Receding hairline: symptoms, stages, causes, and treatment options

“I used to ask my mom to try and shave my head on the sides to give me a receding hairline because Adam Ant had one.”

Paul Rudd, Actor

If you have a receding hairline, how old were you when you first noticed it?

A poll revealed that 27% of men affected by hair loss started to see their hairline creeping back between the age of 26 and 30 years old. Just over 20% experienced it several years earlier, and 5% reached their forties before their hairline began to recede.

Women may also be affected, particularly as they grow older, and cases of frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA) have become more widely reported in recent years.

But no matter how old you are when it hits, a receding hairline can be incredibly difficult to accept — as with most signs of ageing.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the visibility of your receding hairline and even restore it to a more youthful condition.

We’ll explore all the key facts, contributing factors, and treatment options below.

What are the symptoms of a receding hairline?

The hairline usually starts to recede above the temples. You may notice that your hairline looks uneven or forms a “M” shape.

If it stops here, this may be just a mature hairline, which most men develop between their late teens and thirties.

But if the hair continues to move back along the top of the head, this is what we commonly consider a receding hairline.

The receding hairline of James Nesbitt

A widow’s peak may form as the hairline recedes above the temples but retains a patch in the middle of the forehead. This is a “V” shape that many men sport, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson.

Mature hairline Leonardo DiCaprio

In some cases, the hairline may recede to the middle of the scalp and leave a patch at the back, while the sides remain unaffected. Or the entire top of the head will become bald, leaving only the back and sides.

For some men, the hairline will recede but leave an island of thinning hair near the front of the scalp.

What causes the problem?

A receding hairline may be caused by:

Genetics

Sadly, if the men and women in your family are affected by receding hairlines, thinning hair, and/or baldness, you’re highly likely to experience it too.

This can be a tough fact to live with, especially if you take pride in your hair. But discussing hair loss with relatives might help you understand the process a little better, and perhaps even worry about it less.

Hormone fluctuations

Hormonal changes cause receding hairlines in men and women. They may be triggered by:

  • pregnancy
  • thyroid problems
  • menopause
  • medication

Scalp infections

A scalp infection may affect hair growth and cause the hairline to recede. It’s possible that hair growth will return to its former condition following treatment.

Medications

Certain medications or supplements can contribute to a receding hairline. These include treatments prescribed for gout, high blood pressure, cancer, and depression.

Illness

Illnesses can disrupt the hair growth cycle and prevent new hairs replacing those that shed naturally. This may affect the hair on different areas of the scalp, including around the hairline.

Contributing illnesses may include autoimmune disorders, such as alopecia areata or lupus.

What factors accelerate a receding hairline?

The following factors can accelerate a receding hairline:

Stress

Experiencing high stress for a prolonged period can lead to hair loss, which may manifest as a receding hairline.

This could be due to marital issues, difficulties at work, family worries, financial challenges, or anything else that weighs on your mind.

Poor diet

A lack of nutrition may contribute to a receding hairline. For example, protein is essential for sustaining healthy hair growth, as are:

  • iron
  • zinc
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • B-vitamins

Excessive styling

Anyone who styles their hair too vigorously may damage it and increase their risk of shedding, including a receding hairline. Relying on curling irons, blow dryers, and other heat-related tools can have a negative effect on hair over time.

How is the problem diagnosed?

If you speak to your doctor about your receding hairline, they will likely advise you to discuss the issue with a dermatologist.

They will explore your personal medical history, and that of your family, to understand more about what may be causing your receding hairline. It could be that your hair loss is down to genetics if other men or women in your family have experienced it too.

The dermatologist will probably perform the “pull test” to examine the extent of your hair loss. This is quick and simple: they will pull on multiple hairs to see how many detach from the scalp.

They will also undertake a biopsy of scalp tissue or hairs to identify a physical cause, such as an infection. You may have a blood test to rule out certain issues, such as thyroid disease.

Ultimately, a dermatologist should help you understand why your hairline is receding, and if you can expect further hair loss or scalp problems.

What are the treatment options for a receding hairline?

A number of treatment options for a receding hairline are available:

Medications

Medications may be required to treat physical conditions responsible for your hair loss (e.g. immune disorders). In this case, a doctor will assess your health and prescribe the necessary medications, which may or may not have an effect on your hairline.

If your receding hairline isn’t linked to a physical illness, you may be advised to try minoxidil. This is a topical treatment applied to the scalp, with an aim to stimulate hair growth in one or more areas.

It may cause scalp irritation, and even if it achieves a positive change in your hairline, you would need to keep using the minoxidil to retain growth.

Another common option is finasteride, formulated to promote healthier hair growth by reducing the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in your body (DHT is commonly linked to hair loss).

However, finasteride may have some complex side effects, including:

  • difficulties getting or maintaining an erection
  • decrease in sex drive
  • facial swelling
  • skin rashes
  • ejaculation issues

Surgery

Hair restoration surgery is one of the most popular and effective solutions for a receding hairline. You may multiple options to consider:

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)

During a FUT procedure, a surgeon will remove a strip of skin from the back of the head and dissect it into tiny pieces. They will harvest its hair follicles and implant them into areas affected by hair loss (the hairline, in this case).

FUT is more of an outdated hair transplant technique today. Removing a strip of flesh leaves a large visible scar, and you may need to wear your hair in a longer style to cover it in the future.

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)

FUE is a more advanced hair transplant method than FUT. Your surgeon will extract hair follicles from donor areas (the back and sides of the head) in smaller quantities, using a fine needle to reduce the visibility of scarring. These are implanted into the hairline to create new growth.

FUE2 hair restoration for receding hairline

HairPalace’s surgeons use the cutting-edge FUE2 SafeSystem technology for all hair transplants, including targeting receding hairlines. We’ll extract grafts one by one with a high-precision micro punch, and implant them with the same device. Between 90 – 95% of implanted hairs will grow back.

Can you predict how far a hairline will recede?

Predicting how far a hairline will recede is incredibly difficult. However, you may be able to make a fair prediction by looking at your parents, grandparents, and siblings.

If their hairlines have receded in a similar way, it’s likely (but not guaranteed) that yours will end up in the same condition too.

It is common for hair loss to progress slowly, over years or even decades. As such, even if the hairline was restored surgically, the receding might continue later on. In these cases, a second hair transplant might be needed to maintain good density.

How to disguise a receding hairline with cool haircuts

There are several cuts in style that can complement or disguise a receding hairline.

The Faux Hawk

This cut enjoys great popularity in recent years. It can be styled in multiple ways making it ideal for those who like to experiment with their look.

the faux hawk haircut jude law
Source: 20th Century Fox

Slicked back hair

Slicked back hair is versatile, yet easy to style and maintain. It leaves you plenty of room to play around with the length both at the top and the sides.

The slicked back haircut
Source: Men’s Hairstyles Today

Skin fade pompadour

For this look, your hair at the top needs to be 3-4 inches long, while the back and sides are cut to skin fade. This modern twist on the classic pompadour requires regular maintenance.

Receding hairline skin fade pompadour
Source: Men’s Hairstyles Today

The crew cut

A simple, low maintenance cut that is never out of style.

Ryan Reynold's hairstyle
Source: Ryan Reynolds / Instagram

The buzz cut

This extremely short look is the most effective in averting the attention away from a receding hairline.

Jason Statham's buzz cut hairstyle
Source: Entertainment Film Distributors

FAQ

What causes the problem?

A receding hairline may be caused by genetics, hormone changes, illness, stress, poor diet, scalp infections, and medications. Some of these may be treated or eased, e.g. finding ways to decrease stress levels, eating a healthier diet containing more nutritious foods, etc.

What are the most common symptoms?

The most common symptoms of a receding hairline are the loss of hair above the temples and the development of an “M” shape. The extent to which a hairline recedes can vary from one person to another. It may develop into a bald scalp, while the back and sides remain unaffected.

Can it be stopped?

You may take certain steps to stop a receding hairline, such as changing your diet, lowering stress levels, taking medications. But for some people, a hair transplant is the most effective way to restore the hairline and achieve more youthful growth.