As you get older, it's perfectly normal to see your hairline changing. This is typically associated with men and it's usually caused by pattern baldness, specifically male pattern baldness. While it's usually associated with the natural process of ageing, some people experience it as young as their mid-teens.
Just like the rest of your body, your hair matures and this often means it grows thinner and your hairline recedes. While it's a natural process, it can be upsetting and have an impact on your confidence. There's no single pattern that a receding hairline follows but there are certain characteristics to watch out for. These include:
- A hairline that's more uneven than it previously has been
- More rapid thinning at the temples than near the forehead. A receding hairline typically shows a distinct 'V' shape
- More obvious daily shedding of hair. During the normal hair cycle, it's usual to shed around 50 to 100 hairs a day. When your hairline starts to recede, the amount you lose increases. You may start to notice more hair loss in your comb, on your pillow, or in the shower
What causes a receding hairline?
Most commonly, a receding hairline is associated with male pattern baldness, otherwise known as androgenic alopecia (AA). Male pattern baldness is the main cause of hair loss in men. A receding hairline can be the first sign of male pattern baldness, but this isn't always the case.
AA occurs when the hair follicles become more sensitive to a modified form of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This causes hair follicles to shrink and weaken, producing thinner and shorter hairs. As the thicker hair falls out and is replaced by these weaker ones, your hairline starts to thin and recede. Eventually, the hair can stop growing altogether.
Other causes of hair loss
If you have a family history of baldness, you're more likely to lose your hair. The loss may even follow a similar pattern to previous generations.
Medical treatments or stress
Some medical treatments such as chemotherapy may cause hair loss. This is often temporary, with hair growing back once the treatment has finished. Medical conditions that can cause hair loss include thyroid problems and scalp infections. Often, once the condition has been treated, the hair will return.
Illness or stress
Sometimes when you're stressed or ill, it can cause an unexpected loss of hair. If stress of anxiety are affecting your everyday life, or if your hair loss is causing you distress, speak to your GP.
What can you do to help treat hair loss?
Whilst it's not usually possible to cure hair loss, depending on the cause there are treatments that may help to slow it down or encourage new hair growth. Some kinds of hair loss don't need treatment, and resolve on their own. Some are related to medical issues, which resolve once the underlying issue is treated.
If you choose to treat your hair loss, your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise which methods are most suitable for you. There are also methods of disguising hair loss, if you choose to do so.
If your hair loss is caused by male pattern baldness, finasteride (available as a private prescription and not on the NHS) may help. It is a prescription medicine intended for use by men who are 18 and over. Finasteride is a DHT blocker, a medicine designed to prevent testosterone from converting into DHT, which can help prevent further hair loss. Women should not use finasteride.
Minoxidil is a treatment that comes as a liquid or foam, to be applied topically to the scalp. It's available from pharmacies without a prescription and can be used by both men and women affected by pattern hair loss. It works by relaxing the muscle walls of the blood vessels. This results in an increased blood flow to the hair follicles. Minoxidil can also stimulate the movement of follicles from the resting phase to the anagen (growth) phase, as well as extend the growth phase of the follicle. This form of treatment can help to prevent further hair loss, as well as helping with hair regrowth.
Hair transplant surgery
This isn't an option that's suitable for everyone. You'll need a consultation with a specialist, who will decide whether you're a suitable candidate. It's not available on the NHS, and it can be expensive. A hair transplant involves surgery to take hair and parts of the scalp from thicker spots on the head and move them to areas where the hairline has receded. The transplanted areas can help to give the hairline a fuller appearance.
If you're concerned about your receding hairline, speak to your pharmacist or doctor for advice on treatment options available to you.
What else can you do?
While in many cases it can be difficult to reverse or stop hair loss, there are ways you can minimise the effect.
Adapt your hairstyle
Many people find the best haircut for their receding hairline is one that keeps the hair cut short to reduce the level of contrast between the hair and the forehead.
Styles that can work well on men with a receding hairline include a close buzz cut, a medium crew cut or a clean shave. You can disguise hair loss around your temples by keeping the hair on the sides of your head short, with a longer length on top.
Follow a healthy, varied and balanced diet
While sound nutrition alone won't stop a receding hairline, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables plays an important part in supporting your overall health which in turn, helps to maintain healthy hair.
There are certain nutrients that can help to maintain healthy hair. These are:
- Biotin – found in eggs, nuts, sweet potatoes and liver
- Zinc – found in meat, dairy foods, shellfish, eggs and cereals
- Selenium – found in Brazil nuts, fish, eggs and soy products
- Remember that pattern hair loss is a normal part of ageing
- Support your overall health by minimising everyday stress and eating a healthy, balanced and varied diet
- If you're distressed by losing your hair, visit your Doctor. They may be able to recommend treatment options, counselling or support groups