What Causes a Receding Hairline and How to Reverse It

Tips to help men and women with hair loss

A receding hairline refers to the thinning or loss of hair on the scalp, particularly at the front and top of the scalp, starting at the temple. It is a disorder that can be caused by many different factors and is more common in men than women. For many, a receding hairline is reversible with treatment.

This article will discuss what causes a receding hairline, how it's diagnosed, and what treatments are available for the condition.

Hair brush with hair in it on a white counter
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Types of Hair Loss

Hair loss, such as a receding hairline, can affect men or women, but it's more common in men. For example, in one study involving 535 women and 419 men aged 17 and older, hair loss was prevalent in 67.1% of the men and 23.9% of the women. Hair loss is usually linked with aging, but younger people can also experience hair loss and a receding hairline.

Male Pattern Baldness

Having a receding hairline doesn’t always mean that a person will be entirely bald later on. However, it can be an early sign of a condition called male pattern baldness (also called androgenetic alopecia or AGA).

Usually, there is a distinct pattern that occurs when a male loses his hair. The loss commonly occurs in progressive steps, which may include:

  1. A receding hairline that appears to be uneven
  2. A noticeable "M" shape appears at the hairline
  3. Loss of hair on the top or the back of the head (resulting in a bald spot)
  4. The area involving the receding hairline meets the bald spot (resulting in larger areas of hair loss)
  5. Complete balding on top (the only remaining hair appearing around the sides and back of the head)

Female Pattern Baldness

In women, the pattern of hair loss is usually very different than in men. Usually, females do not have the typical receding hairline that happens at the beginning of male pattern baldness. Instead, women commonly experience thinning on the top and crown of the scalp.

Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia

Frontal fibrosing alopecia is characterized by a slow, progressive loss of hair and scarring of the scalp near the forehead. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but researchers believe that factors like genetics, hormones, inflammation, and a faulty immune system play roles.

There is no cure for frontal fibrosing alopecia, but medications that slow the loss of hair may be effective in some cases, especially in the early stages of the condition.

Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia is a gradual hair loss resulting from constant pulling (from the hair being pulled back into a ponytail, pigtails, or braids). Limiting hair-pulling hairstyles can prevent the condition.

Receding Hairline Causes

Losing hair happens as part of a normal cycle for most people. It is normal to lose approximately 100 hairs a day. The hair slowly and gradually falls out, then new hair grows back again. But in some circumstances, the cycle doesn't work the way it should.

With a receding hairline, the hair begins to fall out as a result of damage to hair follicles. Under normal circumstances, as hair naturally reaches its maturity stage, strands fall out and new ones replace it. But when the hair follicles become damaged, there is a risk of scarring and the risk that hair will no longer regrow.

Genes are the most common cause of male- and female-pattern baldness (also known as androgenic alopecia).

Hair loss is usually related to one or more factors, including:

  • Genetics
  • Hormone changes (due to pregnancy, menopause, thyroid, or other hormonal problems)
  • Medical conditions (such as alopecia areata, infectious diseases, ovarian tumors, or other conditions)
  • Scalp infections
  • Medications or supplements (such as cancer or arthritis medication or drugs for gout, heart problems, high blood pressure, or depression)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgeries
  • Miscarriage
  • Stress (a stressful event may cause hair loss, but this is usually temporary)

In addition, other factors that may cause a receding hairline include:

  • Excessive hairstyling (involving the use of heat from blow dryers or curling irons)
  • Hairstyles that pull the hair very tight (such as cornrows)
  • Hot oil hair treatments or permanents
  • Poor diet (lacking in adequate protein)
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Tumors (rarely)

Physical or Emotional Stress

Stress can be a major causative factor linked to hair loss. The name for stress-induced hair loss is telogen effluvium. The condition results in shedding large amounts of hair each time the hair is combed or shampooed.

Telogen effluvium may not be noticeable until long after a stressful event is over. It can take up to eight months before the hair loss subsides. Losing hair due to stress is usually temporary, but it can become chronic (long-term) in some instances.

Receding Hair Loss Prevention

There are some preventative measures that can be taken to prevent hair from falling out. These include:

  • Avoiding hairstyles that pull tight on the hair (such as braids, cornrows, ponytails, or buns)
  • Avoiding constantly pulling, rubbing, or twisting hair
  • Using a wide-toothed comb and gently brushing or combing hair
  • Avoiding harsh chemical treatments on the head such as permanents or hot oil treatments
  • Avoiding the use of hot rollers and curling irons (and other heated styling methods)
  • Avoiding drugs or supplements that could cause hair loss when possible
  • Quitting smoking
  • Protecting the hair from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight (or other types of ultraviolet light)
  • Using a cooling cap when taking chemotherapy to lower the risk of hair loss

Note, if the cause of a person’s receding hairline is hereditary, it cannot be prevented.


Hair loss can be diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist. You'll probably be asked to give a detailed family history to discover clues as to whether the condition is hereditary. A “pull test” may be used to determine how easily the hair falls out.

To help make a diagnosis, your dermatologist may order a scalp biopsy. A small sample of scalp tissue is removed to evaluate the tissue for scalp conditions.

Your doctor may also order a blood test to screen for medical issues. Some conditions, such as thyroid disease, can cause hair loss.

Receding Hairline Treatment

Treatment of a receding hairline depends on the cause. If a condition such as thyroid disease is causing a person to lose their hair, the treatment would involve treating the thyroid condition.

If an immune disorder (such as alopecia areata) is the cause of hair loss, steroid injections in the scalp may help. Olumiant (baricitinib), an oral medication, is now approved to treat severe alopecia areata.

Rogaine (Minoxidil) 

Commonly, Rogaine (minoxidil) is used to slow down hair loss, or in some instances to reverse it. 

Keep in mind that typically Rogaine is only effective for a receding hairline that is linked to male pattern baldness. It may not work for other types of hair loss. 

Also, Rogaine is known for being more effective at restoring your hair in small batches rather than large areas. Early use of Rogaine will likely produce the best results.

A study looked at the effectiveness of Rogaine treatment for male pattern baldness. It found that 5% topical minoxidil was more effective than the 2% minoxidil or a placebo for new hair regrowth. In fact, men grew 45% more hair at week 48 than those who used the 2% topical minoxidil.

Other Types of Treatment

Other treatment options may include:

  • Propecia (finasteride): A medication for men aimed at promoting hair growth. It involves blocking DHT from testosterone (a male hormone). DHT is thought to inhibit hair growth in men. It has controversial associations with depression and sexual side effects. Researchers have had conflicting results on whether it increases the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: A three-step medical treatment in which a person's blood is drawn, processed, and then injected into the scalp. This therapy has been used for problems such as healing injured tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
  • Surgical hair restoration: A transplant of the hair follicles.
  • Dritho-Scalp: A prescription drug that promotes new hair growth.
  • Corticosteroids: A prescription drug that lowers inflammation around the hair follicles, allowing them to grow new hair.
  • Biotin: A supplement often touted as improving hair loss. However, research is still limited.
  • Essential oils: Lavender oil and peppermint oil may help with regrowing hair. A study discovered that mice treated with essential oil of peppermint had clear signs of hair regrowth. A 2016 mouse model study revealed similar results with lavender oil. Human studies are still needed to verify these claims.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any regimen of drugs or supplements.

Psychological Toll of Hair Loss

The emotional reaction to losing one’s hair can be very significant. Studies and surveys have evaluated the impact that the loss of hair has on emotional health. One such survey of 2,000 men in the United States discovered that there may be a close association between a man’s work identity and his hair. 

In the hair census, as many as eight in 10 men who were surveyed reported that the look of their hair was important and made them look professional and feel confident. 

A dermatologist spokesman told BBC News, “The researchers say, hair loss is a common disorder and it can cause considerable damage to emotional health, including loss of self-esteem and confidence.”


Both women and men can have receding hairlines. Men often have a condition called male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia or AGA). For women, a receding hairline may be due to frontal fibrosing alopecia, or scarring of the scalp. A variety of factors can lead to hair loss, including genetics, medications, hormones, and stress.

Treatment for a receding hairline may include medication such as Rogaine, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, or surgical hair restoration.

A Word From Verywell

Although having a receding hairline commonly causes concern for both men and women, many people have discovered that there is hope. New medical treatments and procedures on the horizon may help to slow down the process of a receding hairline.

Talking with a dermatologist or other healthcare provider can help you understand the cause of the condition and find treatment options.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Salman KE, Altunay IK, Kucukunal NA, Cerman AA. Frequency, severity and related factors of androgenetic alopecia in dermatology outpatient clinic: Hospital-based cross-sectional study in TurkeyAn Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(1):35-40. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20175241

  2. Penn Medicine. Male pattern baldness.

  3. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Female pattern baldness.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hair loss types: Frontal fibrosing alopecia overview.

  5. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Traction alopecia: A type of hair loss.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding?

  7. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair loss: Who gets it and causes.

  8. Malkud S. Telogen effluvium: a reviewJCDR. 2015. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15219.6492

  9. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves first systemic treatment for alopecia areata.

  10. Suchonwanit P, Thammarucha S, Leerunyakul K. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2019 Aug 9;13:2777-2786. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S214907

  11. MedlinePlus. Finasteride.

  12. HSS. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.

Additional Reading
  •  Chew,E., Tan,J., Bahta, A., Liu,X...Hillmer,A.(2017). Differential Expression between Human Dermal Papilla Cells from Balding and Non-Balding Scalps Reveals New Candidate Genes for Androgenetic Alopecia. Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

  • Ji Young Oh, J., Park, M., Kim, C. (2014). Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs. Toxicological Research. (4): 297–304.Retrieved from

  • Lee, B., Lee, J., Chu, Y., Kim, C. (2016). Hair Growth-Promoting Effects of Lavender Oil in C57BL/6 Mice. Toxicological Research. Retrieved from

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. Hair Loss. MayoClinic.org.

  • Olsen EA., Dunlap FE., Funicella T., Koperski JA...Trancik RJ. (2002). A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. The Journal of American Academy of Dermatology.

  • Penn State Hershey Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Staff. Health Information Library. Hair Loss. Penn State Hershey.Adam.com.

  • The American Academy of Dermatology Staff. (2010). Dermatologists can help women win the fight against common forms of hair lossAAD.org. Retrieved from

  • Westbrook, I. (2018) Potential new cure found for baldness. BBC News.com.

By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.