The Norwood scale – also known as the Hamilton-Norwood scale – is commonly used to assess male pattern baldness. If you’re worried about hair loss to the extent of considering FUE hair transplant procedures and other hair loss treatments, then it’s probably a good idea to keep track of hair loss using the Norwood scale. By semi-regularly checking yourself against the scale, it’s possible to chart the rate of your own hair loss and thus make an informed decision when the time is right to undergo a hair transplant. The scale is divided into seven stages of hair loss, each more severe than the last:
Stage 1 describes no big changes to the crown and minimal or no recession at the front.
Stage 2 is when the beginnings of visible hair loss start to appear. Hair loss occurs around the temples, which results in the commonly seen ‘M’ shaped hairline.
Stage 3 is similar to stage 2 in shape but more severe; often, the areas around the temples are now completely bare. This is often seen as the start of clinical male pattern baldness. Stage 3 vertex is similar but also features significant thinning on the crown.
Stage 4 sees further recession at the hairline and sparse or no hair on the crown. By this point, baldness is already very evident, though there is still a thick strip of hair between the crown and the temples.
Stage 5 is again similar, but the band of hair between the crown or vertex and the rest of the head is becoming thinner.
Stage 6 is when this band of hair is all but gone, and the crown and the hairline have almost joined. Hair on top of the head may either be sparse or non-existent.
Stage 7 is defined by a complete loss of hair from the crown and front, with only a band of hair around the back of the head remaining – this band is where hair follicles are extracted from for FUE hair transplant surgeries. This is the most severe stage of hair loss.
Not all hair loss will follow this pattern, but the Norwood scale describes the most typical progression of male pattern baldness. While the scale isn’t without its critics, this doesn’t mean it isn’t of use, particularly if your hair loss does seem to be following this common path. Knowing where you fall on the scale will help you to chart your hair loss, assess your suitability for hair transplant procedures and other treatments, and to discern the root cause of your hair loss.