You look in the mirror, only to find that your hair looks different. It’s less full, less thick, and – worst of all – slowly making its way back on your forehead.
This is known as a receding hairline, and it’s a reality (and horror!) for two-thirds of the male population (1).
In this article, I’m going to introduce you to hairline recession. What it means, the two types of recession you may notice, and its implications.
You’ll then learn how to tell whether your hairline is receding and, most importantly, what you can do to stop hair loss and regrow your hair.
Do You Really Have a Hairline That’s Receding?
A receding hairline is something which many men suffer from. It can start as young as mid-teens, and it can wreak havoc on your self-confidence and self-esteem (1).
3 Tell-Tale Signs Your Hairline is Receding
With a better understanding of hair recession, as well as what it can mean for you, here’s a few signs to look for when determining whether your hairline is slowly crawling backwards in the typical pattern.
1. Your Hairline is Uneven
One of the easiest ways to distinguish between a maturing hairline and a receding one is the manner in which the hairline recedes.
If your front line of hair has moved back uniformly, it’s likely that the hair has matured in order to match your more mature facial shape.
2. Your Temple Hair is Thinning
Now, perhaps you’ve yet to see any noticeable hair loss. In the beginning stages, it can be difficult to tell whether your hairline really is receding, or if your eyes are playing tricks.
This is when it’s time to focus in on your temples.
To begin, run your fingers through the hair on your temples. Note the texture, thickness, and overall quality. Do the same to the hair near your forehead. Notice a difference?
Additionally, as the temple hair loss continues, you’ll notice a distinct widow’s peak.
The classic “M-shape” will begin to appear. This is known as frontal baldness, and it’s a common trait in men with AGA.
You can refer to the Norwood scale (discussed below) to compare your hair with the standardized pattern of “male pattern baldness.”
3. You’re Experiencing More Fallout
It’s normal for people – both men and women – to shed anywhere from 50 – 100 strands of hair per day (2). This is due to constant cycling that the hair follicles undergo, and it’s nothing which should cause alarm.
However, you may begin to notice more hair is falling out over time. This is commonly seen on your pillow when you wake, or in the shower.
You can also take a look at your comb each day, cleaning it out and taking a visual note of the fallout which occurred.
Maturing vs. Receding: How to Tell the Difference
When it comes to a receding hairline, there are two main types: maturing and receding.
A maturing hairline is a common – and very normal – experience (3). It typically occurs from mid-teens to late-20s and is a direct result of changing facial shape.
A receding hairline, on the other hand, is a sign of the beginning stages of male-pattern baldness.
It occurs in 25 percent of men before the age of 21, though it can occur at any point in mid- to late-adulthood, too (4).
So, is there a way to tell the difference between these two recession types? Yes!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do You Have a Horseshoe Hair Loss Pattern?
The major difference between a maturing hairline and the first signs of male pattern baldness is how far back the front of the hairline has moved. While the hairline can appear to move quite drastically with a maturing hairline, the difference will be seen in the shape.
With a receding hairline, there’s a tell-tale horseshoe hair loss pattern. This means the hairs on the temple recede much more than the hairs on the forehead. It creates an M-shape, or horseshoe look.
Has Your Hair Quality Worsened?
A maturing hairline is simply that – a hairline that has assumed its adult “form.” As such, it has absolutely nothing at all to do with hair quality.
On the other hand, a thinning hair edge is typically accompanied with a change in hair quality (and not for the better).
When you have hairline recession, your hair is receding for a reason. For most, this reason is sensitivity to DHT (which I’ll cover more in-depth later) (1). As the sensitivity becomes more noticeable, your hair follicles will miniaturize and poorly impact the quality of your hair (5).
Does Your Growth Appear to Be Slowing?
Alongside thinning and loss – the tell-tale signs of balding – another indicator is speed of growth. Of course, measuring hair growth can be quite burdensome. So, how else can you tell if growth is slowing without a tape measure and endless patience?
I recommend looking at the source.
Take a close look at the area of recession. Does there appear to be a ‘smooth’ line, or are there little hairs interspersed throughout?
The smooth line (with perhaps a few stray baby hairs here are there) is common with a maturing (i.e. healthy) hairline. However, patches of little hairs alongside the hairline can indicate a receding pattern. This is because the hairs there are still trying to grow, but the follicles are in poor condition.
Does Male-Pattern Baldness Run In Your Family?
While a family history of MPB doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll suffer the same fate, it can be used to help you determine whether your recession is normal (maturing) or not (6).
Not much is known about the genetics of hair loss. However, there are a few genes which are believed to contribute to the heredity pattern (7).
So, if 1) your hair appears to be receding and 2) there’s a family history of MPB, it’s best to err on the side of caution and begin hair loss treatment immediately.
Stages of Hair Recession and Timeline
When your hair officially enters the first stage, how much time do you have until complete baldness? That will depend on many factors.
Medical professionals use the Norwood-Hamilton scale to determine the severity of recession (8):
Stage II is the official start of a receding hairline (as Stage I is considered maturing) and it can go all the way to Stage VII. At this point, only a small bit of hair would remain on the sides and back of the scalp.
Again, the timeline of progression will vary from person to person. In general, it takes a few years to go from Stage II to Stage VII.
What a Retreating Hairline Means for You
For the majority of men, a hairline recession is a sign of future hair loss to come. This is because retreating hair typically indicates male-pattern baldness.
The hairline is a line of hair follicles at the temporofrontal region of your head. This includes your forehead and temples.
For men with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), hair loss typically begins at this region first. This is because AGA is caused by sensitivity to DHT, and the hair follicles by the temples and forehead have an abundance of androgen receptors.
DHT attaches to said receptors, triggering the miniaturization and hair follicle damage which occurs as a result.
(DHT triggering your hair loss? Learn how to reduce DHT levels naturally here.)
So, if you notice your hair moving back at the temples, it’s very likely that AGA is the cause and DHT is the culprit.
Even further, more recent research has indicated that mechanical tension of the scalp may also play a role (9). After all, the traditional hair loss pattern is closely related to the areas of tension within the galea.
But what exactly does mechanical tension have to do with pattern alopecia? There is new research that shows hair follicle androgen sensitivity is regulated by Hic-5, an androgen receptor co-activator which may be activated by the mechanical stimulation (10).
Top 5 Best Haircuts for Receding Hairline
Even if you intend to treat the problem, you may be looking for a temporary solution. Here are five haircuts to hide – or complement – your receding hair.
For those men with an increasingly-noticeable widow’s peak, the undercut can help to cover the recession while still giving you a styled, young look.
The undercut is a haircut that involves keeping the back and sides of the hair short and letting the top grow out. In this way, you can then style your hair to cover the widow’s peak completely, or part it in such a way as to hide it.
The undercut is worn by many celebrities (both men and women), including Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, and David Beckham. As such, it’s a very popular cut that most barbers will be happy to do.
2. The Buzz Cut
If shaven isn’t a look you’re going for, but you’d still like to keep your hair loss as unnoticeable as possible, the buzz cut can do just that.
The buzz cut is a haircut synonymous with the military. It involves cutting the hair on a very low length setting with a pair of clippers, and it can be done professionally or at home.
The cut is worn by men of all ages, so it’s truly a style that can last you a lifetime (and one that won’t draw attention to your hair’s recession).
3. Shaved Head
If you’d rather go all the way, a shaved head can help you to achieve a purposeful look without having to spend hours each morning on styling.
For some, a shaved head can seem like giving up. However, more and more balding men are embracing the look. After all, many celebrities (such as Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) pull it off quite well!
To compensate for the new bare ‘do, you may also want to consider growing a beard. This is an excellent way to draw attention away from your scalp, while still keeping your entire look pulled together and purposeful.
4. The Silver Fox
While commonly associated with the comb over, the silver fox is a style with more flexibility (and better looks!).
Essentially, the silver fox involves keeping the hair long on top and trimming the back and sides to be a bit shorter in length. This is similar to the undercut, except the length difference between the top of the hair and sides/back should be minimal.
With the hair longer on top, it can then be parted in any way and styled to cover the widow’s peak or M-shaped recession. You can wear it straight, curly, or even wavy – all with good results.
5. The Caesar Cut
The caesar cut is a combination of the ever popular undercut and the increasingly popular silver fox.
With the caesar cut, the hair at the top is kept at usual length (with it a bit longer near the hairline). The sides and back are then tapered off in length, and the hair at the top is brought forward without a part.
This gives the classic Roman look worn by Julius Caesar himself, but also by many all-aged celebrities today.
3 Ways to Stop Your Hair Receding Any Further
There are a number of options – some natural and some not – which can stop your hair from moving any further backwards and perhaps even regrow the hair you’ve lost.
Keep in mind, though, that the sooner you start treatment, the better.
So, what options do you have?
1. Remove Allergens From Your Diet
Food allergens are commonly associated with hives, difficulty breathing, and other serious symptoms. However, did you know that allergens can also show in the form of chronic inflammation and hair loss (11)?
First, what’s an allergen?
Simply put, an allergen is a food that your body deems a threat. When consumed, your body’s autoimmune system reacts in a major way. For many, this involves the life threatening symptoms mentioned above. For others, though, these symptoms can occur internally without any obvious outward signs (such as gut inflammation) (12).
For obvious reasons, it’s recommend that you avoid all allergens – even those that cause non-life threatening symptoms because allergens can escalate. But what if you don’t know that you have an allergen?
One way to pinpoint any allergens in your diet is to do an elimination diet (13). An elimination diet involves three steps:
- Cut out all major allergens from your diet.
- Reintroduce each allergen one by one.
- Stop consuming those foods which have proven to cause issues.
Seems easy enough, right?
However, this “easy” step can be extremely beneficial for your overall health and your hair!
2. Stop Using Chemical Shampoos and Hot Water
While what you put in your body is important, so too is what you put on it. In the case of your hair, this includes your shampoos, as well as the water you use.
Shop-bought shampoos – even those that claim to fight hair loss – contain a number of additives. While these help to preserve the “freshness” of the product, they can cause harm to your hair and scalp.
Some of these additives include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and propylene glycol.
When used, they can cause irritation and inflammation, dryness and flaking, and even hair thinning and loss (14).
In addition, the water you use (i.e. hot) can cause significant harm to the hair strands and hair follicles. The use of hot water can cause dryness and itching. This leads to inflammation of the follicle, and it may also lead to scratching (which can easily dislodge hair).
Are there alternatives to such harsh shampoos? Yes!
The Hairguard line of products, for example, contains all-natural ingredients and no harsh fillers or preservatives.
3. Inhibit DHT by Alkalizing Your Body
DHT is a natural hormone within the body, and it’s produced when testosterone and 5-alpha-reductase (5AR) (an enzyme) meet (15). However, if you have male-pattern baldness, then DHT sensitivity is the cause of your hair loss.
If you’d like to minimize DHT but not block it completely, you can alkalize your diet.
The pH balance of food falls on a scale that ranges from acidic to alkaline. When foods are consumed, they’re metabolized by the body and the pH of the metabolized foods can alter the body’s pH. When you consume too many acidic foods, the body’s pH will lean acidic. Unfortunately, 5AR (the enzyme responsible for DHT’s conversion) thrives in an acidic environment (16).
Even those who are on the fence about the true effects of acidic foods agree that an alkaline diet can benefit the body in many ways (17). More specifically:
- Increased fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet would improve the K/Na ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as mitigate other chronic diseases such as hypertension and strokes.
- The resultant increase in growth hormone with an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health to memory and cognition.
- An increase in intracellular magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzyme systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet. Available magnesium, which is required to activate vitamin D, would result in numerous added benefits in the vitamin D apocrine/exocrine systems.
- Alkalinity may result in added benefit for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH.
Alkaline foods include, but are not limited to:
- Flax seeds
- Goat and almond milk
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Will this completely transform your hairline? Not likely. But it can make the environment more conducive to hair growth.
3 Ways to Regrow/Lower the Hairline Permanently
Once you’ve successfully put an end to your hair’s recession, it may still be possible to regrow your hair and lower it permanently. Here are three ways I recommend doing so.
1. Use a Dermaroller
A dermaroller is a microneedling tool that enables you to increase blood flow to the scalp. As such, it’s a great tool to use if you’d like to lower your hairline after it has receded. Here’s how it works:
The dermaroller is rolled over areas of the scalp affected by thinning and loss. A three-step healing process then takes place (18):
- Maturation (remodeling).
This process leads to an increase of collagen in the area and, as a result, proliferation of new skin cells (19).
And even more importantly, researchers believe that “microneedle stimulation can induce hair growth via activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and VEGF” (20). This pathway is known to be linked to hair follicle stem cell proliferation (21).
To use the dermaroller is simple. Using a 0.5 mm to 1 mm dermaroller, apply enough pressure to the scalp that the needles penetrate but do not cause pain. Roll in multiple directions over the area of hair loss. First do side to side, then back and forth, and finally diagonal in both directions.
While the dermaroller can be a useful tool, it’s not the only one available. Other options include the dermastamp, and the dermapen.
These devices are used similarly – they are applied to areas of the scalp where hair loss and thinning is present – though they work slightly differently from the roller. The stamp and the pen are both more effective at reaching smaller areas such as the temples and behind the ears.
2. Practice Scalp Massages and Exercises
Aside from microneedling, you can also stimulate the scalp with less-invasive methods. Let’s take a look.
Just as it sounds, scalp massage is a technique that involves gentle manipulation of the scalp by yourself or another. It most commonly involves the use of the fingertips, though some like to use their palms or specially-made devices.
To perform a scalp massage, start at the sides of the head (just above the ears). Move your fingers in gentle, circular motions. Slowly make your way to the top of the scalp, to the hairline, and finally to the back of the head.
As you’re likely focusing on frontline recession, you can take extra special care on the hairline. Apply varying levels of pressure, and work the area for 5 – 10 minutes.
The entire massage should take anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes, and I recommend doing this every day.
While massage is a great stimulator of hair growth, scalp exercises can help to stimulate blood flow (especially on the hairline). Here’s how to do them:
- Lift your eyebrows as high as they will go and hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly lower into a neutral position, and repeat 10 times.
- Furrow your eyebrows as deep as possible and hold for 10 seconds. Slowly return them to a neutral position, and repeat 10 times.
- Lift your eyebrows as high as possible and hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly furrow them as deeply as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Return to neutral position, and repeat 10 times.
The great thing about scalp exercises is they can be done anywhere and at anytime. There are no special formulas you must use, or any tools necessary.
Does Scalp Tension Explain The Pattern Of Genetic Hair Loss – Starting At The Temples?
A recent study looked at how scalp tension and hair loss were correlated (22).
Interestingly, they found that areas of higher tension, notably the front of the head, had the highest tension points and the lowest blood flow.
You can see in the diagram below:
This is why I recommend scalp massages and exercises so much, because it helps relieve the tension at the front of the scalp that causes the hair to gradually move backwards.
3. Increase Hair Growing Nutrients With Smoothies and Bone Broths
As mentioned above, your diet can greatly impact hair growth. A poor diet can easily lead to hair thinning and loss (23). But why?
Aside from the acidic nature of common foods (such as dairy, sugar, and red meats), many of the foods we eat don’t contain nearly as much nutrients as our bodies need. As a result, the “lesser” organs of the body (including the skin and hair) are the last to receive any nutrients (if there’s even any left).
This is why a varied diet is so important. Unfortunately, many find it difficult to get in all the nutrients and minerals they need. This is why I recommend you add smoothies and bone broths to your everyday diet.
Smoothies and bone broths – while full of quite different nutrients and minerals – both deliver high doses of the vitamins our bodies do need. When consumed regularly, you can then ensure your body is getting what it requires to function.
There are many variations of bone broths to choose from. However, bone broth in its simplest form is made when the bones of an animal (such as cows, pigs, chickens, and lambs) are boiled in water for an extended period of time (typically 24 hours).
The process extracts the many nutrients within the bones, including collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin (24).
A receding hairline isn’t the end of the world, but it can certainly feel like it if you’re just noticing it for the first time.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat hair recession no matter the cause. Though, I recommend you begin treatment immediately to ensure the most amount of hair regrowth possible.