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 to 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, where 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
Less commonly, thinning hair may be caused by:
- pulling at your own hair
- eating disorders
- a high fever
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
Essential oils are liquids derived from certain plants, and they’re primarily used in aromatherapy and other types of alternative medicine.
Lavender oil has been used with success by some people with pattern baldness. It’s also backed by animal
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.
Test a small amount of the oil on your arm and wait 24 hours to see if any reaction develops. Redness or other irritation, hives, or a rash could indicate an allergic reaction.
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.
Folic acid is a type of vitamin B that’s important for new cell generation. A few
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.
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is a water-soluble nutrient that’s naturally found in foods, such as nuts, lentils, and liver.
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 and omega-6 fatty acids are called essential fatty acids. This is because they can’t be made by the human body.
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 as 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.
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 pre-menopausal.
Finasteride (Propecia) is a prescription hair loss medication. Unlike topical treatments like minoxidil, Propecia comes as a daily pill that males take for hair loss.
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,
- Pros: Corticosteroids help treat inflammation and autoimmune-related hair loss.
- Cons: It’s available by prescription only; 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 to 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
Hair loss may be associated with a lack of micronutrients, such as iron, as well as macronutrients like protein. If you need help with meal planning, consider talking with a doctor or dietitian.
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.
Overall, smoking may worsen hair loss because of its inflammatory effects in the body.
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 hair styles.
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?
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 thinning hair grow back?
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.
Why is my hair suddenly thinning?
Suddenly thinning hair could be caused by a variety of reasons, such as a period of extreme stress, pregnancy, discontinuing birth control pill use, hormonal changes, a high fever, or pulling at your hair.
Sudden hair thinning that’s persistent or hair falling out in clumps could be the sign of an underlying medical condition. Talk with your doctor if this occurs.
What shampoo should I use for thinning hair?
Because thinning hair can happen for a number of different reasons, you might have to go through a trial-and-error period to find the shampoo that works best for you.
Some shampoos are aimed at reducing hair loss, while others aim to thicken existing hair.
Prescription-strength shampoo for thinning hair is also an option that you can speak with your doctor about.
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.