Hair loss or thinning hair is a completely normal issue that can come about for a variety of reasons, predominantly as part of the ageing process.
Despite the fact that around one in five people experiences some type of hair loss, there is still a lot of misinformation floating around.
So how can you tell if your hairline is actually receding or if you're just spending too much time fretting in the mirror? Is that bald spot real or imagined? (Either way, it's all good!)
We've put together the facts on hair loss to demystify any hair woes you might have.
How can you tell if your hairline is receding?
You can see a difference in old photos to now
This might sound obvious, but it's the simplest and quickest way to assess your hairline.
Not many of us have full photo albums of the back of the head but most people will be able to compare hair follicles around the face and forehead.
In some cases, it's more in the mind than you might think. Some people have had a high hairline their entire life — actor Aaron Paul has a naturally high hairline, and model Tyra Banks famously refers to her 'fivehead' instead of a forehead. If you can, take a look through some photos to check how your hair has progressed over time.
There is less hair on the temples
While we might think of a 'bald spot' on the back of the head as one of the telltale signs of receding hairline, it's helpful to look at the hairline around your temples. For men, there is usually a distinct pattern that occurs with hair loss, often progressing in the following chronological steps:
1) A receding hairline that appears uneven
2) An M-shape that appears on the hairline and along the widow's peak (especially one that wasn't there before)
3) Loss of hair on the back of the head, usually at the top
4) The area where the hairline recedes eventually meets with the bald spot from the back, resulting in visibly larger areas of hair loss
5) Full balding on the top of the head, with remaining hair appearing around the sides and back of the head, or resulting in a completely bare scalp
You are seeing more hair shedding
Everyone loses dozens of hairs each day but this on its own is not a sign of hair loss. There are thousands of hair follicles on the surface of the head, with each follicle growing its own hair.
As these fall out, new hairs replace them in a typical growth cycle. But if hair follicles are damaged for any reason, or if you are noticing excessive hair shedding, it may be the beginning stages of hair loss.
The hair on your crown seems thinner
As we mentioned earlier, there are some general 'steps' of hair loss progression, but not every person experiences this same pattern. In some instances, the hair at the crown of the head begins thinning first, which isn't always as noticeable.
You can see more of your scalp
As hair loss is usually a slow progression, it often isn't until a certain moment that draws attention to it.
This might be looking at a photo, for example, or a windy day that highlights the part of your hair, or stepping out of the shower and noticing there is just generally less hair on your scalp all over.
What causes a receding hairline?
There are many causes of a receding hairline:
This is the main one we think about because it's a major reason, in both male and female pattern baldness. A mature hairline is generally one that has less hair.
Any fluctuations in hormone levels can trigger hair loss in people of all genders. A particular hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) has been isolated and linked to hair loss. DHT is thought to cause hair follicles to shrink.
Genetics certainly play a role in both male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss, and looking to your own family history with losing hair can help shed light on your own maturing hairline.
Certain medical treatments or prescription drug use can lead to hairline recession. A typical example of this is chemotherapy, which often causes a person's hair to fall out.
Illness or stress
Ask any hairstylist and they will confirm that a stressful event can lead to sudden hair loss, which is called telogen effluvium (TE).
If this is the sole cause, new hair growth may still be possible, as temporary stress doesn't necessarily mean it has triggered permanent hair loss. In fact, TE usually occurs three months after the stressful event and lasts for about six months.
People who have a certain medical condition such as an immune disorder can also cause hairline receding or complete hair loss.
We know the choices we make like our diet or smoking affects all aspects of our wellbeing, so it's not surprising these can influence hair loss and viability of new hair.
How we treat or style our hair affects this too, with excessive heat styling or frequent pulled-back ponytails and buns having the ability to cause hair loss.
How is a receding hairline diagnosed?
Officially, a receding hairline is diagnosed by a medical professional and it usually includes questions around family history, lifestyle factors and age.
Pilot doctors can diagnose a receding hairline via our online assessment, which is a text-based consult that you can complete when is convenient for you.
From here, our Australian doctors create a personalised hair loss treatment plan that is delivered discreetly to your door and starts at $1.77 / day for a personalised capsule.
Best of all, about two in three men that use this oral medication see hair regrowth, while the remaining third don't experience further hair loss.
And, there's no need for any potentially awkward face-to-face conversations with your doctor. We understand how difficult it can be to talk about hair loss, so we make sure this process is as easy as possible.
What's the difference between a maturing and a receding hairline?
While every person has a unique hairline due to a range of factors like genetics, lifestyle and hormones, it is generally accepted that a maturing hairline is one that moves back in an even pattern.
As a maturing hairline occurs more slowly than typical alopecia areata, traction alopecia or frontal fibrosing alopecia, it is generally less noticeable.
In contrast, a person experiencing a receding hairline typically has more hair loss around the temples and it is usually less even. It also occurs quicker than a standard maturing hairline.
Can a receding hairline grow back?
There is no one clear answer for this, as every person has an individual cause of receding hair. But experts have suggested it is possible for receding hairlines to grow back.
There is a range of treatment options available for any signs of hair loss, and even hair transplant procedures. These include:
- Prescription oral medication: As mentioned above, Pilot doctors may prescribe you a personalised capsule that works by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is the main cause of hair loss. Australian healthcare laws prevent Pilot from listing the exact medications available until after you’ve had an online consultation with a doctor, but it's an extremely effective form of treatment.
- Topical treatment: Pilot doctors may also prescribe a topical treatment to work alongside the oral medication. This topical treatment is applied directly to the head and most men who use this treatment notice a delay in further balding, while some even experience regrowth. The great news is that a combination of the oral and topical medication has an 83 per cent success rate in retaining hair and a 66 per cent success rate in regrowing it
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: A medical procedure that involves drawing one's blood and spinning it in a centrifuge to encourage the plasma to rise to the top. The PRP is then collected and injected into hair loss affected areas across the scalp. While PRP therapy has seen some success in treating androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), it is quite expensive and there needs to be further research on its effectiveness for other types of hair loss.
- Hair transplant surgery: Also known as hair restoration surgery, hair transplant surgery is an effective way to treat hair loss but can cost between AU$11,000 and Au$18,000, with some procedures even costing as much as AU$30,000.
How to stop your hair from receding
Regardless of whether you've noticed significant hair loss or just a little, there are things you can do now for hair loss prevention:
- Avoiding excessive combing or brushing of the hair
- Avoiding chemical treatments like hot oil treatments that can damage hair follicles
- Minimising the use of heated tools like hair dryers or straightening irons
- Explore hair loss treatment options with Pilot to prevent further hair loss
Our key takeaway
Hair loss of any kind can take a psychological toll. It's important to remember this is a really common issue that affects almost everyone to some extent as we age.
Remember to look after your general wellbeing — minimising stress is beneficial in all aspects of life. And don't forget that there are easily accessible treatment options available that you can start today.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / Pexels + Andre Moura