What Causes A Receding Hairline?

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A receding hairline is most noticeable in older men and women. But is there something we can do about it? Here's what science says.

Hair – or the lack thereof – could be stressful for many. It's a sign of aging, and for many, a cosmetic must-have. Especially for men, a full head of hair is a dominant feature most males would be proud of.

RELATED: 11 Amazing Hair Colors For Women Over 50

What You Need to Know if Your Receding Hairline Is Getting in Your Hair

Causes of a Receding Hairline

1. Age

old man | receding hairline causes

Any male can experience hair loss after hitting puberty. And the likelihood only increases with age.

The chance of male pattern baldness (MPB) increases steadily as you age. For example, 20% of men aged 20 years old may have noticeable baldness, while 50% of men aged may experience hair loss. It follows that 70% of men aged 70 years old may have MPB.

Hair loss is inevitable for all men. It's natural and it's part of the natural process of aging.

Another unavoidable factor aside from aging is your genetic predisposition.

2. Genetics

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You may want to review old family photos and carefully observe the hair of the men in your family.

If you have a family history of male pattern baldness, then you're more likely to experience this as well. It may also occur at the same age for all generations.

For example, if your father began balding in his 50's, chances are you may start balding in your 50's as well.


3. Hormones

photo of man wearing eyeglasses | receding hairline stages


A study with mice found that dihydrotestosterone (DHT) inhibits hair growth.

DHT is a male hormone (androgen) that plays many roles from deepening a man's voice to contributing to an enlarged prostate.

An enzyme called Type 2 5a-reductase found on the hair follicle converts testosterone to DHT.

It is widely believed that DHT sticks itself to androgen receptors on a man's hair follicle, and makes it smaller. A miniaturized follicle will lead to thinning hair and soon enough, hairs that grow from that follicle will become barely visible.


Even women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may experience thinning hair if not excessive hair growth. Women with PCOS produce excessive levels of androgen, which plays a major role in hair growth.


Stress may also contribute to an increase in hair shedding. Higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, may worsen hair loss and might be the primary cause of hair loss.

If stress is the reason for hair loss, it may subside once cortisol levels also fall.

4. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

serious black man messaging on smart phone on street | maturing hairline

Multiple long-term studies found that there is a connection between male pattern baldness and coronary heart disease.

Another study suggests that vertex baldness (crown of the head) is associated with increased risk in CHD. However the connection depends on the severity of the baldness. It also purports that the association could exist even in younger men.

A study decided to focus on women instead. It, however, showed similar results. The results showed statistically significant correlation between:

  • Androgenetic alopecia (AGA, a.k.a. male pattern baldness) and coronary artery disease
  • AGA and history of myocardial infarction
  • Graying hair and coronary artery disease

On the other hand, an early study has shown converse results. A study with 1,219 men between 18-70 years of age found that there's no significant difference in risk factors between bald and non-bald men.

Because of contradicting results, there's a need to conduct further studies. However, it may be an interesting risk factor to look into in the future.

5. Medication That Can Cause Receding Hairline

crop doctor showing pills to patient in clinic | receding hairline men

Your current medication may also lead to hair loss.

It may be through disrupting the anagen phase or telogen phase, or by worsening AGA.

Below are the types of medication that could lead to hair loss.

  • Chemotherapy

Hair loss during chemotherapy is arguably one of the more traumatic events in patients.

Chemotherapy-induced alopecia (hair loss) is a result of hair fiber breakage. It typically begins one to three weeks after the first treatment.

Minoxidil may help shorten alopecia during chemotherapy, but it is not a permanent and foolproof solution. Scalp cooling reduces blood flow in the scalp, making their hair follicle less susceptible to toxic agents.

  • Psychotropics

Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may also cause hair loss.

Effects may include alopecia, hair loss, thinning hair, or even a change in hair texture.

  • Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants may cause hair loss or patchy hair loss. The effects may appear a few weeks after starting the medication.

  • Cardiovascular Drugs

Hypertension medicine, antihypertensives, and other drugs may cause hair loss. Anti-arrhythmic medication, however, is reported to rarely cause hair loss. However, your hair may continue to grow as normal after you stop taking medication. But the cessation of medication should only be done under the prescription of a doctor.

  • Antimicrobials

Tuberculosis medication and antiretroviral medication for HIV have been reported to cause hair loss. And combine multiple antimicrobials may lead to severe hair loss. On a positive note, hair growth was observed two months after the cessation of antituberculosis medication.

  • Androgen

As the name suggests, androgenetic alopecia (AGA, a.k.a male pattern baldness) is brought by the mechanism of the male hormone – androgen. The androgen medication below could cause or worsen male pattern baldness.

      • Proandrogenic supplements
      • Medical testosterone
      • Anabolic steroids

For women, oral contraceptives may also have pro-androgen effects.

What Can You Do to Suppress a Receding Hairline?

1. Oral Finasteride

man standing near building white black turtle neck shirt | receding hairline men treatment

Your hair grows in two phases. Hair grows during the anagen phase, which lasts from two to seven years. During the telogen phase, your hair stops growing and sheds daily.

Finasteride is one of the two most popular treatments for alopecia.

It could increase your hair count during the anagen (growth) stage. Finasteride may also improve the ratio between your hair's growth and resting phase.

However, in the initial stage, it may cause hair shedding. Bear in mind also that it may take four to six months to take effect.

2. Topical Minoxidil
selective focus photograph of man wearing gray suit jacket | receding hairline treatment

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter drug and is the second most popular treatment for hair growth.

It increases the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your hair follicle, promoting the anagen phase.

Finasteride and minoxidil are best taken together. However, it may take between four to six months before it starts to take effect.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Only Finasteride and Minoxidil are FDA-approved.

3. Hair Transplant

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In hair restoration surgery, the surgeon will transplant scalp and hair follicles from the back of the head and transfer bald areas. Transplanted hair follicles will continue to grow healthy hair. The source of the plugs may also continue to grow healthy hair.

4. Low Light Laser Treatment

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Low light laser treatment (LLLT) is growing in popularity. It's non-invasive and deemed safe by the FDA. In 2007, it was recognized as safe for men. In 2011, it was recognized as safe for women.

LLLT may stimulate hair growth in the hair follicle.

A 2013 study showed that men with AGA experienced a 39% hair increase.

It's still best to consult with your doctor if you're taking medication. It's not yet known if it has adverse effects when combined with therapy or medication.

5. Melatonin May Help With Regrowth in a Receding Hairline

man in grey crew neck t shirt | receding hairline meaning

A 2002 pilot study suggests that melatonin may increase anagen phase hair.

Studies are still too few before we can deem this as a treatment option. The mechanisms behind this are also still unclear. But this is could be an affordable, more easily accessible option.

6. Topical Ketoconazole May Help With Regrowth in a Receding Hairline

man wearing sunglasses | receding hairline men treatment

A 2019 systematic review suggests that ketoconazole may be a promising alternative to finasteride and minoxidil.

While finasteride and minoxidil are first-line treatments, not all men adequately respond to these options.

Studies find that less than 40% of men respond to minoxidil even after 24 weeks of use.

Finasteride, while more effective with 80% of users seeing a difference after a year of treatment, has sexual side effects that may outweigh the benefits

One study shows that combining different options may be more effective. They found that a combination of finasteride and minoxidil is the best combination. A combination with finasteride with either minoxidil or with ketoconazole is more effective than just using minoxidil.

Before diagnosing a receding hairline as a genetic predisposition or a negative reaction to the medication, consult your dermatologist first.

A dermatologist may conduct tests to determine the cause and then help you plan a course of action.

Receding hairlines are perfectly common experienced by men and women alike. There's no permanent cure, but there are treatments that can help promote regrowth or slow the process. However, there are things we can do to help some of them in their tracks.

Is a receding hairline causing you grief? Have you planned your next course of action? Let us know in the comments section below!


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