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The 7 receding hairline stages explained

Is your hairline maturing or is it male pattern baldness?

Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
Medically reviewed by
Dr Matthew Vickers
Last updated
October 16, 2023
min read
The 7 receding hairline stages explained
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Because hair loss is gradual, it can be difficult to tell whether your hairline is merely maturing, or if there are underlying symptoms of male pattern baldness hiding in your hairline. These are the 7 stages of a receding hairline.

We won’t beat around the bush here. Hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, receding hairlines, maturing hairlines, and thinning hair, affect most men across the globe.

In fact, around 70 percent of men will lose hair as they age – sometimes in their teens, just after puberty.

Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss among men. The clue to the way it happens is in its name: it follows a particular pattern, usually starting with a receding hairline.

After that, there are different receding hairline stages that may or may not lead to total baldness over time.

If you’re experiencing hair loss such as male pattern baldness and wondering what to expect, we’ve put together a guide to the stages of receding hairline, what you can do to help support your hair health, and whether new hair growth is possible.

What are the 7 stages of male pattern hair loss?

Medical experts use several different scales to track hair loss among men and women. Some are used specifically for male pattern hair loss, others for female pattern hair loss, and others still for all genders.

But the most commonly used tool for male pattern baldness is the Norwood scale. (You may also see it referred to as the Hamilton-Norwood scale.)

Created in the 1950s by James Hamilton, and later advanced by Dr. O’Tar Norwood in the 1970s, the scale classifies seven stages of baldness.

Starting at stage 1 and ending at stage 7, doctors use the Norwood scale to measure the degree of hair loss. Some men may only ever progress to stage 3, while others might lose all their hair and be classified as stage 7.

The scale also enables doctors to figure out the right treatment appropriate to the stage and gauge the potential impact of the treatment.

So, how does the Norwood scale work? And if your receding hairline sits somewhere on the scale, is there anything you can do to slow it down, prevent it entirely, or even encourage hair regrowth? Let’s dive in and find out.

stages of a receding hairline
The stages of a receding hairline.

Stage 1

In stage 1 of the Norwood scale, there are very few signs of a receding hairline, or none at all. In other words, anyone in stage 1 likely still has a full head of hair.

What should you do during stage 1?

Even if you’re only in stage 1, there are a few things you can do to maintain healthy hair and potentially slow down hair loss.

Because most hair loss is genetic, you could investigate your family history to find out whether male pattern baldness affects your relatives. This will give you a better understanding of what level of hair loss you may be in for and how to proceed.

While not every type of hair loss is preventable, you can certainly try and delay its progress. And as with most things, starting early often makes all the difference!

Here are our science-backed tips.

Stage 2

During stage 2, a receding hairline is only slightly noticeable – but it’s one of the first signs that someone is losing hair. Usually, this loss is visible around the temples.

What can you do during stage 2?

If you’re in the early stages of male pattern baldness or thinning hair, you can continue applying the lifestyle tips we listed earlier to keep your hair follicles healthy and thwart further hair loss.

You could also consider kickstarting a medical hair loss treatment, such as those offered by Pilot practitioners, which are proven to slow down hair loss, prevent further thinning, and even regrow lost hair.

Stage 3

Not everyone progresses to stage 3, but this is when hair loss tends to become more obvious. The receding hairline deepens, particularly around the temples, and may resemble the shape of the letter “M”.

Within stage 3, there’s a sub-stage known as “stage 3 vertex”. During stage 3 vertex, hair fall around the hairline may not be as dramatic. However, a small bald spot or hair thinning could appear on the crown or back of the head, along with a receding hairline.

How can you deal with stage 3?

At this stage, hair loss is classified as “baldness” on the Norwood scale.

Along with trying a hair loss treatment, many men in stage 3 opt for a new hairstyle to accommodate their changing hairline.

A buzz cut, shaved head or another shorter style tends to work with, rather than against, a receding hairline. Others prefer to just wear a hat. Check out our guide to the best hairstyles for a receding hairline.

If new parts of your head are exposed as your hairline recedes, sun protection is an absolute must. This is because thin or little hair on the head can increase your risk of certain skin cancers.

A hat is an ideal way to cover up a bare scalp, but using sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and sticking to shaded areas also helps.

Stage 4

By the time someone reaches stage 4, they’ve experienced considerable hairline recession. The hairline has likely receded even further, and the bald spot at the back of the head has become increasingly noticeable.

Between both parts of the head, there’s a band of hair remaining.

What’s the best way to handle stage 4?

At this point, there’s still a good chance that hair loss treatments will be effective in reducing and preventing further hair fall. So, it could be a great time to try one out!

Stage 5

Stage 5 is a more drastic version of stage 4. This is when the hairline and bald spot are still separate, but the strip of hair separating them has become narrower and thinner.

How can you manage stage 5?

Medical hair loss treatments that promote hair growth are very much an option at this stage.

However, some men choose to undergo a more extreme measure like a hair transplant, or another surgical procedure, such as laser therapy. While these are pretty expensive ways to go, they can be very effective.

Stage 6

At stage 6, the receding hairline and bald spot have merged. While there might still be hair on the sides of the head, there’s very little to none on the front or top of the head.

What are the solutions for stage 6?

A hair transplant can be a little trickier at this stage, but is still possible by taking healthy hair from the sides of the head.

If successful, the head can return to stage 5 or even 4 on the Norwood scale.

Stage 7

Stage 7 is the most acute stage of male pattern baldness. There’s very little hair left – bar a small strip that runs around the sides and back of the head. Any hair that is present is probably very fine.

Is there anything you can do in stage 7?

By now, even surgical measures like hair transplant can be difficult. This is because significant hair loss has occurred and there isn’t much hair to work with on the head.

But, it might be a great opportunity to just accept the hair loss. You could shave your head so it’s entirely bald, choose to adopt a wig or toupee, or wear a hat.

Class A balding

While not as common, there’s another version of the Norwood scale known as “class A”. In this pattern, the receding hairline is more even and retreats from front to back. Plus, there’s no bald spot.

Commonly asked questions about receding hairline, male pattern baldness and hair growth

Still have a few more questions regarding hair loss, hair growth and receding hairlines? Here’s what you need to know.

Is my hairline receding or maturing?

You may have noticed that your hairline sits a little further back than it did when you were younger. While you might be concerned that this is a sign of male pattern baldness, it could simply be a maturing hairline.

You see, when you’re young, you have what’s called a “juvenile hairline”. This is when the hairline is more rounded and sits quite low on the head. A natural part of late adolescence involves a slight retreat of the hairline. This is known as a maturing hairline.

Where a receding hairline shifts unevenly and is usually concentrated around the temples, a maturing hairline is generally quite even. The hairline also doesn’t recede as far back, usually only 1-2 centimetres. A maturing hairline generally isn’t a sign of male pattern baldness.

Not sure? Check out our guide to spotting a maturing hairline.

maturing hairline vs receding hairline
How to tell the difference between a maturing hairline and a receding hairline.

At what age does a receding hairline start?

The age that the hairline recedes is really down to the individual. Some may experience a receding hairline early, while for others it won’t happen until later in life.

Although, receding hairlines can start at any point after puberty. Around 50 percent of men will undergo some kind of hair loss before they reach age 50.

How common is a receding hairline in your 20s?

Hair loss before reaching the big 3-0 isn’t as common, but it does affect a number of men.

About 25 percent will experience the first signs of hair loss before they hit the age of 21.

Can a receding hairline grow back?

Depending on the Norwood stage you’re in, a receding hairline may or may not have a chance to grow back. Generally, it’s easier to encourage hair growth in the earlier stages and gets increasingly difficult as the head loses more hair.

In most cases, however, hair loss is very much treatable. Luckily, there’s a variety of treatment options available that can address receding hairlines, from medical hair loss treatments like those from Pilot, to more complex medical procedures such as hair transplants.

Regardless of your chosen method, your first port of call should always be a medical professional who can assess your situation and advise you on the best path forward.

Start an online consult with an Australian practitioner today to discuss your options.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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