A receding hairline can affect adults at different ages. But what triggers it, and what treatments are available?
We’ll explore receding hairline symptoms, causes, solutions, and more below.
What are the signs of a receding hairline?
Men can develop a receding hairline at any post-puberty age, so it could start as early as the late teens or early twenties. Usually, though, most men will notice at least some recession by the time they reach their late thirties.
A receding hairline tends to begin above the temples and advances over the top of the scalp. One common pattern is a ring of healthy growth around the back and sides of the head with thinning hair on top. Hair may continue to grow in patches, such as an island in the centre of the scalp.
But you could also retain healthy growth in the middle of the scalp while hair loss proceeds from above the temples, forming a V-shaped pattern known as a “widow’s peak”.
Men with a receding hairline may also lose their hair at the back and sides of the head in some cases, but others may shave these areas to create a voluntarily bald look.
For women, the back and sides of the head usually retain their hair while the centre part expands across the top of the scalp.
What causes a receding hairline?
The average human scalp is home to around 80,000 hairs. It’s believed that people lose between 50 and 100 hairs each day through this cycle. But you could lose considerably more for the following reasons:
You can inherit a receding hairline from your relatives — you’ll be more likely to lose hair if you have a family history of baldness. And the change may start at around the same age for everyone affected.
Stress or illness
Hair loss related to stress or illness is known as telogen effluvium. This can come on after a particularly difficult period, but it can reverse without treatment when you start to feel better.
Medications or medical treatments
Various medications and treatments can contribute to a receding hairline, such as some for blood pressure.
Overzealous styling can contribute to a receding hairline, such as pulling the hair back in an excessively tight ponytail. This can cause traction alopecia.
Hormonal changes may trigger hair loss in men and women. For example, the menopause can contribute to shedding (though not always at the hairline).
How do experts diagnose a receding hairline?
It’s recommended that you visit a dermatologist if you’re concerned about your receding hairline. They’ll ask about your medical history and that of your family. Let them know about any medications you take, whether or not you think they could be responsible for your hairline recession.
One common technique doctors use to assess hair loss is the “pull test”. As the name suggests, they will grab a few hairs and tug on them. They’ll check how many come out and how easily the scalp releases them.
Your doctor may also perform a biopsy of scalp tissue to identify potential scalp infections triggering hair loss. They’ll extract a tiny section of tissue from the scalp to determine if an infection or medical condition is to blame. This process can be instrumental in both diagnosing and treating the cause of hairline recession.
A blood test might be performed too. Your doctor will be looking for signs of a common condition (such as thyroid disease) known to cause receding hairlines.
How can you treat a receding hairline?
Your doctor may discuss treatments for your receding hairline, depending on the cause and the severity of hair loss. Potential treatments include:
Medications for hair loss
If your hairline recession is due to an immune disorder, your doctor may suggest a drug formulated to suppress overactive immune responses (such as prednisone).
But they could also advise you to try a medication to reverse or slow hair loss. Minoxidil is one of the most popular options: you’ll apply this over-the-counter topical treatment to your scalp and rub it in carefully.
This is usually more effective at restoring growth in small areas of the scalp, such as the hairline. However, minoxidil can trigger various side effects, including skin irritation.
Finasteride is another well-known option. It’s a pill taken orally, unlike minoxidil, and can stimulate hair growth. One potential side effect is a slight decrease in male sex drive.
Both minoxidil and finasteride require a long-term commitment, as they must be taken consistently to maintain results.
Hair transplants have become a popular solution for people experiencing hair loss at the hairline or elsewhere on the scalp.
A surgeon transplants healthy hair follicles from the back and sides of the head to the hairline (or other thinning areas). These implanted follicles encourage new growth and cultivate natural results across 12 – 18 months (on average).
Multiple transplant types are available, including Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). The former creates seamless growth without the same level of invasiveness and scarring as the latter.
How far will a receding hairline go?
A receding hairline may be the beginning of full baldness on top of the scalp, or a mild change that makes minimal impact on your appearance. You may never experience further hair loss, but it can be challenging to predict.
And while you may get a glimpse into your future if you look at a parent or older sibling’s hairline, there are no guarantees.
Whatever the outcome, though, any form of hair loss can be difficult to live with.
Fortunately, various treatments can restore your hairline to a fuller, more youthful condition. And hair transplants can achieve lasting success with one session under a local anaesthetic.