Do You Need a Hair Loss Doctor?
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’ve noticed your hairline starting to recede or your hair beginning to thin, one of the most important steps you can take in stopping any further hair loss is getting in touch with a hair loss doctor.
Hair loss can start as early as your teens, and many men start to notice the early signs of male pattern baldness in their 20s or 30s.
The point is, with hair loss, the earlier you take action and seek out professional treatment, the more of your hair you’ll generally be able to keep.
Luckily, almost all male hair loss is treatable today. A hair loss doctor can work with you to find out what’s causing your hair loss and put together a hair loss prevention plan that helps you to minimize further loss and keep as much of your hair as possible.
Not sure if you need a hair loss doctor? Below, we’ve listed the key benefits of talking to a hair loss doctor, as well as some signs you can look for to know when it’s time to take action and do something about your hair loss.
What Is a Hair Loss Doctor?
The term “hair loss doctor” refers exactly to what you’d expect it to — a doctor, usually a board-certified dermatologist, that specializes in diagnosing and treating hair loss.
Dermatologists are trained to identify, diagnose and treat medical conditions that affect your hair, skin and nails, including all forms of hair loss.
There are also trichologists, who are people trained specifically to diagnose and treat hair and scalp conditions. However, because they aren’t medical doctors, they can’t prescribe medications to help treat hair loss.
If you’re worried about hair loss, you can get professional advice by scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist. You can also talk to your primary care provider, who will be able to either diagnose your hair loss or refer you to a dermatologist for more specialized assistance.
What do dermatologists prescribe for hair loss? To treat hair loss, hair loss doctors may prescribe medications such as minoxidil and finasteride, as well as hair loss shampoos, conditioners and other hair loss products.
In addition to dermatologists, some plastic surgeons also specialize in treating hair loss. These doctors may offer surgical hair restoration procedures, such as hair transplant surgery.
Although most cases of hair loss happen in men, hair loss doctors also treat hair loss in women, such as female pattern hair loss.
What Is Hair Loss?
The term “hair loss” is used to refer to a diverse range of conditions that can cause you to lose hair. Hair loss can be permanent, such as the hair loss caused by male pattern baldness, or a temporary issue caused by medication, stress, a medical condition or a dietary issue.
There are several different types of hair loss that can affect men, each with different symptoms and treatment requirements. Common types of hair loss include:
Androgenetic alopecia. Also referred to as male pattern hair loss, this type of hair loss is caused by a combination of genetic factors and the effects of androgen hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT). If you’re prone to male pattern hair loss, you may notice a receding hairline developing, or thinning that affects your crown (the area at the top of your scalp). Male pattern hair loss is permanent, making it important to act quickly when you notice symptoms.
Telogen effluvium. This is a form of temporary hair shedding that’s caused by certain illnesses, infections, physical trauma, stress, nutritional deficiencies and some types of medication. It’s caused by a disruption to your hair’s natural growth cycle. Telogen effluvium usually causes diffuse hair shedding that affects your entire scalp. It’s best treated by identifying the underlying cause, then taking action to treat it.
Autoimmune hair loss. Some forms of autoimmune disease can cause or contribute to a type of hair loss called alopecia areata. This type of hair loss happens when your hair follicles are mistakenly targeted and attacked by your body’s immune system.Alopecia areata doesn’t cause a receding hairline or other “pattern” hair loss. Instead, it typically causes one or several small, round or oval-shaped patches of bald skin to form on your scalp. In some cases, it may affect your eyelashes and facial hair.
Traction alopecia. This is a form of hair loss that’s caused by a pulling tension on your hair follicles. It’s common in people with dreadlocks, cornrows and other tight hairstyles that pull on the roots of your hair. In its early stages, traction alopecia is often temporary. However, over time, it can cause scarring and permanent hair loss.
Fungal scalp infections. Some fungal infections, such as tinea capitis (scalp ringworm) can cause hair loss by damaging your hair follicles. Sometimes, this type of infection can lead to scarring alopecia — a permanent form of hair loss caused by follicular damage. Most fungal infections can be treated with antifungal medication and by making changes to your scalp and hair care routine to prevent reinfection.
Our full guide to the types of hair loss provides more information on why hair loss develops, as well as the specific types of hair loss that may affect you.
The Benefits of Seeing a Hair Loss Doctor
With hair loss drugs like minoxidil available over the counter, seeing a doctor for your hair loss might seem like an unnecessary step. However, there are still plenty of reasons to meet with a hair loss doctor if you’re starting to experience the early signs of male pattern baldness.
One of the first reasons to see a hair loss doctor is that they can help you to identify the specific type of hair loss you have.
As we covered above, hair loss can occur for several different reasons. If you work long hours in a stressful environment, it could be telogen effluvium hair loss that occurs as a result of chronic, severe stress.
If you’ve recently dealt with a serious injury or illness that causes fever, it’s possible that it could also be telogen effluvium.
There are also other reasons for hair loss. For example, a diet that contains little or no essential vitamins and minerals can lead to weak, thinning hair. Some men also experience hair loss as a result of skin conditions, certain medicines and lack of sleep.
Hair loss can also be hereditary. For example, male pattern baldness often occurs in people with a family history of hair loss.
Since hair loss doctors specialize in identifying the primary causes of hair loss, they can quickly and easily inform you about why your hair loss is occurring, as well as what you can do to treat it effectively.
A hair loss doctor can also inform you about the potential risks and side effects associated with each form of treatment, including medications and cosmetic procedures.
If your hair loss isn’t genetic, a hair loss doctor can help you find out the root cause using one of several different tests:
Blood testing. Many hair loss doctors use blood testing to check for medical conditions that can cause hair thinning and hair loss, such as thyroid disease.
Scalp biopsy. If your hair loss doesn’t have an obvious cause, your hair loss doctor may suggest a scalp biopsy. This procedure involves carefully removing a small piece of skin from your scalp for testing and analysis.
Hair pull test. If you have signs of telogen effluvium, your hair loss doctor may carefully pull some of your hairs from your scalp. This type of pull test is used to check for active hair shedding.
DHT testing. If you have male pattern baldness, your hair loss doctor may recommend a serum DHT test, which will check the total amount of dihydrotestosterone (a hormone that can cause hair follicle damage) in your bloodstream.
When is it Time to See a Hair Loss Doctor?
The best time to see a hair loss doctor is as soon as you notice any of the early signs of male pattern baldness.
Because hair loss from male pattern baldness is permanent, acting quickly can help you to stop your hair loss from worsening and keep more of your hair.
The best time to act on hair loss can vary from one person to another. For some guys, the signs of hair loss may show up in their 20s or 30s. For others, they might appear earlier. Even guys in their teens can make early changes to prevent hair loss.
Below, we’ve listed some common signs that it might be time to book an appointment with a hair loss specialist.
You Have a Visible Receding Hairline
Male pattern baldness often begins at your hairline, with the hair around your temples starting to thin and your hairline beginning to recede.
Experts assess the severity of hair loss using the Norwood scale — a seven-type scale that goes from a full hairline to severe, horseshoe pattern hair loss. In the first few stages, the hair on your scalp might still be thick, but your hairline may show visible signs of recession.
If you’ve started to notice your hairline becoming thinner, higher and more M-shaped, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor that specializes in hair loss.
Your Hair is Falling Out Rapidly and Suddenly
More often than not, male pattern baldness is something that happens gradually. While the rate at which men lose their hair varies from person to person and is usually determined by genetics, rarely does it cause large clumps of hair to fall out.
However, for some guys, male pattern baldness is an obvious problem that’s defined by lots and lots of hair shedding.
If you’ve developed a large bald spot seemingly overnight, or if you’ve started to notice your hair falling out in large amounts (or building up on your pillow, hairbrush or in your shower drain), it’s usually a sign that you’re experiencing significant hair loss.
This could be due to male pattern baldness, or it could be hair shedding caused by an illness or other health issue. In any case, it’s best to make an appointment with a hair loss doctor to learn about what’s causing your hair loss, as well as what you can do to stop it.
Your Hair Loss Treatment Program Isn’t Working
Sometimes, the best time to see a hair loss doctor is when your existing approach to preventing hair loss isn’t quite working as expected.
Let’s say you’ve already noticed your hair loss. A few months ago, you started treating it using a range of non-prescription products, including minoxidil and a hair loss shampoo that contains an active ingredient such as ketoconazole.
First of all, it’s great that you were able to keep track of your hair’s volume and take action when you noticed it changing.
If your hair loss treatment program isn’t working as well as you’d hoped for, it could be because you’re missing something important. Often, the missing ingredient is a prescription treatment for hair loss, such as finasteride.
By visiting a hair loss doctor, you’ll be able to find out what’s missing from your current hair loss treatment protocol and, if appropriate, receive the hair care products or medications you need to get better results.
You’re Entering the Late Stages of Hair Loss
As hair loss becomes more severe, it also becomes more noticeable, especially as your hairline and scalp take on the signs of Norwood Type 3, 4 or 5 hair loss.
The more severe your male pattern baldness gets, the more challenging it becomes to treat, as fewer hair follicles are left to protect. Because of this, it’s always best to take action before your hair takes on the classic horseshoe or cul-de-sac pattern.
If you’re starting to enter the late stages of hair loss but still want to keep your hair, it’s important to talk to a hair loss doctor as soon as you can.
Not only can they help you to prevent further hair loss, but they can also inform you about which treatment options can help you to regrow and restore hair.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
You Aren’t Losing Hair Yet, But Have Concerns
Finally, it’s often worth seeing a hair loss doctor even if you haven’t started to experience major hair loss, but simply want to be prepared and have a plan ready for dealing with hair loss if and when it becomes an issue for you.
You may want to talk to a hair loss doctor if you have family members with visible hair loss, such as a parent or sibling.
Alternatively, if you use medication that can cause hair loss, you may want to meet with a doctor to discuss your options if your hair starts to shed or thin.
What Treatment Will a Hair Loss Doctor Prescribe?
Since hair loss can occur for several reasons, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for hair loss that doctors prescribe.
When you meet with a hair loss doctor, they’ll look at your scalp and identify the primary cause of your hair loss. They’ll then suggest the most appropriate treatment based on the type of hair loss you have and its severity.
Most of the time, hair loss in men is caused by male pattern baldness. If you have this type of hair loss, your hair loss doctor will likely prescribe medications for hair loss such as finasteride and minoxidil.
Finasteride is an oral medication that works by preventing your body from producing DHT, the androgen hormone that causes hair loss.
Minoxidil is a topical medication. It works by moving your hair follicles into the growth phase of the hair growth cycle, and by stimulating blood flow to your scalp.
Research shows that finasteride and minoxidil are particularly effective when used together. In one study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy, more than 94 percent of balding men who used both medications experienced improvements in hair growth over 12 months.
If you have patchy hair loss, temporary hair loss or other loss of hair caused by an underlying medical condition, your hair loss doctor might prescribe medication to treat the main cause of your hair loss.
In some cases, they may refer you to a specialist for a specific treatment to end the underlying problem and the hair loss.
Finally, if your hair loss is moderate or severe, your hair loss doctor may discuss procedures to restore your hair, such as hair transplant surgery.
This type of procedure involves surgically removing healthy, DHT-resistant hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp, then transplanting them to add additional thickness and coverage to your hairline, crown or other areas with visible thinning.
Shop by treatment options
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Talk to Our Hair Loss Doctors Online
Talking to a hair loss doctor is a quick, simple way to find out what’s causing your hair loss and what you can do to stop it.
Are you worried about hair loss? With an online hair loss consultation, you can talk to our hair loss doctors and find out what’s causing your hair loss, what treatments are available and how you can prevent your hair loss from getting worse.
You can also access our complete range of men’s hair loss treatments online, including options approved by the FDA to stop hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth.