Your hair is a part of your personal expression, and in some cases, it can point to your overall health. A receding hairline is often the first sign of hair loss, but for some, being able to tell the difference between your normal hairline and receding hair can be a challenge. Read on to learn more about identifying receding hairlines and what can be done about them.
A Normal Hairline
What constitutes a “normal” hairline can vary from person to person. For example, not everyone has a widow’s peak. For the average adult man, a normal hairline forms a U-shape that begins between six and eight centimeters above the eyebrows. For the average adult woman, a normal hairline is an upside-down U-shape that begins a little lower, about five to six centimeters above the eyebrows.1
A Mature Hairline in Men
Following puberty, men will usually experience a slight receding in their hairlines. This occurs between the age of 17 and 29, and while it seems like the beginnings of hair loss, it’s actually your hairline adjusting to your adult body. This is known as a mature hairline, the evolution of the juvenile hairline that you started your life with.
Mature hairlines are caused by DHT, the same hormone that contributes to androgenic alopecia, but medical experts do not consider a mature hairline as a type of hair loss. For most men, a mature hairline occurs subtly over the course of a decade, and during and after that period, hair continues to grow as it normally would.2
A maturing hairline will sit about 1.7 cm above the highest wrinkle on your forehead. The corners of your hairline and the hair at your temples can also recede about 1 to 1.5 inches above your highest forehead wrinkle as your hairline matures.2
A Receding Hairline in Men
Receding hairlines can vary in appearance from person to person and between genders. For men, the hairline can begin receding as soon as after puberty, and most men will have receding hairlines by the time they reach their late 30s. The process usually starts just above the temples as the hairline gradually moves up and back across the top of the head. This usually leaves a bare crown at the top of the scalp with a ring of hair around the sides and back of the head, though some men may still have some sparse, thin hair growing at the top of their heads.3
Alternately, a receding hairline can appear in a V-shaped hair growth with hair at the center of the head staying closer to the forehead while hair at the temples recedes. This is one of the other forms of pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia.3
With either form of receding hairline, the hair at the back and sides of the head can eventually grow thin or completely bare. However, many men will shave their heads before that happens.3
Normal vs Receding Hairlines in Women
While hair loss is more common in men, women can still be susceptible. Studies suggest that less than 45 percent of women go through their lives with a full head of hair.4 Hair loss in women typically occurs after menopause. As their bodies stop producing estrogen and progesterone, women may experience greater effects from dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT induced hair loss in women often presents itself as a widening of the part and thinning at the crown while hair at the sides and back stay intact. This is called female pattern hair loss and occurs in a “Christmas tree” distribution.
Receding hairlines in women are more often a result of frontal fibrosing alopecia (an inflammatory condition affecting hair follicles) and traction alopecia (a gradual form of hair loss caused by frequently pulling the hair into tight hairstyles).3
Balding, A Receding Hairline, or Thinning Hair
A receding hairline, hair thinning, and complete hair loss are all related and intertwined, but you can experience one without ever dealing with the others. Furthermore, not all forms of hair loss start with a receding hair line or thinning hair, nor does receding or thinning hair necessarily predict hair loss. As mentioned, a mature hairline is natural for nearly all men but will not lead to complete hair loss.
However, a receding hair line is the most common precursor to androgenic alopecia in men, while in women hair loss occurs in the above “Christmas tree” distribution.
The Role of Genetics in Hair Loss
Although experts understand that genetics and family history can play a role in hair loss in both men and women, science is still unsure about the exact connection. The gene may be inherited from either parent or intergenerationally. This means that if baldness runs in your family, you may have a higher chance of experiencing hair loss. However, even if both your parents experience some form of hair loss, there is no guarantee that you will also experience hair loss. Androgenic alopecia, better known as male or female pattern baldness, may have a genetic component, but hormonal imbalances involving androgens play a more definitive role in its development.
The Role of Androgens
Androgens are male sex hormones that are involved in the development and health of both men and women. DHT is a powerful androgen that is the primary contributor to male and female pattern baldness. About 10 percent of testosterone is converted into DHT, which attaches to the same receptors as testosterone but for longer periods of time. High levels of DHT can cause hair follicles to shrink, effectively reducing hair’s active growth phase while increasing the resting phase.5
In women, menopause results in the reduced production of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. This causes a hormonal imbalance that allows the normally small amounts of naturally produced male hormones, including testosterone and DHT, to play a more significant role in the body. This state of excess androgen hormones is called post-menopausal hyperandrogenism. Excess DHT levels in women can result in hair loss where the hair parts.
In men, DHT’s role becomes more significant, particularly as testosterone levels begin to drop, allowing DHT to overpower testosterone. Excess levels of DHT can result in a receding hairline, as well as an enlarged prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, and an increased risk of prostate cancer. In older men, the increased DHT levels can contribute to an enlarged prostate, a receding hairline, and male pattern baldness.
How to Stop Hair Loss | 9 Home Remedies
If you experience baldness, you can potentially take steps to stop or reduce the hair loss. Part of that starts with identifying what is actually causing that hair loss. Not all forms of hair loss are caused by androgenic alopecia.
1. Get Rid of Tight Hairstyles
As mentioned, traction alopecia is another form of hair loss that is caused by hair that is frequently pulled back tightly into a ponytail, braids, or dreadlocks or from wearing tight headwear, including helmets or hats. Constant strain on your scalp can lead to pulling out strands of hair or even damaging hair follicles, resulting in a receding hairline, patches of thin hair, and a widening part.6
2. Treat Fungal Infections
Certain fungal infections can also contribute to hair loss. Tinea capitis, the name for a ringworm infection affecting the skin and hair follicles, can lead to scaling, rash, and pustules on the scalp, potentially resulting in hair loss. Thankfully, the roots of the hair follicles are left intact, and fungal infections can be treated with shampoos containing antifungal ingredients like ketoconazole.7
3. Manage Autoimmune Conditions
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that is characterized by hair loss in the scalp, face, and sometimes other parts of the body. This condition occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles, damaging them in the process. Unlike androgenic alopecia, alopecia areata usually occurs suddenly with hair falling out in patches. It is not preceded by thinning hair or a receding hairline. Alopecia areata is usually treated with injected or topical corticosteroids.8 Vitamin D deficiency is common in those with autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata. Therefore, those with alopecia areata should take a Vitamin D supplement.
4. Lower Stress
Telogen effluvium is a temporary form of hair loss that is caused by severe chronic stress or a sudden shock or trauma. Telogen effluvium is characterized by an increase in the amount of hair that you shed throughout your scalp, not just at the hairline. Thankfully, telogen effluvium is temporary and hair can return to normal growth once the root cause has been addressed.9
5. Manage Thyroid Issues
Both hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) can potentially contribute to hair loss. Disruptions in hormone production can interfere with hair development in the follicles, resulting in dry, brittle hair or thinning hair on the scalp and throughout the body.10
6. Adopt a Balanced Diet
While vitamin A plays an essential role in your health, excess levels of vitamin A are known to contribute to hair loss. Consider refraining from taking vitamin A supplements or identifying potentially rich sources of vitamin A and removing them from your diet.11
7. Women Should Look into Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that is characterized by irregular menstrual periods and high male hormone levels in women. The ovaries may develop small pockets of fluid known as follicles and fail to release eggs. The increased androgen levels can result in severe acne, weight gain, and hair problems that may present as hair loss or hirsutism (excess growth of body and facial hair).12
8. Double Check Medication
Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can contribute to hair loss, including:
- Birth control
- Blood thinners
- Blood pressure medication
- Heart disease medication
- Medicine for arthritis
- Depression medication
If you experience hair loss due to medication use, raise your concerns with your doctor to fine tune and adjust your medications.
9. Balance Androgens
If your thinning, receding hair is in an area that is commonly affected by androgenetic alopecia, like your hairline or the top of your head, using DHT blocker supplements, hair growth serums, shampoos, and conditioners may also help stop hair loss caused by DHT and support growth in the scalp.