A lot of men don’t notice the first signs of a thinning hairline and hence it remains untreated. The best way to keep track of your stage of hair loss is the Norwood scale which is the leading classification system used to measure the extent of male pattern baldness.

What is the Norwood Scale?

Hamilton-Norwood classification system of Male Pattern Baldness

The Norwood scale (sometimes also Hamilton-Norwood scale) was developed by James Hamilton in 1950s and later revised and updated by O’Tar Norwood in 1970s. It is a classification system of seven severity stages that describe the extent of male pattern baldness.

The levels start with Stage I, which is minimal, and progress through Stage VII, the most severe form of hair loss. Norwood based the scale on the observation that hair loss generally starts at the temples or the vertex of the head (also known as the crown).

Stage I: Minimal or no recession of the hairline and no major change to the crown. The hairline often looks unchanged compared to when they were younger. A small percentage of men remain at this stage for all their lives. However, young men at Stage I should monitor their hairline regularly for any signs of thinning.

Stage II: The initial signs of hair loss are becoming more visible. The hairline around the temples starts to show a recession, typically creating the common M-shaped hairline. Almost all men between the ages of 17 and 30 experience some form of hairline recession.

Stage III: A similar receding pattern as Stage II, where the hairline has receded deeper into the frontal area and the temporal area, creating an even more pronounced M-shaped hairline. Some areas may be bare or sparsely covered with hair. At this stage, the hair also begins to thin at the crown.

Stage IV: At Stage IV it is very evident that you are experiencing hair loss. The hair at the vertex becomes see-through but not bald, with recession at the hairline also continues to worsen. Men at this stage, retain a significant strip of hair between the two areas.

Stage V: At this stage, the vertex (or crown) and hairline remain separated by the hair, but the separation is far-less distinct. A horseshoe-shaped pattern of remaining hair is beginning to form. At this stage hair loss is progressed to a stage where it becomes more difficult to treat with medication.

Stage VI: The crown and hairline are mostly joined, with only a few fine hairs remaining on top of the head in small patches. Men at this stage can still benefit from hair loss treatment like hair transplantation, but expectations in regards to outcome need to be realistic.

Stage VII: Stage VII is the most severe form of male pattern baldness. Defined by a complete loss of hair in the front, temples and the crown. The horseshoe-shaped pattern of hair at the back and sides of the head is all that remains and it may be thinner or less dense than it was previously. The chances of recovery are almost non-existent.

When do I need to act?

As a general rule, the earlier you notice (and acknowledge) signs of hair loss, the higher are your chances of successfully holding on to what you’ve got. For the best possible results, you will want to start a treatment in Norwood Stages I-III, but even in later stages, treatment can still be effective.

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