When and why it may be too early for a hair transplant.
If you are a relatively young man who is noticing signs of hair loss, it can be quite distressing. You may have begun to notice your hair thinning or receding at the temples but still intact at the forehead. If you are balding at 20 you also may be experiencing one or more of the following:
- You are beginning to obsess about your hairline, and notice the hairline of others in ways you never did before.
- You are starting to style your hair differently, such as brushing the hair forward, to hide the balding temples
- You have begun wearing hats in an effort to hide your hair loss, and are starting to dread situations where a hat is not appropriate.
- You avoid the wind and water because these elements seem out to mess with a style that now has to be “just so” to keep the hair loss hidden.
- Your social media profiles feature a picture of you from three years ago.
- You have begun frequenting hair loss chat rooms in search of answer and see your own experiences mirrored in the discussions.
- You suddenly notice which males on both sides of your family are suffering from male pattern baldness and which have hair.
- A feeling of slow dread is creeping in as you watch your youth slip away in what should rightfully be the best-looking years of your life.
If some or all of these experiences sound familiar as a young man balding at 20, you may be researching whether a hair transplant is a right decision for you at this point. While I cannot diagnose any individual’s hair loss without an exam, I can offer some helpful generalizations.
Balding at 20 – check the Norwood scale.
First of all, try to determine where you fall on the Norwood Scale, which illustrates progressive hair loss patterns in males. Although it is a simplified scale, it is useful for purposes of diagnosis and education. If you are a 2, 2A, 3 or 3A in your twenties, you are very likely experiencing the first signs of male pattern baldness (MPB), which is genetically inherited and progressive in nature. In other words, you got it from one or both of your parents and the level of loss will keep advancing through the years. This means it is very likely that you will experience more loss over the next several decades.
Can I have a hair transplant or not?
It is possible to find clinics that will perform a transplant on a man in his 20s, but this can deliver unfortunate results in the long term. This is because there are a finite number of donor hair follicles on your head. For a transplant, these need to be harvested from the back or sides of the head. But it is not in your interest to use up a significant number of viable donor follicles at an early age because you will exhaust your supply. At 20 you may think you won’t care what you look like at 40, but the fact is you will. You may want a transplant at that point in time, so you will need those valuable follicles.
Furthermore, if a transplant is performed on someone who is too young, it may look great for a few years. However, referring back once more to the Norwood Scale, it is easy to see that if you transplant follicles to the temple area when you are a Norwood 2A, by the time you are a Norwood 5A at age, say, 45, you will have unnatural looking tufts of robust hair growing at the temples surrounded by a sea of bald scalp. Therefore, except in rare cases, we would most likely advise against a hair transplant for a man balding at 20.
If that answer has left you feeling deflated, take heart: millions of men choose to save the hair they have with effective, FDA-approved non-surgical hair restoration treatments.
Dr. James Harris is an internationally renowned hair transplant surgeon, inventor of patented follicular unit excision technology, published author in the field of hair restoration and an advocate for patient care. He is currently at the forefront of research and development in the field of hair cloning. Learn more about Dr. Harris or read rave reviews from his patients.