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Maturing hairline vs receding hairline: How to tell the difference

It can be difficult to tell whether your hairline is maturing or if it's receding.

Written by
Jacqui Zyl
Medically reviewed by
Dr Matthew Vickers
Last updated
May 17, 2024
6
9
min read
13
citations
Maturing hairline vs receding hairline: How to tell the difference
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During the early stages of hair loss, it can often be difficult to tell whether your hairline is maturing or whether it's the start of recession linked to male pattern baldness. So how can you tell the difference?

Seeing the words "maturing" and "hairline" together is enough to put any man on edge. It provokes thoughts about receding hairlines, thinning hair, or worse — going bald.

Statistically, balding affects about 1 in 5 Aussie men in their 20s, about 1 in 3 in their 30s and nearly half of men in their 40s [1].

But before you press the panic button, let's take a step back and examine what might be the cause of your changing hairline.

What is a mature hairline?

Maturing is considered a good thing when it comes to cheese, wine and emotions. But when it's your hairline, it doesn't always feel so good.

Firstly, let's explain what a hairline is. It's the line of hair follicles on your forehead that outline the outermost edges of your hair. And there are different types of hairlines, which you may have paid attention to as a growing lad [2].

Remember, for example, that kid at school with a V-shaped hairline? Or perhaps you noticed a male teacher with a really high hairline?

Every person's hairline is different and distinctive. Its shape and location on a person's scalp depend on many factors such as genetics, age, hormones and lifestyle factors [2].

When we're in our early teens, we typically have a full head of hair and what's called a 'juvenile hairline' or a 'young hairline.' This hairline is distinguished by a relatively low, straight-across appearance and rounded corners.

Between the ages of 17 and 30, however, our hairline matures, meaning it moves up about 1 inch from where it used to be.

It's a completely normal occurrence for most men as they age, and it isn't necessarily a sign of receding linked to male pattern baldness (a.k.a androgenetic alopecia) [3].

Characteristics of maturing hairlines

Hairlines mature at different times and at different paces. And just like weight gain, the change can be so gradual that most men don't even notice it happening.

Here are some features of a mature hairline that are different to male pattern baldness:

  • The hairline moves back fairly evenly, which is why the change can go unnoticed for a long time.
  • The hairline usually moves up no higher than an inch above the highest wrinkle on your forehead.
  • The hairline remains defined, even if the shape starts to change. It's common for the hair at the temples to recede a bit further, creating a subtle V-shape (widow's peak) at the front.
  • There is no other hair thinning or loss around the scalp.
maturing hairline vs receding hairline
How to tell if your hairline is maturing or receding.

Is your hairline maturing?

If you're unsure whether your hairline is maturing, this 3-step test can help.

1. Inspect your hairline

Observe how far it has receded and whether the shape has changed.

To determine where your juvenile hairline once sat, raise your eyebrows to reveal your forehead wrinkles. The highest crease is where your juvenile hairline was.

Your mature hairline will be up to one inch above the top wrinkle line. If your new hairline also resembles the shape of your juvenile hairline, you most likely have a mature hairline.

2. Evaluate your widow's peak

If your mature hairline has formed a subtle V-shape, but the hairline remains defined and has mostly even edges, you likely have a mature hairline.

If you spot more of an M-shaped hairline, then you're looking at a widow's peak.

3. Use the Norwood Scale to check your stage of recession

The Norwood Scale (sometimes called the Norwood-Hamilton scale) is the leading classification system used by doctors to measure the extent of male pattern baldness [4].

It shows 7 stages of hair loss, each with an easy-to-reference image.

Stage I indicates no hair loss, stage II indicates a maturing hairline, and stages III-VII indicate a more significant recession, leading to balding.

receding hairline stages
The stages of a receding hairline.

Mature hairline vs receding hairline

By definition, a maturing hairline is a receding hairline, but the difference lies in where the recession stops as well as a few other factors.

Here are some ways to tell a receding hairline from a maturing hairline:

You have extra recession at the temples

Beyond the subtle V-shape that can form with a maturing hairline, a man with a receding hairline will have additional recession at the temples, creating more of an M-shape.

At this point, your hair will resemble stage III on the Norwood scale.

The recession is happening quite fast

In general, receding hairlines happen much faster than mature hairlines and is therefore more noticeable.

Your hairline is more than an inch above your juvenile hairline

Once your hair starts to recede past this point, it's most likely you're receding.

You notice excessive hair shedding

While it's normal to lose 50-100 hairs per day, a receding hairline will have you losing more than that on a regular basis [5].

You may start to notice more hair on your pillow or more hair loss in the shower when you wash your hair.

Having said that, excessive hair shedding can be caused by other things such as stress or a medical condition, so it's worth checking with a Pilot practitioner if you're concerned. You can also read more about the many causes of hair loss in Pilot's Hair Loss Guide.

You have small, fine hair beyond your hairline

Having some small hairs in front of your hairline is normal, but lots of small, fine hairs could indicate miniaturisation of the hair follicles — a hallmark of the recession that is associated with balding [6].

Maturing hairline vs balding

Balding is the stage of hair loss after receding. In 95% of cases, it's due to male pattern baldness [7].

In addition to the signs of recession discussed above, indicators that you could be saying goodbye to your strands for good include:

Having thinning hair on the crown of your head as well as at the temples

According to the Norwood Scale, the typical pattern of male pattern baldness involves a deepening M-shape at the temples, met by a thinning area of hair on the crown of the head.

Once the two receding areas meet, a man will be left with a U-shaped ring of hair around the back and sides of the head. On the Norwood Scale, this hair pattern resembles stages IV and upwards.

Having a family history of baldness

Since male pattern baldness is a genetic condition, having baldness in the family, on either your mother's or father's side, puts you at risk [8].

If it's clear that your hair is receding but you don't want to kiss your entire head of hair goodbye, there are effective hair loss treatments available to help you keep (and in some cases restore) your luscious mane.

What does it mean to have a maturing hairline at 20

For blokes, a maturing hairline can start any time after the end of puberty, which is typically around the age of 18.

While this might be distressing for many, the truth is that only about 5% of caucasian men reach their 30s with the same hairline they had as a young boy.

So, a maturing hairline at 20 is just a normal part of ageing and nothing to be concerned about.

If, however, there are signs of recession and it's starting to knock your confidence, there are ways you can address male pattern hair loss and help stop it in its tracks.

Dealing with a mature hairline

Discovering your maturing hairline and not knowing if it's going to progress further can be an emotionally challenging experience.

A survey conducted by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery indicated that men between the ages of 21 and 40 if given a choice, would rather have more hair than more money or friends [9]. So yeah, keeping your hair is top priority!

If your maturing hairline is making you uncomfortable, a simple change of hairstyle may be all that's needed.

If it's recession, lifestyle changes or hair loss medication might be your best bet.

Hairstyles for a maturing hairline

It's all about making the most of what you have. These hairstyles are well known to provide the disguise you're after or help you embrace your maturing hairline.

The buzz cut

This helps make the thin areas less noticeable. The most basic of the buzz cuts is known as the 'induction cut', named after the hairstyle given to new army recruits.

While you can do this haircut yourself using the lowest clipper grade, it's usually best to get it done by a professional. Read our guide to shaving your hair here.

Grow your hair to a medium length and brush it back

Known as a 'flow hairstyle', this one's all about embracing your maturing hairline. Bradley Cooper and Mathew McConaughey rock this look well.

Grow your hair longer and with messy bangs in the front

This rugged style will help draw the eye down and hide your natural hairline. If you're not into long bangs, opt for a 'French crop' cut.

It's a classic short men's hairstyle with a cropped fringe at the front. Think Tom Shelby from Peaky Blinders.

Get an angular fringe haircut

This will help cover up a portion of your mature hairline until you become more accustomed to it.

Make a deep part and comb hair to the side

Better known as the 'Ivy League' haircut, this is a classic style that many men with a maturing hairline embrace. It's one of Zac Efron's go-to hairstyles.

Shave your head

You might opt for this if your recession is quite advanced. It'll help your hairline blend in with your scalp. Think Vin Diesel.

how to shave your own head
The buzzcut is back.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

While genetics and hormones are mostly at play when it comes to receding hairlines, lifestyle can also play a part. Some areas you should pay attention to include:

Weight

Carrying extra weight is not only bad for your overall health, but it's also been linked to greater hair loss in men who are already predisposed to male pattern baldness [10].

So, it might be time to make some lifestyle adjustments, cut back on the beers and get moving more.

Diet

Nutritional deficiencies leading to hair loss are rare in the developed world, but if anything, it's worth talking about protein, zinc and iron [11].

If you're found to be deficient in any of these due to diet or medical reasons, you're more likely to experience hair loss.

Vegans and vegetarians may be especially at risk. If that's you, it's worth talking to your doctor about how to increase your intake of these nutrients.

Exercise

Physical activity paired with balanced nutrition keeps your body healthy, and your hair is a reflection of your health.

Exercise also boosts blood flow, which some studies have linked to improved hair growth [12].

Stress

Chronic stress, such as ongoing work and financial stress, as well as traumatic stress such as illness, or death of a loved one, can cause hair loss [13].

While this form of hair loss is usually temporary, getting your stress under control is essential. Yoga and meditation are a few great ways to reduce stress and calm your mind.

Sleep

Lack of sleep isn't directly linked to hair loss, but sleep deprivation is a source of stress, and stress can cause hair loss. So, aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Consider medication

If your maturing hairline is more of a receding hairline, we've got you covered.

Modern medicines, like those in Pilot's hair loss plans, are easily available, affordable, and effective in helping men like you keep and regrow your hair.

If you take action soon, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to reverse any of the damage that genetics, nature, and time have already done to your hair.

Start your hair consult today to see the difference.

Image credit: Getty Images

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