You may be able to address thinning hair or bald spots with these 12 options. A doctor can also diagnose any underlying medical conditions and recommend medications to help.
It’s common to lose 50–100 hairs per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Any more than this could mean you’re shedding more than you should, which could contribute to overall thinning hair.
Unlike widespread hair loss, thinning hair doesn’t necessarily cause baldness. It does, however, give the appearance of sparser spots of hair on your head.
Thinning hair typically happens gradually, which means you have time to pinpoint the causes and figure out the best treatment measures.
Thinning hair may be caused by lifestyle habits, genetics, or both. Certain medical conditions may also lead to thinning hair.
Lifestyle habits may include:
- Overtreating your hair: This includes color treatments, perms, and relaxers.
- Using harsh hair products: These hair products include extreme-hold hair sprays and gels.
- Wearing tight hairstyles: Whether you’re wearing an updo or pulling your hair up in a ponytail for working out, this can tug on your hair and break it from the follicles, causing thin spots over time.
- Not getting enough of certain nutrients in your diet: Iron, folic acid, and other minerals all help follicles produce hair naturally.
- Experiencing chronic stress: Stress is related to an uptick in hormones like cortisol. Too many stress hormones can trigger a condition like telogen effluvium, in which your hair can fall out, and the hair follicles enter a long “resting” phase where new hair doesn’t grow.
Thinning hair may also be hereditary or from underlying medical conditions. You might have thinning hair if you:
- recently had a baby
- recently stopped taking birth control pills
- are going through hormonal changes
- lost a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time
- are being treated for an autoimmune disease
- have immune system deficiencies
- have a skin disorder or infection
- have a vitamin D deficiency
- are deficient in other vitamins and minerals like
riboflavin, selenium, and zinc
Less commonly, thinning hair may be caused by:
Some cases of thinning hair may be treatable at home. Consider the following 12 options, but be sure to talk with your doctor first.
1. Scalp massage
- Pros: It’s affordable and accessible.
- Cons: It doesn’t address thinning hair caused by underlying medical conditions.
Perhaps the cheapest method of trying to get thicker hair is scalp massage. It doesn’t cost anything, and if done correctly, it isn’t harmful.
When you wash your hair, gently apply pressure with your fingertips around your scalp to encourage blood flow. For even more benefits, you can try a handheld scalp massager to also remove dead skin cells.
2. Essential oils
- Pros: Animal research suggests effectiveness, and essential oils are widely available in health shops and drugstores.
- Cons: More human studies are needed, and these oils may cause allergic reactions.
Lavender oil has been used with success by some people with pattern baldness. It’s also backed by animal research from 2016, though human studies are needed to confirm its effects. Lavender is often combined with other oils, such as those made from rosemary and thyme.
Still, there’s not enough evidence that essential oils can treat baldness or thinning hair. If you do decide to give this treatment a go, make sure that your essential oil is diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba).
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
3. Anti-thinning shampoo
- Pros: It can be combined with scalp massage, and some products are accessible over the counter.
- Cons: Volumizing shampoos don’t address hair loss alone, and you may require a prescription.
Anti-thinning shampoo works in two ways. First, such products provide volume for your hair, so it looks thicker. This can be helpful for people who have thinning or naturally fine hair.
Shampoos for thinning hair or hair loss also contain vitamins and amino acids to promote a healthier scalp. To get the best results, use these products as directed.
You can also ask your doctor about a prescription-strength shampoo.
- Pros: Multivitamins can help address thinning hair caused by nutritional deficiencies, and they’re available over the counter.
- Cons: Excess nutrients may be harmful.
Healthy hair is dependent on your overall good health. In cases of malnourishment or with certain eating disorders, new hair may fail to generate from follicles. A blood test can help determine if you have a nutrient deficiency.
If you’re low in several key areas, your doctor might recommend a daily multivitamin. Healthy hair needs iron, folic acid, and zinc to keep growing thick and strong. Look for daily supplements for males and females that meet these criteria.
However, you should avoid taking any extra vitamins if you’re already getting the nutrients you need. There isn’t any evidence that doing so will reverse thinning hair, and getting too much of certain nutrients may actually do more harm than good.
5. Folic acid supplements
- Pros: These supplements are available over the counter and may treat folate deficiency.
- Cons: There’s a lack of evidence about their effectiveness.
But, as with multivitamins, there isn’t enough evidence that folic acid is guaranteed to help make your hair thicker.
- Pros: Biotin is widely available over the counter, and may treat biotin deficiency.
- Cons: There’s not enough evidence that it helps with thinning hair.
If you eat a balanced diet, it’s unlikely that you’re low in biotin. However, supplemental forms of biotin have been on the rise in recent years, thanks in part to marketers promising more energy and better hair growth with such products.
While biotin helps break down enzymes in your body, there’s little evidence that it can help with thinning hair.
You shouldn’t take biotin if you take vitamin B5 supplements. When taken together, they can reduce the efficacy of one another.
7. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Pros: These fatty acids help fight inflammation, and these supplements are available over the counter.
- Cons: More research is needed.
Omega-3 helps your body fight inflammation, an underlying cause of numerous conditions. Premature hair loss may also be related to inflammation.
Omega-6, on the other hand, is important for overall skin health, which might benefit the scalp.
Plant-based oils are primary sources of omega-6, while omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and some seeds. If you don’t normally consume such foods, talk with your doctor about taking a supplement.
- Pros: Minoxidil is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it’s available over the counter.
- Cons: Scalp irritation is possible, and you must use it continuously to maintain results.
Best known by its brand name Rogaine, minoxidil is an over-the-counter hair loss treatment approved by the FDA.
When applied directly to the scalp twice a day, minoxidil may gradually thicken hair in balding spots. The product is available in either liquid or foam, depending on your preference. It’s also available as an oral prescription from your doctor.
Rogaine can take up to 16 weeks for visible results. It’s important that you use the product consistently, or you might not see results.
Scalp irritation and unwanted hair growth on the face and neck are possible side effects.
- Pros: Spironolactone may treat thinning hair caused by excess aldosterone hormones.
- Cons: It’s available by prescription only and may cause headache, dizziness, and other side effects.
Spironolactone (Aldactone) is sometimes prescribed for people who have thinning hair related to aldosterone production (hyperaldosteronism). While technically a diuretic or “water pill,” that may be prescribed for high blood pressure or edema, Aldactone is an anti-androgen, too.
In females, this medication may help treat thinning hair and subsequent hair loss related to hormonal fluctuations.
- Pros: This is the first FDA-approved oral medication for male hair loss.
- Cons: It’s available by prescription only and is generally not considered for females who are premenopausal.
People who are planning to become pregnant or are at an age where they may become pregnant should avoid this medication due to possible serious side effects during pregnancy. However, for postmenopausal females, studies have shown that it may be an effective treatment and is frequently prescribed by some doctors.
- Pros: Corticosteroids help treat inflammation and autoimmune-related hair loss.
- Cons: It’s available by prescription only and long-term use may cause thinning skin and other side effects.
Corticosteroids are prescription treatments used for conditions linked to underlying inflammation. Sometimes, inflammatory conditions can cause a variety of symptoms, including hair loss.
One example is alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks hair follicles, causing thinning hair and sudden hair loss. Depending on the severity, hair loss may be mild or patchy, or more significant.
Prescription corticosteroids may help in these cases by controlling inflammation directly at the source: your hair follicles. Depending on the severity of hair loss, corticosteroids may be applied either topically or injected directly into the scalp by a dermatologist every 4–8 weeks.
12. At-home laser therapy
- Pros: It’s available without a prescription and can be used easily at home.
- Cons: At-home laser therapy can be pricey, and it may also take several months to work.
Laser therapy is typically used by dermatologists and other skin specialists. The FDA has cleared the way for some products to be used at home.
At-home laser therapy for hair is intended to help regrow your hair while also making it thicker. The results can take several months to take effect.
The biggest drawback of at-home laser therapy is the cost. Some machines are sold for hundreds of dollars, and they may not work. Talk with your doctor before making a large investment.
If you have an underlying medical condition, such as alopecia areata, getting the correct treatments from your doctor may help with hair loss.
But, if a doctor doesn’t believe your hair loss is related to a medical cause, there may be steps you can take to help prevent future hair loss. Consider the following:
Try to eat a balanced diet
It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor about any supplements you’re considering before you start taking them — especially multivitamins that have a combination of micronutrients, as well as fat-soluble vitamins.
If you smoke, consider quitting smoking
While you may have heard of the negative effects of smoking throughout the entire body (including your skin), smoking has also been linked to hair loss.
Try to reduce stress
While stress is a natural part of life, long-term stress can do damage to your health — including your hair.
To help manage stress, it’s important to take some time for yourself, whether it’s a meditation session or a relaxing hobby you enjoy. You may also consider talking with a therapist if you’re having a difficult time with chronic stress.
Take care of your hair
While you may be focused on reversing thinning hair, it’s also important to try to practice good hair care techniques.
Consider gentle hair products when available, and comb and brush hair only when needed. You can also place less stress on your hair by limiting the use of heated styling tools as well as tight hairstyles.
Although it’s common to lose hair throughout the day, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor if you’re losing more than 100 hairs per day.
You should also talk with your doctor if you’re worried about persistent hair loss or a receding hairline or if you notice sudden patchy hair loss. Patches of hair loss could signify an underlying medical condition.
What causes hair to thin? What is the main cause of hair thinning?
Any number of lifestyle factors, genetics, recent life events (such as extreme weight loss in a short period of time or giving birth), or medical conditions can cause your hair to thin.
Lifestyle factors could include using certain hair products, wearing your hair up too tightly, experiencing high stress levels, or not getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet.
People who have immune system deficiencies could also have thinning hair.
Can hair grow back from thinning?
Thinning hair can grow back depending on what caused it to thin in the first place. People who experience thinning hair due to nutrient deficiencies, stress, pregnancy, and other nongenetic reasons could experience regrowth.
If you’re experiencing new hair loss or hair thinning, it’s best to consult your doctor. Some medical conditions can be associated with thinning hair.
How do you fix thinning hair?
The methods for addressing thinning hair can vary by its cause. If the reason is an illness or vitamin deficiency, treating that underlying cause may support hair health and promote regrowth. Other causes, such as giving birth, extreme weight loss, and stress, may cause temporary hair thinning that resolves as the body recovers.
If your hair is thinning due to other reasons, you may be able to try topical products, such as shampoos and even prescription medications.
What vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Iron, folic acid, and zinc help hair grow thick and strong. Having a deficiency in these vitamins may affect your hair growth. Most people can get the amounts of these vitamins they need by following a balanced diet, but in some cases, a doctor may recommend dietary supplements.
While the process of thinning hair can be concerning at first, many types of thinning hair are treatable.
If you’re experiencing new hair loss or hair thinning, or if you’re developing any bald spots, you should talk with a doctor. They can help you detect any underlying medical conditions, as well as offer any related medications.
Hair transplants may be another option for advanced alopecia.