We have 11 solutions to tackle thinning hair. Photo: Carlton Davis Trunk Archive
Losing your hair can be extremely stressful, especially if you think you can’t stop it. But fear not! There are a number of ways to fight back, stop the shedding in its tracks, and even grow new hair. The first step is to find out why it is happening. “It could be age, genes, hormones, or a combination. You can really develop it anytime after puberty, although more people in their 40s and 50s are affected,” explains dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah. Naturopath Nicole Weigl always recommends blood work to discover the reason. “This will rule out the most common causes of hair-thinning in women, which are anemia, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, and high testosterone,” Weigl says. For women, hormones are a common trigger. For example, the massive hormonal shift from pregnancy to postpartum can cause hair to fall out in clumps.
While many people simply attribute hair loss to aging, there are a number of unexpected reasons why it happens. Stylist Roman Kusayev of the Roman K Salon in New York has seen firsthand that sudden weight fluctuations can cause strands to shed. Stress is a common factor, too, making alternative therapies that help with stress, like meditation, part of a holistic solution. A poor diet can also be a cause. Iron deficiency is the most common culprit, so adding a supplement or changing your diet can help. Hair loss can even be caused by how you apply your products.
“Smothering your scalp stops pores hair follicles from breathing, so try to put your product on your hair root and less on the scalp,” says Robin Narvaez, a stylist at Eliut Salon in New York City. The good news is there are a lot of options to try, from herbal supplements to lasers. The key is patience. “In general, with most hair treatments you are looking at about six months,” says Shah. It is also important to manage your expectations. “The primary goal is to prevent it from getting worse,” says Shah. “It’s unlikely your hair will go back 100 percent.”
1. Rogaine: One of the most well-known hair-loss treatments has products designed for both men and women. “For hereditary hair loss, the primary treatment would be 5 percent Rogaine,” says Shah. The topical treatment, which you apply to the scalp twice daily, is the only FDA-approved hair-loss option for women.
2. At-home lasers: Cutting-edge hair-loss treatments that you can do at home use light therapy to stimulate hair follicles. “I find laser devices to be helpful with hair loss,” says Shah. Run the HairMax laser comb through hair a few times a week to see results. In the company’s clinical trials 93 percent of participants saw regrowth. Another option Shah recommends is the Laser Cap, which uses light waves to boost hair, and can be hidden beneath a hat.
3. Prescription medication: Propesia is a once-daily prescription pill that is FDA-approved for men, but not for women. However, many women are using it off-label to help with regrowth. Note that only post-menopausal women can use it, since it can cause birth defects. There are also less well-known prescription options on the market that Philip Kingsley trichologist Anabel Kingsley recommends. “Dianette, Yasmin, and Spironolactone can help women experiencing hormone-related hair-thinning. These can be especially beneficial for those with polycystic ovarian syndrome, as it often raises levels of male hormones and results in a reduction of the anagen (growth) phase of the hair-growth cycle,” says Kingsley. “Oral anti-androgenic medications are most effective when used alongside topical anti-androgenic scalp drops.“
4. Hair transplants: The procedure involves take a three- to four-inch strip of hair from the back of the hair and placing it where there is a lack of hair. It’s an intensive procedure that can take between three and eight hours. “This is really best for people who have limited areas of hair loss, it is not great for people who have hair loss at the crown,” explains Shah.
5. Platelet-rich plasma: This is how it works: “We draw your blood, thin it, separate out the platelets that get concentrated in your plasma and then re-inject into the scalp,” explains Shah. “Those growth factors nourish the hair follicles to encourage growth.”
6. Scalp drops: Applying hair growth serums directly to your scalp is one solution for thinning hair. “Daily application of targeted scalp drops can help improve overall volume if you are experiencing genetic hair-thinning or increased daily hair-shedding,” says Kingsley who has seen strong results with clients using the Philip Kingsley Tricho 7 line. “Kerastase makes some amazing hair-growth products,” says Kusayev about Densifique and Initialiste. “Put it in twice a day wet or dry, and massage it in. After three weeks, you will see it strengthen the roots and make hair grow faster and healthier."
7. Viviscal: This over-the-counter herbal remedy gets mixed reviews. “I have so many clients on it and it really regrows hair,” says Kusayev. However, Dr. Shah hasn’t seen has consistent results. “Viviscal is not really well-established. Some [of my patients] find it helpful, some not helpful at all.”
8. Vitamins: Addressing nutritional deficiencies is one way to fight hair loss. “I tell my clients to take biotin, 5,000 mcg a day, or 2,500, if they already have biotin in their multivitamins. This will start to work within three weeks,” explains Narvaez. “If your hair is falling out, take 25 mg of gentle iron daily. In my clients, I’ve seen it stop hair from falling out within one week.” Kingsley says that nutrition is a key aspect of solving the problem: “Even small deficiencies that may not affect other parts of the body can affect the hair. Supplements can be great hair helpers as they provide hair cells with a boost of essential vitamins and minerals. The best ones will contain a mixture of iron, vitamin C, B vitamins, biotin, vitamin D, and amino acids. Due to the nature of the hair-growth cycle, it usually takes six to 12 weeks to see results.”
9. Herbal supplements “My favorite herbs for thinning hair are gotu kola and horsetail,” says Weigl, who recommends low amounts given under the supervision of a naturopath.
10. Rosemary oil: Nutritionist Josh Axe swears by rosemary oil to stimulate hair growth. “Many people also claim that it can prevent baldness, slows graying, and can be used to treat dandruff and dry scalp,” says Axe. Studies have shown a 22 percent increase in regrowth.
11. Diet: The source of your hair loss could be as simple as your diet. “As hair is composed primarily of protein, this is perhaps the most important nutrient to hair growth,” says Kingsley. "We suggest including at least 120g in weight of a ‘perfect protein’ that contains all essential amino acids, like eggs, fish, poultry, lean meats, and low-fat cottage cheese. The best vegetarian sources are quinoa, seitan, tofu, pulses, and nuts.”