Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/22/2021
Have you noticed your hairline beginning to recede? Most men notice the first signs of hair loss at some point in their 20s, 30s or 40s.
In fact, research has revealed that 16 percent of men aged 18 to 29 and 53 percent of men in their 40s already have moderate to extensive baldness.
It’s easy to panic when you see your hairline creeping backward every year.
Luckily, there are ways you can prevent your hairline from receding further and, in some cases, even regrow some of the hair you’ve lost.
Below, read how and why hair loss affects men, as well as the signs you may notice if you’re starting to develop a receding hairline.
You’ll also find science-based solutions to protect your hair from further shedding, and which may help restore your hairline.
A receding hairline is exactly what it sounds like—a hairline that’s gradually moving further up your head due to hair loss.
Hairlines naturally vary in shape. Some men have a straight hairline that runs directly from one side of their forehead to the other, while others have a widow’s peak that gives their hairline an M- or V-like shape even if it’s unaffected by hair loss.
It’s common to notice a receding hairline in the early stages of male pattern baldness. You may spot your hair thinning slightly around the temples, or notice your hairline starting to resemble a V, M or U shape when viewed from above.
This guide on the Norwood scale, a system used to measure and categorize hair loss, goes into more detail about the different shapes your hairline may take as it recedes.
A receding hairline is one of the most common signs of male pattern baldness. This type of hair loss is caused by a combination of your genes and the effects of an androgen hormone referred to as dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
DHT is a byproduct of testosterone that’s important during your childhood and adolescence. In the early stages of your life, it helps you develop male secondary sex characteristics, such as a deep, masculine voice, and facial and body hair.
As you get older, DHT plays a less significant role in your physical development. However, your body still produces a small amount of this hormone as a byproduct of testosterone.
In some men, DHT can bind to receptors in the scalp and cause the hair follicles to miniaturize, or shrink.
Over time, this process prevents the hair follicles from producing new hairs, resulting in gradual hair loss.
The hair follicles at your hairline—especially near your temples—are often the first affected by the effects of DHT.
If you’re prone to hair loss, you may notice that this part of your hairline has become thinner than normal or that areas that used to have hair no longer have coverage.
Not everyone with a receding hairline will go completely bald. However, a receding hairline is a good sign that it’s time to start taking action against male pattern baldness before it’s too late.
With the right combination of medication and good hair care habits, it’s often possible to stop a receding hairline from getting worse.
Before getting into specific treatment options for receding hairline prevention, it’s important to make one thing clear: The sooner you begin treating your receding hairline, the more hair you’ll likely keep.
Hair loss can start gradually and then suddenly worsen. By acting quickly, you’ll be able to preserve as much of your hair as possible, and in some cases, even regrow some of your “lost” hair.
With that warning out of the way, here are eight recommendations for preventing hair loss, to help stop your receding hairline before it gets worse.
The following treatments are listed in order of effectiveness, with the most promising medical treatments first, and the less proven options further down the page.
Research shows that the most effective way to prevent male pattern baldness from worsening is to block DHT using medication.
Right now, the only DHT-blocking medication that’s approved by the FDA for treating hair loss is finasteride, a prescription treatment that comes in tablet form.
You may have heard of finasteride as Propecia®. Today, it’s also sold as a generic medication under a variety of different brand names.
Finasteride works by inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone into DHT within your body.
By blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT, finasteride cuts your circulating DHT levels by a significant amount and prevents DHT-related hair damage.
This can stop your receding hairline from getting worse, and in some cases, may also stimulate hair regrowth in the parts of your scalp with thinning hair.
One study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed that finasteride helps to improve hair count around the hairline.
On average, it takes around three to four months for finasteride to produce a visible change in your hair and approximately one year for “final” results.
You can find finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
To learn more you can check out our guide to how finasteride works for receding hairlines.
Minoxidil is a topical hair loss treatment, and while it doesn’t block DHT, research shows it can stimulate hair growth by shifting hair follicles into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
You may have heard of minoxidil under the brand name Rogaine®. It’s sold as a liquid or foam that needs to be applied directly to the areas of your scalp with hair loss.
When it’s used with finasteride, minoxidil is very effective at protecting your hair and stimulating hair growth.
In one study, 94.1 percent of men with androgenetic alopecia (a common medical term for male pattern baldness) who used both minoxidil and finasteride showed improvements in hair growth, versus just over 80 percent of men who used finasteride on its own.
In addition to using finasteride and minoxidil, adding a hair loss shampoo to your routine may help ward off further hair loss and keep your hairline in good shape.
This hair thickening shampoo is designed to guard your hair follicles while promoting volume and moisture.
Since male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genes and DHT, your habits won’t play a role in hair loss.
However, living a healthy lifestyle can help promote optimal growth of the hair you still have, which may help you get a little extra thickness and coverage.
Focusing on healthy habits can also help reduce your risk of other forms of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium.
This form of hair loss is often caused by stress, yet it cancan also develop as a result of illness, heavy metal ingestion, iron deficiency and fluctuations in certain types of hormone production.
It’s worth pointing out that telogen effluvium manifests as diffuse hair loss, vs. simply a receding hairline. So if your hairline is the main location of your hair loss, telogen effluvium likely isn’t responsible.
Living a healthy lifestyle and practicing good hygiene can also help prevent other issues that may affect your hair, such as tinea capitis (scalp ringworm).
For optimal hair growth, avoid using harsh hair care products that irritate the scalp and dry out your hair.
Other positive lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, can also help limit damage to your hair that reduces its strength and appearance.
This guide to lifestyle changes for improved hair growth goes into greater detail on what you can do to keep your hair in optimal condition.
Although diet doesn’t cause male pattern baldness, eating a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients may help promote consistent hair growth.
A variety of nutrients can play a role in hair growth. For example, vitamins A, B12, C, D, E and B7, which is also referred to as biotin, all play important roles in hair health.
You can read more about these vitamins and their effects in this guide to vitamins for hair growth.
In addition to vitamins, minerals like zinc and iron both appear to play key roles in the growth of your hair.
The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is through a balanced diet. Focus on consuming nutrient-rich foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.
If you’re like most of us and short on time, products like these Biotin Gummy Vitamins can make it easier to reach your recommended intake of hair-friendly vitamins without obsessing over your diet.
Although scalp massage might be better associated with relaxation than a thick head of hair, some research suggests the practice may help stimulate healthy hair growth.
In a 2016 study, researchers found that men who received a four-minute scalp massage every day via a scalp massage device showed improved hair thickness after 24 weeks.
It’s important to point out that this study only involved nine men, meaning its findings shouldn’t be viewed as definitive.
However, a much larger study published in 2019—which involved more than 320 men—produced a similar finding.
In the 2019 study, men with androgenic alopecia (a medical term for male pattern baldness) carried out twice-daily standardized scalp massages (SSMs) for several months.
When surveyed by the researchers, more than 68 percent of the men that took part noted that they had experienced either a stabilization of hair loss or increased hair growth after they started the massage routine.
The researchers concluded that scalp massage may help treat male pattern baldness and noted that further research into this method would be warranted.
You can perform a scalp massage on yourself by using your fingertips to gently apply pressure to your scalp in small, circular motions, while slowly moving your hands across your head.
You can also find scalp massage devices online and from many retailers. Some scalp massage devices are designed for use in the shower, allowing you to save time by massaging your scalp while you wash your hair.
Although it won’t stop your receding hairline from getting worse, changing your haircut and hair styling habits is one of the easiest ways for you to improve the way your hairline looks.
Before examining specific styles, note one key rule you should know before making any hairstyle changes.
Whatever you do, don’t try to hide your receding hairline. Instead, own the fact that it’s receding and choose a style that complements your hairline as tastefully as possible.
Comb overs, long fringes and other hairstyles that are designed to cover up bald patches often end up doing the exact opposite by drawing more attention to your thinning spots. Plus, no one looks good with an obvious comb-over.
Instead of trying to hide your hairline, the best haircuts for receding hairlines tend to keep your hair short to reduce the level of contrast between your hair and your forehead. Here are more tips to follow:
If you normally keep your hair short, switching to a buzz cut is an easy way to make your hairline less obvious without looking like you’re trying to hide it.
If you have a widow’s peak hairline with hair loss around the temples, you can make it less obvious with a French crop hairstyle, which typically features buzzed hair along the sides.
If you have quite a lot of hair loss around your temples, you can generally lower the visual impact by keeping the hair on the sides of your head cut short with a longer cut on the top.
Another way to deal with hair loss around your temples is to style your hair into a faux hawk, which draws people’s attention towards the center of your hairline.
For a more dressy look, you can style your hair into a regulation cut, which uses a side part to draw attention away from your hairline and onto the top of your head.
Make sure to get your hair cut regularly to prevent the sides from growing out and making your receding hairline more obvious.
Remember that a well-groomed, nicely styled receding hairline will look much better than hair that’s thicker but poorly cared for.
Finally, if you have a severe receding hairline that doesn’t seem to improve with finasteride and minoxidil, you may want to consider undergoing a hair transplant.
Hair transplantation is a type of surgical procedure that involves removing hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp, and then transplanting them into areas with hair loss.
Done by a skilled surgeon, a hair transplant can make your hairline look full, thick and identical to a natural hairline that’s unaffected by male pattern baldness.
Although hair transplant surgery is effective, it has a major downside: It ain’t cheap. If you have an obvious receding hairline and severe hair loss, this type of procedure may come with a minimum price tag of $5,000 or more.
You can learn more about this type of procedure, its advantages and disadvantages, different techniques and more in this guide to hair transplants.
If you’ve recently noticed your hairline creeping backwards, it’s important to act quickly to stop your hair loss from getting worse.
The most effective way to take control over your hairline is through FDA-approved medications for hair loss such as finasteride and minoxidil.
These medications can also help slow, stop or reverse hair loss that affects other parts of your scalp, such as your crown (the area at the top of your head).
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