Daily Health

Your Receding Hairline Questions Answered

You look in the mirror one morning, and as you're getting ready, you squint and ask yourself: is my hairline receding? If you've had this experience, know you’re not alone. Roughly 50% of people experience some degree of hair loss by the time they reach age 50, with many experiencing a receding hairline well before then.

However, just because it's common doesn't mean it's not distressing to see unwanted changes to your hairline. A full head of hair is often associated with youth and beauty, so wanting to prevent a receding hairline or seeking receding hairline treatments is totally normal.

If you're comfortable rocking your evolving look, that's awesome! Unless your hair loss is linked to an underlying health problem, there's no reason you can’t just embrace the change. But if you're interested in understanding your male pattern baldness and seeking treatment for your receding hairline, we're here to help you figure out your options.

How do you know if your hairline is receding?

Not all changes to the hairline necessarily indicate a receding hairline. If you're a male between 17 and 30 and are noticing some changes to your hairline, it's more likely that you're experiencing a normal maturing hairline rather than a receding hairline. Most men don't keep their teenage hairline, also known as a juvenile hairline, forever.

So, how do you know if what you're experiencing is a maturing hairline? If you're in the age range we just mentioned, and you notice your hairline has moved back no more than an inch but the hairline is still well-defined, you're likely seeing a normal mature hairline. If it isn't accompanied by other hair thinning and hair loss, you're likely not experiencing male pattern baldness, and don't need to seek receding hairline treatments.

Does hair loss follow a pattern?

Men typically begin to notice a receding hairline in their 20’s, but it can also start later in life. It’s usually the first sign of male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia. A hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a byproduct of the male sex hormone testosterone, contributes to the development of male pattern baldness. DHT can bind to receptors in the scalp and cause hair follicles to shrink. When this happens, the hair growing out of the shrinking follicles becomes thinner and thinner with each cycle and may eventually stop growing.

It is worth noting that while a receding hairline is most often experienced by men, it can affect women as well.

The Norwood Scale

If you think you might have a receding hairline, a classification system called the Norwood Scale can help you determine how far along you are in the process. The Norwood Scale includes all hairlines, from no hair loss at all to complete balding. The seven stages on the scale are:

Stage 1: The “control stage” where hair loss is not noticeable. 

Stage 2: Slight evidence of a receding hairline that occurs usually around the temples.

Stage 3: Hair loss becomes more noticeable and the hairline recedes back and starts to form a defined “M” pattern. 

Stage 4: Significant hair loss has occurred. The hairline might start resembling a “U” shape and a bald spot on the crown is noticeable.

Stage 5: While there is still a strip of hair between the front and the crown, this strip will be noticeably smaller and thinner. 

Stage 6: Baldness is almost complete, where the top and the crown now join together. There is a defined “U” shape from the top. 

Stage 7: There is a thin ring of hair around the sides of the head and baldness is almost complete. The remainder of hair that does grow is thinner and weaker. 

Why is your hairline receding? Causes of a receding hairline

If you want to prevent a receding hairline, or at least find the best receding hairline treatment to lessen your hair loss, it may help to understand some of the reasons behind a receding hairline in the first place.

Age

One of the most common causes of a receding hairline is age. Hair loss is a normal part of aging, and as hair follicles become damaged or shrink, hair will progressively become finer and thinner.

Hormonal changes

As we mentioned previously, the hormone DHT plays a role in male pattern baldness. In women, hormonal changes can trigger hair loss as well. During menopause, a decrease in estrogen and progesterone may cause finer hair and hair loss.

Family history

The male hairlines in your family may offer a clue towards your own hair loss. There seems to be a genetic component to receding hairlines in terms of the likelihood of experiencing it and the age at which it is likely to progress. One meta-analysis in the journal Nature Communications identifies 63 locations on the genome that account for roughly 39% of mail pattern baldness.

Lifestyle habits

Habits such as smoking or eating a nutritionally deficient diet may contribute to a receding hairline. Some of the vitamins and minerals involved in healthy hair growth include iron, zinc, and vitamins A, E and B-12. Vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to hair loss. A blood test can determine if you're deficient in any of these vitamins.

A common misconception is that supplementing with creatine contributes to hair loss, but there isn't strong data to suggest this is the case.

Medications or treatments

Some medications or medical treatments can cause hair loss. For example, some chemotherapy treatments lead to hair loss for the duration of the treatment, but normal hair growth resumes when the treatment is complete.

Illness or stress

Illness or stress-related hair loss can be frustrating, but it can also often be resolved if the underlying illness or stress is treated.

Receding hairline treatments

Before beginning any receding hairline treatment, speaking to a doctor can help you rule out any treatable or reversible causes, such as hormonal issues. Your doctor may be able to help you prevent your receding hairline from getting worse, limiting the need for other treatments.

However, if you've had that visit and have ruled out underlying medical causes for your receding hairline, it may be helpful to have a conversation with Felix’s healthcare practitioners. Let's look at different hair loss treatments and what they may do.

Finasteride

Also commonly known by the brand name Propecia, finasteride has been used to treat male pattern baldness for over 20 years. It works by preventing testosterone from converting to DHT, the byproduct responsible for shrinking hair follicles which ultimately leads to hair loss.

If you choose this treatment option to prevent a further receding hairline, it's important to stick with it. You won't see results with finasteride immediately, but you should see some improvement within three to four months and the full effects in six to nine months. Finasteride is taken orally in pill form.

Many people take finasteride without experiencing side effects, but keep in mind that the following side effects are possible:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Rashes
  • Breast enlargement and tenderness

If you experience serious side effects, contact a doctor immediately. Rare and more serious side effects can include:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face
  • Lumps or pain in the chest area
  • Nipple discharge

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Rogaine, a brand name most people will recognize from their popular over-the-counter hair growth products. Unlike finasteride, minoxidil is applied topically. It comes in liquid and foam formats. While the mechanism by which minoxidil works isn't 100% clear, it appears that part of why it works is because it is a vasodilator, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to flow easily to hair follicles.

Possible side effects include:

  • Backaches
  • Changes in hair colour or texture
  • Continuous itching or skin rash
  • Dental problems
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Eye irritation
  • Muscle strain or spasms

If you experience serious side effects to the use of Minoxidil, contact a doctor immediately. Rare and more serious side effects can include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Hair loss prevention shampoo

While hair loss prevention shampoo may not be the most effective on its own, it can be a good supplement to your finasteride or minoxidil treatments. These shampoos typically work by preventing DHT from building up on your scalp, limiting its ability to further shrink hair follicles

Rethink your hairstyles

Certain styles can cause a lot of stress on your hair follicles. Constantly tugging at the root of your hair by wearing it in a tight ponytail or bun is doing your hairline no favours. If you don't want to give up on tying your hair back, just make sure to tie it loosely to limit the stress on your follicles.

Hair transplants and laser therapy

If topical and oral treatments won't suffice, there are laser and surgical receding hairline treatments you can explore as well. Laser treatments can be used to stimulate hair growth, while hair transplant procedures can take hair follicles from parts of the scalp that aren't thinning and transplant them to thinning and receding areas.

These are more costly procedures, so they typically aren't the first step in treating or preventing a receding hairline.

Managing a receding hairline

In addition to your receding hairline treatment options, there are simple daily changes you can make that might make it easier to manage a receding hairline.

Try a new style

Your hairstyle can help mask a receding hairline. If you've usually worn your hair longer, a closer crop can make the hair look thicker and draw attention away from thinning around the hairline.

Lifestyle choices

We know it's easier said than done, but if stress and anxiety contribute to your receding hairline, making time to decompress, exercise, and eat healthy foods may help prevent a receding hairline from getting worse.

Eating a colourful, varied, whole foods diet can help you increase your chances of getting all the vitamins and minerals your body requires for healthy hair growth without the need for supplementation.

If you do want to take some vitamin or mineral supplements to boost your hair growth, just be sure to mention these to your healthcare practitioner. Sometimes, even over-the-counter supplements can interact with other medications, so it's important to share this information.

Haircare

Hair strands are most delicate when they're wet, so taking extra care not to brush, tug or pull at your hair especially when it's wet can help prevent breakage of the hair you do have. Treating your hair gently, without harsh chemicals or styling tools, can help your strands stay strong.

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
June 21, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sarah Lasuta
Family Physician, MD, CCFP
Disclaimer

The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Health Guide, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.

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