What causes a receding hairline and how can you reverse it?

While the majority of hair loss or male pattern baldness is caused by genetics, there are a number of other factors that can contribute to hair thinning.

Written by
Melissa Gerke
Medically reviewed by
Dr Matthew Vickers
Last updated
June 2, 2022
12
min read
19
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What causes hair thinning, and why do some men lose hair in their 20s while others maintain it well into their 60s?

Hair loss is a natural part of ageing, but that knowledge doesn't necessarily make losing your hair any easier. As hair starts to recede, so can your self-esteem and confidence, which is completely understandable.

More than 50 per cent of men aged over 50 have experienced hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, is the most common type of hair loss and can start in the teens years, following a predictable backward march over the scalp.

In most cases, hair first starts to recede from the temples. Then, the crown of the head will often start to thin, until eventually, the top of the head is completely bald.

Women with androgenetic alopecia, also called female pattern baldness, won't necessarily follow this pattern. Their hair tends to start thinning over their whole head evenly but rarely becomes bald.

If this sounds doom and gloom to you, don’t fret! Thanks to science, the magic of medication and the personalised approach to hair growth at Pilot, there are ways to identify the causes of a receding hairline and tackle the issue head-on.

Recognising a receding hairline

If a substantial amount of hair is starting to fall out while in the shower or when combing your hair, it could be a sign of alopecia.

Other signs include your forehead appearing slightly bigger at the temples or the fact you can wrap the elastic around your ponytail or man bun more times than usual. You might also notice that your head is more susceptible to sunburn where hair once covered the scalp.

If you find yourself feeling more conscious of your hair, which could include trying ways to cover thinning areas, you may want to consider looking at ways to restore hair growth.

Types of receding hairline

What causes a receding hairline?

Both men and women can experience hair loss for different reasons and these include:

Genetics

Genetics plays a large part when it comes to hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia is hereditary hair loss and if you have a family history of this, there is a chance you may have inherited these genes.

Despite popular belief, it isn’t all down to the mother’s genes, with genes on both your mother’s and father’s sides involved.

So, the state of your maternal grandfather’s hair isn’t always a good indication of what you may experience.

Age

As we age, our hair begins to grow slower and the new strands become thinner. A strand of hair often has a life of two to seven years before it falls out and is replaced with a new strand.

In some cases, these strands aren’t replaced, causing the hair to naturally thin all over. If men begin to experience alopecia later in life, the age-related thinning can also make the pattern a little more obvious.

Lifestyle factors

A number of lifestyle factors influence hair loss, including the use of anabolic steroids, which increases the levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in your system.

DHT is known to damage and shrinks hair follicles, while also causing inflammation to these areas and can eventually lead to hair loss. Those who are predisposed may experience this more rapidly than those who aren’t.

Another habit to watch out for is smoking. Smoking tobacco has been shown to damage hair follicles while increasing your risk of hair loss and accelerating the speed of thinning hair.

Your food and diet could also play a part in your hair loss with poor diet resulting in nutritional deficiencies also affecting your hair. In particular, iron deficiency is a known cause of hair loss.

Hormones

As mentioned above, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the hormone that can contribute to balding. It’s a byproduct of testosterone and is why it’s commonly believed that balding men have higher levels of testosterone, but this isn’t the case.

While DHT can shrink the hair follicles, it also has the ability to shorten the hair cycle and cause the hair to grow out far thinner than before.

This hormone is responsible for increasing the time it takes for your new hair to grow, creating a cycle of hair loss that is excavated in those with preexisting thinning and hair loss issues caused by genetics.

Interestingly, the hair follicles located at the back and side of the head aren’t usually sensitive to the hormone, which is often why it isn’t as common for the hair to fall out in these areas.

Medication

Some medications can also be responsible for a lack of hair growth or outright hair loss, including steroids, hormone replacement therapy and thyroid medication.

Those receiving chemotherapy treatment will also commonly experience hair loss, which includes their eyebrows and hair across the body.

Stress

Severe stress can contribute to hair loss in a few different ways.

Firstly, it may cause the irresistible urge to pull hair out of your body as means to deal with stress, anxiety and negative thoughts or feelings. This is a common condition called trichotillomania and it’s classified under Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

Stress also has the ability to affect the hair follicles and push them into a resting phase that stops hair growth altogether.

These affected hairs can begin falling out within a few months, which is often experienced when washing or combing your hair.

The third and final most common cause of stress-related hair loss is alopecia areata, which is when the immune system begins to attack the hair follicles in response to the severe stress and as such, causes hair loss.

Treating a receding hairline

While hair loss might sound like a daunting task to treat, there are ways to improve it and even reverse it.

The experience of hair regrowth won’t be the same for everyone, as it all depends on the cause of your personal hair loss and its stage.

So in order to receive personalised information for your hair loss experience, it’s best to consult medical advice before embarking on a hair loss treatment.

There are a number of ways to treat a receding hairline and these include:

Over-the-counter hair loss treatment

Many chemists carry a hair loss treatment in the form of a foam or liquid solution and this is often the first port of call for those wanting to improve their hair loss. This treatment encourages new hair growth simply by rubbing the product over the scalp twice a day.

While this has been deemed a safe and effective treatment in increasing hair growth, it does need to be used continually to make a difference and stopping use will often cause the hair loss to start again a few months after.

Hair loss treatment medication

Another option is an oral tablet that is available via prescription and is taken daily to help improve hair growth.

This is often prescribed to men experiencing androgenic alopecia as it reduces the levels of DHT in the body, which in turn, helps slow hair loss and actively encourages hair growth.

Personalised prescription treatments

While the above treatments may prove successful for some people, they can follow a one-size-fits-all approach. But hair loss is influenced by many different factors and as such, can’t be treated the same way in every case.

That’s why Pilot offers personalised hair loss treatments that are created for you by leading Australian specialists.

Pilot uses a two-pronged strategy that includes an oral medication that works by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. The second treatment is a topical solution that is applied straight to your head. Over 80 per cent of men who use this treatment keep their hair.

In order to make this process easier, you also have unlimited text-based consultations with the Pilot doctor so you can discuss your treatment at any time, making sure it’s as personalised to you as possible.

Start your consult today to speak with an Australian doctor online about your treatment options.

Hair loss surgery

Hair transplants are considered cosmetic surgery in Australia and have improved remarkably in the last few years.

This procedure provides a natural-looking outcome as hair follicles are removed from the back of your head (where the follicles are often strong and plentiful) and implanted to the areas experiencing hair loss, which is usually the crown, top and front of the head.

Once the follicles have been transplanted to their new section on your scalp, they will begin to grow in the once-thinning region.

This is, by far, the most permanent solution to hair loss (as there isn’t much future upkeep required) but it isn’t completely infallible, with follicles having the ability to be damaged and cause hair loss even after being implanted.

It’s also worth noting that some hair transplants cost upwards of AUD $20,000. This procedure is often conducted over two full days of follicle implantations and requires follow-up appointments in the first year.

normal hair loss
It's normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day. If you're noticing hair loss at an increased rate, it could be worth exploring your treatment options.

How to cover up hair loss

Wearing a hat or styling your hair to cover balding areas are two ways to subtly disguise hair loss, but there are other non-medical steps you can take to cover or deal with thinning hair, if that's your thing.

While hair loss is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s totally understandable to want to take steps to mask it.

In some cases, people find it easier to completely shave their heads as a method of dealing with hair loss. Well-known figures like The Rock and Bruce Willis rock bald heads, and whether or not their decision was influenced by hair loss, we can all agree that they both look super cool sans hair.

how to style a receding hairline
The buzzcut is back.

If keeping your hair is the game, then you might also want to consider scalp micropigmentation (SMP), which helps to create the illusion of hair.

Micropigmentation is a cosmetic tattooing procedure that provides the look of stubble on the head. It involves tattooing on layers of tiny dots in different shades of black to make it look like hundreds of hair follicles across the head.

While this doesn’t help with hair growth, it does create the illusion of a hairline and when the rest of the head is shaved, can create uniformity across the scalp.

If none of these options takes your interest, you can always consider using a toupee. These partial wigs are used to cover balding spots on the head and in some cases, can look quite realistic.

While toupee wigs get a bad rap in popular culture, well-made wigs can make quite a difference to your overall appearance.

Unfortunately, toupees can come with a high price tag. There’s also the chance that it can move or fall off your head, which can cause an understandable loss of confidence.

Here's our guide to the best hairstyles for a receding hairline.

receding hairline hairstyles
These men are making it work. So can you.

Can a receding hairline grow back?

While a receding hairline won’t grow back by itself, there are steps you can take to encourage growth.

Most cases of hair loss are actually treatable and in some cases, can be reversed with the correct medication.

Pilot’s combination of oral and topical medication has an 83 per cent success rate in retaining hair as well as a 66 per cent success rate in regrowing it.

If the hair loss is being caused by external factors like stress, drugs or chemotherapy, the hair should grow back once the period of stress or treatment has stopped.

Can a receding hairline be temporary?

Generally speaking, hair loss caused by lifestyle factors like stress and medical treatments can be reversed in some cases without having to do much but manage the stress and stop the treatment.

While you can wait to see whether the hair loss is temporary, it’s best to start as early as you can with hair loss treatment. Seeking out personalised hair growth treatment is the best way forward if you want to reverse hair thinning or a receding hairline.

How do you stop a receding hairline?

There is much debate about whether eating a vitamin-rich diet and leading a healthy lifestyle can slow down and stop a receding hairline, but it no doubt plays a role in your overall health and stress levels.

Deficiencies in nutrients like vitamin A, C, D and E as well as zinc, iron and biotin have been shown to slow hair growth and cause hair loss.

Correcting these deficiencies may help with hair growth, so it’s worthwhile taking your lifestyle choices into consideration when treating hair loss. Giving up smoking and managing your stress levels can also help slow down a receding hairline.

Otherwise, your best bet is to seek medical intervention to stop hair loss. With over 80 per cent of men keeping their hair after using the custom treatment created by Pilot, it’s worth putting your hair journey into the hands of experts.

What is male pattern hair loss? How does it progress?

Male pattern hair loss, which is also called androgenic alopecia, is the most common form of hair loss in men.

While hair loss might feel like an isolating experience, it’s extremely common with more than 50 per cent of men experiencing thinning, balding or a receding hairline by the age of 50. The majority of those who experience male pattern hair loss will be as a result of their genes.

Hair loss can often creep up on you as the process starts off slowly. In fact, most cases of hair thinning are only noticeable after 50 per cent or more of hair from your scalp is gone.

Male pattern hair loss, or androgenic alopecia, usually starts with gradual hair loss from the temples. This can cause an M-shaped hairline to form, similar to that of a widow’s peak before the thinning hair is noticeable at the top or crown of the head.

If nothing is done at this point to correct the hair loss, you will probably start to notice bald spots begin to form.

As more hair loss occurs from the temples and the crown of the head, it can cause these two areas to meet. If the hair loss continues, it can eventually leave the top and crown bald.

receding hairline stages
The stages of a receding hairline.

What is female pattern hair loss?

Androgenetic alopecia hair loss follows a different pattern in men and women. In women, the hair thins uniformly all over the head, but very rarely results in baldness. The condition is genetic, so tight hairstyles, curling irons or hot oil hair treatments aren’t to blame for slowing down hair growth.

With approximately 49 per cent of women affected by hair loss over the course of their lives, this is also a very real problem for the female population.

The immune disease alopecia areata can also affect women. Bald spots can appear on the scalp and body hair can also fall out.

Any sudden hair loss, excessive hair loss or circular bald patches on the scalp need to be medically reviewed, especially before considering hair transplant surgery as it may be signs of thyroid disease.

Following a healthy diet and reducing stress are great ways to help combat hair loss, but women can also access over-the-counter topical treatments to slow the thinning of the hair while also promoting hair growth.

Pilot's hair loss treatments are safe and effective, and have helped thousands of Aussie men find new confidence. Start your online consult today.

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