How much is my hair loss putting off my app dates?
June 1, 2023 5:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm 35 and most of my dating app pics are from about a year or two ago, but I feel like I've lost approximately 30-40% of my hair since then in terms of receding hairline and thinning. Is this the type of thing women notice? I have a huge fear of misrepresenting myself on dating sites, and not sure whether I need to pause until I get a bunch of more recent pictures.

So I have had a pretty rotten streak with dating this year - nothing BAD has happened, just a pattern of meeting people, having a perfectly pleasant (or even good!) time, sometimes even having a lot in common and sharing a lot of laughs - and then not getting a call back/getting a polite "not interested".  It's probably been about 10-15 dates so far this year since trying to get back on the dating horse.  None of them successful.

I am assuming this is appearance related for a few reasons - one is that this level of unsuccess didn't used to happen a year or two ago in my thicker hair days. And I am ruling things out like bad hygiene or the potential that I behave objectionably or have poor social skills - like, I have female friends/female coworker friends, they like me, and many like me enough and think highly enough of me to have tried to set me up in the past...I mention this not to try and flatter myself but to hopefully provide some evidence that I'm not an outright troll or anything.  Said female friends have also helped me pick out my dating app pictures, though again, this was about 1-2 years ago.  I get a fair amount of matches and dates - as I did back then - so I assume the *pictures* are good.

But I have this resounding fear of my dates seeing my app pics and then meeting me, only to be disappointed that I don't look as good as my pictures.  As mentioned, my hair has thinned out/receded significantly.  I mean, I HAVE hair, I probably don't give the first impression of a straight up balding guy, and when I asked a professional at a salon the other week if I should just buzz it they said "not yet!".  But if you sit up close to me, yeah, you might notice that my forehead is a lot bigger, my widows peak a lot widowy-er, my bald spot a little balder, everything a little more thin all around.  I keep my hair fairly short, but if there's so much as a pleasant spring breeze then it's game over - everything whips around and my hair turns pretty stringy and crazy, easily flattening it or creating weird parting in weird places where you can see through to my scalp or up my fivehead.  Ugh, this happened on a date the other night where we ended up sitting outside - I'm sure my hair looked terrible and a stark contrast to my app pics - "good pictures" aka pictures where my hair looks "good" aka my hair is sitting in a clean and controlled way and evening out my hairline.

I'm not sure what to do! I don't have any decent dating-app appropriate pics of me from 2023 yet - should I put a pause on dating apps and matching with anyone until I can update?  I don't even know what an update would really look like - a close up and high enough res pic of my face to the extent that you can see that yes, my hair is thin?  Pics of me where you can see my forehead/"fivehead" exposed a little more?  Pics of me on a windy day?  Or should I not be worried about this at all, perhaps the single daters of metafilter think I'm blowing things out of proportion.  Balding sucks in a way that I know can distort our view of ourselves as much as any other bodily insecurity, but I really don't know to what extent I'm overthinking it - the pics are a year or two old, not 10 years old.  

I'd say Will Arnett is probably my hair twin - imagine matching with this vs. meeting this (ignore the douchey face, obviously!) - though I think I have a little more hair than he does there, hopefully you get the idea.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t know if it’s the hair per se, but I think an alarm bell goes off for me when there is a general mismatch in how a guy presents himself and how he is in actuality. Like this is someone who wants to hide things or doesn’t have self awareness in general. In your case it sounds like the photos are just old, but might be worth updating at least one and seeing what happens.

(Though I don’t know that 10-15 dates not working out can all be attributed to just thinning hair)
posted by raccoon409 at 5:42 AM on June 1 [8 favorites]

For any large change in appearance (as yours sounds like) then it's going to be a better experience for everyone if you add at least one recent picture. It can be a selfie or a timed photo from your phone - doesn't need to be professional. You can still keep some older pics too. You also could try to find a more flattering haircut for people with hair loss, if you think that's a factor. Lots of balding guys look great with shaved or extremely short hair, which would eliminate the wind factor.
posted by randomnity at 5:44 AM on June 1 [15 favorites]

Some men lose their hair. Women know about this. It's fine.

The dating app meme about bad/balding men is when they wear a hat in every single photo, and then also in person. We get it dude, you're losing your hair. Take the freaking hat off sometimes!!! The hat one I make fun of. Other ladies I know also make fun of the perma hat thing.

But being yourself and keeping yourself looking nice with the actual hair and body you have? No one makes fun of that.

You should keep your profile fresh with recent photos regardless of your hair status. It's summer out there, go snap a quick hatless selfie with a street cat or a pretty flower or a beach and cycle that into your other ones.
posted by phunniemee at 5:44 AM on June 1 [23 favorites]

As long as your FIRST photo accurately represents what you look like, I don’t think you need to get rid of all the other photos you like. But if you don’t change the first one - look, it’s not an issue of people not liking baldness so much as people not liking misrepresentation. It suggests a lack of self-confidence and a willingness to be duplicitous. Not saying you’re either of those things, but that’s what it will make people assume.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:56 AM on June 1 [17 favorites]

This is kind of like the dude version of women not wearing makeup or not shaving their armpits. Whenever women worry about whether armpit hair or lack of makeup is driving away potential dates, everyone rightly says that it's a really useful asshole filter. The people who are turned off are people you wouldn't want to date anyway. Same thing here, the people who would reject you for being bald are people you don't want to waste time with. Because, speaking as a fellow fiveheader, your hair isn't coming back.

But yes, you need at least some more current pictures. Otherwise you're intentionally misleading your dates. I suspect that's what's causing most of these no-callbacks. They feel like if they can't trust you to tell the truth about your appearance, that they won't be able to trust you to tell the truth about other things. Think about if you'd made some other change to your appearance: getting a face tattoo, or buzzing your back-length hair off. Your potential matches should know what they're actually getting, not what they could have had five years ago.

Remember, the key to any non-traditional Beauty Myth standard appearance, whether it's bald men or women with armpit hair or people with visible scars or whatever is self-confidence. The positives associated with the confidence to embrace your appearance far outweigh the perceived negatives of that non-traditional appearance. Something like a picture of your bald spot bright red with sunburn will go a long way toward establishing yourself as a fun, likeable person, rather than a bald person.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:24 AM on June 1 [7 favorites]

I get that having good photos is a draw on the apps, but seriously if someone shows up looking far different than the photos and then also says something silly like I really need to update the photos in a day and age when everyone has a camera on them at all times, those are red flags that you are trying to hide something.

There are many people who think bald men are hot AF.

Don't ask a professional who will lose your business if you start shaving your head at home, ask a friend if it's time to shave your head (or not! Not all bald people buzz their heads).

And from someone who waited until far past "time" to buzz, if you are already thinking it might be time, it's already past time.
posted by archimago at 6:36 AM on June 1 [16 favorites]

IDK, if those Will Arnett pics are truly representative, they don't look different enough to me that I would think "MISREPRESENTATION!!!!" or even a sense of disappointment. But then again I once married a balding guy whose head was shaved when we met, and am currently long-term partnered with a guy with a severe widow's peak who is rapidly approaching "should I shave it" time so maybe my not giving a single shit about balding is out of line with other women? Maybe I'm also understanding of having a hard time getting good, recent photos of yourself. 1-2 year old photos are not a crime. I'm sorry that our fucked up society is making you feel bad about your hair loss, I hope this is just a random dry spell for you.
posted by misskaz at 6:43 AM on June 1 [14 favorites]

I am on the side of "this has been filtering out people with frankly ridiculous expectations about aging and masculinity" but an even more effective filter would be current pics.

If it were worrying me this much, I would probably call a halt to the dating until I could get a decent current picture or two, not because of the dates but because of the anxiety.

I admit that I am a bit of an outlier on this stuff - as long as someone is more or less like their pictures, I don't view being a little heavier or a little balder or having a few more wrinkles as "deception" and wouldn't care anyway as long as we clicked. "Deception" isn't "you look slightly different than you did a year ago and did not immediately update your photos as part of this stressful and ghastly marketized dating process", it's "I told you that we were monogamous but really I am seeing several other people" or "I volunteer for a nonprofit and I have been embezzling the donations".
posted by Frowner at 6:57 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]

And from someone who waited until far past "time" to buzz, if you are already thinking it might be time, it's already past time.

This is what I was going to say also. Get some outside perspectives on this from friends who are willing to speak bluntly, not just from the one stylist. I'm tall, so I see the top of most people's heads, and there are a lot of people with haircuts that probably look good straight-on (like, what they see when they look in the mirror) but look pretty terrible from other angles.

I'm balder than you are and buzz my hair very short. I haven't seen any change in flirting or other attention over the years as I've gotten balder. I just don't think this is a major issue for most people who date men, barring things like hiding it under a hat 24/7.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:57 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

The change in those two representative photos is close to nonexistent, to my eye. I cannot imagine this even pinging for anyone as a misreprentation or failure to update your photos appropriately, and I suspect that this isn't actually the issue at all if those photos are accurately capturing what's happening. But it's stressing you out and it's an easy enough thing to fix with an updated photo so yes, put at least one current photo in your rotation, even if it's just a quick selfie you snap for now until you can get a friend to take a nicer photo.
posted by Stacey at 7:07 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Most photos should be current and hair loss isn’t going to be a big deal to women who have seen a pic of what you look like (or anyone worth dating.) The equivalent for women is showing up 20 lbs heavier than expected, I think, if you want to do a thought experiment. (Except people are much meaner about women’s weight than men’s hair, in my experience.)

I’m going to bet your focus on hair or photos is completely misguided, though. 10-15 first dates with no follow up is pretty normal. But if it continues, there are more substantive things to focus on. In your age range, many women are looking for a life partner, so they don’t like to waste time if it’s not immediately life-partner-potential. You might ask if your own criteria match your goals.
posted by kapers at 7:14 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

Having met my wife online 20 years ago, when my widow's peak was about at Jonny Lee Miller levels, I'd give you three pieces of advice:

(1) Get a haircut that doesn't even have the appearance of trying to cover it up. In that photo of JLM his hair is basically as long as I ever let mine get before I got it buzzed again (I was a #5 on top, tapered to the neck).
(2) Once you've got that haircut, take a picture that represents the current state of your widow's peak. At some point the apparent loss will seem to slow down, at least in front. If it slows down, you won't need to update your photo as often. But if the widow's peak turns into an island like, say, Rob Corddry when he was a correspondent on The Daily Show (see picture #8) then just shave your head and keep it shaved.
(3) In the immortal words of the self-help films of Troy McClure, "get some confidence, stupid." You used a lot of words to write around how your hair loss is making you insecure, and that insecurity is probably at least half of why you're struggling. When I still had hair, the shorter I cut it, the better I looked.

In short, try buzzing your hair now, see if it looks better and makes you feel less self-conscious about it, and then take a new picture (or several) and move on.
posted by fedward at 7:28 AM on June 1 [4 favorites]

I'm with many of the others here: it's not that balding is an automatic turnoff (I'm to the age where it's not so optional ;)), it's that I do feel a bit taken aback if all the pictures are just not representative. I myself am varying degrees of what you might call "chubby for NYC" and when I do online dating I'm always careful to include a shot that fairly (but not unflatteringly!!!) conveys my body type, because I just don't want to deal with a dude showing up, seeing me, and having a negative reaction.
posted by praemunire at 7:29 AM on June 1 [8 favorites]

I will just note that if you are at the "wind flaps my hair around so that the worst of it shows" stage, you may be risking either plain "goofy haircut" or "goofy haircut that's clearly trying to mask some normal hair loss" and THAT might well put off someone who doesn't want to deal with someone that intensely insecure about their hair loss. Your hairdresser may be putting diplomacy ahead of accuracy. You might just look a bit poorly-groomed* and it's nothing even to do with what's missing. Ask a friend to help assess.

There is absolutely no reason any person who has totally normal life-body changes can't look sharp and nicely-maintained, but in the case of thinning hair that often means leaning in to everybody being able to see that some is missing. Your comparative pictures are honestly nowhere near as different as you think they are, and I think the haircut in the second photo is flattering (and like all Hollywood people, crisp and fresh-looking because they get weekly-or-more trims) and not trying to be something it isn't.

Put a current photo up front in your pictures.

And then you have to conquer this fear of other people having feelings you are unable to control. That's unhealthy for you and it's creepy. People get to be their entire human selves and think whatever they want, and if you don't like the content of their thoughts you exit the situation. It's not about you!

You do want to put your best foot forward with dating, but it does need to still be your real genuine unique-to-you foot, and if that foot doesn't suit someone else that is fine because finding someone who's really a great match isn't that easy and probably isn't remotely 15:1. Start thinking of new dates as an opportunity to get to know more people (who know people! network!) than each one being potentially The One and then being disappointed when they're not.

*Look, all this stuff is super-subtle but meaningful, and you may be giving off multiple signals you don't realize, but I think men particularly do not realize how much the freshness of their haircut is not just a uppercase-C Class Signifier, but a subculture signifier that may matter even more. I could bore you with an hour-long analysis of men's personalities and dating goals based on exactly how trimmed their big bushy beard is, but I'll summarize by saying there was a point in my life where I dated men who never got haircuts, another point where it was men who wore their hair short enough to be called "short" but got haircuts twice a year, and just yesterday shocked my husband when he asked me how often he should get his hair cut and I said monthly instead of quarterly. (It gets soooo poofy and his sideburns grow wild really fast and he's not very good at trimming them.)

You may be obsessing with your hairline to the detriment of the signals your overall Look gives off, is my point. I've known men who were so focused on concealing various body stuff they ignored the overall message sent by, say, ill-fitting clothes or ear hair so voluminous it glows when backlit. There may well be such a thing as over-manicured depending on your location, politics, age, and the kind of people you want to date, but I would encourage you to err to the side of slightly too polished than less polished**, and that includes frequent hair trims even though it pushes your "DON'T TAKE TOO MUCH OFF" buttons. Work on lower-casing those buttons a little.

**Unless you are really looking for that life partner that wants to travel from music festival to music festival in legal-weed states in an old van or truck camper, in which case let your hair and your shirts flap magnificently in the wind, my friend, but you may need to find a really specific type of dating site before find your perfect match. But otherwise, you may need to strike a bit of a balance with slightly less-polished photos (so you don't look like a Finance Guy, I'm guessing that's also not your vibe exactly) but a fresh-looking haircut and tidy clothes and clean fingernails when you show up on the day. Try some evidence of basic skincare, too, as a bonus.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:34 AM on June 1 [10 favorites]

I'm not sure what to do!

Worry less about curating photos. Take some now yourself, take some with friends, take some routinely, and use them to update your profile routinely. Genuinely, see if you can update your picture(s) every week or two. The goal should be to represent you as you are, not you as you look best. Put another way, if your photos show you at what you'd call your Casual Mode 6, you're going to look a lot more like a 10 when you show up in Date Mode.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:40 AM on June 1

Even knowing I'm looking for differences between those two photos I'm having a hard time seeing the difference, so I do not believe that is your problem if those pics are an accurate representation of your hair/hairloss.

I do agree that perhaps your self-consciousness about it is coming through? I'm another woman who married a bald man and found him very sexy, so that isn't a universal no-go either. But again, if that is an accurate representation of your hair, I wouldn't even think balding at all.

But also, maybe you're just in that phase of online dating right now. It's disheartening, yes, but also it can happen where you don't have success for a while.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:08 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Count me in on those pictures look the same to me, maybe different angles or haircuts.

I will say if all your pictures are 2-3 years old, you need to get newer and more candid shots. You WANT women to show up to the date and think you look a little cuter in person than you did online. Remember, your date is going to see you from all angles, not just your "best side", you don't want to waste time messaging and meeting with them if they're going to rule you out on appearances immediately.
posted by Narrow Harbor at 8:44 AM on June 1

I just looked at both photos of Will Arnett and genuinely didn't notice a difference. So if you're saying that you've had a similar, uh, doesn't really register for everyone.

Another anecdata point which is unusually relevant -

Sometime in August of 2001 I answered a guy's ad on a dating app and we got into a lively email conversation for a couple weeks, so when he asked if I wanted to get a drink I happily said yes. He was already at the place we were meeting when I showed up, and seated at a table. And it was during the walk across the room to his table that I noticed something that wasn't apparent in the pictures - he was legit bald on top, like this. It wasn't obvious from the pictures because a) he had blond hair and so it was hard to tell from his photo what was hair and what was skin, and b) it was just the top of his head. I did have a split-second of disappointment, but that's when he looked up and saw me and said hello and we did that we're-just-meeting cheek kiss thing and I put it out of my mind to be nice and give him a shot, and the date went so fantastically that we ended up making out in a park four hours later and at that point I didn't give one glorious god-damn what his hair looked like. We ended up dating for another 4 months or so, then the day after we broke up he invited me to join his theater company and we were friends and business partners for another 10 years, and he's still one of my best friends.

If you really are concerned about this, I'd add one recent photo for scrupulous honesty's sake, but other than that - you are way more than just your hair, and the right people will pay more attention to that anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

I'm 35, cishet woman, and also on dating apps. Buddy, it's rough out here for everyone our age, hang in there. I wouldn't think it's the hair, though it sounds like getting a buzz may make you feel more confident and good about losing your hair so you may want to seriously consider it. Personally I prefer a well groomed look regardless of balding, and I tend not to judge thinning either because I've lost a good amount of my own hair due to health issues (and I got bangs to cover my most obvious thinning spots lol).

Also, it doesn't actually sound like you were excited to go on a second date with anyone you met up with? Describing a date as a "perfectly pleasant time" isn't very inspiring. Maybe you need to tighten up your criteria so that you're only meeting people you're eager to get to know.

Here's some other anecdotal stuff that may be helpful:
- I tend to match with guys who have a something going on, like a hobby and are active.
- I usually exchange a few messages (less than 15 over the course of a week) before moving the conversation to in person. I prefer to meet in person asap.
- I usually like a max 1-2 hr first date. It's too easy to become overly familiar with strangers when doing online dating. Oversharing is a turn off for me.
*** This is the most important one: I'm only interesting in dating guys that play conversational ball. If I'm the only one asking questions, I feel like I'm interrogating you and that's not fun at all. I've heard this same frustration from all of my friends too.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 9:28 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]

Just emphasizing that having no recent pics of you on the app sends many different messages and all of them not good. ie: You've been on the apps for years but don't bother to update the pics, you're not showing your current self (either on purpose or just lazy), you are not confident about your age and changing appearance.

Get into the habit of having friends take pictures of you when you are out. Seeing pics taken by a friend shows you have friends, it shows what you like to do.
posted by AnyUsernameWillDo at 10:35 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]

Okay, so you made a huge leap here. You've gone on some dates that seemed fine and then you didn't hear back -- and so you conclude this is because you are losing hair and your photos don't show it. But I think 90% of your fears here are related to your insecurities about losing hair. I get it; I've gained some weight in the few years, and I am horrified by the idea that someone might show up and be surprised at my weight. I counteract this by making sure I have a good but honest recent photo.

So, yes, get a current photo, even if it's a selfie, and then, in your profile, you can say something like "Photo in green shirt is [most recent/June 2023/whatever]." And I agree with everyone who says that a different appearance is not a big deal when the appearance is bad, but more because it seems like the person was being intentionally dishonest (to compare to another area of insecurity: I would much rather date a shorter guy who doesn't lie about his height than a taller guy who does).

And yeah, I can't really tell the difference between those two Will Arnett photos when it comes to his hair. In the black suit, he's more dressed up and has a super different vibe and is maybe more slender. The hairline barely registers. (Imagine a woman friend saying to you: "In all my photos, I have a salon-perfect manicure, but when we went out, I only had a home manicure. Is that why he ghosted me?") I am also wondering about the blowing-in-the-wind hair. Is your hairstyle current or is it designed to hide your hairline?

I also think that your focus on your hair means you are maybe missing the bigger picture: dating can be tough, and people are overwhelmed and extra flaky right now. So, my steps to managing this (not necessarily in this order):

1. Get a more current photo and identify it as such
2. Realize that your insecurities about your hair aren't necessarily connected to women's feelings about you
3. Figure out a way to work through those insecurities
4. Realize that women might not be responding to a good date because of stuff going on their lives
5. Keep dating
posted by bluedaisy at 11:58 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

I doubt the issue is the hair loss if the photos you put represent it. It could be a number of factors including that a lot more people are doing online dating and cycling through folks.

However I also think putting up a few recent photos should be easy and quick. Like someone said, just do a self-timer and take some pics in natural light.
posted by bearette at 1:06 PM on June 1

Another possibility is that you look significantly different than your photos in general whether that's related to hair loss or not. So I'd still recommend putting up recent photos.
posted by bearette at 1:09 PM on June 1

I keep my hair fairly short, but if there's so much as a pleasant spring breeze then it's game over - everything whips around and my hair turns pretty stringy and crazy, easily flattening it or creating weird parting in weird places where you can see through to my scalp or up my fivehead.

This is a thing where opinions differ, but I would say that if you hair is so thin that a light breeze ruins the illusion, it is time to embrace it and stop trying to hide it.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:20 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]

Longish hair when there is thinning runs the risk of looking unkempt, unfortunately. I’d buzz it to like a #2 or #3 max. (As an example, Dan Snaith has some thinning and keeps it short, he looks great.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:33 PM on June 1

I suspect it has less to do with your hair and more to do with you not looking like your picture. Comes across as dishonest.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:14 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Bald can be sexy, thinning can be sexy, full-head-hirsute can be sexy, and all can be the exact opposite.

You say you only recently “got back on the horse.” It might help to chew over why fifteen dates feels like too many without a second. Lots of folks go for long periods of time with no dates, no one saying yes to them, no one asking them, or being too afraid to even put themselves out there. Fifteen people have thought you might be a possible life partner or sweet roll in the hay! You had nice conversations! I am seriously impressed - the entire number of dates I’ve ever been on, asked and asking combined, is probably less than thirty. Are you in a rush to get back into a relationship? Are you feeling horny and grouchy that no one wants to bang? What would it feel like if someone went on six whole dates with you and then said no? I bet there’s more at the bottom of this cereal box than just your feelings about your hair.

(On the off chance that the deeper issue is that you’re paying for dates and this feels like a bigger slice of budget than you can carve out, focus your criteria for going out, pick more casual dates (walks are great, and free), ask dates to split the check, or allow dates who offer to pay for themselves to do it.)
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 2:14 AM on June 2

Mod note: Couple of comments deleted along with a response to them, per poster's request.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:37 AM on June 2

Keep your photos up to date. It's not hard, and it sounds like you have friends who would help you do that, or at least help you choose which to use.

But also:

but if there's so much as a pleasant spring breeze then it's game over - everything whips around and my hair turns pretty stringy and crazy, easily flattening it or creating weird parting in weird places where you can see through to my scalp or up my fivehead.

It just sounds too long, sorry. Cut it short enough that you don't need to worry about it flapping around and revealing or highlighting things you don't want. If that means a buzz cut, then do that.

My hair was probably similar to yours in my twenties. Shaved it, never looked back, stopped worrying about how it looked forever. In the words of Yul Brynner, "And in a funny way, the shaving of my head has been a liberation from a lot of stupid vanities really."
posted by fabius at 10:02 AM on June 2

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