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Is an M-Shaped Hairline a Sign of Balding?

Angela Sheddan

Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 06/06/2023

Worried about an M-shaped hairline? Here’s everything you need to know.

Maybe you’ve noticed it gradually in the mirror or pictures, or perhaps one day you woke up and it hit you — your natural hairline has noticeably changed. Your once-straight hairline now takes on the shape of the letter M.

Could this M-shaped hairline be a sign of future baldness? While the thinning of hair on your head is likely due to male pattern baldness, there could be other reasons for this new M hairline.

So, does an M-shaped hairline mean you’re dealing with male pattern baldness? Or is it simply genetics at work?

Read on for answers, and learn more about what an M-shaped hairline could mean.

What Is an M-Shaped Hairline?

As the name suggests, an M-shaped hairline takes the shape of an M. The central part of the hairline is at the front, then recedes at the temples, either significantly or not much.

We’ll say this right off the bat, especially if you have an uneven hairline: There’s no such thing as a normal hairline.

There are all different types of hairlines, from naturally curved to widow’s peak hairlines (which we’ll talk about more below). Also, several factors can affect your hairline, some of which are in your control and some not.

Genetics often play a role in hairline shape, especially if you’re experiencing male pattern baldness. Even lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and stress can encourage or slow hair growth.

M-Shaped Hairline vs. Widow’s Peak

A widow’s peak hairline comes together in a downward V-shape at the center of the forehead — almost like a much-less-exaggerated or smaller M-shaped hairline. It can be quite distinctive in some people, especially when their hair is pulled back, while others have just the hint of one.

The similarity between an M-shaped hairline and a widow’s peak could have you wondering which type of hairline you’re dealing with.

Both hairlines are fairly common. A look at over 450 Japanese men and women found that over 42 percent of men had an M-shaped hairline, while almost 33 percent had a widow’s peak.

Though the cause of a widow’s peak isn’t entirely clear, some genetic conditions are associated with this type of hairline. They include:

  • Aarskog syndrome. Aarskog syndrome is a rare genetic disorder affecting mostly men.

  • Donnai-Barrow syndrome. Donnai-Barrow syndrome is a condition caused by mutations in the LRP2 gene, which leads to unusual features of the eyes, nose and ears.

  • Frontonasal dysplasia. Frontonasal dysplasia is a very rare condition involving abnormal development of the head and face.

Many people may compare an M-shaped hairline with a widow’s peak, as they both have one section of hair slightly lower down on the forehead. But they’re not actually the same thing.

The main difference is that a widow’s peak is curved up the sides and meets in a triangular midpoint, whereas an M-shaped hairline is much more triangular, even along the sides. Another way to think about the difference between the two is that an M-shaped hairline has more exaggerated points than a widow’s peak.

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Is an M-Shaped Hairline a Sign of Balding?

Although an M-shaped hairline doesn’t always mean you’re balding, this hairline is commonly associated with hair loss.

A receding hairline (sometimes referred to as a mature hairline) is caused by male pattern baldness — also known as androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia.

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss that can affect both men and women (in women, androgenetic alopecia is called female pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss). In addition to an M-shaped hairline, other signs include hair loss affecting the top of the scalp.

Androgenetic alopecia is caused by genetics, specifically a genetic sensitivity to male sex hormones known as androgens — particularly the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Higher androgen levels of DHT shorten the growth phase of the hair, resulting in shorter hair follicles.

Androgenetic alopecia isn’t the only cause of an M hairline. Emotional stress can worsen a pattern of hair loss known as telogen effluvium that affects your hair by interrupting the natural hair growth cycle.

However, telogen effluvium often causes hair loss over your entire head rather than creating a receding M-shaped hairline like androgenetic alopecia.

Age can also cause your hairline to retreat into an M shape. Seeing as 30 to 50 percent of men have a receding hairline by the time they’re 50, male pattern baldness is a likely culprit.

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How to Fix an M-Shaped Hairline

While fixing an M-shaped hairline might seem trickier to accomplish due to the very specific spots of hair loss, some methods may be effective.

If you suspect poor diet, stress or other issues are affecting your hairline, this can be counteracted with basic lifestyle changes.

Poor diet, for example, can be changed by reducing your intake of processed foods and increasing your vitamin intake — particularly vitamin A, vitamin D and biotin.

You can also try M-shaped hairline hairstyles to make the receding hairline less noticeable. Consider:

  • Shaving your head to make the thin areas less noticeable

  • Slicking your hair back in a sleek pompadour or side-swept style

  • Combing all your hair to one side to create a deep part

  • Talking to your barber about haircuts or styling tips that’ll give the remaining hair more volume

You can also try regrowing the hair that’s receded. Effective medications for hair regrowth mostly include oral and topical products like finasteride and minoxidil.

Finasteride works to reduce levels of DHT (the hormone that causes hair loss with androgenic alopecia) circulating in your body.

While the mechanism of topical minoxidil isn’t fully understood, studies show a 13 to 19 percent increase in total hair count over 48 weeks, depending on the concentration used.

Besides lifestyle changes and hair loss treatments like finasteride and minoxidil, hair transplant surgery is another option to fix an M-shaped hairline. The procedure involves hair transplantations from the sides and back of the scalp to areas with hair loss, such as your hairline.

Hair transplants can have both pros and cons, but this surgery can lead to natural-looking results and a fuller hairline when performed correctly. We’ve talked more about the types of procedure, costs and how it works in our hairline restoration guide.

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M-Shaped Hairline: The Big Picture

Whether you call it a mature hairline, hair thinning, a receding hairline, balding or simply hair loss, seeing your once-full head of hair disappear can be disappointing — especially if your hairline is becoming noticeably thinner and turning into an M-shape hairline.

This hairline shape is characterized by more hair in the front or center of the head and receding hair at the temples, creating an M shape. The M-shape hairline has more exaggerated hair loss at the temples and less of a point in the center than a widow’s peak, a similar-looking hairline.

Oftentimes, an M-shape hairline is an early sign of balding, though this isn’t always the case. You can fix an M-shape hairline by trying new hairstyles to create a fuller-looking head of hair, shaving completely or having hairline restoration surgery.

Unsure what to do about your M-shaped hairline? Consulting with a healthcare professional is a good first step, as they can help determine the cause of your hair loss and help you find workable solutions.

11 Sources

  1. Widow peak (Concept Id: C1853486). (n.d.). NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/medgen/342891
  2. Kashiyama, K., Haraguchi, R., Ban, F., Yoshida, D., Fukuda, M., Date, N., Koga, K., Koga, K., & Tanaka, K. (2021). Study of Frontal and Temporal Hairline Patterns in Japanese Subjects. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open, 9(8), e3751. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8367035/
  3. Aarskog-Scott syndrome. (2022, May 27). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/aarskog-scott-syndrome/
  4. Donnai-Barrow syndrome. (2013, April 1). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/donnai-barrow-syndrome/
  5. Frontonasal dysplasia. (2014, April 1). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/frontonasal-dysplasia/
  6. Al Aboud, A. (n.d.). Androgenetic Alopecia - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  7. Asghar, F., Shamim, N., Farooque, U., Sheikh, H., & Aqeel, R. (2020). Telogen Effluvium: A Review of the Literature. Cureus, 12(5), e8320. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320655/
  8. Asfour, L., Cranwell, W., & Sinclair, R. (2023, January 25). Male Androgenetic Alopecia - Endotext. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/
  9. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. ISRN dermatology, 2011, 241953. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/
  10. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug design, development and therapy, 13, 2777–2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  11. Zito, P. M., & Raggio, B. S. (2023, February 14). Hair Transplantation - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547740/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Angela Sheddan, FNP

Dr. Angela Sheddan has been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 2005, practicing in community, urgent and retail health capacities. She has also worked in an operational capacity as an educator for clinical operations for retail clinics. 

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, her master’s from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. You can find Angela on LinkedIn for more information.


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