If you’re experiencing hair thinning, you’re not alone. Hair loss and thinning is fairly common, especially as you age.
In the United States, 50 million men experience hair loss from androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. This may involve your hairline receding or the development of a bald spot at the top of your head.
Hair loss may be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- hereditary factors
- telogen effluvium
- alopecia areata
- pulling your hair out (trichotillomania)
- more recently with people post COVID-19 infection
While hair loss may be hereditary, you may also experience hair loss from certain health conditions, such as telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, or trichotillomania. Extreme weight loss, illness, or stress can also play a role.
If you’re looking for ways to manage thinning hair and even boost hair thickness, there are a number of different techniques you can try. From unique styling suggestions to over-the-counter (OTC) medications, here are 14 strategies you can use to thicken your hair.
Treat your thinning hair with care when you wash it. Even if you shower daily, you don’t necessarily need to wash your hair every day.
When you do wash it, use a shampoo that’s gentle on your scalp and doesn’t dry out your hair.
You should always condition your hair after washing it as well. Conditioner provides a protective barrier on your hair that keeps it from breaking or splitting.
While washing your hair doesn’t cause hair loss, how you clean and care for your hair may help strengthen and protect it.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends focusing shampoo on your scalp, and conditioner on only the ends of your hair. This is important, because conditioner throughout your hair can make fine hair appear limp.
If you’re experiencing hair thinning, changing up your hairstyle may help its appearance. Be sure to also treat your thinning hair gently when you style it. This will prevent unwanted hair from falling out too fast.
Follow these tips for gentle styling:
- Make sure not to tug or pull your hair, especially when it’s wet.
- Avoid blow-drying your hair for too long, and keep the heat setting low.
- Try styling your hair with a wider comb that won’t pull out hair when you use it.
- Use pomade or a texture spray to give your hair a thicker appearance.
- Let your hair air dry instead of brushing or combing for increased volume.
- Consider trying a new hairstyle if your hair thickness has changed. A stylist can recommend a flattering cut, usually with layers to appear thicker.
Certain hairstyles, like tight braids, corn rows, and ponytails, can also lead to hair loss in the long term. You don’t have to avoid these styles altogether, but take breaks and be gentle with your hair in between.
If you feel like your hairstyle looks best with these procedures, seek advice from a professional hair stylist. They can recommend a styling treatment that works for thinning hair.
Your doctor may be able to diagnose the reason for your thinning hair and recommend the most effective way to treat it. Consider seeing a specialist, like a dermatologist, for your thinning hair.
Board certified dermatologists are specifically trained to treat skin, hair, and nails. They can help diagnose and treat causes of hair loss in men and women.
They can also recommend specific products to use on thinning hair or suggest a medication to prevent further hair loss or promote regrowth.
OTC options to treat thinning hair include products that contain minoxidil. The brand Rogaine, available as a foam or liquid, contains this ingredient.
You can purchase products containing minoxidil, including shampoos, liquids, and foams. You should apply these products to your scalp twice per day.
You might not see results until using the medication for 6 months, and if you discontinue use, you’ll likely lose hair again.
Recently, there’s been increasing research into adenosine to treat hair loss. Studies comparing it to both
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved adenosine as a hair loss treatment. However, you can buy OTC products, like shampoos or conditioners, that contain adenosine. Look for a concentration of at least .75 percent.
A number of medications are available to treat male pattern baldness. Some of these require a prescription.
A doctor may prescribe you an oral medication called finasteride to help with thinning hair. This is also known as Propecia.
This medication may stop hair thinning or even regrow some of your hair. You need to take it continuously to see results.
Your doctor may also prescribe a low dose of oral minoxidil. This is usually used to treat high blood pressure and does not have FDA approval for treating hair loss.
However, in some
A dermatologist may help you determine the specific type of hair loss that you’re experiencing and suggest treatments targeting that type of hair loss.
Hair replacement surgery can thicken your hair. Hair transplants involve a doctor moving hair from one spot of your body, often the back of your head where hair is thicker, to the thinning area of your scalp.
This can be done as an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia, but your scalp may be painful after the transplant. You may also need more than one procedure to reach your desired hair thickness.
Note that this cosmetic procedure might not be covered by insurance. You may have to pay for the surgery out of pocket, even if you have insurance.
Keep in mind that hair replacement surgery will not stop male pattern baldness from progressing in the long run.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is a treatment that involves drawing your blood to separate the plasma from the red blood cells and then injecting this platelet-rich material back into your scalp.
PRP is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, and there’s recent interest in using it to treat hair loss and spur new hair growth.
However, experts still don’t know exactly how PRP works to initiate hair growth. Theoretically, it may work due to being a source of growth factors, particularly IGF-1.
Due to the lack of research on PRP to treat hair loss, there isn’t a standardized protocol that every dermatologist uses. It likely won’t be covered under insurance, as it’s considered an aesthetic procedure.
The expert recommendation is 3 to 4 treatments with 4 to 6 weeks in between each session, with top-up treatments every 6 to 9 months as needed.
You can also try scalp micropigmentation (SMP) if your hair is thinning.
SMP is similar to eyebrow microblading, in that micro dots of pigment are applied directly to your skin. It’s considered “medical tattooing.”
This treatment doesn’t actually thicken your hair. However, it creates the illusion of having thicker hair by filling in thinner patches with pigment.
Look for a practitioner that has completed a certificate in SMP training. You may want to ask your dermatologist for local recommendations or a referral to an aesthetic dermatology clinic.
Because SMP is considered a cosmetic treatment, it’s not covered by insurance. It can cost between $400 and $1,000 for a treatment session, and it produces semipermanent results.
Many factors contribute to hair loss in people who smoke. Most noticeably, smoking has been shown to damage the DNA of the hair follicle, leading to inflammation and scarring, and eventually androgenetic alopecia.
Work with a healthcare professional to find the right plan for you.
Just like you protect your skin with sunscreen, it’s also important to protect your hair from the elements. This is especially helpful if your hair is already thinning or fragile.
The AAD recommends using conditioner. While conditioner improves hair strength and shine, it can also protect from UV rays.
You can also use sunscreen directly on your scalp to protect it. However, regular sunscreen may leave a thick, white cast and leave your hair greasy.
There are many sunscreen products, including powders, dry shampoos, light lotions, and mists, designed for use on your scalp and hair.
If you’re going swimming, it’s important to protect your hair from chlorine or salt water. Consider rinsing your hair first and applying conditioner before you enter the pool.
A swim cap can also protect your hair. But be sure it’s not too tight — this could pull fragile hair out.
Zinc, iron, and protein can contribute to healthy hair growth. You might not get enough of these if you’re on a specific diet or have lost a lot of weight recently from reducing your calorie intake.
Foods rich in iron include:
- red meat
- leafy greens
Some zinc-rich foods include:
- red meats
- seeds and nuts
Foods rich in protein include:
- red meats
- seeds and nuts
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Taking supplements to thicken your hair is not straightforward. You should first talk with a doctor about supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals to promote hair growth.
For example, too much iron or zinc may lead to toxicity or other side effects.
Supplements aren’t controlled or approved by the FDA, so there aren’t clear guidelines on the best dosage. The different brands available aren’t all commercially proven to be safe, either.
You may also want to consider that getting too much of some vitamins — like A and E — may actually contribute to hair loss.
If you’re experiencing thinning of your hair, there are several things you can try to halt hair loss and possibly make your hair thicker — no matter what the cause is.
Being mindful of your hair care and eating a balanced diet may be the first steps in managing thinning hair.
Talk with a doctor if you want to try hair-thickening medications, supplements intended to boost hair growth, or hair replacement surgery.