My partner and I have two very different approaches to combating hair loss. I’m all-in on the pills, potions and procedures: that’s finasteride, minoxidil and even a hair transplant—and I’m more than content with the full, natural-looking results. He, on the other hand, prefers the “less clinical” route and relies heavily on hair growth and hair fortifying serums as well as a healthy lifestyle and an anti-hair loss shower and styling regimen. It’s those hair serums we’ll address today, that work a lot like facial serums in that they deliver nourishing ingredients to the scalp and follicle to promote stronger, thicker hair growth.
Before I go on, I should note three things:
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1. I am not a dermatologist, and only your dermatologist can prescribe the best method for you, while also supervising the process should you opt for a clinical route. So, see your doctor and trust them.
2. The most effective, lasting results will always be from the prescriptive or procedural methods (including the over-the-counter minoxidil drops or spray). These options, particularly finasteride, come with infrequent (but notable) risks, namely sexual side effects and should thus be monitored closely.
3. You should set realistic expectations with your hair. Do the requisite research and, of course, involve your doctor. However, know that receding hair can be slowed but not restored. Thinning hair can only be restored and maintained if it was lost in the last few years. And you’ll have to continue whatever regimen you set out on for the rest of your life if you want to continue to see results.
Now, back to serums.
What are hair growth serums?
Hair growth serums act like little liquid vitamins for your hair and scalp. Think of them as daily boosters (packed with things like Vitamin B, peptides and tea tree oil) to promote a healthy scalp, strong bulbs and an optimal growth environment. They focus on any or all of the following: circulation and nutrient delivery to the follicles; mitigating dihydrotestosterone (DHT, for short, is the androgen that actively thins and suffocates the follicles); defense against toxins and pollution (they’re packed with antioxidants); and scalp harmony (to prevent flaking, irritation and the like).
The effects of hair serums, like prescriptive options, may take months to fully notice, particularly in terms of overall fullness and density. They can and often do wake up dormant, wilting follicles, but not to the extent of minoxidil or finasteride.
Hair serums will be most successful if paired with other pro-hair-health choices, like a good diet, regular exercise, ample sleep, minimal alcohol and drug use and stress-minimizing techniques. And lastly, while you should absolutely see a doctor and discuss all of your options, these serums are generally safe to use without such monitoring or consulting. They often make a terrific additional supplement for people using minoxidil and finasteride, too. (Minoxidil by day, serum by night, for example.) Think of it this way: The serums can only help—it’s just a matter of how much help you need, and how you choose to deploy it. Should you want to be like my partner and slow gradual hair thinning (while probably having to ultimately accept it in the next 10 to 15 years), or if you want to add a daily liquid vitamin to your line of defense, then please consider these excellent hair serums, which do exactly that.
Lastly, note that hair growth serums are different from hair repair serums, which work more like a mask and are applied throughout the strands themselves. These repair serums resuscitate damaged or dry hair. In this article, we’re talking about hair serums that you drop onto the scalp itself, to impact growth and renewed vitality at the root of thinning, endangered hair.
Best Hair-Thickening Serum
Nutrafol is the name in non-prescriptive hair retention methods (their supplements are substantive and fantastic, by the way). This ashwagandha-powered serum delivers proteins and lipids to the scalp and follicle, which boosts cellular renewal and sprouts thicker, sturdier strands. Meanwhile, sea buckthorn and moringa nourish the scalp while green tea extract further fortifies the hair.
Best Overnight Hair Serum
Nioxin Night Density Rescue Hair Serum
Getting ample rest is one of the best things you can do for your entire body, including your superficials like skin and hair. Better yet, you should pair that sleep with the right products that help magnify cellular regeneration as you sleep. Nioxin’s refreshing yet heavy-duty overnight serum reduces oxidation at the scalp, which in turn prevents premature hair fall and promotes hair density. Apply it before you slumber to a clean scalp, and let it work its magic as you rest.
Best Low-Cost Hair Serum
Add this serum to your morning styling regimen for an added push. Keep expectations reasonable, as it’s a baseline boost of peptides to help hair build back better from the follicle up. As a bonus, though, caffeine boosts circulation all around the scalp, to further improve hair growth and fullness.
Best Biotin Serum
Ginseng root prevents DHT proliferation while burdock root and Malabar kino bark keep the scalp balanced and toned. Meanwhile, lilac stem cells and biotin fortify hair growth, making this one very formidable formula.
Best Alternative for Minoxidil
Circulation-boosting maca is at the center of Horace’s hair serum, which improves nutrient delivery to the follicles while protein-powering peptides reinforce the hairs themselves.
Best Scalp Stimulating Serum
Cult-favorite Pura d’Or has this terrific scalp serum that energizes the dome and promotes circulation (and thus nutrient delivery) with caffeine and cayenne. A tea tree and antioxidant-rich formula keep the scalp balanced, while biotin and apple stem cells partner with a dozen other active ingredients to promote strong, uninhibited growth conditions.
Best Anti-Dandruff Scalp Serum
This serum harnesses piroctone olamine to neutralize fungus in order to treat and prevent flaking of the scalp. And while dandruff is itself never responsible for hair loss, its presence is a significant hindrance to hair growth. That’s because you need to have a healthy, balanced scalp in order to procure the strongest, most resilient hairs sprouting forward, and any dryness, itching, flaking, and peeling is going to throw a wrench in the plans. This one will give you a quick fix, but use it continuously (thrice a week for three weeks) to keep the problem at bay.
Best Probiotic Hair Growth Serum
This formula uses probiotics to help boost up the good bacteria in your scalp, and in turn neutralize the bad, irritating bacteria (as well as dandruff-causing fungus). In addition, it also has an essential oil trio (rosemary, peppermint, and sage) to further purify the scalp and boost circulation to the hair follicles, as well as plant-based Redensyl, which targets the hair’s stem cells and promotes the splitting of cells (and thus the proliferation of hair growth) from the onset.
Best Minoxidil Serum for Hair Growth
Minoxidil is one of the two tried-and-true “clinical” solutions for treating hair loss and activating regrowth. It works by boosting nutrient delivery to each hair, and also by decreasing the time your hair spends in its resting phase between natural sheddings (meaning you have more hair on your head at any given time). As a result, you need to note that the first couple of months of minoxidil can lead to excess shedding at first. But be not afraid: This means it’s working and “re-setting” your hair into its new retention plan. Within 6 months you should notice a significant improvement, assuming the hairs you’re regrowing were lost throughout the crown (as opposed to recession) and were lost within the last couple of years. They should grow back much denser, too. Many brands sell this generic of Rogaine, but be sure to get it from a trusted source like Roman. Five percent is the recommended dosage for men, and 2 percent for women; still, speak with your dermatologist prior to embarking on the trek, especially since they can help measure your starting point and carefully track progress.
Best Minoxidil-Finasteride Serum for Hair Growth
Finasteride works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, which is what leads to follicle shrinkage. One of the more recent advancements in hair retention is the marriage of minoxidil and finasteride in one daily topical application. Formulas like Happy Head’s do this by upping the dose of minoxidil (which is normally applied twice daily) and by carefully measuring out an effective dose of finasteride (which is typically taken orally). The biggest benefit touted here is that men who otherwise reported sexual side effects from taking oral finasteride (1-2% of users) report significantly fewer risks from the topical treatment itself. Studies back this up, too. Each brand will offer different formula variations, but we love Happy Head’s which cranks the minoxidil up to 8 percent, and utilizes retinoic acid and hydrocortisone to prevent irritation and boost efficacy.
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