So, you want thicker hair

Many people experience hair loss at some time or another in their lives. Common causes include aging, changes in hormone levels, heredity, medications, and medical conditions.

It’s important to see a doctor if your hair loss is sudden, or if you suspect it’s caused by an underlying medical condition.

In many cases hair loss is reversible, and there are ways you can help improve your hair’s thickness and appearance.

Home remedies

Research suggests there are some simple ways you can help promote hair growth at home. These remedies include:

1. Taking saw palmetto supplements

Saw palmetto, or Serenoa repens, is an herbal remedy that comes from the American dwarf palm tree. It can be bought as an oil or tablet in most drugstores. It’s most often used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy. But research also suggests it can be helpful as a hair loss remedy.

In one small study, researchers had 10 men with hair loss take a daily 200-milligram (mg) saw palmetto soft-gel supplement. The researchers found that six out of 10 of the men showed an increase in hair growth by the end of the study. Only one out of 10 men given a placebo (sugar) pill had an increase in hair growth. Researchers believe saw palmetto helps block the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. Having too much of this enzyme is associated with hair loss.

Read more: Saw palmetto for hair loss »

2. Taking biotin supplements

Biotin is a B-complex vitamin important in many body processes. People with a lack of biotin often experience hair loss, brittle nails, and dry skin. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin complex. This means that your body doesn’t store excess amounts of it, making an overdose unlikely. It’s also available in most drug stores.

There is some evidence that biotin can help encourage hair growth. But most research demonstrates a link between biotin deficiency and hair loss only. Regardless, supplementing one’s diet with biotin for hair growth is unlikely to have negative effects.

3. Adding seaweed to your diet

Seaweed, such as kelp, has been a popular food item in Asia for centuries. Now it’s becoming a popular addition to the diets of health-conscious people in the United States.

Seaweed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins associated with healthy skin and hair. Seaweed is widely available in health food stores as a food product and also as a supplement.

There has been some research to see if seaweed can treat hair loss. In one recent study, researchers worked with groups of mice whose hair had been removed. The mice that were fed seaweed experienced quicker hair regrowth than the mice that were fed either cereal or herbs.

Read more: Boost your health with seaweed »

4. Taking an MSM supplement

Methylsulfonylmethane, better known as MSM, is an organic sulfur compound. It’s been used to help reduce pain and inflammation. It’s widely available in most health food stores as a supplement.

One study tested MSM with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) to see if it would help hair grow on mice whose hair had been removed. The researchers found that MSM and MAP were effective in making hair grow faster.

5. Getting enough iron

Research suggests a link between hair loss and iron deficiency. It may be beneficial for those with hair loss to be screened for iron deficiency. If a deficiency exists, correcting the problem may increase hair growth.

The daily dosage of iron, according to the National Institutes of Health, is:

GroupDaily amount of iron
adult men ages 19-51+ and women ages 51+at least 8 mg
adult women ages 19-5018 mg
pregnant women27 mg
lactating women10 mg

Keep reading to find out the foods with the highest amount of iron »

Products to boost hair thickness

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several hair loss products to improve hair growth and thickness. These include:

Minoxidil (Rogaine)

Rogaine is a topical, over-the-counter medication. It’s a vasodilator and potassium-channel opening chemical.

It’s proven to stimulate new hair growth and help prevent continued hair loss in both men and women. The effects are maximized at 16 weeks, and the medication must be continually applied to maintain benefits. Some side effects include:

  • scalp irritation
  • unwanted hair growth on the face and hands
  • rapid heart rate (tachycardia)

Finasteride (Propecia)

This medication contains an inhibitor of type-2 5-alpha reductase, which limits testosterone’s conversion to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Decreasing DHT can boost hair growth in men. You must take this medication daily to maintain benefits.

Finasteride is not approved for use in women, and women should avoid touching crushed or broken finasteride tablets. This drug may cause significant side effects in men, including:

  • lower sex drive
  • decreased sexual function
  • an increased risk of prostate cancer

The bottom line

Hair loss may be common, but there are various treatments that can help slow hair loss and may even cause hair regrowth. If you’re uncomfortable with your hair loss, talk to your doctor to see which treatments are best for you.