At some point in all of our lives, our hair starts to get a bit thinner. If your once-thick mane looks a tad sparse these days, you’re likely wondering what’s behind the hair loss and what you can do to fix it.
On our quest to understand what causes hair loss, the Shop TODAY team consulted top dermatologists for their expertise. While you should always consult a doctor for more intensive treatments tailored to your unique situation, there are a few ways to treat thinning hair at home.
We asked the derms to share a few of their go-to products that can help encourage hair growth and restore fullness, as well as got to the bottom of what causes hair loss in women and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. From shampoos and supplements to leave-in treatments, these are some of the solutions they suggested.
Best products for thinning hair
With nearly 14,000 five-star ratings under its belt, this biotin shampoo comes well-recommended from Amazon shoppers, and Dr. Liia Ramachandra, a former pharma executive and skin care expert. “I love it since it is clean and great for sensitive scalps,” she told us. “This formula is packed with a powerful blend of biotin, nettle extract, pumpkin seed, and black cumin seed oil.”
The hypo-allergenic, gluten-free shampoo promises to reduce hair thinning by strengthening and thickening strands, adding volume for days and reducing breakage along the way.
You don’t have to take drastic measures to give your thinning hair a boost. According to Ramachandra, hair restoration can start right in the shower with this shampoo that targets hair loss. “It contains DHT blockers, which effectively block DHT and prevent hair loss,” she explained.
One Amazon shopper said they noticed a “huge decrease in the amount of hair falling out” and another said the shampoo helped produce a “surprising amount of new hair growth.”
Dr. Angela J. Lamb, a New York City board-certified dermatologist, is a fan of this three-step hair-thickening system that includes shampoo, conditioner and a hair treatment that is designed to strengthen strands and volumize your locks.
The set comes in different varieties for colored and natural hair and is clinically proven to reduce hair loss due to breakage by up to 91 percent, according to the brand. The Amazon bestseller also comes backed by 17,000+ five-star ratings and has a plethora of perfect reviews that it’s made their hair look “fuller and thicker.” “I noticed a difference within a couple weeks and now after 2 months my hair is back as full and healthy as ever,” one reviewer wrote.
Find yourself dealing with chronic scalp irritation? Whether the root cause is psoriasis, dandruff or eczema, the irritation can harm healthy hair growth and even cause some hair loss, according to American Academy of Dermatology fellow Dr. Robert Anolik.
“As a consequence, an indirect therapy for hair thinning in these settings is certainly anti-inflammatory products that may reduce the irritation,” he explained while telling us about this product. As always, just make sure to consult with your dermatologist first to make sure a hydrocortisone is the right approach for your unique situation.
A favorite of Dr. Lamb, Aveda’s Thickening Tonic is designed to pump up the volume of your mane in an instant, working its way from the roots to the ends. Made for thin or thinning hair, the spray is free of parabens, petrolatum and synthetic fragrance, the brand shares. It’s also formulated with a range of certified organic amia, wheat and corn.
“This is a tried and true treatment that promotes faster, thicker hair growth. Newer formulations allow for easier, less messy application,” Dr. Leah Jacob, an assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University, told us. Here’s how it works: Each day, you apply some of the lightweight foam directly to your scalp where you’re experiencing hair loss. The product then goes to work stimulating hair follicles and encouraging growth, the brand shared.
What you use to comb your hair can either help or hurt your strands, and that’s why a solid detangling brush is one of Massick’s must-haves. The Shop TODAY team digs this popular version that promises to minimize tangles and breakage with its flexible bristles.
What causes hair loss in women?
Not sure how much hair loss is normal? According to Dr. Rae Lynne Kinler, medical director of Ziering Medical in Connecticut, the average person loses approximately 100 to 150 hairs per day as a result of our normal hair cycle. Anything that’s much more noticeable than that could be cause for investigation.
“If you are seeing excessively large amounts of hair on your pillow, upon combing your hair or in the drain upon showering, it may be time to look into other causes,” said Dr. Andrew Kwak, a hair restoration surgeon, hair loss expert, and founder of The Lumen Center in Pennsylvania.
Though you should also check in with a doctor to identifying the exact cause of your thinning hair, there are some potential explanations.
“From an internal medicine point of view, there are many abnormalities which we can find through a simple blood test that can cause hair loss,” Dr. Cameron K. Rokhsar, founder and medical director of New York Cosmetic, Skin & Laser Surgery Center, told us. “These include low iron, anemia, changes in thyroid hormone (hyper or hypothyroidism), changes in sex hormones (conditions such as polycystic ovary disease which causes an increase in male hormones like testosterone) and autoimmune diseases such as lupus.”
These are just a few of the more common causes of hair loss:
- Androgenetic alopecia: Also known as female pattern balding, this type of genetic hair loss leads to thinning and can become permanent if left untreated. “While it can happen at any age, this form of hair loss is more common during the natural aging process during peri-menopause or after menopause,” Kinler explained.
- Traction alopecia: All that tugging and pulling from styling your hair and throwing it up in a tight ponytail can wreak havoc over time. “It leads to broken hairs and lack of hair regrowth. With continued traction, hair loss becomes permanent and irreversible,” Dr. Susan Massick, an associate professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, revealed.
- Scarring alopecia: Chronic tension/stress on the hair follicles, often related to medical conditions, can cause hair loss. “It leads to scarring of the scalp with resulting hair loss and is often irreversible,” Massick said.
- Alopecia areata: This autoimmune condition causes bald patches. “It’s typically reversible, but can range from a few small patches to the entire scalp (alopecia totalis),” Massick said.
- Telogen effluvium: This temporary hair shedding is often brought on by physical stress. “It can be seen with pregnancy, illness, major surgeries or major stresses (loss of loved one),” Jacob said. “This is the type of hair loss we are seeing post-COVID infection.”
With that in mind, it’s only natural to wonder: do hats/hair covers cause hair loss? The experts we asked said they don’t in general. “Unless it is super tight, causing traction, creating an environment that is too hot or somehow decreases the blood flow and oxygen necessary for the hair follicles, hair should grow normally with hair coverings and hats,” Kinler said.
Can stress cause hair loss?
“When stress causes a hormone spike in our androgenic genes (cortisol in particular plays a role), it redirects energy needed for hair growth and therefore increases shedding," Kinler said.
According to Kwak, psychological stress can put the body into unbalance. But you can rest assured that it’s not cause for too much concern. “The good news is that the hair loss is usually not permanent and will improve as the mind and body heals itself,” Kwak said.
Can hard water cause hair loss?
“Even though there are no studies that show that hard water directly causes hair loss, water that is too loaded with minerals can lead to hair that breaks more easily. If you live in a region where the water is very ‘hard,’ it is easy enough to install a shower head that ‘softens’ the water to counteract this possible problem,” Kwak told us.
How to prevent hair loss?
Let’s lead with the bad news first: Not all hair loss is preventable, especially if it runs in your family. But there are a few steps you can take to treat it if it does happen.
“For instance, androgenetic alopecia hair loss is a progressive condition. However, early intervention and a custom program including integrated lifestyle changes with topicals, exosome (growth factor) injections, Laser and LED can mitigate, manage and minimize the loss,” Kinler said.
When it comes to hair loss that can be prevented (like traction alopecia), there are a few things you can do to set your strands on the right track, like avoiding chemical treatments (such as relaxers or perms), wearing your locks in loose hairstyles and eating healthy foods.
“The first thing is to make sure that you are on a well-balanced diet containing enough protein, iron, zinc and biotin. If you are unsure, you can take supplements to keep these things in tip top shape,” Kwak explained.
Above all, remember that there are many ways to treat thinning hair, so try not to panic.
“Be kind to yourself and your self-image. If the hair thinning is distressing, see a board-certified dermatologist who can help you navigate different treatment options,” Massick said.
More products to help with thinning hair
You've likely heard about Rogaine before, and the well-known brand is a household name for a good reason. "It's a tried-and-true solution to help combat hair loss. The foam penetrates your scalp and targets your hair follicle to reactivate the growth cycle," Dr. Orit Markowitz, a leading dermatologist and CEO/founder of OptiSkin, told Shop TODAY.
Rogaine is great to use at the early stages of hair thinning and works pretty darn quickly. It's formulated with 5% Minoxidil and a mix of botanical extracts and emollients that hydrate your scalp. The best part? The foam format is easy to use and takes just seconds to massage into strands.
A little bit of shedding is normal, but if you seem to be losing more hair than you typically do, Salon deZEN founder Maria Elizabeth recommends using these regrowth drops. "The 2% Minoxidil in this solution actively promotes hair growth by shedding old hairs and replacing them with new, stronger ones," she said.
The FDA-approved topical solution comes with a handy dropper applicator and can be applied to your scalp two times a day. "I love that it doesn't make hair greasy and dries quickly," Elizabeth raved.
If you do want to give your tresses a boost, Elizabeth loves to spray on a bit of this plumping treatment before styling. "It was uniquely created with eyelash thickening and lengthening technology, which helps strengthen hair while also adding thickness, body and bounce," she said.
Looking for a quick way to add volume to your locks during your daily routine? This leave-in treatment stimulates strands and encourages denser-looking hair. It's made with caviar and lends thinning hair some texture while boosting volume and fullness.
"Simply spritz the product on towel-dried tresses and then let it air dry or style per usual. This elegant treatment is formulated with eco-certified ingredients, like caviar, sea silk, bamboo and kendi oil, that are sustainably harvested to protect the environment," Elizabeth said.
The journey towards a thicker mane can start in the shower, and this powerful shampoo might just be a great addition to your bath time routine. "It's packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids that revitalize the hair shaft, plus gentle cleansers to help whisk away scalp buildup," celebrity hairstylist Cheryl Bergamy told Shop TODAY.
It only takes seconds a day to give your scalp a little TLC, and serums are one of Sabit Hantal's favorite ways to do so. The hairstylist and founder of SH Fifth Avenue Salon swears by this scalp and hair serum to strengthen and grow hair fibers.
"This is my favorite product for thinning hair because it literally transforms your hair in a week. It uses wheat protein derivatives to repair the flexibility and elasticity of damaged hair and restores uniformity and smoothness. It makes your hair strong and shiny, while adding substance to thicken it and reduces breakage at the same time," Hantal said.
"This lightweight leave-in treatment is suitable for all hair types and adds volume to hair using antrel (a proprietary complex), keratin, biotin and zinc," Bergamy said. The body-boosting treatment leaves limp hair looking thicker and fuller without adding bulk, she said.
Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Most definitely. Christophe Robin's sea salt scrub is designed as a hybrid exfoliator and shampoo that tackles buildup while soothing sensitive scalps. Perfect for a range of hair types, the cruelty-free multitasker is known for its powerful formula, according to the brand.
"The ingredients are amazing. Sea salt helps purify scalps by removing residue, while sweet almond oil, hydrates and soothes scalps," celebrity hairstylist Ayumi Yamamoto told us.
Combing can be a nerve-racking process when your hair is thinning. T3's two-piece detangling set includes a shower comb and a detangling brush to help you treat your hair with kid gloves.
"Make sure you start combing at the bottom first then gradually detangle it up to the scalp. Then you can go in with the detangling brush. Focus on brushing the scalp to invigorate and stimulate blood flow to the scalp," Hobgood instructed.
A microfiber towel won't give you thicker hair, but it can help you maintain the hair you do have if thinning is a concern. "Using a proper towel to dry your hair is key. This one helps soak up moisture with the least amount of friction," Hobgood revealed.
Hair is weaker when it's wet, and this bestseller from Aquis cuts down drying time by 50%, so your locks are less vulnerable. As an added bonus, it nixes frizz and the hands-free design is pretty convenient!
According to Yamamoto, exfoliating and stimulating the scalp is important if you're looking to grow healthy, beautiful hair. "Massaging the head is key, even if you have a dry or oily scalp. When massaging your head with your hands, please be careful not to scratch your scalp with your nails," the hairstylist told Shop TODAY.
Comfier's cordless hair/scalp massager has four massage heads with 21 nodes, so you can test it out until you find a technique that suits you. It's also small and portable, so it won't take up too much space in your bedside drawer or travel bag.
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