3 Ways to Tell if You Have a Receding Hairline

  • Medically reviewed by: Debra Rose Wilson, PhD MSN RN IBCLC AHN-BC CHT
  • Written by: William Slator
  • Last updated: 18/01/2024

A hairline that moves higher is often the first sign of male baldness. In such instances, it signals that more hair loss will soon follow. Other times, however, it is just a sign of  maturation, and nothing to be concerned about.  This article will explain:

  • the difference between a maturing and receding hairline
  • 3 easy ways to tell if if your hairline is receding
  • the best hair styles for a receding hairline
  • how to treat and even reverse a receding hairline

Maturing vs. Receding Hairline: The Difference

In early life, boys have a so-called “juvenile forehead”. As a rule this is very low, rounded (concave), and identical to girls’ hairline. The exact shape will differ from one boy to the next.

Regardless of its exact shape, from mid-teens onwards, this hairline retreats. When it comes to the retreating hairline, there are two main types: maturing and receding.

A maturing hairline is an experience common to almost all boys (1).  It is a direct result of physiological maturation, changes to the facial structures and hormones (such as DHT). The hairline is raised slightly. It also loses its rounded or concave shape by becoming a bit more recessed in the area of the temples.

Very few men keep their juvenile foreheads for their entire life. President Ronald Reagan is a famous example. His hairline never quite matured, and he maintained a relatively juvenile forehead into his 90s.

A receding hairline, however, is different from a normal maturing hairline. It is a sign of the beginning stages of male-pattern baldness.

The hairline will continue to recede. Hair in areas behind the hairline might also start to thin. The end result will be pronounced baldness. Around 25% of men before the age of 21 will experience a receding hairline. This rises to over 80% of men by the age of 80 (2).

3 Tell-Tale Signs Your Hairline is Receding

Here are three important signs to look for when determining whether your hairline is receding or maturing.

  1. Your Hairline Recedes Unevenly and Substantially

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 relatively uniformly,  the hairline has likely matured. As discussed, this is a natural process in young men.

However, if the hairline is very uneven, then it is likely a receding hairline. In this case, there is a tell-tale “horseshoe” or “M-shape pattern” to the new hairline. The hairs on the temple recede far more than the hairs on the forehead. This is one of the earliest and most characteristic signs of male-pattern baldness.


A man with a horseshoe hair loss pattern


Another difference is how far the hairline recedes. The hallmark of a maturing hairline is that the retreat is minimal. A maturing hairline will typically rise by around 1-2cm or less compared to its juvenile version. If you see that your hairline has retreated more than this, it could be a sign of a receding hairline.

  1. Your Hair is Thinning

Aside from the hairline itself, there are other clues to look for. One of the most important is thinning hair.

In pattern baldness, the hairline retreats but hair also starts to thin in other areas. Typically this thinning will start in the temple area. For some men, it can also start in the crown. Lastly, some men will experience thinning all over the top part of their heads.

Thinning hair can be more difficult to spot than a receding hairline. Often, men notice an area of their scalp has thinned after 50-60% or more of the hair has been lost.

Run your fingers through the hair on your head. Note the texture, thickness, and overall quality. Do the same to the hair at the sides of your head. Do you notice a difference? Can you see the underlying scalp in some areas but not others?

If you see signs of thinning, it can also be useful to look at past photographs of yourself. Photos taken years apart can easily highlight gradual changes that otherwise go unnoticed.

Another related sign is the presence of small hairs beyond the hairline. If you see quite a few smaller, isolated hairs in front of your hairline,  this is a potential sign of a receding hairline. If the hairline is simply maturing, there will be almost no smaller hairs in front of the hairline.

  1. Male Pattern Baldness Runs in Your Family

Baldness often runs in the family (2). If you have many bald relatives, you are more likely to go bald yourself. On the other hand, if there is no baldness in your family, your hairline is likely just maturing.

Note these are just statistical tendencies (3). You may keep your hair even if all the men in your family are bald.  On the other hand, you can lose your hair even if nobody else in your family is bald.

As discussed, the best evidence for a receding vs maturing hairline lies 1) in the shape of the hairline and 2) the presence of thinning in other areas. Baldness in your family is only a supplementary cue. But you should also consider it if you are still unsure after evaluating 1) and 2).

Visiting a Doctor

A specialist doctor (dermatologist) will easily be able to confirm if your hairline is receding or maturing. Typically, the dermatologist will be able to do this simply by looking at your hair (4).

Often they will also look at a portion of your scalp under magnification. This is done with special visual equipment and computer software.

If they are still unsure, your doctor can take a biopsy of your scalp (5). Under local anesthesia, they will remove a very small piece of scalp, dissect and analyze it. This is the “gold standard” method of diagnosing male pattern baldness.

However, in most cases a biopsy will not be necessary. Simply by looking at your hair with the naked eye and possibly also a microscope, your doctor will be able to tell you if your hairline is maturing or receding.

Stages of Hair Recession and Timeline

As we saw, the first step is to establish if your hairline is truly receding. If the answer is yes, the next step is to understand the progression of male pattern baldness.

The speed and ultimate extent of the baldness varies from person to person. This is because it depends on many factors unique to everyone. However, the pattern  is ultimately the same in most men. This is what allows a doctor to tell if you are balding simply by looking at your head.

Medical professionals use the Norwood-Hamilton scale to determine the severity of recession (6):

Stage 1 is considered maturing. Stage II is the official start of a receding hairline. This can go all the way to Stage VII. At this point, a man only has hair on the sides and back of the head.

In general, it takes a few decades to go from Stage II to Stage VII.

Top 5 Best Haircuts for Receding Hairline

The choice of haircut can make a big difference to the aesthetics of a receding hairline. Here are five haircuts to hide – or complement – your receding hair.

1. Undercut

For men with an increasingly noticeable widow’s peak, the undercut can help to cover the recession. At the same time, it gives a styled, youthful look.

This haircut 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.

The undercut has been worn by many celebrities. These include Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake 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 synonymous with the military. It involves cutting the hair on a very low length setting with a pair of clippers. You can do this at a professional barber 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. It is 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. 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 bare scalp, you can consider growing a beard. This is an excellent way to draw attention away from your scalp. At the same time you will keep 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. This is similar to the undercut. The difference is that 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.

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  undercut and the  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.

The 2 Easy Ways to Stop Your Hair Receding Any Further

We saw that a large part of a receding hairline follows a genetic predisposition. However, many men aggravate this genetic predisposition with poor lifestyle choices.

Here are the two easiest ways to stop any unnecessary further damage to your hair. These are easy to start applying today and cost next to nothing.

In the next section we will see how you can start to actively treat and even reverse a receding hairline.

1. Stop Using Chemical Shampoos and Hot/Hard 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.

Supermarket shampoos – even those that claim to fight hair loss – contain several additives. On the one hand, they may help to preserve the “freshness” of the product. The downside is 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.

These additives can cause irritation and inflammation, dryness and flaking, and even hair loss (7).

There are alternative options. The Hairguard Caffeine Shampoo, for example, contains nothing but proven natural ingredients.

In addition, the water you use can harm the hair strands and hair follicles. 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).

Hard water can also damage your hair. This is water that has a high concentration of calcium and magnesium. Most tap water in the UK and large areas of the USA is hard water.

2. Improve Your Diet

A hallmark of pattern hair loss is low-level, chronic inflammation (8). Without realizing it, many of the foods we eat also contribute to this inflammation. Especially if we are allergic to some foods (allergens), this can cause a process called allergic inflammation (9).

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

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

After removing all allergens from your diet, replace them 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 many of the 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. You will get better results by combining several approaches simultaneously.

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:

You roll the derma roller over areas of the scalp affected by thinning and loss. A three-step healing process then takes place (10):

  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 (11).

Microneedling has been shown to stimulate hair growth in men with male pattern baldness. Once weekly sessions are sufficient to see results. Regrowth is comparable to what you would get from using a powerful systemic medication like finasteride (12).

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. Finally, diagonally 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 similar – users apply them to areas of the scalp with hair loss or thinning  – 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. Use a topical stimulant

The best way to use a dermaroller is in combination with a topical stimulant. This is a liquid formulation that you will apply directly to your hairline. The stimulant will kickstart the growth cycle of the hair follicles. This will result in more actively growing hairs and better coverage.

The most widely used topical stimulant is minoxidil. Combining this over-the-counter medication with weekly dermarolling sessions results in 3 to 4 times as much regrowth (13).

While minoxidil is relatively safe, it is not completely free of side effects (14). The most common of these are topical reactions like redness and skin irritation. Some users will also suffer headaches. In rare cases, minoxidil can cause an irregular heartbeat or other cardiac side effects.

Thankfully, there are a number of topical stimulants that are non-pharmaceutical. As a result, they have few to no side effects.

One such product is Hairguard’s Biogaine. It combines non-pharmaceutical ingredients that stimulate hair growth synergistically. Because it is non-pharmaceutical, side effects are minimal. Combining microneedling with a formulation like Biogaine with provide far more potent regrowth.

3. Practice Scalp Massages and Exercises

Aside from microneedling, you can also stimulate the scalp with less invasive methods.

Scalp Massage

Scalp massage is a technique involving gentle manipulation of the scalp by yourself or another. You can do this with your fingertips, palms, or specialized 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. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Furrow your eyebrows as deep as possible and hold for 10 seconds. Slowly return them to a neutral position. 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.

You can do scalp exercises anywhere and at anytime. No special premises or tools are necessary.

Why Are Scalp Massages Effective? The Role of Scalp Tension.

Scalp massages and scalp exercises work in a mechanical way. They relieve the tension in the scalp. There are many indications that high scalp tension plays a key role in male pattern hair loss (15). For example, a recent study looked at how scalp tension and hair loss were correlated (16).

The researcher found that areas of higher tension, notably the front of the head, had the highest tension:


Scalp massages and exercises help relieve the tension at the front of the scalp. This can stop the hairline recession in its tracks (17).


Noticing a receding hairline for the first time can be an unsettling experience. Yet this is the very first step to eventually treating it. In this sense, you can be grateful you spotted it when you did.  A doctor will easily be able to confirm hairline recession.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to treat a receding hairline. First are simple lifestyle changes to what you put on your scalp. These are easy to apply and cost nothing.  You can then combine various treatments to restore the hairline. The sooner you start treatment for male pattern hair loss, the better results you will get.

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