A receding hairline can occur in both men and women, though it is more common in men. It is one of the first signs of male pattern baldness and can be caused by a variety of factors.
Today, there is a range of promising ways to manage a receding hairline, and there are some long-term treatment options that help many people.
A receding hairline will show some distinct symptoms. Symptoms may develop just after the end of puberty or anytime throughout adulthood.
Fast facts on receding hairline:
- The hairline usually begins receding just above the temples.
- A receding hairline and male pattern baldness are common symptoms in aging people.
- In women, it can create a V-shape in the middle of the head, known as a widow's peak.
There is no single pattern that a receding hairline follows, but there are some telling symptoms to keep an eye out for. For example, losing a lot of hair is one such symptom. It is common for people to lose dozens of hairs each day.
There are many causes of a receding hairline.
According to research posted to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, up to 80 percent of European men may have a receding hairline by the time they are 80 years old.
Hair loss is usually a natural part of aging. There are thousands of hair follicles on the surface of the scalp, each growing their own hair. As these hairs fall out, new ones replace them. But if hair follicles become damaged for any number of reasons, the result can be hair loss and a receding hairline.
Hormonal changes may be the trigger for hair loss in both men and women. A hormone called DHT may have a link to male pattern baldness, as it causes the follicles to shrink to the point that no hair can grow in them anymore.
Family history seems to play a role in receding hairlines. Men with a family history of baldness may be more likely to lose their hair. The loss may even follow a similar pattern as previous generations.
Medications or treatments
Some medical procedures or treatments may also cause hair loss. A typical example is chemotherapy, which often causes a person's hair to fall out.
Illness or stress
Illness or stress may lead to sudden hair loss called telogen effluvium. People usually experience this as an unexpected shedding — where they lose much more hair than usual in a short period. Luckily, this hair loss often reverses itself without treatment.
There may also be a link between particular lifestyle choices and hair loss. People who smoke may experience hair loss faster than people who do not smoke.
There may also be a link between receding hairlines and diet. For example, people who do not get enough protein in their diets may lose more hair than people who eat enough protein.
There is no outright cure for a receding hairline, but there are some medications that can slow it down and help hair regrow.
Finasteride or Dutasteride
In men, testosterone can be converted into DHT, which can cause hair loss from a man's head.
The prescription drug finasteride (Propecia) is produced exclusively for male hair loss and slows down the rate that testosterone turns into DHT, therefore reducing DHT in the body.
This may make it easier for some men to grow hair or minimize hair loss. The drug Dutasteride (Avodart) is a medication designed to treat an enlarged prostate, though it is often prescribed to help encourage hair growth and restoration.
These effects will typically wear off as soon as the person stops taking the drugs.
Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an over-the-counter scalp treatment that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help slow the rate of hair loss. The effects typically last as long as a person uses the treatment, but baldness will return once a person stops using it.
A prescription for anthralin (Dritho-Scalp) may also encourage new hair growth in some people. It is a topical psoriasis medication, though is often used to help spark new hair growth.
Some corticosteroid treatments may also help with hair loss. This medication would work by reducing the inflammation around the hair follicles, allowing them to open back up and grow new hairs. Corticosteroids may produce adverse side effects, so anybody considering using these medications should discuss their use with a doctor.
Hair transplants and laser therapy
A hair transplant involves taking hairs and parts of scalp from thicker spots on the head and moving them to the front to fill in the receding hairline. The process may be costly, but many people feel it is a more long-term solution to a receding hairline.
Laser therapy using a red light or laser at a wavelength of 660 nanometers may also increase hair growth in some people and reduce male pattern baldness.
Some essential oils may also be promising hair-growth agents. In a recent study on mice posted to Toxicological Research, a group of researchers tested peppermint essential oil against the standard hair treatment minoxidil.
The mice that had peppermint essential oil rubbed on them for 4 weeks showed the most prominent signs of hair growth when compared to any other group.
Another study on mice posted to Toxicological Research, found similar results using lavender essential oil. More research on humans is needed to verify these claims, but these treatments may be promising for people looking for a natural way to thicken their hair.
Male pattern baldness usually progresses in distinct steps. The first sign is a receding hairline, which can appear uneven at first, but then typically develops into a distinct M shape. After this, the hair on the top or back of the head usually begins to fall out, leaving a bald spot.
These two signs will then spread and meet, creating a larger bald spot. Eventually what is left is usually a horseshoe-like ring around the sides and back of the head.
In addition to direct treatments, there are a few other things that a person can do to help manage a receding hairline.
Changing the way a person with a receding hairline styles their hair may help draw attention away from it.
A stylish example is the slicked back undercut, where a person grows the hair on top of their head out a bit and cuts the sides shorter.
Once long enough, the person slicks back the hair on top of the head, using a brush or a product. This style can make the hair look thicker and cover up any bald spots.
Other classic examples that work well on men with receding hairlines include a close buzz cut, medium crew cut, or a clean shave.
As stress and anxiety may play a role in hair loss, finding ways to reduce stress may also help manage a receding hairline. Regular exercise, eating a whole and varied diet, and taking time to reduce stress factors may help people manage their symptoms.
Taking care of delicate hair can be an integral step towards keeping it on the head. Using more natural hair products or at least avoiding harsh chemicals can be a step towards rejuvenating the hair. It may also help to avoid vigorous brushing or pulling the hair too much.
While a receding hairline can be upsetting for an individual to look at, it poses no risk to health. Most people can manage their hairline, and there are some treatments available that can help the hair look fuller or help it to regrow. Anybody considering trying these treatments should discuss them thoroughly with a healthcare provider to find the most suitable option.