A receding hairline can be a disheartening sight for anyone. It’s one of the first noticeable signs of hair loss for many and is generally a sign of aging. While it most often occurs for men who are getting on in years, young men can also be affected, as can some women.
Hair loss such as a receding hairline can affect a person’s self-esteem. Many people try to find ways to slow or reverse the hair loss associated with a receding hairline. Over the years, this has led to a huge market of “cures” with varying levels of effectiveness at encouraging hair growth, from worthless “snake oil” products to advanced hair restoration surgery. It is estimated that more than $900 million is spent on hair regrowth efforts each year.
If you have a receding hairline, you may be looking for ways to slow, halt, or even reverse its progress. But can such a thing be done?
Here, we’ll take a closer look at what causes a receding hairline in men, how you can tell if you have one, and what your options are to fight against it and other forms of hair loss.
What is a receding hairline?
A receding hairline is where hair loss occurs at the front of the scalp. The hair gradually stops growing, creating bald patches that slowly get larger over time. A V-shaped area of hair may remain in the middle of the front of the scalp, but this can also recede over time. Usually, the first signs of a receding hairline can be seen at the temples at the top of the forehead, then it works its way back until the hair has thinned enough to form a bald spot on the top of the scalp. Total baldness can eventually occur, with a little hair remaining at the back of the head and over the ears.
When does a receding hairline start?
A receding hairline in men usually begins to appear in their mid-20s and gets more pronounced with age, with noticeable baldness setting in by their mid-50s.
What causes a receding hairline?
It’s normal for everyone to experience a bit of regular hair loss; the average person loses 100 hairs from their scalp every day. Those hairs soon grow back, however, as part of a normal hair growth cycle.
In some cases, losing more than 100 strands a day can indicate a medical condition or happen as a result of aging. Male pattern baldness is one of the leading causes of a receding hairline and is also the most common form of hair loss for men. The condition affects the male hairline and is not a disease but instead considered a normal variation among people. Male pattern baldness causes hairs on the scalp to become finer, shorter and lighter, and then eventually the follicles stop producing hair, although they remain alive and could, theoretically, grow hair again someday.
Genetics play the largest role in whether you will develop a receding hairline, but changes in male sex hormones can also have an effect on hair growth — particularly Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is an androgen (male sex hormone). Androgens help give a person male characteristics, such as a deeper voice, more body hair, and more muscle mass. Bodily processes using enzymes like 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) convert testosterone into DHT, which is more powerful than testosterone and plays a large role in hair production. The higher a person’s 5-AR levels, the more testosterone that can be converted into DHT.
DHT helps hair to grow over most of the body but also can keep hair from growing well on the head. It is believed that DHT causes hair follicles to shrink over time, leading to male pattern hair loss and that blocking DHT may be able to reverse this effect. One way to counteract the effects of DHT is to lower a person’s 5-AR levels, so less DHT will be created from the testosterone already present in the body.
How to hide a receding hairline
While there are different forms of receding hairline treatments to reverse the effects of hair loss, there are also some simple, temporary ways to disguise the signs of a receding hairline.
Style your hair differently. Some cuts tend to advertise, rather than disguise, a receding hairline. Many men try to avoid this by letting their hair grow longer than usual in certain areas so they can comb it over the thinner parts or comb it forward to hide exposed temples. However, these styles can backfire. The long hair can look out of place with the rest of your hair, and a gust of wind can undo even the most careful combover.
Apply tinted powder around the hairline. This look isn’t very subtle if you do too much, but adding a little bit of colored powder around the roots at your hairline can make your hair appear darker and fuller.
Use hair products that make hair appear thicker. From shampoos to styling gels, look for products that claim to boost volume.
Hairpieces and wigs. A quality, tasteful hairpiece such as a toupée can create the appearance of a full head of hair. The downside here is that unless you get a really nice hairpiece that suits you well, it can be obvious to others that it’s not really your hair.
Receding hairline treatment options
Unfortunately, there’s no simple, permanent solution when it comes to counteracting a receding hairline. We’ve already shown a few ways you can disguise your hair loss, but if you want a more long-term solution, here are some medical and alternative treatment options:
Surgical hair transplantation. A hair transplant treatment can move hair follicles from one part of the scalp to another to fill in areas of baldness. During the treatment, a medical professional removes hair follicles from the sides or back of the scalp — the areas less likely to be affected by hair loss — and relocates them into tiny incisions made along the hairline or wherever there is baldness. The treatment is much more refined today than when it was introduced decades ago; between one and five follicles are removed and transplanted at a time, instead of large patches of hair known as hair plugs, so the results appear much more natural. While a hair transplant can be effective at hiding baldness and can be undetectable to other people, the medical procedure takes several hours and costs several thousands of dollars. What’s more, you’re likely to need multiple procedures to continue restoring hair to areas on the scalp as the baldness progresses.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This medical treatment involves receiving injections of your own body’s plasma to attempt to stimulate hair growth to counteract baldness. The idea is that the growth factors in plasma, which are white blood cells and platelets, will signal the hair follicles to produce more hair. PRP is an expensive form of treatment (from $500 per session and up) that’s not guaranteed to provide results.
Medication. As mentioned above, the presence of DHT can lead to a receding hairline and other hair loss in men. Some medications work to fight back against DHT. Finasteride works to block 5-AR from converting testosterone into DHT. Other medications, such as Minoxidil, are designed to increase hair growth by providing hair follicles with more nutrients and oxygen.
Lasers. A relatively new hair loss treatment option, specially designed lasers deliver light energy to your hair follicles to promote hair growth. It’s unclear how effective they are at fighting against hair loss.
Hair health supplements. You can also try supporting your body’s capacity to grow hair from within by taking a hair health supplement, which provides nutrients that can support healthy hair growth.
For a variety of reasons, many men and some women develop a receding hairline, sometimes as early as in their 20s. Because genetics is the leading reason behind a receding hairline, treatment options are limited — but they still exist. From medical treatments such as hair transplants to natural hair health supplements, you have options when it comes to reclaiming your hairline. Be sure to research the different alternatives and check with a medical professional before beginning any kind of treatment program to fight against hair loss.
If you want to learn more about receding hairlines, tune into Nutrafol’s new podcast What’s Your Hair Story? where our founders Giorgos Tsetis and Roland Peralta will be breaking down the topic on our iHeartRadio podcast on June 9.