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Hairline Recession in Women: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on February 11, 2024

One in three women will have some form of alopecia at some point in their lives [1]. Hairline recession in women is a relatively rare symptom of female hair loss. While more commonly associated with male pattern baldness, it’s also a key symptom of frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA), which mostly affects postmenopausal women. Female hairline recession due to FFA is estimated to affect one in 142 women worldwide [1a].

In this guide, you’ll learn about the causes of hairline recession in women, effective treatments for these conditions, and the mental health impact that happens when women experience hair loss.

Table of Contents

What is a female receding hairline and what does it look like?

A typical receding hairline refers to when the hair on the front part of the scalp starts to thin and move towards the back of the head.

While it’s not always noticeable at first, eventually hairline recession can change the shape of your face and make your forehead appear larger. You might see your hairline change to an M, V, or U shape to name a few types of hairlines.

These real patient photos show what receding hairlines in women can look like:

Example of a female receding hairline

Receding hairline in a patient with frontal fibrosing alopecia [2]

Patient with a receding hairline

Wimpole Patient with a receding hairline

Patient with a V-shaped hairline

Wimpole Patient with a V-shaped hairline.

Example of a receding hairline in a woman

Wimpole Patient with a U-shaped hairline.

What causes a receding hairline in women? 

Several types of female hair loss can cause a receding hairline. These include:

The different forms of hair loss that cause hairline recession can affect women at different ages. They can be due to a myriad of factors such as genes, stress, hairstyles, illness, pregnancy, diet and vitamin deficiencies, and hormonal changes.

Other forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata and female pattern baldness do not usually affect the hairline. Alopecia areata causes bald patches of hair loss across the head and female pattern baldness (also known as female androgenetic alopecia or female pattern hair loss) causes generalised hair thinning over the scalp.

Here’s how each hair loss condition can contribute to hairline recession in women.

Traction alopecia

Traction Alopecia is caused by tension from repeatedly pulling the hair tightly for long periods, which damages the hair shaft and follicle. Tight hairstyles like braids, ponytails, and buns, and pulling hair accessories like hair rollers, hair extensions that pull on the scalp and other tight hair clips can contribute to traction alopecia [5].

Traction alopecia is often a cause of teenage hair loss in girls and women of African descent as well as girls who are dancers, gymnasts, or cheerleaders – professions which often require wearing tight updo hairstyles [6].

The most common type of traction alopecia presents with hair loss along the front and sides of the hairline. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle)
  • Crust around the hair follicle
  • Decreased hair density
  • Broken hairs

Traction alopecia is reversible, but if left untreated, it can lead to forms of permanent scarring alopecia, including frontal fibrosing alopecia. Treatment options for traction alopecia are simple and involve avoiding high-tension hairstyles and styling tools.

Folliculitis in traction alopecia

Folliculitis in traction alopecia [5].

Example of a patient with advanced traction alopecia

Advanced traction alopecia [5].

Patient with traction alopecia as a result of wearing a tight ponytail

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a psychological condition in which individuals repeatedly pull at their hair, causing breakage along the hair shaft and hair loss. Trichotillomania is a form of traction alopecia that can cause a receding hairline. 

People with trichotillomania usually pull hair from their heads, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Hair pulling is often used as a coping mechanism during stressful periods or in individuals with other mental health problems like obsessive-compulsive disorder [4].

Luckily, trichotillomania is reversible, and there are several treatment options. Options for promoting regrowing the hair include:

In addition, patients with trichotillomania may be referred to mental health services for treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help stop hair pulling. 

broken hair and split ends from a Trichotillomania patient

Broken hairs and split ends in trichotillomania [7].

Telogen effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a non-scarring form of stress-related alopecia. After a triggering or traumatic event, the normal hair growth cycle is disrupted. As a result, many hair follicles in the active hair growth phase (anagen phase) stop growing and enter the resting or shedding phase (telogen). This results in excessive hair loss. 

Telogen effluvium often happens after pregnancy or emotional and physical stress. Up to 50% of new mothers experience losing hair or postpartum shedding after childbirth [8]. 

Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia

Frontal fibrosing alopecia is a form of scarring alopecia that affects mainly postmenopausal women from age 55. In frontal fibrosing alopecia, it is thought that immune system cells destroy the follicle stem cells’ ability to regenerate themselves [10]. 

Genetic, hormonal, autoimmune, inflammatory, and environmental factors may contribute to FFA, but its exact cause is unknown. The main symptoms of FFA are:

  • Hairline recession, or thinning hair along the front and sides of the hairline
  • A shiny, smooth scalp where hair has been lost
  • Hair loss from the eyebrows, eyelashes, and other parts of the body.

Unlike some other forms of alopecia, FFA is a permanent scarring alopecia. However, some treatments, like steroids, 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, and laser light therapy, can help promote hair growth and slow the progression of the disease.

stages of frontal fibrosing alopecia

Women with diagnosed frontal fibrosing alopecia at different stages; premenopausal 30-year-old woman (a), postmenopausal 63-77-year-old women with hairline recession and eyebrow loss (b-d) [10].

Female hairline recession risk factors

Impact of a receding hairline on mental health

Even though hairline recession is common, it has psychosocial risks that can lead to mental health problems. Hairline recession is associated with self-consciousness, embarrassment, reduced self-worth, and decreased confidence. Anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and even suicidal tendencies can develop because of hair loss. 

The psychological stress of hairline recession is often felt more in women than men, possibly due to the societal pressure surrounding hair and attractiveness. This results in women seeking treatment more than men [12]. 

Studies have shown that around 40% of women with hair loss report marital problems, and 63% have linked their hair loss with career-related issues as a result [12]. Seeking help and counseling can be beneficial for women experiencing hair loss. You may also want to join a support group for people with alopecia.

Female hairline recession treatment

If you’re feeling self-conscious about your receding or thinning hairline, there are things you can do to disguise or treat the condition. Here are some of the most popular female hairline recession treatments.

Restyle your hair

While it’s not always easy to stop a receding hairline or reverse thinning hair after menopause, a strategic hairstyle can make it less visible. Check out some of the best hairstyles for women who have a receding hairline and these short hairstyles for women over 50.

If your hair loss is more diffuse across the scalp, be inspired by these female hairstyles for thinning hair on the crown.

Apply Minoxidil

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter topical hair loss treatment used for promoting hair growth. It’s often recommended for both men and women who are experiencing hair loss due to a variety of causes. Studies show that a 5% foam solution can stimulate hair growth in 40% of women [12a].

Learn how to apply minoxidil.

What to do if you’re worried about your receding hairline

While hairline recession in women is relatively rare, it can be worrying if you start to see female temple hair loss. So it’s important to seek a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. 

Fortunately, there are some proven ways to hide and regrow female frontal hair thinning. But receding hairline treatment success varies between individuals. What works for someone else may not work for you. If you think you have a receding hairline, get a diagnosis from a qualified trichologist or medical professional.

Getting an early diagnosis and an effective treatment plan is a good way to minimise your hair loss and maybe even help in the hair regrowth process. More advanced treatments, such as hair transplants, are available if you have been struggling with hair loss for a while. Learn more about hair transplants for women and hairline transplants.

Hairline Recession in Women: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)Updated on February 11, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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