A receding hairline can start to develop in men as they age. In many cases, hair loss, or alopecia, can be treated with surgery or medications.
Women are more likely to experience thinning hair than a receding hairline. However, it is still possible for women to have a receding hairline. Some examples include frontal fibrosing alopecia and traction alopecia.
For men, a receding hairline can start any time after the end of puberty. By the time many men reach their late 30s, they have a receding hairline. The process usually starts above the temples.
From there, the hairline moves back across the top of the head. This often leaves a ring of hair around the top of a bare scalp. Thinning hair may continue to grow on top.
A receding hairline can also begin above the temples, but hair in the middle may stay closer to the forehead. This V-shaped hair growth in front is often called a “widow’s peak”.
The sides and back of the head can eventually become bare, though many man are usually left with some hair unless they shave it all off. In women, the sides and back are typically spared, but the part widens over the top of the scalp and thins considerably.
The average person’s scalp has about 100,000 hairs that grow from follicles beneath the skin’s surface. These hairs eventually fall out, only to be replaced by new hairs. You may lose dozens of hairs every day. If hair follicles are damaged, or there is some medical reason that disturbs the growth cycle, the result can be a receding hairline.
It appears that a receding hairline is a hereditary trait, with hair follicles made too sensitive by certain male hormones. Men who have a family history of baldness are more likely to lose their hair. The timing of hair loss is often similar from one generation to the next.
Changes in hormones may also cause hair loss in women, though the role of hormones in female pattern hair loss is less clear than in male pattern hair loss. Menopause, for example, can lead to thinning hair, though the hairline doesn’t always change.
To understand the type of hair loss you’re experiencing and its cause, you should see a dermatologist. Your doctor will ask for your personal and family medical history.
One test your doctor may perform is called a “pull test”. They will gently pull on a few hairs to see how many fall out, or how easily they fall out.
A biopsy of scalp tissue or hairs may also be helpful to determine if there is a scalp infection causing hair loss. With a biopsy, your doctor removes a small amount of tissue from the affected part of the body. The tissue sample will be tested in a lab for signs of infection or disease.
You may also have a blood test to look for conditions such as thyroid disease that may be contributing to your hair loss.
If your receding hairline is simply an age-related development and not the result of an infection or other medical problem, you won’t need treatment. If a medical condition is causing the hair loss, medication may be necessary.
An immune disorder may require a drug such as prednisone to help suppress an overactive immune response.
If you want to try to slow or reverse hair loss, medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) may be helpful. This over-the-counter medication is a liquid that is rubbed into the scalp. Possible side effects include scalp irritation.
Minoxidil tends to be more effective in restoring hair growth in smaller sections of the scalp, rather than in larger areas.
Another drug, finasteride (Propecia), is a pill that may help promote hair growth. Side effects associated with finasteride include reduced sex drive and a higher risk of prostate cancer.
Surgical solutions to a receding hairline include hair restoration surgery. It involves the transplanting of small sections of scalp and hair follicles from the back of the head to areas that have ceased to grow hair. These plugs of skin may continue to grow hair healthily in their new location. Hair may continue to grow normally in the areas that supplied the plugs.
A receding hairline can be the first step toward going bald, or a slight change in your hairline that never progresses further. It can be difficult to predict how far your hairline will recede.
Sometimes looking at the hair loss pattern of a parent or sibling can give you a possible preview. Fortunately, if you want to try restoring hair growth in affected areas on your head, there are medications and procedures that have been proven effective. A conversation with your dermatologist is a good place to start.