What to Know About Widow's Peak

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 23, 2022
4 min read

As humans with different genetic makeup, we all have our own set of defining characteristics that make us who we are. Whether it's dimples, a prominent nose, or freckles, chances are that you have a physical attribute that stands out. A widow's peak is one of the many different defining physical characteristics that a person can have, with both men and women being capable of having this trait. 

A widow's peak is a hairline shape in which the hairline forms a point in the middle of the forehead, creating a V shape. Oftentimes confused with a receding hairline, a widow's peak is something you are born with, while a receding hairline is something that occurs over time, typically with older age. Keep reading to learn more about what causes a widow's peak, the myths behind it, and how to manage this specific hairline.

The widow's peak is a physical trait most often noted for its name. Although the term "peak" is assumed to be a way of describing the distinct V shape, this trait actually has a more interesting reason for its name. The name can be traced back to 18th century England, where this hairline was originally thought to be a bad omen, signaling early widowhood. During this period, widows would typically wear a hat or hood that pointed down the middle of their forehead to signal widowhood. Thus, when a woman was born with this hairline that created a similar look to the headpiece worn by widows, it was assumed that that would be her fate.

Although the derivative of the name is interesting, it does not accurately paint the picture of what causes this hairline variation. Instead, the widow's peak is purely genetic. Although it is known that widow's peak is passed down by genetics and is most commonly a natural variant, there are cases in which its presence is associated with a genetic condition. Some of these genetic conditions include:

  • Aarskog Syndrome: A rare genetic condition that is characterized by multiple physical abnormalities with some cases of cognitive disorders also being present. This condition primarily affects males, and a widow's peak is a common physical attribute shared by those with Aarskog Syndrome.
  • Donnai-Barrow syndrome: This genetic condition affects multiple facial features, including the eyes, ears, nose, and hairline. Those that experience this condition oftentimes have difficulties associated with their abnormalities, such as vision loss and hearing loss. There are also structural abnormalities of the brain that can affect cognitive function.
  • Frontonasal dysplasia: This condition specifically affects the head and the face. A widow's peak is one of the many abnormalities that are possible with this genetic condition. Typically, patients will have at least two of the possible abnormalities, which also include abnormalities with the nose, mouth, skull, and connective brain tissue.
  • Opitz G/BBB syndrome: This condition is unique in that it affects the midline of the body, with patients experiencing abnormalities with their eyes, voice box, esophagus, ears, mouth, and nose. A widow's peak is a common distinct feature seen among those with this condition.

Although the name has previously alluded to the idea that a woman would become a widow early on in her life, there is no evidence that has backed up this claim. In the same way, there have been thoughts about widow's peak being associated with villain-like characteristics, which has also proven to be untrue. This claim comes from pop-culture references, where characters that portrayed villains, like Dracula, were seen with this recognizable hairline variation. However, there have also been people and characters in pop culture with the same hairline who do not follow this rule, like Marilyn Monroe.

When someone has a distinct feature that might set them apart, it is common for them to want to make a change to that feature so that it is less prominent. Although widow's peak is a common hairline for someone to have, there are instances where people do not find it to be an attractive feature. In this case, there are ways to manage how visible your widow's peak is to others. This can be done by:

  • Choosing a haircut, like bangs or a side part, that effectively covers all or part of your forehead
  • Consistent close shaves to the widow's peak area
  • Waxing and/or sugaring
  • Laser hair removal
  • Electrolysis, which is the only permanent way to remove a widow's peak
  • Follicular Unit Excision (FUE) hair transplant surgery
  • Depilatory creams

Before you partake in more invasive removal methods of your widow's peak, be sure to speak with a physician or assess your skin sensitivities beforehand. Depilatory creams, for example, can contain ingredients that could be hard on sensitive skin and cause irritation or burns.

A widow's peak is a genetic physical trait that is characterized by a hairline shape that comes to a point on the forehead. Its name is derived from an older belief that it was a mark of someone who would experience early widowhood, but this claim holds no strong evidence to be true. Instead, it is a physical trait that is inherited and is most likely the cause of multiple genes working together.

Although this is typically a normal variant, it can also be a defining characteristic for people with certain genetic conditions. Unlike other physical traits, like nose shape and mouth shape, a widow's peak can be easily hidden or altered through different means. However, it is not an intrusive physical trait and one can function perfectly without any intervention, hiding, or removal of this V-shaped hairline.