The Scary Truth About “Invisible Baldness”
By Dr. Alan J. Bauman, MD, ABHRS-Certified Hair Restoration Physician
One of the scariest aspects of hair loss is that the process is often well underway before you can see it in the mirror. “Invisible baldness” is essentially the initial stage of a chronic hair loss condition such as androgenetic alopecia that is especially difficult to spot with the naked eye. Scientific research confirms that it generally takes about 50% of the hair to be gone before baldness or lack of coverage becomes visibly detectable (e.g., receded hairline, widening part, thinning on top, etc.). In general, hair loss is a chronic, progressive condition that gets worse over time without treatment – making it essential for men and women to learn their risk and take a proactive approach to managing and treating their hair loss.
Some of the factors that determine visible scalp coverage and perceived volume of hair include:
- Density: The number of hair fibers per area of the scalp
- Diameter: The thickness of each hair fiber
- Length: The length of each strand of hair
A Closer Look at “Invisible Baldness”
A common mistake when detecting hair loss is to rely on the “mirror test” before taking action. Relying on this type of visual confirmation puts patients at a disadvantage because, as noted above, by the time hair loss is noticeably visible, half of the follicles could already be gone.
We often hear from patients, “I’m finding a lot of hair on my pillow, or “lately there has been more hair than usual in the drain,” but in many cases, the hair loss simply seems to come out of nowhere. But the reality is, in these cases, the hair loss process has been underway for some time, without them knowing. These initial changes in hair volume and density are so gradual that they may only be detectable with the help of a microscope or other scientific tool like a HairCheck trichometer. For these patients, their hair loss appears to be quite sudden because it does not become noticeable to the untrained eye until the hair density dips below a certain threshold.
For these reasons, it is important to schedule a visit with a qualified Hair Restoration Physician when these symptoms are first observed. He or she will be able to run the proper diagnostic tests to determine the true cause of your hair loss, and what types of treatments might be needed. These tools make it possible to detect hair loss in its earliest stages, and in some cases before it even begins. Hair restoration physician can also run tests that will help predict the likelihood of future hair loss.
Effective hair loss evaluation tools include:
- Genetic Tests– A new genetic test by HairDX can accurately determine a person’s risk for losing their hair, so they can begin preventive treatments early. The analysis uses a simple cheek swab and can determine the genetic risk of developing male and female pattern hair loss.
- Hair Density Measurements– The HairCheck® device is a highly sensitive hand-held ‘trichometer,’ which measures hair caliber and hair density together, and expresses them as a single number known as the Hair Mass Index (HMI). Hair restoration physicians and Bauman Certified HairCoaches routinely use this scientific measurement to accurately assess percentages of hair loss, growth, and breakage on any area of the scalp. Not just diagnostic at the time of initial evaluation, this information also helps monitor and track the efficacy of any treatment regimen.
- Scalp Exam– Newly developed “Scalp Makeover” evaluations are highly effective at determining if an underlying problem with the scalp may be the root cause of a hair disorder. Patients are evaluated with non-invasive, pain-free skin diagnostic tests that check and measure the scalp’s pH, sebum and hydration levels to determine any imbalance. Scalp testing is available for both men and women.
- HairCam™ Microscopy– Specialized hand-held scalp microscopes with special dual-polarized LED lighting can detect miniaturized hairs vs. areas of depleted density as well as help diagnose rare hair loss conditions and other scalp problems.
The biggest takeaway should be that early intervention is the key to preventing and managing hair loss. Once you understand the cause of your hair loss, you need to determine the best way to stop losing more hair, enhance the hair you have and restore the hair you’ve lost. For most patients, this means using a combination, or ‘multi-therapy,’ approach: non-invasive treatments to protect the hair you have and hair transplantation to restore the hair you’ve lost. Some patients might accomplish their goals using only non-invasive treatments.
If you are interested in learning more about diagnosing “invisible baldness,” or would like to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation, visit www.baumanmedical.com/schedule-consultation or call 1-877-BAUMAN-9 or 561-394-0024.
*Each individual's treatment and/or results may vary
If you or someone you know has hair loss or eyebrow or eyelash concerns, click to start either a long-distance phone consultation OR an in-person, in-office consultation with Dr. Bauman. You can also Ask Dr. Bauman a Question or simply call Bauman Medical Group toll-free 844-GET-HAIR or +1-561-394-0024.