At some point, most men start to lose some of their hair. Some guys may start to lose their hair in their twenties; others may have grandchildren before they begin to go bald. A very fortunate gents will keep a full head of hair well into old age, but most of you lucky guns will start to notice thinning hair or a receding hairline at some point in your adult life.
Let's take a deep breath, this is totally normal! Balding isn’t an indictment on your masculinity, despite any societal pressure or marketing pushes to see it that way. But objectively understanding this fact won’t necessarily keep you from being sensitive to perceived changes in your hair.
One of the first signs of male pattern baldness is a receding hairline. However this can appear very similar to a widow’s peak, which isn’t necessarily indicative of thinning hair. So how can you tell the difference between a widow’s peak and a receding hairline?
Widow’s Peak - Here To Stay
The term “widow’s peak” comes from an old English tradition of the 18th century. Widows wore black, triangular hoods or hats with the point extending into the middle of the forehead while mourning the death of their husbands. The distinctive shape of this garment has carried over into modern culture as a way to describe a V-shaped hairline at the forehead.
Sometimes this is just a little protrusion in an otherwise straight hairline; however sometimes the V can be quite prominent at the forehead with the hairline retreating back towards the temples.
Though a widow’s peak hairline can be developed later in life as a sign of oncoming baldness, many people (both men and women) are born with one. Having this hairline–even with a prominent peak– isn’t necessarily a sign that you need to worry about thinning hair.
Receding Hairline - Retreating Hair
The key difference between a widow’s peak vs. receding hairline has very little to do with the shape of your hairline; it’s all about how your hairline changes over time.
A receding hairline can start anytime after men hit puberty, as their hair starts to thin out as they age. It’s common for the hairline to recede a little bit in men in their late teens and early twenties, but typically the term “receding hairline” is reserved for one that continues to recede into their thirties or later.
Here’s how it happens: Adults typically shed anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs every day (which you’ve probably noticed if you’ve had a lady friend spend the night). These hairs are replaced by new growth, which is why we don’t all end up bald early on in life.
However, as men age, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone causes their hair follicles to shrink. The smaller hair follicles will result in hair that both grows out thinner and falls out more easily. Eventually, as the follicles continue to shrink, the only hairs that grow will be very soft and fine, more closely resembling the imperceptible hairs on your body that you're used to having on your head.
You may notice this first if you start to get a little bald spot at the crown of your head; however it frequently begins at your hairline near the temples and slowly draws back your hairline. This often results in something that resembles a widow’s peak hairline.
But Wait, What’s The Difference between a Widow’s Peak and a Receding Hairline?
A receding hairline is indicative of male pattern baldness and sometimes results in a widow’s peak hairline. However a widow’s peak is not in and of itself a sign that you’re going bald– even kids can have them.
If you’ve had one as long as you can remember, it’s probably not a sign of thinning hair. However if you’re starting to notice your hairline pulling back around your temples, you’ve got a receding hairline.
What Can I Do About Losing My Hair?
There are plenty of “quick fix” products on the market designed to combat hair loss. However there are some things you can do to preserve the health of your hair.
Back off the heat. If you use a hair dryer, try to avoid blasting your hair on the highest setting or applying heat after your hair is mostly dry. The excess heat can make your hair dry and brittle, causing it to break or fall out.
Take vitamin supplements. You don’t need to take supplements to have healthy hair but, if you’re feeling a sense of impending hair loss, there are a handful of vitamins you can work into your morning routine:
- Vitamin A promotes hair growth and the production of sebum (the natural oils that keep your scalp healthy).
- Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to early hair loss; adding a supplement to your diet may help to delay the onset of baldness.
- B-vitamins, like biotin, help to carry oxygen and nutrients to your hair, skin, and nails.
Use a conditioner and wash regularly. The added moisture from the conditioner will keep your hair strong and healthy, and less prone to breakage or thinning.
Most men are going to experience thinning hair or baldness at some point, no matter how many supplements you take. Obsessing over perceived minuscule changes in your hairline is only going to lead to more stress, which - you guessed it - can be a factor in hair loss as well.
The best thing you can do is to take care of your hair and keep it healthy. Use a clarifying shampoo, condition regularly, and try to avoid maxing out the blow dryer or brushing it out when it’s soaking wet.
You should treat your hair with the same care that you treat your skin, taking the time to find products with natural ingredients and using them regularly. Widow’s peak, receding hairline, or otherwise, you can take pride in the fact that you’ve got a great head of hair.