The telltale signs of aging tend to differ from person to person, and this is especially true when it comes to hair loss. For some, it shows up as thinning at the top of the head or the formation of a bald spot toward the back, while for others it occurs more in the front as a receding hairline, especially when it’s concentrated in the temple area, where it forms a W-shaped hair line.
In most cases, thinning hair near temples is a completely normal part of getting older, considering the most common type of hair loss—a condition known as androgenetic alopecia—occurs in nearly 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States alone, and can begin as early as our teenage years.1 But there are a few other reasons why your hairline might be creeping up around your temples, from lifestyle choices to hormonal imbalances, some of which have easy fixes. To better understand thinning hair near temples, we need to look at why we lose our hair in the first place.
According to our experts, there are three main reasons for hair loss.
Reasons for Hair Loss
To better understand thinning hair near temples, we need to look at why we lose our hair in the first place. According to our experts, there are three main reasons for hair loss.
The most common reason boils down to genetics, and a condition known as androgenetic alopecia or what we call male-pattern hair loss (although it occurs in women, too). Passam explained it in simple terms: “[Androgenetic alopecia] is a gradual hair thinning that occurs when hair follicles in the affected areas become sensitive to circulating androgens (male hormones), namely testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Affected follicles produce gradually shorter, finer hairs, until growth ceases.”
In women, rather than high levels of androgens, it’s elevated levels of 5a-reductase that’s to blame, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, as well as increased androgen receptors and decreased levels of cytochrome P450, which converts testosterone to estrogen.2 In layman’s terms, most of us lose our hair because our hormones are genetically predetermined to take us down that road. Over time, each hair follicle shrinks and the hair becomes finer and finer until there’s no hair growth at all, leaving us with bald and/or thinning areas. For some, this pattern shows up most prevalently around our temples.
Beyond genetics, Dr. Amin explained that there are a number of health conditions which can lead to hair loss, including:
Auto-immune disorders such as alopecia areata and lupus
Certain medications, including chemotherapy and hormone supplements
Fungal infections and/or ringworm of the scalp
Telogen effluvium, which is hair loss that occurs as the result of severe or chronic illness
Needless to say, if you are experiencing hair loss that, for any reason, you feel may not be attributed to your genes, it’s best to see a doctor before embarking on any treatments.
Sometimes, taking a good, hard look in the mirror can help us determine why our hair is falling out—especially thinning hair near temples. “Wearing tight hair styles, such as ponytails or braids, can cause a form of hair loss called traction alopecia, which causes the hair line to recede due to pulling forces on the hair follicles,” said Passam. While this can affect hair around the temples, it also more commonly affects the entire hairline. Dr. Amin also pointed out a condition called trichotillomania, which occurs when people feel the urge to pull out their own hair. While it isn’t limited to the hair on our heads, that’s probably where you’ll notice it the most. While evaluating your daily habits, look at your diet as well, as Dr. Amin said vitamin deficiencies can lead to hair loss, especially iron and vitamin B12. Lastly, the most obvious reason your hair could be falling out may be as close as the products and tools you use to make it look good, namely harsh dyes, bleaches, and even straightening treatments—all of which may cause trauma to the hair and scalp that could lead to excessive loss.
Why the Temple Area?
Passam explained that the hair density in the temple area is lower than elsewhere on the scalp, which explains why hair loss is most apparent here first as it’s a more immediately visible area. The result, Ayesh said, is that typical V-shaped “receding hairline” look that’s a typical sign of getting older. “Most guys really get hairline recession at the corner of their forehead rather than true temporal hair loss,” Dr. Amin said. “This accentuates the central hair and results in what is termed a ‘widows peak’ or the Eddie Munster look.”
Here are a few quick fixes to help optimize your look if you're experiencing thinning around the temples:
A new haircut: Dr. Amin recommends darkening or lightening your hair—whichever suits your natural color and style best—and getting a short, crisp haircut that sits close to the head, thereby lessening the contrast between long hair and bald spot.
Scalp micropigmentation: Ayesh brought up a new-ish procedure known as scalp micropigmentation, which uses micro needles to deposit pigment into your scalp to create the appearance of a full head of hair with a short buzz cut that, when done well, looks natural and undetectable.
Camouflage products: There are a number of powders and foams designed to give the illusion of thicker hair, however it takes a skilled hand to get these right.
If you’re serious about staving off a receding hairline there are a few treatments, ranging from no-downtime to several months of commitment, that might just be up your alley. Here are a few:
PRP therapy: Dr. Amin recommended Platelet-Rich Plasma or PRP Therapy, which has been shown to be particularly effective in the temporal area. By injecting or micro-needling platelet-rich plasma taken from the patient’s own blood into the scalp area, PRP therapy provides sustenance for dormant hair follicles and helps promote growth for other malnourished hair follicles, thus helping to stimulate hair growth. While PRP therapy can be effective, it can also be expensive and requires several sessions to see noticeable results.
Red light therapy: Also known as cold laser or soft laser therapy, Ayesh explained that red light therapy involves exposing areas of hair loss to red LED light, which helps stimulate epidermal stem cells in the hair follicle into the anagen—or hair growth—phase.
Exosome therapy: A fairly new method, a serum rich in exosomes (cellular “communication” components) is injected into the skin with the intent to “regenerate” dormant hair follicles, Ayesh explained.
Hair restoration surgery: The most drastic measure by far, however seen by many as the most effective, Passam explained that hair restoration involves taking hair follicles from the rear of the scalp and, under local anaesthetic, transplanting them to thinning or denuded areas. “Hair follicles in the rear of the scalp do not become affected by male pattern hair loss, and retain this property, even when moved to areas of hair thinning,” she said, making hair restoration surgery one of the most effective methods of dealing with thinning hair near temples. It’s also one of the most costly, time-consuming, and permanent, so do your research before committing.
Medication: Applied daily, minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) can help counteract the effects of pattern baldness by slowing down hair loss, however Passam said the response typically varies. Some maintain the density of their hair with regular usage while others just see a slow down in the thinning of their hair. Finasteride (brand name Propecia) is an oral medication that inhibits the production of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which leads to a chemical process that ultimately can help reduce hair loss. While the usage of both are generally safe, it’s best to seek a doctor’s advice before starting either, especially considering finasteride may cause certain complications for women.
The Final Takeaway
In most cases, hair loss is a completely normal part of getting older, along with the formation of lines and wrinkles, but if you should decide to do something about it, Passam recommends not wasting any time, as better outcomes can usually be achieved when the hair loss is at an earlier stage.
by Bryan Levandowski for Byrdie