3 Ways to Tell if You Have a Receding Hairline

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This article will introduce hairline recession including what it means, the two types of recession, 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 that many men suffer from. It can start as young as mid-teens, and it can wreak havoc on self-confidence and self-esteem (1).

3 Tell-Tale Signs Your Hairline is Receding

Here are a few signs to look for when determining whether your hairline is receding.

1. Your Hairline is Uneven

One of the easiest ways to distinguish between a maturing hairline and a receding one is in how the hairline recedes.

If the front line of hair has moved back uniformly, it is likely the hairline has matured. This is a natural process in young men as the facial structure matures during adolescence and young adulthood.

However, if the hairline is uneven – that is, more hair at the temples has receded than near the forehead – this is one of the earliest signs of male-pattern baldness.

2. Your Temple Hair is Thinning

In the earliest stages, it can be difficult to tell whether the hairline is receding. This is when it is time to focus on the 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. Do you notice a difference?

Additionally, as the temple hair loss continues, you will notice a distinct widow’s peak.

The classic “M-shape” will begin to appear. This is known as frontal baldness, and it is a common trait in men with pattern hair loss.

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 is normal for both men and women to shed from 50 to 100 strands of hair per day. This is due to the constant cycling that the hair follicles undergo, and it is nothing which should cause alarm.

Hair shedding from Metoprolol

However, you may 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 experience (3). It typically occurs from mid-teens to late-20s and is a direct result of changing facial shape.

A receding hairline, however, is a sign of the beginning stages of male-pattern baldness. It occurs in 25% of men before the age of 21, though it can occur at any point in mid- to late-adulthood (4).

Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are struggling to determine whether your hairline is maturing or receding.

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.

A man with a horseshoe hair loss pattern

With a receding hairline, there is a tell-tale horseshoe hair loss pattern. This means the hairs on the temple recede 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 by a change in hair quality.

When you have hairline recession, your hair is receding for a reason. For most, this reason is sensitivity to DHT (1). As the sensitivity becomes more noticeable, your hair follicles will miniaturize and negatively impact the quality of your hair (5).

Does Your Growth Appear to Be Slowing?

Alongside thinning and loss, another indicator is the speed of growth. Of course, measuring hair growth can be quite burdensome. Here is how to determine if your hair growth is slowing.

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 does not make it a sure thing, it can be used to 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 that are believed to contribute to the heredity pattern (7). So, if 1) your hair appears to be receding, and 2) there is a family history of MPB, it is best to focus on protecting against further hair loss and begin hair loss treatment immediately.

Stages of Hair Recession and Timeline

When hair officially enters the first stage, the length of time until complete baldness 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.

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 Receding 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 temporo-frontal region of the head. This includes the forehead and temples.

For men with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), hair loss typically begins here 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 miniaturization and hair follicle damage which occurs as a result. So, if you notice your hair moving back at the temples, it is 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.

There is new research that shows hair follicle androgen sensitivity is regulated by Hic-5, an androgen receptor co-activator that 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.

1. Undercut

For those men with an increasingly-noticeable widow’s peak, the undercut can help to cover the recession while still giving a styled, youthful 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 has been worn by many celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, and Cara Delevingne, and David Beckham. It is a very popular cut that most barbers will be happy to do.

2. The Buzz Cut

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.

Bryan Cranston with a buzz cut
With only slight recession at the temples, Bryan Cranston pulls off the buzz cut well. Copyright © 2012 Gage Skidmore. License.

The cut is worn by men of all ages, so it is truly a style that can last you a lifetime without drawing attention to your hair’s recession.

3. Shaved Head

A shaved head can 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 balding men are embracing the look. After all, many celebrities (such as Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) pull it off quite well!

Vin Diesel with clean shave
Vin Diesel – even in spite of his receding hairline – exudes confidence with this bold look. Copyright © 2013 Gage Skidmore. License.

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.

The silver fox involves keeping the hair long on top and trimming the back and sides to be 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.

George Clooney wearing the caesar cut
By bringing the hair forward in a natural way, George Clooney’s style draws attention away from the hairline. Copyright © 2012 Thescrutineer. License.

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. It can be worn 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 the usual length. 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 that can stop your hair from moving any further and perhaps even regrow the hair you have lost.

Keep in mind that the sooner you start treatment, the better.

1. Remove Allergens From Your Diet

Food allergens are commonly associated with hives, difficulty breathing, and other serious symptoms. However, allergens can also show in the form of chronic inflammation and hair loss (11).

An allergen is a food that the body deems a threat. When consumed, the 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 is recommended you avoid all allergens – even those that cause non-life-threatening symptoms – because allergens can escalate.

One way to pinpoint any allergens in your diet is through an elimination diet (13). An elimination diet involves three steps:

  1. Cut out all major allergens from your diet.
  2. Reintroduce each allergen one by one.
  3. Stop consuming those foods which have proven to cause issues.

This 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 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 they may 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, these additives can cause irritation and inflammation, dryness and flaking, and even hair thinning and loss (14).

In addition, the water you use can cause significant harm to the hair strands and hair follicles. The use of hot water can cause dryness and itching. This may trigger inflammation of the follicle, and it may also lead to scratching (which can easily dislodge hair).

There are alternative options.

The Hairguard line of products, for example, contains all-natural ingredients and no harsh fillers or preservatives.

3. Improve Your Diet

After removing all allergens from your diet, it is important to fill it out with healthy, nutrient-dense options. These include:

  • Leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli)
  • Fruits (apples, oranges, berries, bananas)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • Whole grains (oats, bulgur, brown rice)
  • Lean meats (chicken, fish, turkey)

These food groups contain the vast majority of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to thrive.

3 Ways to Regrow/Lower the Hairline Permanently

Once you have successfully put an end to your hair’s recession, it may still be possible to regrow your hair and lower it permanently. Several approaches at one time are recommended.

1. Use a Derma Roller

A derma roller is a microneedling tool that stimulates blood flow to the scalp. It is a great tool to lower the hairline after it has receded. Here is how it works:

The derma roller is rolled over areas of the scalp affected by thinning and loss. A three-step healing process then takes place (18):

  1. Inflammation.
  2. Proliferation.
  3. Maturation (remodeling).

This process leads to an increase of collagen in the area and, as a result, the proliferation of new skin cells (19).

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 derma roller is simple. Using a 0.5 mm to 1 mm derma roller, 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.

Using a dermaroller along the hairline
Using a derma roller along the edge of your hair can stimulate new hair growth and lower your hairline.

While the derma roller can be a useful tool, it’s not the only one available. Other options include the derma stamp and the derma pen.

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.

Scalp Massage

Just as it sounds, scalp massage is a technique involving 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.

Scalp massages improve blood flow and thereby increase the amount of nutritive substances reaching the hair follicle

As you are likely focusing on frontline recession, you can take extra special care of the hairline. Apply varying levels of pressure and work the area for five to 10 minutes.

The entire massage should take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

Scalp Exercises

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Furrow your eyebrows as deep as possible and hold for 10 seconds. Slowly return them to a neutral position, and repeat 10 times.
  3. 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:


Scalp massages and exercises help relieve the tension at the front of the scalp that causes the hair to gradually move backward.

3. Increase Hair Growing Nutrients With Smoothies and Bone Broths

Your diet can greatly impact hair growth. A poor diet can easily lead to hair thinning and loss (23).

Many of the foods we eat do not contain nearly as many 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.

This is why a varied diet is so important. Unfortunately, many find it difficult to get in all the nutrients and minerals they need.

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.

Bone Broths

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 is not the end of the world, but it can certainly feel like it if you are just noticing it for the first time.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat hair recession no matter the cause. See your doctor early and do what you can on your own. You should begin treatment immediately to ensure the most amount of hair regrowth possible.