Everything You Need to Know About Receding Hairlines

A receding hairline is typically caused by genetics and aging related to male pattern hair loss or frontal fibrosing alopecia.

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Aging, stress, and genetics are often to blame for a receding hairline – a form of hair loss where you lose hair along your entire hairline or the temples. People born male are more likely to deal with a receding hairline thanks to male pattern hair loss, which is a type of hair loss related to your genes and male sex hormones. But people born female can also experience a receding hairline, especially if they have frontal fibrosing alopecia, progressive hair loss near the forehead.

A receding hairline at any age can be tough on your self-esteem. However, depending on what causes your receding hairline, there are some ways you can fix the look of a receding hairline. If you catch hair loss in the early stages, it may also be possible to grow back your receding hairline. 

A man looking at his receding hairline in the mirror

gpointstudio / Getty Images

Receding Hairline Symptoms 

The main symptoms of a receding hairline are hair loss or thinning hair above the temples. A receding hairline can range from mild to severe — where you have no hair left on the top of your head. 

Various symptoms of a receding hairline include:

  • Slight, uneven hair loss above your temples.
  • Thinning hair above your temples.
  • A band of lighter skin above your forehead and temples where you’ve lost hair.
  • Zigzag pattern or balding patches along the hairline.
  • Complete hair loss or thin hair above temples that forms an “M” or “V” shape hairline.
  • Complete frontal baldness that moves toward the back of the scalp.
  • A red, yellow, or skin-colored rash along the hairline followed by hair loss.

What Causes a Receding Hairline? 

A receding hairline can be caused by stress, genetics, and conditions that affect the hair follicles. Certain people may also be more prone to receding hairlines because of lifestyle choices or illness. 

Male Pattern Hair Loss

People born male or female can develop a receding hairline. However, it’s more common in people with male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). White men are more likely to experience pattern hair loss, especially if their father also had it.

High dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels are another factor that leads to pattern hair loss and a receding hairline. DHT is a sex hormone derived from testosterone that can shrink hair follicles, shorten hair, and alter hair growth cycles. It is also linked to female pattern hair loss — although that form doesn’t usually cause a receding hairline.  

Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia

Females who experience female pattern hair loss don’t usually have a receding hairline. Instead, they bald from the top of the scalp from a widening part or thinning. However, black women and postmenopausal people are more likely to experience receding hairlines from frontal fibrosing alopecia. This hair loss condition causes scarring of the hair follicles, and it usually starts at the hairline before moving to the rest of the scalp. The exact cause of frontal fibrosing alopecia is unknown. However, researchers think factors like genetics, hormonal changes, inflammation, and a compromised immune system may be involved. 

Stress, Illness, and Lifestyle

Other factors that can cause a receding hairline include: 

  • Styling tools and chemicals: Too much heat from curling or straightening, as well as chemicals in coloring, perming, or relaxing treatments can damage hair.
  • Traction alopecia: Tight hairstyles like buns, ponytails, braids, and cornrows can pull out hair, damage hair follicles, and lead to permanent hair loss if not caught early.
  • Stress: Hair can start to thin or fall out in response to emotional stress, illness, surgery, or childbirth.
  • Scalp psoriasis: Plaques along the hairline can cause hair to fall out. 
  • Cancer treatments: Radiation and chemotherapy can make hair fall out.
  • Smoking: Research shows smoking cigarettes can alter the hair follicle growth cycle.
  • Diets high in saturated fats: Weight gain from this lifestyle may induce stress that accelerates hair thinning.

Receding Hairline Stages 

If you recognize a receding hairline early, a board-certified dermatologist can often help you find treatments to help regrowth or prevent future hair loss. Male pattern hair loss usually happens around 50 years old, but some people can start losing their hair in their late teens and early twenties. The various stages of a receding hairline involved in male pattern hair loss include:

  • Hairline recedes: Slight hair loss or thinning right above your temples or entire hairline. 
  • Hair loss spreads: Hair loss moves up the temples until the hairline resembles an “M,” “U,” or “V.” 
  • Balding on top of the head: Receding hairline joins balding on the top of the scalp (aka the vertex). A large strip of hair will be between the hairline and the bald spot.
  • Receding hairline and bald spot progress: More severe hair loss leaves a narrow strip of hair between the two balding areas. 
  • Hairline recession and balding meet: Receding hairline and bald spot connect into one hairless area or form thin patches of hair on top of the head. 
  • Frontal baldness: Your hairline is gone, and no hair is on top of your scalp. Only a “U” shaped strip of hair will remain around the sides of your head.

Frontal fibrosing alopecia typically affects folks two to 12 years after menopause, but the condition can affect people of any age or sex. Some research has also found black women as young as 28 have developed the condition. For folks who develop frontal fibrosing alopecia, the stages of a receding hairline can include:

  • Itchy scalp: The scalp may start to itch or feel painful before hair loss occurs. 
  • Hairline rash: You may develop red, yellow, or skin-colored bumps along the hairline. 
  • Hairline recedes: Hair loss starts along the entire hairline, in the front, or above the temples.
  • Hair loss spreads: Receding hairline moves backward, forming a zigzag or patches.
  • Frontal baldness: Hair loss extends until no hair is on the front of the head. 
  • Hair loss in other areas: Folks may also lose beard, eyebrow, arm, leg, and pubic hair.

Treatment Options & Outlook 

This loss and thinning of hair can be upsetting, no matter your age. However, some management and treatment options may help either mask hair loss or help you grow hair in those sparse, balding spots. 


Minoxidil is an FDA-approved, over-the-counter topical hair growth treatment that helps slow down hair loss. It’s most effective in people with male pattern hair loss and, in some cases, can help reverse hair loss. However, it has not been proven to help prevent frontal fibrosing alopecia from progressing, except when combined with other medications. 

Minoxidil works best when used early on small areas of hair loss. A large clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2002 found 5% topical minoxidil was especially effective for hair regrowth. A more recent 2021 review found 2% and 5% minoxidil treatments work similarly. While not FDA-approved for treating hair loss, oral minoxidil is also being studied and may treat hair loss better than topical options.


This oral medication helps promote hair growth by blocking dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels. Increased DHT is thought to prevent hair growth related to pattern hair loss in males and females.

Finasteride is also prescribed to help people with frontal fibrosing alopecia prevent future hair loss. A 2015 Chinese study found combining 1 milligram of finasteride with 5% topical minoxidil is an effective way to help improve hair regrowth. However, some people may experience decreased libido and sexual dysfunction from oral finasteride. 

Finasteride is also combined with minoxidil for topical hair loss treatments. A small study of 50 men in India found combining topical .1% finasteride with 5% minoxidil also helped improve hair density. 

PRP therapy 

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy involves injecting a person’s platelets from their blood into the scalp. The idea is that this injection helps regulate hair follicle growth and improve hair density.

A small 2020 study of 69 men with male pattern hair loss found people who had PRP therapy increased their hair follicle cells and improved hair growth. The study also found that those who received a combination of PRP and minoxidil had the best results, compared to those who just had PRP or minoxidil.


Corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation regulated to frontal fibrosing alopecia hair loss along the hairline. In some cases, this may help hair grow and mitigate damage to the hair follicles. Typically a healthcare provider will inject corticosteroid medication directly into your scalp. Other people may be prescribed a topical corticosteroid.

Low-level Light Therapy

Laser therapy, or low-level light therapy (LLLT), involves using lasers to help stimulate cell growth in the hair follicles and move hair follicles into the phase where hair is pushed out. This treatment may be helpful for people with hereditary hair loss, those who’ve had a hair transplant, or those who have hair loss after chemotherapy.

Clinical trials have shown LLLT helped stimulate hair growth in women and men with pattern hair loss. Research on treating frontal fibrosing alopecia with LLLT is limited. Still, a review of two studies with 24 participants found it could help reduce inflammation that could help hair regrowth.

Hair Transplant

Also known as hair plugs, a hair transplant surgically moves hair follicles from the back or side of your head to any bald areas. This surgery can help improve receding hairlines related to male pattern hair loss. After surgery, the transplanted hair usually falls out and begins regrowing.  

Hair Supplements and Vitamins

Hair growth vitamins may help you regrow your hairline if hair loss is related to stress or nutritional deficiencies. Limited research shows that ingredients like zinc can help improve hair loss in folks with zinc deficiencies. However, vitamins won’t help folks with genetic-related hair loss or permanent hair follicle damage. 

Hair Growth Serums

If the hair follicles aren’t permanently damaged, applying serums that contain hair growth-promoting essential oils and herbal remedies may help hair growth. In a 2015 study that compared folks with hair loss using rosemary oil and 2% minoxidil, both groups significantly increased hair count after six months.

The botanical extract saw palmetto might also help hair regrowth thanks to its antiandrogenic properties, which in theory, may lower DHT levels that cause pattern hair loss. However, serums with these ingredients aren’t proven treatments for receding hairlines, and results will likely be limited. 

Changing Your Hairstyle

While not an actual treatment, opting for a hairstyle that camouflages your receding hairline can make it less noticeable. Your barber or hairstylist can help you find a style that works for you. Some popular styles that can help cover your temples or give the illusion of more hair include deep side parts, fohawks, and slicked-back undercuts. 

Ditching Tight Hairstyles and Chemical Treatments

If tight braids or a ponytail pull your hair along your hairline, give your hair a break with more relaxed styles. This can give your hairline a chance to grow back if your hair loss is at the beginning stages of traction alopecia. Avoiding heat from styling tools and chemical treatments like coloring, perming, or relaxing can also help reverse any damaged hair along your hairline.

A Quick Review 

A receding hairline is typically caused by genetics and aging related to male pattern hair loss or frontal fibrosing alopecia. Stress and hormonal changes can also cause hair loss. Hairstyles that damage and pull out hair could be avoided with changing hairstyles to help prevent a receding hairline.

Frontal fibrosing alopecia and male pattern hair loss are not preventable or curable. However, catching a receding hairline early and seeing a board-certified dermatologist improves your chances of preventing future hair loss and potentially regrowing hair. Treating a receding hairline often involves a combination of minoxidil, finasteride, light therapy, PRP therapy, and hair implant surgery. Some people may also find changing their hairstyles, or embracing a bald look, is their preferred way to manage their hairline. 

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