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    Why do I have a receding hairline?

    On this page
    1. Why hair loss happens
    2. Causes of a receding hairline
    3. Male pattern baldness
    4. Alopecia
    5. Is a receding hairline caused by age?
    6. Symptoms/stages of a receding hairline
    7. How is a receding hairline diagnosed?
    8. Myths about receding hairlines
    9. How to deal with a receding hair line
    10. Hairstyles for a receding hairline
    11. Treatments for a receding hairline
    12. Prescription treatments
    13. Over-the-counter lotions and shampoos
    14. Hair transplants
    15. Wigs and hair pieces

    A receding hairline or partial baldness can seem especially distressing in this hair-obsessed world. However, hair loss is a common condition, and is usually a natural part of growing older. This article looks at the cause of receding hairlines, how hair growth works, and effective treatment options.

    Why hair loss happens

    To understand hair loss, it’s first important to understand that head hair is different to hair found on the rest of your body. There are between two and five hairs for each pore on your head which grow from clusters of hair follicles. Each cluster has a ‘primary’ hair and ‘secondary’ hairs.

    These hairs grow for two to six weeks at a time (the anagen phase), then transition to a period of rest for five to six weeks (the telogen phase). Once follicles move back to the anagen phase, the ‘resting’ hair is pushed out, resulting in hair loss.

    Whilst this process is entirely ‘normal’, it becomes slightly altered for those with hair loss:

    • Hair follicles shrink and stop producing secondary hairs, leading to thinner hair
    • The telogen phase increases, leading to greater shedding of hair
    • The anagen growth phase becomes shorter, limiting the opportunity for regrowth.

    Once the primary hair is lost, a bald patch starts to appear.

    Causes of a receding hairline

    So now we know the process that can cause hair loss, it’s worth looking at what might trigger this process, as there a variety of different types of hair loss.

    Male pattern baldness

    Male pattern baldness is the most common form of hair loss. The term ‘pattern’ comes from the pattern hair loss tends to follow, starting from one of three distinct areas of the scalp: the temples, crown, or mid-frontal area.

    The hair loss happens when the hair follicles start converting testosterone into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This disrupts the natural hair growth cycle, causing the hair follicles to shrink. 

    This type of hair loss is usually down the genetics. 


    Alopecia is a more general term for hair loss. Alopecia areata is a specific type of hair loss, that tends to cause patchy hair thinning or hair loss. It can lead to well defined bald patches across the scalp.

    Alopecia is thought to be an autoimmune condition. Certain cells from the immune system start gathering around hair follicles, attacking them and disrupting the natural cycle of hair growth. 

    Is a receding hairline caused by age?

    In the case of male pattern baldness, you could say that age is a factor in a receding hair loss. For lots of men, male pattern baldness is a natural part of ageing. With the condition affecting around half of all men by the age of 50.

    But that doesn’t stop it affecting younger men too. Find out more about hair loss in young people here

    Symptoms/stages of a receding hairline

    In the case of a receding hairline, hair loss tends to start in the temples and move backwards, forming an ‘M’ shape. The spread is usually even, seeming to move from hair follicle to hair follicle, so you aren’t left with isolated tufts.

    How is a receding hairline diagnosed?

    The Noorwood Scale demonstrates the progression of each of these three patterns of hair loss. For more information, see our doctors’ article on male pattern baldness.

    Myths about receding hairlines

    Just to clear up a few myths, cutting your hair will not encourage it to grow any quicker, massaging your head to increase circulation won’t affect hair growth, and excessive amounts of sex will not lead to hair loss.

    How to deal with a receding hair line

    Outside of treatment, there are few things you can do to stop a receding hairline.

    Changing your lifestyle will not work if male pattern baldness is the cause of your hair loss. Whilst some men experience temporary hair loss due to stress, illness, certain medications, and dietary deficiencies, the most common cause of receding hairlines is embedded in your genetic make-up and can’t be ‘cured’.

    Hairstyles for a receding hairline

    If you’re conscious of your receding hairline, there are a variety of different hairstyles you can try. From mop tops to crew cuts and growing facial hair, there’s lots of styles that can make the most of the hair you have. 

    It’s also a good idea to avoid things like tight top knots or braids, as this might end up weakening and pulling on the hair roots. 

    Find out more about hairstyles for hair loss here

    Treatments for a receding hairline

    Prescription treatments

    Prescription treatments like Propecia and its generic form Finasteride can help reduce hair loss. Finasteride has the same active ingredient as Propecia. Up to 90% of men who use it seen an improvement, whilst two-thirds benefit from renewed hair growth. However, since there is no cure for hair loss, any positive results will only last for as long as treatment is taken. These treatments are only suitable for men. 

    Over-the-counter lotions and shampoos

    Treatments like Regaine (minoxidil), are also available and have been shown to be effective in treating male pattern hair loss. They tend to come in a lotion or foam. You can also get Regaine for women, so this is an option if you're experiencing female pattern hair loss

    You can get minoxidil for men from our online service, or we also offer other over the counter treatments, including minoxidil, DHT blocking shampoo and biotin vitamins

    Hair transplants

    While they’re not for everyone, hair transplants can also be effective in treating hair loss. Following this procedure, hairs resistant to hair loss (usually found at the back of the head) are relocated to bald patches. This can be a very effective counterweight to hair loss, although success rates can vary dramatically.

    Wigs and hair pieces

    For those looking for a less invasive alternative, a flourishing industry of hair pieces and wigs exists. Better still, embrace hair loss as a natural part of the ageing process and save yourself a lot of effort!


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