Hair loss affects up to 50 percent of women. I’m part of the 50 percent you don’t want to be in. And that’s how I came to know that once you start to look, there are solutions to this common problem in so many corners of your world. Read on to find out what they are.
The Health Food Store Plan
Ballpark Total: $57
Supplements and essential oils can make a difference — you just have to know which ones to look for.
1. Rosemary essential oil. It smells amazing, but that’s not why you’ll want it — studies show rosemary oil can promote hair growth, says Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist in New York City. She recommends placing a drop or two of the essential oil (around $8 for half an ounce) into your shampoo before massaging it into your scalp.
2. Oil-rich conditioner. “Oils improve hair’s tensile strength,” says Paradi Mirmirani, a hair-loss specialist and dermatologist in Vallejo, California. In other words, oils make hair less likely to break under pressure, which is especially important for thinning hair that’s prone to snapping when brushed or styled. Mirmirani recommends using a conditioner fortified with natural oils, like Burt’s Bees Very Volumizing Pomegranate Conditioner, which contains avocado oil ($8), or Honest Company Conditioner with coconut oil ($10). That one’s got an added benefit: “Coconut oil has been shown to penetrate hair,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, so it makes your hair stronger from the inside out. (Just don’t load up on pure coconut oil. “You might overshampoo your hair to get it out, and then you’ll end up drying your hair and undoing any benefit,” says Fusco.)
3. Supplements. Dermatologists don’t consider biotin (which hairstylists and models have praised for years) the go-to supplement for thicker hair. “It’s always been purported to help grow hair, but little to no data exists to support its use,” says Nicole Rogers, a dermatologist and hair-transplant surgeon in Metairie, Louisiana.
Instead, you may want to add vitamin D (about $15) to your shopping cart. A vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate hair thinning and make it almost impossible for any over-the-counter product to reverse hair loss, says Dhaval Bhanusali, a dermatologist in New York City, who recommends taking 5,000 international units of D3 a day (and it’s generally beneficial for bone health in women over 40). “There’s also a link between low iron and zinc levels and temporary hair shedding, called [telogen] effluvium,” says Rogers.
A few studies support the use of red ginseng, sometimes called panax ginseng (about $25), for hair regrowth. It can have an anti-apoptotic effect on the hair, Rogers says, meaning it slows cell death so hair follicles can grow for a longer period of time. But before taking any of these supplements, it’s important to consult your doctor; a lab test can confirm whether you need a particular supplement or if taking it will just be a waste of time and money.
The Drugstore Plan
Ballpark Total: $70
Believe it or not, some of the best regrowth products are in the drugstore’s hair aisle.
1. Minoxidil. It’s the only FDA-approved topical nonprescription medication that can claim to regrow hair — and it should be part of any hair-loss plan if you have serious thinning, says Rogers. Minoxidil has loads of research to back it, but it requires commitment. If you quit using it, your hair will start to lose ground again. Use a 5 percent strength, like Women’s Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Foam ($30), once daily to see results in three to four months, says Rogers.
2. Pyrithione zinc shampoo. Traditional volumizing shampoos will give the hair you have a lift so it looks fuller (we like the sulfate-free L’Oréal Paris EverPure Volume Shampoo, $8). But some research suggests shampoos with the antidandruff ingredient zinc pyrithione can mitigate hair loss that’s caused by conditions like dandruff, says Mirmirani. Try Head & Shoulders Deep Moisture Shampoo ($6), and use a conditioner without silicones — they can make hair appear limper, especially if it’s applied near the roots (we like Love Beauty and Planet Coconut Water & Mimosa Flower Conditioner, $9).
3. Hair fibers. The best (and easiest) way to hide a widening part or sparse patch is with hair fibers. They’re tiny, charged fibers that adhere to your scalp (until your next shampoo). Toppik Hair Building Fibers ($25) come in a range of colors so you can easily find one that matches your own hair. (In a pinch, you can also brush a powdered eye shadow that matches your hair color along your part.)
The Beauty-Boutique Plan
Ballpark Total: $236
The best part about beauty stores — all of the products — can get overwhelming. Navigate them like a pro.
1. Collagen powder. Preliminary studies suggest that marine-sourced collagen may stimulate hair growth, says New York City dermatologist Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae. Though more research is needed, participants in studies reported thicker hair after three to six months of daily use. Crushed Tonic Original Powder ($105) easily mixes into coffee, tea, and water.
2. Volumizing shampoos and treatments. Typically, these work by depositing ingredients, like wheat protein and keratin, that adhere to the hair shaft to a) thicken it and b) create spaces between hairs so you look like you have more of it. Try Kiehl’s Rice & Wheat Volumizing Shampoo ($18) with hydrolyzed wheat protein; Rogers likes Redken Cerafill Defy Shampoo and Conditioner ($20 each) with ceramides that bulk up hair.
3. Scalp tonic. Serums with peptides or procyanidins (a class of antioxidants) such as niacinamide can help support overall scalp health and reduce inflammation, which is a major component of hair loss, says New York City dermatologist Doris Day. Try René Furterer Triphasic Progressive Concentrated Serum ($82), Julien Farel Magnifique Delay the Gray Hair & Scalp Serum ($135), or Day’s own Rapid Regrowth Serum ($55) once daily before massaging a minoxidil product into the scalp (there’s no need to wait for it to dry in between). “In addition to being anti-inflammatory,” Day says, “scalp tonics help minoxidil penetrate the scalp better and can minimize potential irritation from it.”
4. Tinted dry shampoo. Camouflage spots where you’re seeing more scalp than you want to (your hairline, a widening part, a thinning crown) and add volume with a colored dry shampoo (try Orlando Pita Color Boost Dry Shampoo in Light or Dark Tones, $22). But be sure to give your scalp a vigorous shampoo during your next shower — dermatologists recommend keeping your scalp free of styling products so you’re not clogging already taxed pores.
The Salon Plan
Ballpark Total: Varies
Do not underestimate the power of a brand-new cut and color.
1. Hair color. Anytime you dye your hair, you’re increasing the diameter of each strand, which can help add volume when your hair is sparse and fine. As a general rule, ask your colorist to make sure highlights are finer at the top of the head, where hair is the thinnest, and more intense at the bottom, where it’s thickest, says Eva Scrivo, a hairstylist and the owner of the Eva Scrivo Salon in New York City. And beware: A color that contrasts with your scalp (blonde tones if your scalp is dark, deep brunettes if your scalp is light) will make any visible scalp more obvious.
2. A strategic cut. Long, layer-free haircuts divert volume from the roots, making your part seem wider than it is, Scrivo says. Going shorter (than your current length — no need for a major chop) helps take weight off so hair can look fuller and bouncier. And layers that angle inward on the sides will build height and body at the crown. If you’re game to try bangs, Scrivo says, they lessen the amount of scalp that shows at the hairline.
3. Nutriceuticals. Rogers recommends that her patients try Viviscal Dietary Supplements ($50 for a one-month supply) or Nutrafol ($88 for a one-month supply), both of which can often be picked up in a salon. The former contains marine-based proteins meant to beef up thinning hair. The latter is packed with antioxidants, like ashwagandha and curcumin, and boasts impressive clinical results.
The Dermatology-Office Plan
Ballpark Total: $500 and up
For serious help, head to an M.D. This roadmap comes straight from Park Avenue dermatologist (and longtime hair researcher) Neil Sadick.
1. Diagnostic tests. The first thing your dermatologist will do is try to pinpoint the cause of your hair loss — genes, inflammation, hormone levels, nutritional deficiencies — through a battery of tests. Initially, Sadick examines the structure of the hair shaft through a trichogram ($200 and up; may be covered by insurance).
The test involves plucking about 50 hairs from the head, typically at the back of the scalp, so your dermatologist can look at them under a microscope and determine how much of the hair is in the resting, growth, and fall-out phases. Next, a vial of blood is sent to a lab to check hormone and nutrient levels ($100 and up, depending on insurance). If low levels of iron, or high levels of male hormones, like androgens, are contributing to your hair loss, for example, both can be treated through oral supplements or medication.
Finally, if these tests come back normal, your dermatologist may suggest a scalp biopsy of a couple of two-millimeter sections taken from your scalp under local anesthesia ($400 and up). It can determine whether genetic hair loss, telogen effluvium (a condition in which hair falls out from stress or rapid weight gain), or a disease (such as lupus) is the cause of your shedding, and your dermatologist can treat you accordingly.
2. High-tech regrowth therapies. Laser treatments ($200 and up) expose hair to low levels of laser light, which boosts hair growth by increasing the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in hair follicles. ATP provides energy to hair-follicle cells, so the more of it that’s around, the more energy hair follicles can use to grow your hair. Sadick says three months of weekly sessions are best when you’re kick-starting a hair-loss treatment.
Other options include microneedling ($1,200 and up per treatment) and platelet-replacement therapy (also $1,200 and up per treatment), which are usually offered in conjunction. Your scalp will be numbed first so you don’t feel the pinpricks involved in microneedling. They promote hair regeneration by spurring wound healing, and platelet-replacement therapy involves injecting growth factors into those wounds. “Combination therapy typically works better than monotherapy and usually yields results after three monthly treatments,” says Sadick, and should be teamed with an at-home minoxidil treatment.
3. Surgical hair replacement. If you opt for hair transplantation (which runs $5,000 and up), your dermatologist or hair-replacement surgeon will remove single hair follicles from the back of the head, near the nape of the neck, where your hair is fullest. Once those follicles are harvested, they are then dissected and reimplanted into an area of the scalp where hair is thinning. The procedure takes anywhere from three to six hours, and newly implanted hair will usually begin to grow on its own 3 to 12 months after the treatment session. Traditionally, hair transplantation required removal of an entire strip of scalp, Sadick says, but this new follicle-by-follicle technique looks more natural when it heals and allows patients to get heads of hair as dense-looking as before they started losing it.
A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Allure. To get your copy, head to newsstands or subscribe now.
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