table of contents
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
While the term mature hairline sounds like a stepping stone on the way to baldness, it’s not. Even if you’re an adult with little or no hair thinning, your hairline has changed since you were a kid.
When we’re young, our hairline mostly forms an arch around our face––this is known as a juvenile hairline. As we go through our teenage years (specifically between ages 15 and 18), this line gradually moves up and changes shape, creating what’s called a mature hairline (Rassman, 2013).
So if you’ve noticed that your frontal hairline is different from when you were younger, don’t panic. A mature hairline is not a sign of male pattern baldness.
Mature vs. receding hairlines: what’s the difference?
A maturing hairline doesn’t always lead to a receding one. You can test this by looking at your baby pictures: you’ll notice the distance between your hairline and eyebrows has moved from then until now.
When a hairline matures, it generally changes from a smooth arch around the face and morphs into a different shape, depending on your biological sex. For males, the mature hairline is usually a little further forward and may have an M shape to it. There might be more hair at the center and slightly less on either side, similar to a widow’s peak.
For biological females, the hairline usually starts a little higher and forms an inverted U shape. Hair grows a little back in the center and further forward on either side. That said, there are a lot of factors that can affect your hairline, including good ol’ genetics (check out your parents if you want a preview).
While a mature hairline is something everyone gets as they age, a receding hairline isn’t. In this case, the hairline moves further back than the typical jump and often follows a different pattern.
This is particularly true in males with a family history of male pattern baldness, known by its fancy name androgenic alopecia. This condition can cause frontal balding or balding at the crown of your head and contributes to overall thinning hair.
Is there a cure for baldness?
How to regrow your hair
If your hairline is creeping back, becoming more than just a mature hairline, or you notice diffuse thinning, there are lots of options available.
Certain treatments can stop hair loss in its tracks, while others can actually regrow hair you lost. Here are some popular options.
Medications like finasteride (brand name Propecia; see Important Safety Information) and minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) promote hair growth and are probably the most well-known options for treating hair loss.
Finasteride is available as a pill and is prescribed to combat a receding hairline. Lately, some companies have also started to offer topical finasteride spray you put directly on spots you’re experiencing hair loss.
Minoxidil comes as a spray available in different strengths. It can be applied directly to bald spots at the crown of the head, as well as the temples (Mirmirani, 2015).
Minoxidil vs. finasteride
Minoxidil and finasteride work differently in the body. Finasteride mostly affects male hormones, known as androgens. The medication blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone to another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT has been found to play a role in hair loss, so by blocking this hormone, you can reduce thinning and potentially regrow hair. Minoxidil, on the other hand, does not affect DHT. Rather, researchers suggest it promotes hair growth by increasing blood flow to hair follicles (Badri, 2020).
Both of these medications are well-tolerated. Oral finasteride can safely be taken long-term but does carry a risk of side effects.
Some men who use it report sexual dysfunction, and while research varies, low libido or erectile dysfunction is reported in around 3% of those who take finasteride by mouth (Mysore, 2012). The effect will go away as soon you stop taking it.
Minoxidil can cause itching and irritation of the skin at the application site. These side effects are more common at higher concentrations.
DHT blocker shampoo: can a shampoo stop hair loss?
The most effective treatment is a combination of these medications. Treatment plans that combine minoxidil and finasteride are extremely effective for regrowing hair and maintaining it (Chandrashekar, 2015).
Shampoos that use an ingredient called ketoconazole, an antifungal, can also stop hair loss from alopecia by blocking the actions of DHT.
Shampoos with 1% ketoconazole are available over-the-counter, but prescription formulations are stronger. One study found prescription strengths may be as effective at stopping hair loss as minoxidil (Piérard-Franchimont, 1998).
Overall, ketoconazole shampoo should be used as an add-on product to the FDA-approved hair loss treatments listed above.
- Adil, A., & Godwin, M. (2017). The effectiveness of treatments for androgenetic alopecia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 77(1), 136-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2017.02.054. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28396101/
- Badri, T., Nessel, T. A., & Kumar D, D. (2020). Minoxidil. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
- Chandrashekar, B.S., Nandhini, T., Vasanth, V., Sriram, R., & Navale, S. (2015). Topical minoxidil fortified with finasteride: An account of maintenance of hair density after replacing oral finasteride. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 6(1), 17-20. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.148925. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4314881/
- Cohen, J. (2012, September 25). 9 Bizarre Baldness Cures. History.com. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/9-bizarre-baldness-cures.
- Cotler, H. B., Chow, R. T., Hamblin, M. R., & Carroll, J. (2015). The Use of Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) For Musculoskeletal Pain. MOJ Orthopedics & Rheumatology, 2(5), 00068. doi: 10.15406/mojor.2015.02.00068. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743666/
- Faghihi, G., Mozafarpoor, S., Asilian, A., et al. (2018). The effectiveness of adding low-level light therapy to minoxidil 5% solution in the treatment of patients with androgenetic alopecia. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, 84(5), 547-553. doi: 10.4103/ijdvl.IJDVL_1156_16. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30027912/
- Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group. (2002). Long-term (5-year) multinational experience with finasteride 1 mg in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. European Journal of Dermatology, 12(1), 38-49. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11809594/
- Gupta, M., Mysore, V. (2016). Classifications of Patterned Hair Loss: A Review. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 9(1), 3-12. doi: 10.4103/0974-2077.178536. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4812885/
- Hirshburg, J. M., Kelsey, P. A., Therrien, C. A., Gavino, A. C., & Reichenberg, J. S. (2016). Adverse Effects and Safety of 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors (Finasteride, Dutasteride): A Systematic Review. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 9(7), 56-62. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5023004/
- Ho, C. H., Sood, T., & Zito, P. M. (2020). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls Publishing. Treasure Island, FL. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
- Mirmirani, P., Consolo, M., Oyetakin-White, P., Baron, E., Leahy, P., & Karnik, P. (2015). Similar response patterns to topical minoxidil foam 5% in frontal and vertex scalp of men with androgenetic alopecia: a microarray analysis. British Journal of Dermatology, 172(6), 1555-1561. doi: 10.1111/bjd.13399. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4362890/
- Mysore, V. (2012). Finasteride and sexual side effects. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 3(1), 62–65. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.93496. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481923/
- Olsen, E.A., Dunlap, F. E., Funicella, T., et al. (2002). A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 47(3), 377-385. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2002.124088. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12196747/
- Piérard-Franchimont, C., De Doncker, P., Cauwenbergh, G., & Piérard, G. E. (1998). Ketoconazole shampoo: effect of long-term use in androgenic alopecia. Dermatology, 196(4), 474-477. doi: 10.1159/000017954. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9669136/
- Rassman, W. R., Pak, J. P., & Kim, J. (2013). Phenotype of Normal Hairline Maturation. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, 21(3), 317-324. doi: 10.1016/j.fsc.2013.04.001. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1064740613000564?via%3Dihub
- Urysiak-Czubatka, I., Kmieć, M. L., & Broniarczyk-Dyła, G. (2014). Assessment of the usefulness of dihydrotestosterone in the diagnostics of patients with androgenetic alopecia. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, 31(4), 207-215. doi: 10.5114/pdia.2014.40925. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171668/
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.