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Widow's peak vs receding hairline: What's the difference?

Hair loss is gradual, and it's not always easy to tell which stage you're at.

Written by
Kylie Saunder
Medically reviewed by
Dr Matthew Vickers
Last updated
May 15, 2024
min read
Widow's peak vs receding hairline: What's the difference?
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Men experiencing hair loss don't just one day wake up bald. Hair loss is gradual, and it's not always easy to tell which stage you're at. Here's how to tell the difference between a widow's peak and a receding hairline.

If you're experiencing male hair loss, you're not alone. In fact, practically no one is exempt. Male celebrities, influencers, actors, models; they too will experience hair thinning, receding hairlines, and all-over hair loss.

While some men manage to hold onto a full head of hair and their natural hairline well into old age, male hair loss, for some of us, can start as young as in your 20s.

Today, male pattern baldness is recognised in a number of ways:

  • Receding hairline
  • Widow's peak (also called a V-shaped hairline)
  • A high hairline
  • A bald spot
  • Thinning hair
  • Excessive hair shedding

The first sign of male pattern baldness can often present as a receding hairline, but if you're not sure what this looks like, it can be hard to know whether you've just got a widow's peak, a maturing hairline, or the true beginnings of a receding hairline.

According to Healthy Male, "Most Australian men will become aware of hair loss as they grow older. Significant balding affects about one in five men (20%) in their 20s, about one in three men (30%) in their 30s and nearly half of men (40%) in their 40s."

The tips below will help you figure out which type of male hair loss you have, and how you can stop losing your hair.

receding hairline vs widow's peak
There's a difference between a maturing hairline and a receding hairline.

What is a widow's peak?

A widow's peak hairline presents as V-shaped point, with the hair looking fullest at the front and centre of the forehead, and thinnest at the top of the temples, on the sides of the forehead.

While some men have a very distinctive widow's peak, others have a less noticeable one that's only obvious if you slick your hair straight back. And then there's a reverse widow's peak hairline, which looks like an upside-down V shape.

Originating from an old 18th-century English tradition, the term "widow's peak" refers to the black hats and triangular hoods widows wore while mourning their husband's death. This unique shape of the garment has been carried over into modern culture to describe male hair loss and receding hairlines.

What causes a widow's peak?

Just like blue eyes or curly hair, a widow's peak hairline can run in the family.

A recent study actually found, "in the majority of cases, widow's peak is a normal variant." So if you're not sure if you have a widow's peak, then take a look at your parents.

Some men are born with a widow's peak hairline, while others develop a widow's peak later in life.

What hairstyles suit a widow's peak?

If you have a widow's peak, the types of hairstyles you choose can either highlight it or hide it.

Try pulling your hair back into a bun or ponytail or slicking your hair back with hair styling products to show off your widow's peak.

Want to take attention away from your widow's peak hairline? Avoid hairstyles that require you to comb your hair up and away from your forehead. Try growing your fringe, sweep your hair to one side of your face or part your hair slightly off centre.

What is a receding hairline?

Receding hairlines in men can occur any time after puberty. And while thinning hair can happen naturally as you age, a receding hairline is characterised by hair loss that doesn't get replaced in your thirties and older.

Hair loss is a common experience for adults, with most of us shedding between 50 to 100 hairs a day. This is a normal amount.

Because these hairs are replaced by new growth, you won't necessarily notice a change in your hairline, but as you age, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can cause some mens' hair follicles to shrink.

When your hair follicles become smaller, the hair that grows from them becomes thinner and is more prone to falling out. Over time, your follicles will continue to shrink, and they'll become softer and finer and resemble the hairs on your body rather than the ones on your head.

What causes a receding hairline?

While some men notice their receding hairline when they get a spot at the crown of their head, most men notice hair thinning near their temples and back towards their hairline.

A receding hairline can develop at any age and can be a result of a hereditary trait or changes in hormones. If you have a family history of male pattern baldness, you may be more likely to lose your hair.

The timing of hair loss can be similar from one generation to the next, so if you're hoping to look into the future, it can be helpful to refer to old pictures of your dad.

What hairstyles suit receding hairlines?

It doesn't really matter what type of hairline you have: straight hairline, maturing hairline or a receding hairline. Knowing how to style your hair can help you feel more confident and boost your self-esteem.

Popular styles for receding hairlines include the buzz cut, crew cut, shaved head, modern comb over, undercut and fade. We wrote a guide to the best hairstyles for a receding hairline, so take your pick and have fun experimenting with your new 'do.

Of course, if you're concerned about losing your hair, there are proven treatments available to help you stop hair loss and even regrow hair. Start your consult below to chat with an Aussie practitioner online about your options.

Receding hairline? Might be time to try a new look.

Difference between a widow's peak and a receding hairline

Let's get one thing straight: If you have a widow's peak, it's not necessarily an indication that you are destined to have male pattern baldness or a receding hairline.

One of the key differences between widow's peaks and receding hairlines is how your hairline changes over time. Generally, men will develop a mature hairline between the ages of 17 and 30 years of age.

For some men, mature hairlines evolve gradually and are barely noticeable, while other men find their hairline recedes rapidly. There are a few ways to tell the difference:

Do the wrinkle test

In the mirror, look at your forehead and locate the highest wrinkle. If your hairline sits about one-inch or 33mm above this wrinkle, then that is considered a maturing hairline, and it's about as far back as your hairline will go.

If your hairline is receding beyond this point, it is more likely to be a receding hairline, and it may mean you have male pattern baldness.

Look out for even recession

A maturing hairline will usually recede evenly. While some men will get an uneven transition to a mature hairline, most men find their hairline will move back gradually and consistently over time.

If you're noticing more hair falling out or hair thinning faster in certain spots, it could be a receding hairline.

Look for an M-shape

A maturing hairline will have the corners of your hair above the temples sitting higher than the centre. The hairline will still look full, but it will sit slightly further back. Think Jon Hamm.

A widow's peak will have the hairline looking like an M-shape, where there's a V-shape of hair that remains in a downward point at the middle of the forehead, while the hair beside it recedes more. If you have an M-shaped hairline, you'll have less rounded curves and a more defined hairline. Think Chris Hemsworth.

Can a widow's peak become a receding hairline?

Short answer, yes. A widow's peak can continue to move backwards and become a receding hairline.

If you've always had a widow's peak, the shape can become a more obvious M or V-shaped hairline. For men that haven't had a widow's peak, if the hair thins at the temples, a receding hairline can take on that shape.

Best to keep an eye on it, as while thinning hair at the temples can be a normal graduation into a widow's peak, if the hair continues to thin out, it might be male pattern hair loss.

stages of male pattern hair loss
The stages of male pattern hair loss.

What can I do about losing my hair?

Male pattern hair loss affects many men as they get older. In fact 85% of men will have significantly thinning hair by the age of 50.

The good news is, hair loss is treatable, and with modern medical interventions, most men experiencing hair loss will be able to keep and even regrow their hair. Especially if treatment is started early.

Here are some modern hair loss treatments available today.

Hair loss treatments

Today, there are a number of proven clinical hair loss treatments available for thinning or balding hair, which work by improving the delivery of vital nutrients to the follicles and blocking the hormone which impacts hair growth.

Pilot's hair loss treatments use clinically proven ingredients for hair loss, following a consultation with an Australian practitioner. And, 90% of men will keep their hair with these medical treatments.

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT)

Low-level laser therapy, also known as red light therapy and cold laser therapy, has emerged as a somewhat new method of treating male pattern hair loss. It's supposed to work by allegedly illuminating photons into scalp tissues, encouraging new hair growth from weakening follicles and encouraging circulation.

While these devices, many of which look like hats you can wear at home, pose no negative side effects, they are fairly unproven and as such are not regarded as a viable hair loss treatment from the medical community.

Hair transplants

Hair transplants have a high success rate in helping men regrow their hair at various stages of hair loss, but the procedure comes at a cost.

The modern-day hair transplant involves harvesting individual follicles from hair-abundant areas of the scalp or body, and grafting these into more sparse sections of the scalp, like a thinning or balding area on the crown or a receding hairline.

In Australia, a hair transplant can be very costly, setting men back between $11,000 and $18,000. They're performed in specialty hair loss clinics under local anesthesia, require recovery time, and present risks and complications.

Lifestyle changes

For some men, a few changes to one's lifestyle can be all it takes to maintain the health of their hair and scalp.

Introducing foods that are rich in antioxidants certainly can't help for promoting hair and scalp health. Try adding berries, spinach, nuts, and seeds to your diet help to fight oxidative stress, which can age your hair.

It can also be helpful to switch to a gentle shampoo; one that's free from harsh chemicals that strip sebum from your scalp. Shampoos containing caffeine can help promote good scalp health.

Since stress is also a factor of hair loss, finding stress management tools can be a good idea. And for those men who wear their hair pulled back into a bun or braids, letting the hair fall freely can alleviate tension on the scalp, resulting in healthier hair.

The takeaway

By taking a proactive approach to the first signs of a receding hairline or thinning hair, your hair health can absolutely improve. While many hair loss products are available on the market, the key to the successful treatment of male pattern hair loss is to be guided by clinically proven treatments created by hair loss experts.

It's essential that any hair loss treatment you undertake is personalised for your specific hair loss situation, and a personal approach to dosages is crucial for minimising your risk of side effects.

Pilot's treatments are tailored for men who experience hair loss including receding hairlines, widow's peak hairlines, thinning hair and bald spots.

Our hair loss experts can provide medical advice and treatment options that are tailored specifically to you.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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