What is the Anterior Scalp?
The word “anterior” means to be in the front (the “posterior” being the opposite). In regards to hair terminology, the anterior scalp consists of the frontal regions. From a top-down perspective, this area includes the hairline, the temples, the forelock, and regions immediately behind the hair line. The anterior ends at what’s known as the midscalp.
It is important to note that the forehead and the anterior scalp are two separate structures, though muscles in the forehead called the paired frontalis connect to the superficial fascia of the scalp itself. These muscles pull on the superficial fascia, which is what allows the forehead to wrinkle or furrow as a facial expression. The scalp itself has no muscle fibers, which is why a person can wrinkle their forehead but not their scalp.
The Anterior Forelock
A forelock refers to the patch of area that begins at the mid-scalp (this is called a central forelock) and grows downwards towards the anterior scalp (this is called a frontal forelock). The frontal forelock is a prominent lock of hair located just above the forehead around the center of the anterior hairline. In a balding pattern known as the “widow’s peak” – which especially affects males – the forelock is the area that retains a partial amount of hair.
The Anterior Scalp and Frontal Balding
Hair loss typically begins at the anterior hairline or the whorl (a patch of hair that is not located on the anterior scalp – it helps determine the hair’s pattern and geometry). According to a 2009 overview, there are two major classifications for an anterior hairline:
- A high anterior – this is when there is a fair amount of distance between the hairline and the area above the nose, between the brows (known as the glabella). This can often give the appearance of a larger forehead than normal, and may or may not cause less hair to grow in the temporal regions than normal. To differentiate a high anterior from traditional male pattern hair loss (MPH), the doctor will see where the patient is able to wrinkle their forehead. If a large portion of skin is missing hair and cannot be wrinkled, it means that the anterior scalp is experiencing hair loss.
- A frontal upsweep – this is when the anterior hair grows either upwards, sideways, or both. Also known as a “cow lick”.
- A low anterior – this is the opposite style of growth, where the distance between the hairline and glabella is much shorter. This can give the appearance of a shorter forehead. Sometimes it can be mistaken for hirsutism (male-pattern hair growth) on the forehead, though this sort of hair would more closely resemble facial hair rather than scalp hair.
It is important to note that these are not the only two styles of anterior hair growth, but rather two opposite ends of a wide spectrum of hair growth. That is to say, there are many anterior hairstyles that are not classified as “low” or “high”, but as somewhere in between.