Mature Hairline vs. Early Patterned Hair Loss

In my practice, I see lot of young patients who visit me panicking about their receding hairline.  Many of them don’t have a family history of hair loss as well as no microscopic signs of hair loss in other areas of their scalp.  When it comes to putting a name to this hair loss condition, I call it “hairline maturation”.

Difference between Hairline Maturation and Male Patterned Hair Loss

There is a difference between maturing someone’s hairline and early male patterned hair loss. From the age of 18 and into their early 20s, most Caucasian males experience a change in their hairline. The “kiddie hairline” of their early years with a straight look or closed corners (which could be similar to a female hairline) matures and goes up (especially the corners) to a more elevated stage. This naturally, minimally receded hairline in young adults is known as a mature hairline. For an example of a mature hairline, look at photos of men that are age 40 and older. When comparing the hairline of these individuals to where it was before age 20, we almost always see a definite change. That change is almost universal and does not have anything to do with male patterned baldness.

In general, a mature hairline is the hairline that develops as a person ages. Men that are in their teens typically have a full head of hair and the appearance of their hairline is generally referred to as a “juvenile hairline”. As a person ages, the hairline will begin to move back around 1-2cm from where it used to be located on the scalp, The final results after the hairline moves back is what is referred to as a “mature hairline”. The rate at which the hairline moves back varies per person.


How to Tell the Difference between a Mature Hairline and Male Patterned Hair Loss

Let’s take a look at how a mature hairline can be differentiated from early male patterned hair loss:

  • Extended Fine Hair in Front – When men experience early stages of patterned baldness, the fineness of hair (miniaturization) is usually not limited to the front. Although they may have more recession and thinning in frontal portions of their scalp, in a microscopic evaluation, miniaturized hair continues to be seen for a few centimeters behind the frontal hairline. This miniaturization could gradually disappear as we examine the more posterior areas. When the hairline matures, the miniaturization usually abruptly stops after the frontal 1-2 cm. We see no more than 20% miniaturization in the more posterior areas.
  • Family Pattern of Hair Loss – Men with a maturation of their hairline usually can find someone with a similar maturation of the hairline pattern. That means at least one male member on either sides of their family should have a similar recession of their hairline at that age. The same could be true about most people with patterned baldness. People who go through male patterned baldness usually can identify one person on either side of their family with a very similar pattern. Sometimes it requires some digging in old wedding photos or extended family photos because you may not always see that person in the immediate family members.

As mentioned above, a mature hairline sees the middle of the hairline move 1-2cm back. The corners can move back a little more. That is why a V-shaped hairline is typically seen in most middle aged men. If the person does not go through patterned hair loss, the hairline stays at that level (mature hairline). If the person goes through male patterned baldness, the hairline recedes farther back and develops something we know as patterned baldness of different states.

Unfortunately, reviewing the family pattern could be confusing and at times disappointing when you find so many men who ended up becoming bald. In order to determine if a person is developing a mature hairline rather than experiencing early stages of baldness, a miniaturization study (microscopic analysis of scalp hair) needs to be performed by an expert.

If you are only going through hairline maturation, you don’t need any medical treatment or a hair transplant procedure. Early differentiation and detection of male patterned baldness is important. In many patients, starting some form of medical treatment early on can make a difference. Early detection of male patterned baldness can also help in designing a master plan that includes both hair loss medications and surgical interventions. Your hair transplant surgeon can evaluate your available permanent hair follicles and plan your hair restoration based on your total available follicular units and long term goals.