Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/18/2021
It’s a reality that most men have to deal with at some point in their lives — the dreaded receding hairline.
Statistically, the majority of men will experience hair loss. In fact, research shows that around 16 percent of men aged from 18 to 29 and 53 percent of men between 40 and 49 have moderate to extensive androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern hair loss.
If you end up being one of the lucky ones to live your entire life with a full head of hair, you’ve beaten the male pattern baldness odds.
For the rest of us, there will come a time when our hair starts to thin and we begin to develop a more mature hairline.
In the beginning stages, it’s easy to brush off a receding hairline as something that you’ve had forever.
"That widow’s peak was always there," we’ll think to ourselves as we refuse to believe that hair loss could happen to us.
The problem with this approach is that it’s easy to miss the signs of a receding hairline until it’s relatively late.
By recognizing that you’re balding and taking a proactive approach to stopping hair loss, you’ll have a far better chance of preventing your receding hairline from getting worse and, in some cases, restoring some of the hair that you’ve lost.
Below, we’ve explained the key differences between a “normal” hairline and a receding one, as well as five signs you may notice if you’re starting to develop a receding hairline.
We’ve also explained what you can do to treat male pattern baldness and prevent your hairline from worsening.
Before we get into specific signs of a receding hairline, it’s important to clear up some common misconceptions about how a man’s hairline should look.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a normal hairline. Hairlines come in all types of shapes and patterns, from rectangular hairlines that are almost perfectly straight to more bell shaped or round hairlines.
Similarly, some people have a relatively high hairline that shows off a lot of their forehead, while others have a lower hairline that sits closer to their eyebrows.
The fact that your hairline is relatively high or V-shaped doesn’t necessarily mean that’s starting to recede.
Instead, a receding hairline is more about the movement of your hairline. If you’re losing hair on an ongoing basis and your hairline is moving higher, it’s receding.
While a receding hairline doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll go totally bald, it’s often one of the first signs of male pattern baldness.
The Norwood scale, a seven-part scale used to determine the severity of male pattern baldness, uses a receding hairline as the defining characteristic of its first two stages.
As such, it’s important to take a receding hairline seriously if you have one. While it may not turn into full baldness, it’s best to be proactive and start treating it as if it could.
While spotting a receding hairline might seem easy, it can be difficult to notice that your hairline is starting to recede when you see yourself in the mirror every day.
Below, we’ve listed five common signs you may notice that can indicate your hairline is starting to make its way further up your forehead.
One of the easiest ways to tell if your hairline is receding or not is to look at photos of yourself from a few years ago.
While it can be difficult to spot hairline recession in the mirror, comparing a photo from several years ago to one taken recently -- or just to your reflection -- can make any differences in your hairline obvious and easy to see.
Make sure to compare photos in similar lighting conditions that clearly display your hairline, as it’s possible for things like lighting and hair styling to affect how high or low your hairline looks.
Sticking to a short haircut, like a buzz cut, can make it easier to notice changes in your hairline that occur over time.
For an even more accurate comparison, take a photo of your hairline every three to six months, then compare your photos every few years.
This is a simple step that you can do in your bathroom in a few minutes. If you notice a trend in your hairline, such as a recession near your temples or thinning hair, it’s often a signal that you’re starting to lose your hair.
You know how to manage your hair better than anyone else. You know how it parts and which direction to brush it in to make it look its best.
Over time, hair loss around your hairline can completely change the way your hair behaves. It may start to fall in a different direction or no longer provide as much coverage when styled in a certain way.
If you start to notice your hair behaving differently and no longer looking quite as good in some hairstyles, it’s often a sign that it’s thinning and receding.
Hair loss can occur at your hairline and across your scalp, resulting in everything from a higher hairline at your temples to a bald spot near your crown (the area at the top of your head).
If you’re starting to experience male pattern baldness, you may notice thinning in other areas of your scalp at the same time as your hairline recedes.
You may also notice that certain parts of your hairline look thinner than before, even if they still have some hair coverage.
This can be especially obvious if you see your hairline under bright lighting or after showering, when your hair is still wet.
You can check for this sign by looking at the corners of your hairline, your crown and the other areas of your scalp when you style your hair.
If you spot an area that looks thinner than normal, it may be an early warning sign that you’re starting to develop a receding hairline.
One of the most common signs of male pattern baldness is excessive hair shedding, which can cause hairs to accumulate on your hairbrush, pillowcase or around your house.
It’s normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day. This hair shedding occurs as a result of the natural, multi-phase growth cycle each of your hairs goes through as it grows from the follicle to its full length.
If you’ve started to notice that you’re losing more hair than normal, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing male pattern baldness.
It’s worth noting that other issues can also cause you to shed hair, such as stress, weight loss or certain types of illness. We’ve gone into more detail on these in our guide to the various causes of hair loss.
Still, when combined with one or several of the other signs in this list, shedding a lot of hair can often mean that you’re starting to lose your hair for good.
If you previously had a symmetrical hairline and notice that your hairline now looks uneven, it’s possible that male pattern baldness is the culprit.
Male pattern baldness -- the type of hair loss that causes a receding hairline -- develops when your hair follicles are damaged by a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
If you’re genetically prone to hair loss, DHT can miniaturize your hair follicles and prevent them from producing new hairs. We’ve talked about this process more in our guide to DHT and male hair loss.
It’s common for DHT to affect the hair follicles around your hairline before it affects other areas of your scalp.
Research suggests that it’s also common for male pattern baldness to cause asymmetrical hair loss, meaning you may lose hair from one side of your hairline before the other.
If you notice your hairline becoming uneven over time, take a look at old photos of yourself to see if you can spot any differences. If you can, you’ve likely caught male pattern baldness in its early stages.
While a receding hairline may seem like a death sentence for your full head of hair, treatments are available that can limit your hair loss and help to preserve your hairline.
If you’ve recently noticed your hairline receding, make sure to:
Act as quickly as possible. Male pattern baldness can worsen quickly, meaning your hairline may go from mildly receded to severely affected by hair loss over the course of just a few years. If you’re developing a receding hairline and want to stop it from worsening, make sure that you act quickly and start treating it as soon as you can.
Start using finasteride. Finasteride is a hair loss medication that works by preventing your body from creating DHT. Not only can it stop your hairline from getting worse -- in some cases, it can also promote hair regrowth. We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Apply minoxidil to your hairline. Minoxidil is a topical hair loss medication that works by stimulating growth. Used with finasteride, it can help to prevent further hair loss and, in some cases, help you to regrow hair in areas with noticeable thinning. We offer minoxidil online, either on its own or with finasteride and other products for hair loss in our Hair Power Pack.
Wash with hair loss prevention shampoo. Some shampoos, such as our Thickening Shampoo, are formulated to cut down buildup on your scalp and promote the growth of thick, healthy hair.
Maintain a healthy diet. While your diet won’t cause male pattern baldness, foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients may help to promote healthy, consistent hair growth. Our guide to the best foods for hair growth lists healthy ingredients to prioritize for a full head of hair.
Track your progress. After you start treating hair loss, make sure to take regular photos of your scalp to track your progress. You can do this using the same technique we mentioned above for tracking hair loss as it worsens. For an accurate log of your progress, make sure to take your scalp photos in consistent lighting conditions.
After you start treating your receding hairline, it’s important to be patient and focus on long-term changes.
This is because it typically takes several months for medications like finasteride and minoxidil to have a noticeable impact on your hair.
Remember that your hair needs time to grow. While most hair loss treatments start working right away, your hair needs time to grow to its normal length and thickness.
Just because your hairline is starting to recede, it doesn’t mean that you need to kiss your head of hair goodbye.
There are a number of different ways that you can hold onto the hair that you have and, in some cases, even stimulate new hair growth.
Whether you’ve only just started to lose hair around your forehead or already have a noticeable M-shape to your hairline, the steps above can have a real positive impact on your hair and stop your male pattern baldness from worsening.
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