Hair is an important part of your identity. A receding hairline can have profound psychological and psychosocial implications for a person. If you approach the mirror each day with trepidation over losing your luscious locks, you are not alone. Male pattern baldness accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in males. Indeed, hair loss in women accounts for 40% of all hair loss cases in the United States.
One of the first signs of hair loss in both men and women is a receding hairline. Your medical doctor may recommend an oral prescription medication called finasteride (brand names include Propecia or Proscar) to treat your receding hairline.
What causes a receding hairline?
Excessive hair loss and baldness usually begin with a receding hairline. Although both men and women can experience a receding hairline, it is more common in men. For men, a receding hairline can start anytime in their early twenties.
It is normal for people to lose between 25 - 100 hairs every day. Hair follicles go through three different growth stages: anagen (growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). Each hair on your head has its own growth cycle. Therefore, hair follicles are not always in the same phase.
You may notice hair loss if your body experiences stress, a hormonal shift, or if your hair follicles have been damaged. Stressors on your body, such as certain medical conditions, can disrupt the hair growth cycle resulting in a receding hairline. Sometimes, hair loss from stressors can be permanent.
A receding hairline may be caused by:
- Family history - Hair loss follows a strong genetic pattern in families. If you are curious about what your hair may look like at a certain age, turn to your parents and grandparents. Chances are your hair will follow a similar pattern if you do not treat your hair loss.
- Natural hormonal changes from childbirth, breastfeeding, and menopause in women
- Thyroid conditions
- Autoimmune diseases
- Scalp infections
- Medications or supplements
- Radiation therapy
- Some hairstyling techniques can cause hair to fall out including cornrows, permanents, and hot oil treatments.
- A poor diet lacking sufficient protein can suppress hair growth
Emotional stress can play a major role in hair loss as well. In times of severe emotional stress, your hair may not fall out at the time of the stressful event. Typically, physical or emotional stress causes your hair to enter its resting phase before falling out. Therefore, you may experience noticeable hair loss months after the stressful event when your hair has completed its growth cycle.
Treating a receding hairline
Treatment of your receding hairline depends on the underlying cause. For example, if you have the autoimmune thyroid condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, treatment of your receding hairline will rely on synthetic thyroid hormone medication. For most people, especially men, a receding hairline is due to genetic factors. Although we cannot change our genes, we can try using products and medications to improve hair growth.
A popular treatment option for receding hairline is minoxidil (Rogaine). Available in nearly all drug and grocery stores, minoxidil is one of the oldest topical agents that aims to reverse hair loss. However, Rogaine is not without side effects, and these side effects can go beyond the skin. Furthermore, Rogaine has not demonstrated that it can prevent receding hairline, which is one of the greatest concerns in consumers with hair loss.
- Healing the scalp and hair follicles
- Regulating growth factors
- Inhibiting DHT (dihydrotestosterone) development and reversing the effects of DHT
- Supporting keratin production
The above mechanisms of nanoxidil collaborate well to increase hair growth and decrease hair loss without the topical and systemic side effects of Rogaine.
Other possible treatment options for receding hairline include essential oils, corticosteroid injections, topical steroids, surgical hair restoration, and platelet-rich plasma therapy. Some oral medications and supplements may be used to promote hair growth, including biotin and finasteride. Indeed, finasteride is a well-known oral medication that is prescribed by medical doctors to treat hair loss.
How finasteride works
Finasteride is classified as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. This class of medications blocks the action of 5-alpha-reductase, which is an enzyme that makes DHT by converting testosterone. DHT is the hormone responsible for prostate enlargement and male pattern hair loss.
Medications in this class were primarily created to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is an enlarged prostate. However, it was soon discovered that the mechanism of action in these medications also demonstrated an improvement in male pattern baldness by increasing hair growth from the scalp. The effects of this medication last only as long as you take it. Therefore, if you stop taking finasteride your prostate will enlarge once again and your hairline will continue to recede.
Finasteride side effects
As with any medication, there are side effects to taking finasteride. You and your doctor will need to work together to determine if the benefits of taking this medication outweigh the risks. For women who are of childbearing age, finasteride cannot be prescribed as it has teratogenic effects. That is, the drug has been proven to cause fetal abnormalities in pregnant women. Crushed or broken finasteride tablets should not even be handled by a pregnant or breastfeeding woman as the medication can be absorbed through the skin.
Common side effects that are expected in finasteride include:
- Loss in libido or interest in sex
- Inability to achieve or maintain an erection
- Nasal congestion
Less common side effects include:
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- Decreased amount of semen
- Back pain
Side effects that require immediate medical attention:
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or lightheadedness
- Chills or cold sweats
- Signs of an allergic reaction including hives, difficulty breathing, bloating or swelling of the face, lips, and extremities, itchy skin, and rash.
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Breast enlargement or tenderness
The FDA warns men taking finasteride that they may be at higher risk for having a serious form of prostate cancer (high-grade). Also, your doctor may recommend avoiding NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Motrin® and Advil® as they can worsen sexual dysfunction when combined with finasteride.
Using finasteride to treat receding hairline
If you and your doctor choose to treat your receding hairline with finasteride, it is important to note that this medication is meant for longterm use. You will likely not experience any results for a few months after starting the medication. If you decide to stop taking finasteride, your hair quality and quantity will decrease once again.
At this time, finasteride is FDA-approved for men only because of the teratogenic effect in women. Similarly, research is inconclusive as to whether or not it is beneficial to women. However, some studies have demonstrated that physicians are starting to consider using finasteride in women with hair loss, receding hairline, and other forms of alopecia.
Your self-image and self-confidence are important. While hair loss is a common side effect of stress, aging, and certain medical conditions, it can impact your identity and perception of self. If you have a receding hairline, you do have options for restoring your hair. Finasteride has been proven to improve receding hairline in male pattern baldness. However, the medication must be taken long-term for best results and it does come with side effects, some of which may be life-threatening.
For an effective option with no known side effects, you may want to consider Spectral.DNC-N® and Revita®. Shop our complete collection of hair loss products to find the best solution for you.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.