You’ve probably noticed that the hairlines of children and young teenagers are set lower down than those of adults, making their foreheads look smaller. They recede as people age – pushing hairlines further back and making foreheads look bigger. As the shape of a person’s hairline changes, the way their hair frames their face will change, too.
Hairline changes of this type are perfectly normal – but not all alterations to your hairline are. If you suddenly notice that you’ve developed an uneven hairline, or feel like your hairline looks crooked or asymmetrical, this may not be so typical. And when coupled with other issues, like thinning hair or patchy hair growth, you might actually be noticing a sign of hair loss.
When to worry about an uneven hairline
All toddlers and kids start out with a concave hairline. According to a study in the Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics Of North America Journal, hairlines only start to change later on in life, starting around kindergarten age and continuing through your teenage years.
By the time you graduate high school, your hairline will have started to recede into its mature form. While everyone develops a mature hairline in their late teens and 20s, not all adult hairlines look the same. Some people retain a round hairline, while others develop a widow’s peak (also known as a McDonald’s hairline). And based on a number of factors – particularly genetics – you may even end up with a more asymmetrical hairline than usual.
But the development of a mature hairline should not be confused with a receding hairline. While a mature hairline is a natural part of aging, a receding hairline is a sign of hair loss. If you notice that the hair framing your face looks thinner or is growing more slowly, you’re probably seeing one of the first signs of hair loss. Other potential signs of hair loss include:
- A crooked hairline that wasn’t present previously
- Asymmetrical hair loss affecting only half or part of your hairline
- Patchy or uneven hair growth around your hairline and temples
- Weak, thin hair growth around your hairline and temples
- A larger than average amount of baby hairs framing your face
- A large number of short, broken hairs framing your face
- Hairline changes coupled with hair loss in multiple places – like the top of your head
In most cases, an uneven or patchy hairline is a sign of androgenic alopecia, the most common form of hair loss. This progressive condition, also known as pattern hair loss, is caused by a mixture of hormonal and genetic factors. You’re particularly likely to be seeing symptoms of androgenic alopecia if you’re experiencing hair loss at the temples or crown of your head.
However, if you have long hair, curly or coily hair, or like to keep your hair styled back in tight braids or ponytails, you may actually have a different type of hair loss. Hair loss can actually occur due to external factors, like the way you tie your hair back. When hair strands are repeatedly subjected to stress or strain, the follicles can become damaged and may eventually stop producing hair. This type of hair loss is known as traction alopecia.
Why is my hairline uneven?
Hair loss is a common reason you might have a messed up hairline or uneven hairline. There are two main types of hair loss that cause this problem: traction alopecia and androgenic alopecia. Androgenic alopecia, which is also known as hereditary hair loss or pattern hair loss, is mainly caused by a mixture of hormones and genetics. Traction alopecia, on the other hand, is primarily caused by lifestyle choices – such as the hairstyles you choose or how tightly you style your hair.
Understanding traction alopecia
Traction alopecia is most common in people with long hair and individuals who need to keep their hair tied up and out of their face. The way it presents can vary quite a lot. The severity of the issue and treatment options really depend on the hairstyle that’s caused the problem, how long you’ve been styling your hair that way, and how quickly you’ve realized you’re losing hair.
For example, if your parents really liked keeping your hair in tight braids or cornrows when you were young, and you kept up this trend as an adult, you might find that your hairline has receded more than average. However, this type of hairline recession is likely to appear quite even, affecting your hairline and the hair along your temples fairly evenly. Chances are that you don’t like your hairline and feel like your forehead is too large.
But let’s say your parents liked styling your hair into tight braids to keep your hair out of your face – and when you started doing your hair on your own, you found that style boring. Maybe you preferred side-swept cornrows, instead.
This small change in hairstyle is actually a big change for your hair strands, changing the direction they’re being pulled in. It also means that certain hair follicles are being subjected to more stress than others. And if you loved that side-swept hairstyle enough to maintain it for years, there’s a good chance that it’s the cause behind your asymmetrical hairline.
Understanding androgenic alopecia
Pattern hair loss is a progressive condition that’s also the most common cause of balding. When you start losing hair, it doesn’t happen all at once. Instead, as a study in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery says, hair loss tends to occur in defined stages.
An uneven hairline and other hairline changes are some of the first signs of androgenic alopecia. As this type of hair loss progresses, you’ll also notice thinning hair around your temples. At this point, your hairline will definitely change shape. Even if you never developed a McDonald’s hairline, temple hair loss will make it look like you have one.
As hair loss progresses, people with androgenic alopecia experience hair thinning across the top of their heads – particularly at the crown. Eventually, these hairs get thinner, weaker, and shorter. After a while, they stop growing entirely. Without a hair loss treatment, this ultimately results in baldness.
How to fix a hairline messed up by traction alopecia
Traction alopecia can be easy to fix if it’s caught early on. Simply styling your hair in a different way can help a great deal. If you’ve noticed uneven hair growth along your hairline, try wearing your hair loose (or at least in looser styles) for a while. When caught early, the damage caused by traction alopecia is often reversible. It might take a bit of time, but your hair will eventually grow back.
People who have a hairline receding on one side or who are already experiencing distinctly asymmetrical hair growth are likely experiencing more serious issues caused by traction alopecia. After a certain point, damaged hair follicles will stop producing hair. This means that you’ll need to consider a hair loss treatment or cosmetic procedure as a solution.
1. Use minoxidil
If there are still tiny baby hairs growing around your hairline, or your follicles are producing small, weak hairs, your hair stands a chance of growing back. A doctor may recommend that you try a medication called minoxidil. According to Statpearls Publishing, this topical drug is FDA-approved as a treatment for pattern hair loss, but it’s also used off-label for other types of alopecia. Applying it to your scalp improves blood flow and encourages your follicles to produce stronger, healthier hairs again.
2. Get scalp micropigmentation
If your uneven hairline looks patchy, but there’s still decent hair growth across most of it, you can consider a cosmetic solution, like scalp micropigmentation. Micropigmentation is a type of semi-permanent hair tattoo that can help fill in the gaps in a patchy or uneven hairline.
According to a Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology study, micropigmentation scalp tattoos are applied to look like tiny dots or circles – that way, they resemble follicles producing new hair strands or hairs that have been recently shaven. If you’re worried that this will look too different from the rest of your hair, consider asking your hairstylist or barber to create a double hairline for you. That style will help your hairline look even, sleek, and trim – even when wearing your hair loose.
3. Consider hair transplantation
If your hairline is noticeably receding on one side or you’ve lost so much hair across your hairline that you’ve become self-conscious about the issue, you can also consider a surgical procedure. Hairline lowering surgery and hair transplants are both options for people who want to permanently adjust their hairlines.
Most people who have traction alopecia and are considering hair transplants will be offered follicular unit extraction (FUE). This surgery involves moving follicles from the back of the head, where there are lots of healthy hairs, to the hairline and temples, where hair regrowth needs to be improved.
If your hair loss is particularly extensive, or if you have hair loss caused by both traction alopecia and androgenic alopecia, you could also consider combining these three strategies. According to a Hair Transplant Forum International report, combining scalp micropigmentation with a hair transplant can enhance the way the final result appears and hide any post-procedure scarring. And when minoxidil is applied before and after a hair transplant, it can help reduce post-procedure hair shedding, too.
How to fix an uneven hairline caused by androgenic alopecia
As the most common form of hair loss, androgenic alopecia has several different treatment options. Most people fight hair loss with FDA-approved hair loss treatments like minoxidil, finasteride, or laser hair therapy. But if you’re mainly concerned with an uneven receding hairline, you can also consider getting hair transplantation surgery.
1. Apply minoxidil
Minoxidil was the first medication to ever be approved for the treatment of pattern hair loss. This topical drug, which works by increasing blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles, is FDA-approved in concentrations of 2 and 5 percent. The 5 percent solution is thought to be the most effective for men.
2. Take finasteride
Finasteride was the first oral medication to be approved to treat androgenic alopecia. It’s FDA-approved for men in the form of 1-milligram pills meant to be taken once a day. A review in the Lasers in Medical Science says that finasteride works as a DHT blocker, counteracting the hormonal component of pattern hair loss.
3. Try laser hair therapy
Laser hair therapy – also known as low-level laser therapy or LLLT – is a biostimulatory light therapy treatment that’s administered via devices. Wearing a laser hair cap or brushing your hair with a laser hair comb can help stop hair loss and encourage thicker, stronger, healthier hair growth.
According to a review in the Skin Appendage Disorders journal, this biostimulatory light therapy is thought to work by influencing the hair growth cycle positively. It’s believed to make the growth phase of the hair growth cycle longer and encourage resting follicles to produce new hair strands. The Lasers in Medical Science review also says that this hair loss treatment may improve blood flow to the scalp, a bit like minoxidil.
It might sound like total science fiction to think of lasers helping you regrow hair. But according to a review in the Dermatology Online Journal, it’s actually pretty old news. While laser hair therapy was only FDA-cleared in the last few decades, low-level lasers have been inducing hair growth since 1967.
4. Get hair transplantation surgery
Two types of hair transplants are available to people with androgenic alopecia: follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT). Both procedures take hair follicles from the back of the head and transplant them into balding areas. However, FUE extracts individual hair follicles, while FUT extracts a strip of skin and harvests the follicles from it. Sometimes, people with extensive hair loss are offered both FUE and FUT simultaneously.
Hair transplants are a surgical procedure considered best for people with later-stage pattern hair loss. It’s possible to get a hair transplant earlier on – like when you start seeing hairline changes. But since androgenic alopecia is progressive, it’s not recommended because you’re going to keep losing hair across your temples and crown over time.
Is an uneven hairline normal?
As you age, your hairline changes. And in most cases, these changes are so gradual that you barely notice them. In fact, many people probably don’t even think about changes to their hairline unless they’re looking back at childhood photos.
But not all hairline changes are normal – and noticing abnormal hairline changes is important in dealing with hair loss. Whether your uneven hairline is a sign of traction alopecia or androgenic alopecia, the earlier you identify the problem and start a hair loss treatment, the better.
Dealing with hair loss symptoms early on gives you the best chance of getting your hair back. If you have androgenic alopecia, FDA-approved treatments like minoxidil, finasteride, and low-level laser therapy are proven ways to regrow stronger, thicker hair.
Fixing an uneven hairline caused by traction alopecia will always start with changing your hairstyle. But you may also want to speak with your doctor about using minoxidil off-label to encourage your hair follicles to start producing healthy hairs again.