If you are facing hairline recession, you may be wondering exactly where you fall on the hair loss scale. After all, knowing this can tell you a lot about the cause of your hair loss, and may even give you hope for treating it.
This post will introduce you the Norwood scale. This will include a complete walk-through of the 7 major stages, and 7 REAL examples you can use to measure your own loss.
At the end of this piece, you will learn THREE steps you can take right now to stop hair loss and perhaps even reverse it.
What is the Norwood Scale?
The Norwood scale is a classification system used by hair loss professionals to diagnose different stages of Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB). It consists of 7 major stages and various subsets.
This scale, also referred to as the Hamilton-Norwood scale, was first developed by Dr. James Hamilton in the 1950s. The scale was later revised by Dr. O’Tar Norwood in the 1970s, and this revision is the one most commonly referred to today.
The main additions to the scale first developed by Hamilton were subsets. These offer variations in the hair loss pattern, and they will be explained in more depth below.
The 7 Stages of the Norwood Scale
The Norwood scale offers a solid outline of the different stages of hair loss. And, while slight variations may occur, its use by hair loss professionals is a testament to its accuracy.
Sometimes referred to as a juvenile hairline, those with a Stage 1 on the Norwood scale are said to have no hair loss at all. In fact, this is the stage that most boys’ hair will remain at until their hairline matures (typically in the late teens and early 20s).
It is rare to retain a Stage 1 hairline throughout your entire life. However, a few well-known figures have done just that. The late Ronald Reagan is one example, and he was joined by another former President, Bill Clinton, as well as the late chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain.
It is at this stage on the Norwood scale that men begin to notice a slight recession in their hairline. This can be alarming, but it does not always mean that hair loss is imminent.
As young men lose their juvenile hairline, a more mature one will emerge. This is distinguished by a slight recession at the temples.
At this stage, such a hairline is not considered to be a sign of MPB. That can quickly change, however, as men transition from Stage 2 to Stage 2A.
Considered by many hair loss professionals to be the true start of hair loss, Stage 2A of the Norwood scale consists of a very clear recession at the temples and front hairline.
For many men, the M-shape will start to disappear as the patch of hair at the front begins to recede alongside the temples.
At this point on the scale, the classic M-shape associated with MPB will again become more noticeable. This is the point where many men begin to seriously consider their treatment options.
While the M-shape can be lost at Stage 2A, it will reappear as the temples recede even further. In Stage 3A hair loss, the recession is not quite so deep as 3, but it is more noticeable.
An additional subset of Stage 3 is 3V. Along with the increased hairline recession, this class of hair loss also begins to affect the vertex (or crown) of the head.
A popular figure with a clear Stage 3 distinction is the late President Richard Nixon.
The difference between Stages 3 and 4 can be mild, but they are noticeable if you know what to look for.
In particular, men at Stage 4 will have more recession at the temples. This will form a deeper M-shape, and the strip of hair in the middle may even begin to thin around the edges. In addition, thinning at the crown becomes more noticeable.
This stage of hair loss is best seen on actor Jude Law. The recession in his temples has deepened beyond Stage 3, and thinning of the middle patch of hair is also evident.
At this point, a small patch of hair may or may not be still present at the front of the scalp. If it is present, it has become slimmer, and the hair at the temples is completely gone.
In both 5 and 5V, the patch will likely be present. However, in 5A the patch is completely gone as the recession is complete.
In 5V, you will also notice the patch of hair loss on the vertex is growing.
The late James Gandolfini shows this stage well:
As the midway between stages 5 and 7, stage 6 is marked by a deepening of the loss at the hairline and vertex. At this point, the small patch of hair that was once at the front is completely gone.
The thinning and loss at the vertex increases and this widens the patch of balding. The strip of hair dividing the vertex and hairline is also almost gone.
The most severe form of Male-Pattern baldness, Stage 7 is distinguished by the complete hair loss on the hairline and top of the scalp. The only hair that remains is a strip that wraps from one side (under the ear) to the other.
Jason Alexander and Larry David of Seinfeld fame
How to Diagnose the Different Stages of Hair Loss
If you believe you fall on the Norwood scale, it is important to meet with a professional hair loss specialist for an official diagnosis. While you may not be interested in the treatments they offer – including minoxidil, finasteride, and transplant – it is still good to know where you are on your hair loss journey.
The way in which your hair loss is diagnosed will depend on the specialist you see.
A dermatologist or hair loss restoration surgeon will likely perform a variety of medical tests. These include blood draws and biopsies. However, this is mostly for confirmation purposes, as a trained professional can typically diagnose the stage of loss with just a look.
What Is the Best Stage for Hair Regrowth?
The simple fact is, the earlier you begin your regrowth efforts, the better the results will be. This means monitoring yourself for signs of hair loss early (if you suspect it will be a problem), and treating the issue proactively.
Hair loss is not a problem for everyone, but ⅔ of American men will notice signs of thinning and loss by the age of 35. This increases to 85% by the age of 50.
This shows that hair loss – whether caused by genetics or environment – is a serious concern for the vast majority of men (and even some women). As such, you should take a proactive approach to hair loss treatment, and begin to treat before your loss progresses on the Norwood scale.
First, remove store-bought hair products from your care routine. These include shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. The ingredients within these products (such as alcohol and SLS) can cause harm to the scalp, including dryness, itching, and irritation.
That is because many of the ingredients are additives that are meant to preserve the shampoo’s integrity. They have nothing to do with your hair or scalp’s health.
Second, clean up your diet. At first, this may mean removing alcohol, dairy, and other inflammatory foods. However, you should move closer to a whole foods diet as you progress on your journey.
A diet that consists largely of whole foods – such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains – will ensure that you arre getting the vast majority of essential vitamins and nutrients. This is crucial to supporting the hair follicles and other such structures.
Third and final, a regular scalp massage and exercises routine is a great way to increase blood flow and revive the hair follicles.
In fact, this is one of the most POWERFUL ways to regrow your hair.
You might already know that blood flow to the scalp delivers essential vitamins and nutrients. This delivery ensures your hair follicles and hair strands have access to the building blocks that keep them healthy. However, oxygen also travels through the bloodstream.
Without proper oxygen delivery, your hair follicles can begin to “choke”. Essentially, they will slowly wither and die as the oxygen deprivation continues. As this happens, the follicles miniaturize, and this further complicates the delivery of oxygen. Of course, it also causes the hair strands to reduce in width and length:
When you use scalp massages and exercises to stimulate blood flow, you are also bringing more oxygen to the follicles. This is one the KEY components of a healthy scalp.
If you are just starting your hair regrowth journey, it helps to get a solid idea of exactly how much hair loss you have experienced. That is where the Norwood scale comes in handy. However, that is only just the beginning.
With this information in hand, it is now your turn to make the necessary changes to see regrowth. It will not always be easy, especially when it comes to lifestyle changes. But, it WILL be worth it in the end.
Always talk to a qualified medical professional before you get started with a hair loss treatment.