Has your hair started thinning? If so, you're not alone. We miss the days when we could run our fingers through our handsome, full head of hair, but those days are long gone for many of us. One of the most common hair loss diagnoses for adult men is Male Pattern Baldness. The condition is a considerable confidence-stealer, and it's natural to seek treatment. But, how can you know for sure that you’re experiencing it?
Fortunately, the Norwood Scale was created to ease the hair loss assessment process. If you think you may be suffering from male pattern baldness, you can utilize the Scale as a guide for deciding what stage of the process you're in and what treatment options you might want to pursue.
To give you a better idea of what the Norwood Scale is all about, we'll dive deep into the seven different stages of hair loss and what you can do to ensure that your remaining hair sticks around.
All About the Norwood Scale
The Norwood Scale is a tool to measure and classify the degree of hair loss in men with male pattern baldness. The Scale assesses the severity of hair loss by looking at different factors, such as hairline visibility, percentage of scalp coverage, and degree of temporal recession. It was ultimately updated in the 1970s by Dr. O'Tar Norwood, a dermatologist with over 40 years of experience working with patients suffering from male pattern baldness.
From stage one (no thinning or receding) to stage seven (complete baldness), the Norwood Scale helps provide insight into how much hair has already waved goodbye and how much more may be on its way out the door.
Seven Stages of Hair Loss
Hair loss generally occurs in a pattern, beginning in a specific place and receding in distinct ways. The Norwood Scale is comprised of seven stages, each one representing the degree to which male pattern baldness has progressed. The higher the number, the more advanced the hair loss.
The first stage (no thinning or receding) shows no signs of hair loss; however, some men may notice increased shedding at this point, leading to a deeper look into whether they're about to experience hair loss.
Stage two indicates that hair loss has progressed to the point of thinning but not yet to the level of receding. Men often begin to notice hair loss during stage two, as it has a small degree of a noticeable difference between what hair looked like before thinning and its current state. As it generally begins with an insignificant loss around the temples, stage two is known as a "mature" or "adult" hairline.
Hair loss has progressed to the point of male pattern baldness and noticeable thinning during stage three. It's also when men start to notice a significant amount of difference in their hairline, which typically begins at the forehead or front area, creating a noticeable M-, V-, or U-shape. The stage three receding hairline is often accompanied by a small bald spot on the crown of the head, known as the stage three vertex.
In stage four, hair loss continues to progress, showing an advanced receding hairline. Stage four is when most men notice a significant amount of thinning on the top and crown area of their heads and hair loss around the temples or sideburn areas. The top of the head will still have hair that bridges the baldness between the crown and sides of the head.
Hair loss has progressed to the point of male pattern baldness with advanced hair thinning, making it tough to hide baldness through combing, cutting, styling techniques. The fifth stage is similar to stage four, but the remaining hair is more sparse.
In addition to male pattern hair loss, stage six displays a significant amount of thinning and baldness. The hair that remains around the back and sides of the head is still there, although not connected to any other remaining hair, creating an island on the top of the head. It's also when male pattern hair loss is near complete, but hair loss isn't quite as advanced as it could be.
The seventh stage of male pattern baldness is the most severe and indicates male patterned baldness with no hope for hair growth in any area on the head. Men experiencing stage seven hair loss usually have no hair left on the front or top of the head, and all that remains is on the sides and back--forming a horseshoe shape.
How to Assess Your Hair Loss Using the Norwood Scale
Especially when in the early stages of male pattern baldness, it can be tough to recognize the signs. However, the Norwood Scale is a beneficial tool that can enable men to understand their hair loss patterns and decide whether they should seek treatment.
Because each person differs, merely comparing your hair loss to photos or descriptions of the seven different stages might not be a simple task. If you're concerned, it might be best to make an appointment with your dermatologist and have them assess the severity of your hair loss.
But, if you're comfortable monitoring it on your own, there is an easy way you can do so using just the Scale and your handy-dandy smartphone.
You're going to want to take some photos of your head. Although this might be uncomfortable for some, you don't have to worry; they don't have to be model material. Unless you'd like to, you don't have to post them to social media--they're just for your reference.
Take some pictures of your head from each angle: the front, the top, the sides (yes, even your "bad" side), and the back. It's beneficial to use a mirror and, if necessary, try a selfie stick. Take the same photos every two to three months and compare them to one another to acknowledge any changes in your hair patterns. Then, compare the most recent photos to the Norwood Scale and estimate which hair loss stage might be affecting you.
When to Seek Treatment
Male pattern baldness is not curable. However, various treatments can offer solutions to ensure that you don't lose your remaining hair. Treatment options work best in the earliest stages, so it's best to seek treatment as soon as you recognize hair loss. If you can catch male pattern baldness during stages two or three, you may be able to keep most of your hair.
Nonetheless, if hair loss is affecting your personal life--regardless of the stage--it's a good idea to talk to someone about your options. If it's affecting your self-esteem, for example, it's best to contact your dermatologist as soon as possible and receive treatment to help restore your confidence.
Treatment Options for Male Pattern Baldness
The good news is, if hair loss is affecting you, various treatment options are available, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications, prescription medications, and procedures. Here are a few of the most commonly-used and effective treatments for male pattern baldness:
Minoxidil: an OTC topical cream applied directly to the scalp to reduce thinning and stimulate follicles to restore growth.
Finasteride: a prescription medication that slows balding by converting testosterone into DHT, the hormone linked to hair loss in men.
Laser hair therapy: low-level light therapy that stimulates hair follicles and promotes growth.
Hair transplants: a procedure to remove healthy hair follicles and placing them in dormant ones to allow growth in bald areas.
Coping with Hair Loss
The Norwood Scale is an advantageous avenue toward acknowledging hair loss patterns, and it provides an essential aid when it comes to seeking treatment. However, hair loss is still a real condition that affects many men. Not all treatment options are affordable, and most take time—with a risk that they won’t be effective. But, when it comes to coping with hair loss, we’ve got a perfect solution.
At Your Hair Matters, our custom hair systems are made with 100 percent human hair and personalized to match your natural hair pattern, giving you the perfect option without sacrificing your time and energy. Additionally, our hair systems adhere directly to your scalp and act completely permanent. Not to mention, one non-surgical, custom hair system typically costs less than $400. You deserve confidence in every aspect of life, and your hair plays a significant part. Let us help you find peace of mind by providing an affordable way to get back some of what's been lost.