Few things are more frustrating from a beauty perspective than incessant hair shedding. While it’s considered normal to lose, on average, 60—100 hairs a day, nearly 50% of men and 40% of women suffer from chronic hair loss [source].
There is a myriad of reasons for this kind of hair loss, including genetics, aging, hormonal imbalances, and diet [source]. And the issues are only compounded through the decades. This is because, as we age, hair decreases in density and the individual hair strands become thinner, explains Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles.
“With age, the hair follicle shrinks (miniaturization), and the rate of hair growth slows down, causing the hairs to become much finer, until eventually, the follicle may even stop producing new hairs,” she says.
10 Treatments for Thinning Hair
Luckily, several clinically proven solutions have led to meaningful changes in hair density. They are available as over-the-counter therapies that do not require a prescription. Here are some of the top contenders for adding volume and density to thin, lackluster locks, according to experts.
1. Take supplements
Previously biotin, also known as vitamin B, was considered the essential vitamin necessary for hair strength and hair growth. Unfortunately, there is little to no evidence supporting its actual efficacy in hair growth, according to Divya Shokeen, M.D., a dermatologist based in Torrance, California.
Instead, she recommends supplements that include a combination of all the essential vitamins and minerals that can help to improve nutritional deficiencies. “Nutrafol and Viviscal have both done a few clinical studies showing benefit with long term usage and can be considered as supplemental options,” she says.
“Each has its own breakthrough formulas and bioactive ingredients, but daily supplementation is an easy way to provide the nutrients your hair needs and maintain shiny, healthy hair.”
2. Try topical minoxidil
This medication first became available over the counter in the early 90s and has been shown to be effective in as many as 40%–50% of people who try it. “Often the maximum effect of minoxidil takes a year or more, however, benefits can be seen after using it for 3–6 months,” says Philip Bruder, M.D., founder of Soho Hair MD, in New York City.
It works by increasing growth factors that stimulate cells in the follicles responsible for growing hair [source]. Dr. Bruder warns that women who are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant in the near future should not use this medicine, as well as anyone with heart disease or low blood pressure, unless approved by their medical doctor.
3. Use rosemary essential oil
Rosemary is commonly used for its hair growth benefits. In fact, a study comparing the use of 2% minoxidil and rosemary essential oil for hair loss found that individuals in both groups had a significant increase in hair count after 6 months and that there was no significant difference between the two groups.
To use, mix 4-6 drops of rosemary essential oil with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. Apply the mixture to your scalp with your fingertips, giving yourself a scalp massage as you go. Leave in for 10-15 minutes (or overnight) then wash your hair as usual.
4. Hair glosses and hair dyes
Who knew going blonde could be the answer to fuller hair? Though dying your hair may cause damage to the cuticle, leaving it fragile and more prone to damage, it can also make the hair appear thicker, according to Dr. Shainhouse.
Another option is applying a gloss or darker hair dye. “This involves coating the hair, which can make the individual strands physically thicker, so that hair appears more dense,” she says.
5. Apply scalp makeup
“Using pigmented keratin fragments (such as Toppik) applied to the roots will make the hairs appear thicker and more dense and make the scalp skin less obvious, giving the illusion of greater hair density,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “Washable topical powder and spray colorants can also be applied to the scalp to minimize the appearance of the scalp skin and trick the eye into seeing greater hair density.”
6. Wear hair extensions
If you’re looking for a hair volumizing solution that will cause the least amount of actual damage to your hair, hair extensions may be a good choice.
“While these can be heavy for thinner strands or if there is minimal hair density to bind to without noticing them, this can be a temporary, natural-looking fix for an occasion like your wedding day,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “Clip-in extensions can be placed at the time of your hair appointment on the day of, while tape-in, weaves, or crimps are placed ahead of time.”
The best part? You get to choose the hair quality, color, and texture to match your own hair for a seamless look.
7. Consider red light therapy
Red light is used not only for aging skin but also for thinning hair. “It is thought to increase nitric oxide levels in the skin and promote blood flow to the scalp,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
“The Revian Red Cap is FDA cleared to help regrow new hair and has been shown in studies to improve hair density by 25 percent after four months of use.”
8. Good nutrition plays a role
Many people look to dietary supplements to help with hair growth, and there are a lot of products out there being touted as “miracle” cures containing megadoses of vitamins to regrow your hair. However, short of the actual nutritional deficiencies that have been well studied, there is not a lot of evidence that taking high-dose supplements will make a big difference [source].
In fact, taking large doses of anything that has not been properly researched (especially the fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E) can even be toxic and upset the natural balance of the body.
Just make sure that you are eating a healthy diet that provides loads of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and nutrients coming from natural sources. That way, you won’t be deficient in vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients, which provide the building blocks for hair growth, and you can keep yourself healthy from the inside out.
9. Experiment with your haircut
The right haircut can make a big difference with thin/thinning hair. If your hair is sparse at the hairline and temples, try switching up how you part your hair. It can cover and give thinning areas a break from styling. Talk to your stylist about volume-boosting options if your hair is thinning at the crown or all over.
Seriously! “Stress can increase cortisol levels and inflammation in the body, which can also impact hormone levels,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “It can trigger episodes of telogen effluvium (temporary hair loss) or accelerate hair cycles and hair shedding.”
So hit the spa, curl up with a good book, take a relaxing bath—whatever helps you de-stress, do it, and your hair will thank you.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified pediatrician who has been practicing for more than 20 years. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.22