald, there is an irregularity in these phases. The main types of non-genetic hair loss are:
- Telogen effluvium, which causes hairs to enter the stable telogen phase too early, leading them to fall out before new ones can grow in
- Anagen effluvium, which halts hair during the growth phase, preventing cells from dividing normally to produce new hairs
When hair loss results from a sudden stressful event, this is usually due to telogen effluvium. More often than not, it will grow back without any treatment.
There are many causes that can lead to early signs of balding. The good news is this: it’s possible to address these causes and prevent further hair loss. Once you pinpoint the “why,” it’s easier to think about the “how.”
Am I Going Bald Because of Stress?
One big “why” in many cases of premature balding is excessive stress. You’ve probably heard about how stress can impact your overall health, but did you know that it can also cause you to go prematurely bald?
A clinical study linked cortisol, the stress hormone, to accelerated hair loss in monkeys. The same correlation between hair loss and stress was also found in mice, who prematurely entered the anagen phase of hair growth when exposed to loud, sudden noises.
While humans are a different animal, this provides promising insight regarding how stress factors into premature balding. If your life is a constant whirlwind of stress, worrying, and anxiety, then this could be why you’re seeing early signs of balding. What’s more, it can have numerous other detrimental impacts on your health, such as weight gain and a weakened immune system.
Finding healthy ways to manage your stress is your first step in combating early signs of balding. Here are a few great ways of doing this:
- Reducing caffeine and sugar intake
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
- Adjusting your workload
- Making time for activities you enjoy
- Getting more sleep
Along with that, try reaching out to your loved ones if you are having trouble managing stress. Internalizing your problems will only make them worse, and there’s no shame in asking for help. If it can aid in the prevention of going prematurely bald, then it’s worth looking into.
Can Your Diet Cause You to Become Prematurely Bald?
One study found that diets with insufficient or extremely reduced protein levels could cause early signs of hair loss. If you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet, then this places you at an even higher risk.
Along with that, deficiencies in iron, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients can lead to premature balding. It’s best to get these from fresh, healthy foods, but you can also supplement with a multivitamin.
It’s important to keep up a healthy diet in general, but there are a number of nutrient-packed foods that might be especially helpful for promoting hair growth. Here are a few great foods to incorporate into your healthy diet:
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach
- Fatty fishes such as salmon, mackerel, and herring
- Sweet potatoes
Along with eating the right foods, it’s also important to avoid eating the wrong ones. For example, foods high in sugar can contribute to higher stress levels and inadvertently cause further hair loss. Processed foods are another thing to stay away from, as these take a toll on your overall health.
Medical Factors for Premature Balding
It’s possible that certain medical conditions can contribute to premature balding. For example, eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which in turn lead to hair loss.
Hair loss can also result from major surgeries, infections, and instances of high fever. Thyroid disorders or autoimmune conditions such as Lupus could contribute as well.
Alopecia areata is another condition to consider here, but only if you are seeing large patches of hair loss. This condition leads your body’s immune system to attack healthy hair follicles, causing them to fall out. Unfortunately, if this is the case, the hair is not likely to grow back.
If you’re going prematurely bald, it might also be worthwhile to look at the medications you’re taking. Certain medications can cause hair loss by affecting the hair’s natural growth cycle.
The most prevalent drug-induced hair loss is telogen effluvium, which causes the hair follicles to enter the telogen (resting) phase too early, resulting in early signs of hair loss. Many factors can trigger this condition, but certain medications are often linked to it as well.
Here are a few of the most common medications that can contribute to premature balding:
- Certain antibiotics
- Acne medicines with retinoids (vitamin A)
- Immunosuppressant drugs
- Cholesterol-lowering medications
- Weight loss medication
- Thyroid medication
- Epilepsy drugs
- Mood stabilizers
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Anti-clotting drugs
Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments may also cause hair loss by triggering anagen effluvium and halting new growth. This is because the cancer-killing drugs also damage healthy cells in the process, including those in the hair.
In many cases, if medications cause you to go prematurely bald, this is reversible once you stop the drug or treatment. If you suspect that this is the root of your hair loss, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments.
Androgenetic Alopecia and Going Prematurely Bald
While many lifestyle factors can affect hair loss, genetics play a role in a majority of cases. Androgenetic alopecia, more commonly known as male pattern baldness, is an inherited condition that causes the hairline to recede and the hairs on top of the head to begin thinning.
Androgenetic alopecia results from a genetic sensitivity to DHT, or dihydrotestosterone. This causes hair follicles to become smaller over time, which reduces the lifespan of each individual hair. Eventually, the follicles stop producing hair altogether, or produce thinner hairs that make the area look sparse.
Wondering how to tell if you’re going bald from this condition? Here are the telltale traits:
- Hair gradually recedes further towards the back of the head
- Hair thins around the temples and on top of the head in a “W” or horseshoe-like shape
Unfortunately, going prematurely bald from androgenetic alopecia isn’t something you can treat with simple lifestyle adjustments. Still, there are surgical options like hair transplants available, as well as laser treatments, medications, and topical treatments that can help restore and prevent future hair loss.
Hairstyles That Can Lead to Early Signs of Balding
While genetics, diet, and medications are the most common culprits, your hairstyles might also cause you to go prematurely bald. This usually results from:
- Applying too much heat to the hair
- Relaxants, perms, and other chemical treatments
- Pulling the hair to style it, such as with cornrows or a ponytail
- Excessive use of styling products
If you’re seeing hair loss and you regularly style your hair with any of the above methods, it’s best to stop so you can avoid further damage.
Young and Bald: A Growing Trend?
If you’re young, bald, or headed down that path, you’re definitely not alone. One recent survey of 4,000 Chinese students found that 60% of responders were dealing with early signs of hair loss.
So why are so many going prematurely bald? We can argue that with today’s social and economic state, life is more stressful for young people than ever. There’s also an uptick in poor dietary decisions, as unhealthy foods are more available and less expensive than their healthier counterparts.
Discovering how to prevent hair loss for teens often involves the same procedures as those taken by older adults. Becoming bald at 19, bald at 20, or even earlier than that isn’t something you have to watch happen. Acknowledge the problem, realize you’re not alone, and find the solution that best fits your cause.
By making necessary adjustments, hair loss caused by stress, unhealthy diets, and other lifestyle factors is often reversible. Plenty of young people seek out implants and other hair restoration procedures, so don’t be shy. If you’re looking in the mirror and wondering “am I going bald?”, now is a great time to start.
How Long Does It Take to Go Bald?
Once an individual starts going prematurely bald, it can take around 15 to 25 years years to lose the majority of what’s left. Unfortunately for some, it could even be sooner than that.
Rather than stressing out, though, it’s imperative to take charge of the situation and start addressing potential causes. Take a look at your family history and note whether there could be genetic issues to look into. It’s also a good idea to see a dermatologist or hair restoration specialist before the problem becomes worse.
Nature Remedies to Promote Hair Growth
If you’re going prematurely bald, you can supplement medical attention and lifestyle changes with natural remedies. These can help thicken the hair and possibly stimulate future growth.
Take a biotin-containing supplement, which can help promote healthy hair growth and provide essential nutrients.
Mix 3-4 drops of rosemary essential oil into coconut oil (or other carrier oil) and massage it into the scalp to stimulate new hair growth.
Mix geranium essential oil with a carrier oil or conditioner and leave it on the hair for at least 15 minutes to enhance circulation and boost hair growth.
Apply aloe vera gel to the scalp 3-4 times a week to fight dandruff and clear blocked hair follicles.
Mix coconut oil and castor oil and use it as a weekly hair mask, leaving on for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
These remedies should supplement medical attention. For the best results, consult a dermatologist or hair restoration specialist to find the ideal treatment plan for your hair loss.
Combating Early Signs of Hair Loss
Going prematurely bald happens to more young people than you think, so you’re not alone in your struggles. Rest assured that there are methods that can help you address the issue before it becomes worse.
If you’re experiencing early signs of hair loss, don’t wait to get help. Once you’ve had your treatment, you can feel confident with a new hairline that can last a lifetime. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.