As we age, it is common to notice changes in our hairline. However, it can be difficult to tell when these changes are a natural maturation process, or when they indicate true hair loss.
This post will explain the following:
- What a mature hairline is.
- The difference with a receding hairline (male pattern baldness)
- How to tell if your hairline is receding or maturing.
- If your hairline is receding, how to halt further hair loss and perhaps even lower your hairline.
You can also watch our video on the topic:
What is a Mature Hairline?
The hairline is a line of hair follicles that outline the outermost edges of your hair. It is the line that separates your hair from your forehead. Where the hairline naturally lies will depend on genetics and other factors.
Early in life, males and females have a so-called “juvenile hairline”. This is identical in both sexes: very low in the forehead and rounded (concave).
As males enter late adolescence, the hairline will naturally recede. This process will happen for nearly all males. It is a natural part of maturing, like developing a hairy chest or a deep voice. This is what we call a maturing hairline (1).
Maturing hairlines have two characteristics. Firstly, the retreat is moderate, around 1 to 2 centimeters. Secondly, the hairline retreats more or less evenly. The temple area might recede a bit more, but the hairline still looks like a relatively straight line.
What is a Receding Hairline?
Sometimes the hairline moves very unevenly. Some parts retreat far more than others. And the area that almost always retreats more is the temple area.
This creates a characteristic M-shape pattern. Some people also call this “widow’s peak”.
The other important feature of a receding hairline is that the retreat can be substantial. Often the hairline recedes several centimeters. This leads to a noticeably larger forehead.
While a receding hairline is very common, it is not a normal maturation process. A useful analogy is reading glasses. Many, if not most people, will require reading glasses at some point. But this is not a normal maturation process. Rather it is a symptom of an underlying condition (nearsightedness).
Similarly with a receding hairline. Though very common, it is not a normal process. Rather, it is the first sign of the most common type of male hair loss: Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) (2).
Another name for AGA as male-pattern baldness. You will hear people calling it by either name.
What Causes a Receding Hairline?
The tell-tale sign of AGA is the M-shaped pattern of hair loss. As the condition worsens, the pattern will deepen. After the temples, the entire hairline will start to recede. Then the crown (or vertex) part of the head will start to thin. Eventually, the entire top of the head will often go bald.
Dermatologists use the so-called Hamilton-Norwood scale to assess the severity of AGA. A receding hairline is stage 2, the first stage of hair loss. Complete baldness is stage 6 or 7 on the scale.
Genetics and Hormones
Genetic and hormonal factors combine to affect the development and progression of the condition (3 , 4)
Twin studies have shown that heredity accounts for around 80 percent of the predisposition to baldness (5). However, the proximate cause involves androgens, the male hormones.
The role of androgens in AGA is well documented. In particular, the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is believed to play a key role in progressively shrinking the affected hair follicles. This process is called hair follicle miniaturization. Eventually the miniaturization in affected areas advances to complete baldness (6).
Scientists believe that men with AGA have an inherited sensitivity to this androgen. There are certain follicles that are more sensitive to the androgen than others. In males, these are at the temples and crown.
There are other factors that contribute to AGA. Scientists have found that there are many changes in the tissue between the hair follicles. This tissue becomes inflamed and develops microscopic scars. This process is called fibrosis (7). As the fibrosis advances, it becomes more and more difficult to regrow the lost hair.
All these processes are under genetic control to a large degree. But this does not mean that other factors are not crucial (8). Some of these other factors are the environment, lifestyle choices, nutrition, hair care routines, stress and illness.
How To Tell Whether You Suffer from Male-Pattern Baldness
We can now summarize the key points to determine if your hairline is receding or simply maturing.
- Has your hairline retreated in the late adolescent years (around 17-21 years)? If yes, then it is likely a maturing hairline. Receding hairlines can happen at this age, but they most often start later in life.
- How higher is your new hairline? If it is an inch or less, then it is likely a maturing hairline. If it has gone higher than this, there is a good chance it is receding.
- Is the new hairline a relatively even straight line? A positive answer suggests a maturing hairline. A receding hairline, on the other hand, will have a very uneven shape. It will look like an M or horseshoe. The temples will be very receded on either side, forming a distinct V shape in the middle of your frontal hairline.
- Have you noticed thinning in other areas of the scalp? These will often be in the crown area of the head. But other times the entire front part of your hair will start to thin. This is one of the strongest indicators of a receding hairline and pattern baldness. If your hairline is simply maturing, however, you should not see thinning in any part of the head.
- Does AGA run in your family? If yes, this suggests you are at a higher risk of developing baldness. A retreating hairline is then more likely to be the first sign of baldness. On the other hand, if all the men in your family have kept their hair into old age, your hairline is likely just maturing. Note this is only a supplementary consideration. The most important considerations are the shape of the new hairline and the presence of thinning in other areas.
A Consultation With Your Doctor
If you suspect that your hairline is receding, the next step is to get a doctor’s confirmation. A dermatologist can usually determine very quickly if your new hairline is the first sign of AGA. Often a quick visual examination is enough. In borderline cases, the doctor may run special tests, including a scalp biopsy (9).
How to Stop Further Recession
Once you have confirmed your hairline is receding, the next step is to treat it. Your doctor will outline your various treatment options.
The traditional treatment route includes minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).
Minoxidil is a topical solution that was originally developed as an oral hypertensive (10). However, one side effect of the drug that patients and doctors noticed was hair growth.
This side effect became so well-known that the drug was often prescribed off-label for men with pattern hair loss.
Eventually, a topical solution (Rogaine) was developed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (11). The FDA has since also approved it for use by women.
Around 50% of men will respond positively to minoxidil. For these men the hair loss will stop. They can also see some mild regrowth in thinning areas. The remaining 50% of men will be non-responders. The manufacturer of minoxidil suggests they stop treatment if they see no results after a few months.
Finasteride is an oral prescription medication for male-pattern baldness. It works by inhibiting the activities of 5AR. This is the enzyme responsible for the production of DHT (12). By blocking the action of 5AR, the levels of DHT in the body plummet.
Finasteride is usually more efficacious than minoxidil. Around 80% of men who start prescription finasteride will see their hair loss stabilize. This means that the hairline will stop receding. Areas that have started to thin will also stop thinning further.
This drug is currently only approved by the FDA for use in men. Though it is very effective in stopping hair loss, regrowth is generally weak (13).
Side effects can be a major concern for some finasteride users. They are sexual in nature, and include erectile dysfunction and loss of libido (14).
A more ‘natural’ approach to hair growth is microneedling. This technique involves a tool (either a roller, stamp, or pen) with hundreds of tiny needles that puncture the scalp.
Without causing pain or damage, the dermaroller penetrates the dermal layer of skin. This increases blood flow to the hair follicles and stimulates new cell production.
In fact, this technique has been shown to be effective even in men who failed to respond to more traditional (e.g. minoxidil and finasteride) treatments (15). When used in combination with minoxidil, it gives far superior results (16).
For detailed instructions on use, go here.
Aside from these treatments, you can also make lifestyle changes. These will be very easy to implement and cost no money. They will typically not be enough to restore your previous hair.
However, by making these simple lifestyle changes you will ensure you are not needlessly aggravating your hair loss:
- Don’t shampoo more than once every two days. Excessive shampooing upsets your scalp’s natural flora and sebum production. Instead of cleaning your head you will end up making it more oily. This can lead to problems like inflammation or dandruff and exacerbate hair loss.
- Avoid supermarket shampoos. To create a rich foam and achieve a nice color and smell, these are are packed with harsh chemicals. You will feel nice after using them, but will damage your hair long-term. The best shampoos for your hair will often be the ones that don’t make the richest foam and don’t smell the best.
- Don’t shampoo with scalding hot water. Again, this might feel comforting and good for your hair, but will only upset your scalp’s microflora and sebum production.
- Avoid unnecessary harsh treatments to your hair. These include dying, heat treatment or tight hairstyles like braids. These considerations will apply particularly to men with long hair.
- Improve your diet. Replace junk food with nutrient-dense foods like brightly colored fruits and vegetables (17).
Styling your Hair
While waiting for your treatment to give results, you can also change your hair styling. Some hair styles work well with a receding hairline, while others do not. You can see some of the most popular hair styles for a receding hairline here.
While a maturing hairline is normal, a receding hairline is not.
By understanding the difference between the two, you will be able to identify and treat your pattern hair loss early on (if your hairline is indeed receding). This will give you a significant advantage compared to men that start treatment late. In hair loss, early treatment gives the best results.
Always talk to a qualified medical professional to confirm any diagnosis. They will also be able to help you in selecting the hair loss treatment right for you.
I’m 27 and have what one friend described as a receding hairline, although I didn’t know before that that’s what it was called. Since my dad and my mum’s dad are also balding I’m guessing this is probably the start of MPB. What would you recommend at this point Will?
Hi Gabriel, it’s good you’ve caught it at an early stage. You will have a very good chance to keep all of your hair and also regain your “juvenile hairline.” The would recommend you take a look at my system – Hair Equilibrium.
Very nice article Will, thank you.
Btw, I tried to make my own elixir but the base (magnesium oil) and the essential oils didn’t mixed well, it’s separated, you know, basically it’s water and oil. My question is, do you using an emulsifier on your elixir? if so, which one is it? Polysorbate 80 or any other?
Hi Hatam, this is a good point. We have decided not to use an emulsifier, since it would add ingredients that aren’t necessarily good for the long term health of the scalp. The simple solution is to vigorously shake the mixture for 5 seconds before spraying.
Since I was 13 i had a fungal infection which caused scales everywhere on my scalp. I would scartch my scales pretty much all the time and noticed lot of hair falling out with white scaly bulbs at bottom. And was doing till 9 months ago. When I went to the university which was 11000 miles away from home. I was crazy homesick for period of 3 months. I noticed under white light that just behind my frontal hairline I had lost lot of hair. My rest of hair seemed perfectly okay. But there were very less hair in the in affected area. I immediately treated my infection and the hair loss considerably reduced to 20-30 strands a day. I stopped chain smoking and hair loss reduced even further. I have started oiling my hair and taking care of them. But they seem to remain the same. I don’t think they are detoriating but they don’t seem to get better either. My majority of day goes worrying about my hair. I don’t know if it male pattern baldness or not.
As hairline has also receded a bit on left side but not on right side. What do you suggest I should do?
Thanks for your comment.
I would recommend you check out this guide on hair regrowth: https://www.hairguard.com/scalp-secrets/
Hi, it was recently I was out with friends and my friend mentioned about me having a bad hairline, I became very self conscious of this and started to look at my hairline a lot more and discovered that my hairline was going back on both sides one more then the other. However when I look back on baby photos of myself and when I was 7 or 8 , I have the same v shaped hairline and almost identical to my hairline now. Is this something to worry about? On one side of my hair , my hair seems to be a bit higher then the other but I’ve had this since a kid. My family have no history of becoming bald.
Hey Will I’m 24 and while I’m noticing a loss of hair I’m confused whether it’s male pattern baldness or receding hairline. My mom’s dad was bald and my dad has a thin strip of hair running the middle of his head while his back and side hair is still there. Id say I’m starting to form a similar pattern as my dad but I still don’t know which type it is and I don’t want to try anything before I know for sure
I am 20 and I noticed that my hairline is receding.As my father is balding , I’m a little concerned for my hair too.I don’t wanna become bald at this age. Will it be possible for me to regain my lost hairline?
Hi Ankit, yes it is possible. But you have to start immediately.
I am 33 and started having (male-pattern baldness) receding hairline and top part have uneven thickness of hair. I have signed few packages in oily scalp and hair growth treatment.
However, I m interested in your Scalp Elixir, whether I can use it while I am having my current treatment which once a week?
Hi Ken, it depends what sort of treatment it is, but generally the more angles you can attack the problem from the better.
Hi Will , Following your articles , along with taking Minoxidil + Finateride . My hair loss has been stabilised . But is it possible to increase the no of hair follicles ? I mean not converting the folllicles from producing vellus hair to terminal hair . But producing NEW hair follicle .
Is it possible to form new hair follicles using any techniques ? Not preserving / making our existing follicles healthy , but producing new hair follicle.
Sometimes the hairs are so small that they can’t be seen, and therefore when they regrow is does appear that they are completely new hairs.
Hi Will, I am 17 years old and have afro carribean hair and have started to recede at the temples. It first started when my dad cut my hairline with an ‘m’ shape for some reason and now it hasn’t grown back strong like the rest my hair, only thin. I feel as if, if my dad hadn’t cut my hair that way then I would still have a straight hairline. My dad is bald but my hair had shown no signs of recession until he cut it. I don’t know what method to use because I’m so young and I get laughed at everyday at school for my hairline.
Hi Michael, I would thoroughly expect your hairline to regrow from the cutting, it will just take time.
Hey Will, most thorough post I’ve read, thanks for taking the time to do the proper research. I’m getting good results from a product from Hair Loss Laboratories – their shampoo & conditioner set. Could your serum be used with that? Or do you think it’s overkill. Hair loss seems like a time sensitive matter. Thanks!
Hi Will, i noticed a slight change in my hairline on one side in particular and due to my mother’s father losing his hair i feel the need to do what i can as early as i can. I just wondered for the elixir what sort of quantity of each oil is being used?
Hi Dan, if you’re referring to our Elixir then it’s best to check the ingredients list on the deails page as we update and improve the formula often. We don’t say exact quantities of each as that is part of our formula.