Receding Hairline: How To Treat Your Concern
Whether a person’s hair loss is a natural occurrence due to genetics and aging or is caused by a medical issue like alopecia areata, hormonal imbalances, or other disorders, a receding hairline can be devastating for both men and women. Luckily, receding hairlines, along with other types of hair loss can be treated effectively with a variety of products and medications, or with surgical procedures.
Published: January 27, 2021
Last updated: February 18, 2022
Content Reviewed by AEDIT Medical Advisory Board
If you are seeking hair loss treatments for a receding hairline, it’s important to visit a reputable physician for a medical evaluation as soon as you notice signs of hair loss. Since many issues can be responsible for receding hairline symptoms, an evaluation will help you and your medical professional to determine which options will best treat your particular condition.
With a professional evaluation and proper treatment, it’s possible to reverse your receding hairline and avoid the embarrassment of male-pattern or female baldness. Learn more about hair loss, including the causes of a receding hairline, and the most popular cosmetic procedures and treatments for hair loss to help you regain your hairline and enjoy a fuller, thicker head of hair.
While patterned hair loss is the most common cause of hair loss in men and women after puberty, a receding hairline can still be a very frustrating occurrence for anyone that experiences it. This is especially true for men: according to the American Hair Loss Association, approximately 85% of men will experience significant thinning of the hair by the time they reach the age of 50. While receding hairlines are generally more associated with men, women are also frequent victims of excessive or abnormal hair loss and represent 40% of all hair loss sufferers in the United States.
Hair loss has many causes and can begin to fall out due to aging, stress, allergic reactions, disease, drug-induced, and many more reasons. Hair loss can either be temporary or permanent and knowing for sure whether the hair will eventually grow back can be quite difficult or even impossible for medical professionals to determine.
Receding hairlines can also be symptoms of certain types of cancers, infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, eating disorders, mental health issues, thyroid disorders, medications, and the use of anabolic steroids. For those experiencing any type of hair loss, it is extremely important to seek a consultation with a doctor as soon as symptoms are noticed. Alopecia and other types of hair loss can quite often be treated with non-invasive procedures or medicines, especially if detected early and treated promptly.
Alopecia Areata and Receding Hairlines
In medical terms, partial or total hair loss of the scalp or on the body is referred to as alopecia. There are many types of alopecia, including alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease which is characterized by hair falling out in round, circular bald patches on the scalp or all over the body. Alopecia areata and other types of alopecia are often responsible for receding hairlines in men and women of any age, and symptoms can often appear in early childhood.
Receding Hairlines in Men and Male-Pattern Baldness
Androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in men. Studies have shown that the cause of receding hairlines in men’s hair is associated with the presence of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen and male sex hormone. Genetics is usually the cause of male-pattern baldness and receding hairlines in men, and those with close family members that have suffered from the same symptoms will usually have a higher risk of developing symptoms themselves. Sometimes, however, baldness can occur for other reasons—especially when the hair loss is not typical of common male-pattern baldness, or when hair loss is accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, itching, peeling skin, or skin rashes on the scalp. Mental health disorders like anxiety or depression, emotional stress, anorexia nervosa or bulimia, and many other conditions are also believed to cause hair loss in men.
Typical male pattern baldness usually starts as light hair loss that begins to fall from the front corners of the forehead, or the temples, and in a single bald spot on the crown of the head. Others can experience heavy hair loss at the temples that cause a v-shape in the form of a widow’s peak. Male-pattern baldness and receding hairlines can sometimes signal the beginning stages of going completely bald. This can happen quickly or take years to occur after the beginning symptoms of a receding hairline start to show.
Receding Hairlines in Women
While women are more likely to experience lighter hair thinning all over the scalp rather than in heavy, concentrated areas, patches, or bald spots, alopecia areata does affect women, and many develop receding hairlines. Frontal fibrosing alopecia and traction alopecia are just two conditions that cause male-pattern baldness-type hair loss on the front and the sides of the scalp, but that are diagnosed mainly in women rather than men.
The most common cause of hair loss in female patients, however, is the same as in men. Androgenetic alopecia appears in women as female-pattern baldness, which is typified as an all-over thinning of the hair regularly covering the entire scalp. This condition usually affects women after menopause, though it can appear at any time after the patient has gone through puberty. While it is far less likely that androgenetic alopecia will result in a receding hairline in women, it does happen occasionally and affects the frontal hairline as well as the entire scalp.
Other reasons for receding hairlines in women are numerous and include pregnancy and other hormonal changes, menopause, thyroid problems, anemia, anorexia nervosa and bulimia, ovarian tumors, adrenal gland tumors, and thyroid problems. Stress is another cause of hair loss, as well as trichotillomania—an obsessive-compulsive mental disorder where the patient rips his or her scalp or body hair out.
In many women, harsh chemical processing treatments like straightening or hair coloring can cause temporary or permanent hair loss. Rough pulling of the hair during grooming or overheating the hair follicles with hairstyling tools can also result in significant hair loss and a receding hairline.
Receding Hairlines in Children and Teenagers
There is a multitude of reasons why children and teenagers might experience hair loss at a young age, including illness, stress, emotional or mental disorders, and poor nutrition. One relatively rare cause is pediatric alopecia areata, which affects up to one in 1,000 children. Androgenetic alopecia, which is either caused by genetics or triggered by hormonal changes, is another cause of a receding hairline that affects teenagers, usually males.
Telogen effluvium is another condition that can affect the hair growth cycle in young people, which can be brought on by extreme stress, excess vitamin A, complications after surgery or general anesthesia, medications, and injuries. In contrast to some other hair loss conditions, telogen effluvium tends to resolve itself and hair resumes its natural and normal growth cycle in most cases, usually after a period of six to twelve months.
Signs and Symptoms of a Receding Hairline
Men usually begin to see signs of hair loss and male-pattern baldness in their late 30s. However, this can happen at any time and any stage in life for both men and women. For men, hair loss typically starts to thin just above the temples of the forehead, and the hairline across the forehead beings to recede. Many men find themselves forming a widow’s peak or an M-shaped hairline as the middle area recedes at the temples. The hairline can continue to recede at the temples, the middle of the forehead, the sides, and at the back of the head in a bald spot. In many cases, the hair can eventually recede enough to reach a point where the scalp is mostly bald or completely bald.
In women, thinning hair usually happens uniformly throughout the entire area of the scalp. When the hairline recedes, however, the thinning can begin at the temples and spread over the top of the head, pushing the hairline across the forehead further back. It can be hard to tell or to notice whether the hair is thinning or not, especially when the rate of the loss is slow. Sometimes, friends and family will make a comment that will alert a patient to the reality of his or her hair loss. At other times, patients notice their hair falling out at a faster rate than usual while washing, brushing, or combing your hair, or on the pillow after waking up in the morning. If you are experiencing signs of hair loss and it’s worrying you, seek the medical advice of a board-certified physician experienced in treating patients with alopecia and other hair loss conditions. Your healthcare provider will perform a blood test to determine the cause or condition causing a receding hairline. He or she can reveal the stage of your hair loss, if applicable, according to the Norwood Scale—a set of images that categorizes hair loss into stages. The scale starts from stage one, the most minimal phase of male-pattern hair loss, to stage seven, the most severe.
The Norwood Scale is sometimes used to categorize women’s alopecia if it applies to the pattern of the hair loss, but usually, the Sinclair or Ludwig scales are used instead.
How to Fix, Stop, and Treat Receding Hairlines
There are many medications and procedures designed to treat receding hairlines. The right treatment for your hair loss, however, will depend on the type of hair loss you are experiencing and more importantly, the cause of the hair loss itself. For example, hair loss caused by the overuse of heat tools like hair curlers or straighteners, allergies to chemical treatments, or aggressive hair pulling can usually be reversed by stopping the actions that are causing the damage.
There are many reasons for losing hair or developing a receding hairline, and treatment for hair loss will always begin with an analysis to diagnose the cause. Treating the underlying issues of the hair loss symptoms is imperative to start the treatment process, to stop hair loss from progressing further and to prevent future hair loss as much as possible.
It’s also important to address hair loss in its earliest stages, or as early as possible. Medications and topical treatments are most effective when hair loss symptoms are minimal and aren’t likely to result in visible improvement or new hair growth on areas that are already completely bald. In general, most medications for hair loss are proven to combat hair miniaturization, not baldness--which is why early treatment is critical to the process. For hair that is already bald or balding, hair transplant surgeries are usually the best option for restoring hair growth.
When hair loss occurs because of a medical condition, your doctor will decide on the best treatment options for you based on your diagnosis. Hormone changes that cause hair thinning, for example, will require hormone balancing therapies that will help to restore hormone levels and consequently, to reverse signs of hair loss. Similarly, autoimmune disorders will require a series of treatments to treat the underlying illness and the hair loss symptoms associated with it.
For alopecia conditions that result in receding hairlines, options range from minimally-invasive treatments to surgical procedures. To find out which one will work the best for you and your receding hairline, consult with a board-certified physician or cosmetic plastic surgeon. Here are some of the most common surgical and non-surgical hair restoration treatments available in the United States.
Strip Harvesting: Strip harvesting utilizes the follicular unit transplantation (FUT) method to restore hair in receding hairlines. During the process, the strip of hair that is harvested from the back of the head is divided into individual follicles which are then transplanted to the front of the scalp.
FUE: Another method used to implant hair is follicular unit extraction, known as FUE. This method removes individual hair follicles (versus an entire strip of hair in the FUT method) and implants them into the thinning sections of the patient’s scalp.
Neograft: Neograft is a semi-automated hair transplant system that works in conjunction with the FUE method to harvest hair follicles for transplantation. Neograft is known to improve the effectiveness, accuracy, and speed of the hair transplantation process when compared to manual extractions.
ARTAS®: The ARTAS® system is a completely automated hair transplant system designed for precise and effective treatments of individual hair follicle transplantation. The system uses a robotic arm in a minimally-invasive procedure that is FDA-approved for men with straight, dark hair.
Forehead Reduction: Also known as hairline lowering or scalp advancement, forehead reduction adjusts the location of the hairline by moving the hair follicles where hair grows lower down on the forehead. This procedure is also commonly performed in facial feminization surgeries for trans-women.
Finasteride: Finasteride, also known by its brand name Propecia, is an FDA-approved treatment for male-pattern hair loss and receding hairlines. Finasteride is proven to increase the thickness and rate of growth of the hair, although it is not generally known for increasing hair follicle counts or new hair. The medication comes in 1mg pills taken daily, and results are usually seen after three months.
Dutasteride: Dutasteride works as an antiandrogen and 5α-reductase inhibitor used to treat male-pattern baldness in men, and as hormone therapy for transgender women. In women, it is also used to treat excessive hair growth. As a hair restoration medication for reducing hair miniaturization in men with androgenetic alopecia, a daily dose of 2.5 mg. daily has been shown to offer better results than the finasteride.
Tofacitinib: Tofacitinib, also known as Xeljanz®, is sometimes used as an off-label treatment for both male and female-pattern hair loss, including receding hairlines—despite not being FDA-approved. Tofacitinib is FDA-approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and is currently being tested for FDA-approval as a restorative hair treatment, and side effects and possible complications of this drug are currently unknown.
Minoxidil: Minoxidil is more commonly known by its brand-name Rogaine®. Rogaine® is one of the most popular treatments for hair loss in both men and women and is available as an over-the-counter product in various presentations and strengths. Rogaine® primarily works to thicken hair follicles, with a slight or possible increase in hair count.
PRP: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a process that involves the collection of the patient’s blood, spinning it down into a high-platelet concentrate of plasma, which is then injected back into the candidate’s scalp. PRP therapy has been shown to significantly enhance hair growth and to increase hair counts when used alongside hair transplant surgery.
PRP + Nanofat Injections: Nanofat is quite effective in restoring hair growth in both men and women suffering from hair loss. In this procedure, the purified fat is combined with PRP and injected into the scalp, which enhances the hair follicles and results in healthier, stronger, thicker, and additional hair growth.
PRP + Acell Injections: ACell matrix is a porcine-derived powder used in regenerative medicine. In hair restoration treatment, ACell matrix is combined with PRP and injected into the scalp to combat hair loss. This therapy is useful for repairing damaged hair follicles in thinning hair and can stimulate new hair growth.
Hairstyles for Receding Hairlines
While treatments for alopecia can often be very successful in reversing early stages of hair loss, receding hairlines are sometimes incurable. Hair loss can be a devastating and humiliating experience for both men, women, teenagers, and children. If your hair loss is irreversible or taking a long time to grow back, it’s a good idea to learn to live with it as comfortably and confidently as possible.
Receding hairlines can be disguised with haircuts or hairstyles that cover the hairline in strategic ways. Certain styles can be used to draw attention to fuller areas while making the thinning or balding areas less noticeable. For men, embracing baldness with a buzzcut (also known as a “shaved head” or “military cut”) has long been a very popular way to deal with receding hairlines and male hair loss.
In contrast to the buzz cut, some men prefer to grow their hair even longer at the first signs of hair loss. A longer cut can nicely camouflage bald spots over the sides of the head, the temples, the spot over the crown, and anywhere else the hair is beginning to thin out.
For women with long hair, covering up thinning or bald spots can be much easier than it is for men. For receding hairlines, women can cut long bangs to cover up a receding hairline above the forehead or consider long, side-swept bangs to comb over thinning areas around the temples.
Women can also hide bald spots in the back of the head, like on the crown, with a high ponytail gathered right over the thinning area. Another option is to use hair concealing powders and sprays to color the scalp the same color as the hair. This helps to hide any bald spots or thinning areas by making them less conspicuous.
Alopecia areata and other hair loss conditions or symptoms can happen to anyone and can appear at any age. The good news is that receding hairlines are more treatable than ever before, with a growing number of cosmetic procedures and medical treatments proven to effectively restore hair loss, improve hair thickness, and encourage follicle growth.
If you’ve been suffering from recent or long-term hair loss, consult with a board-certified physician or a cosmetic plastic surgeon as soon as you see signs of a receding hairline. Early intervention is important, and a quick diagnosis followed by a dedicated treatment plan can facilitate a faster and more successful hair regrowth process.
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