Among the widely used shampoos and therapies for thinning hair are biotin supplements, finasteride (Propecia), and minoxidil (Rogaine). Before beginning any treatment for hair loss, it is crucial to speak with a dermatologist or other healthcare provider. They can offer advice on the best course of action and assist in identifying the reason for hair loss.
Our specialists offer their opinions on products and treatments backed by science.
Looking at the bathtub drain to see how much of your hair has fallen out is one of the most terrifying things you can do. Although losing 50–100 hair strands today alone is normal given that hair changes over time, unexpected hair loss can indicate an underlying medical concern, and pattern hair loss is at best disappointing and at worst devastating psychologically.
Although genetics play a role in pattern hair loss, there are strategies to manage the condition and try to avoid it altogether. However, before you panic-buy some too-good-to-be-true elixir, you should first determine the root cause of your hair loss.
What causes thinning hair?
Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist in New York City, stated that androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, is the most typical reason for hair loss. Hair follicles atrophy and finally stop developing in this type of hair loss. It manifests in women as a portion that widens throughout time. A receding hairline or bald area is typically present in men with pattern baldness.
However, Green noted that there are other factors, such as stress or underlying medical conditions, that can also contribute to hair loss. She advises paying attention to the type of hair loss you are experiencing: is it abrupt everywhere, or is it gradually diminishing in the front? Keep a record of those symptoms and speak with a doctor, who will probably order bloodwork. “To check for anemia, vitamin D deficiency, and thyroid disorders, dermatologists need blood tests. Do you have an autoimmune condition? Green asked. Many of her patients, she observed, are surprised to hear that their hair loss is a sign of conditions like lupus or, in one peculiar case, even a tumor.
Another possibility for a patient is telogen effluvium, a kind of hair loss brought on by physical or mental stress. Sudden hair loss may be with the loss of a loved one or a job, a high fever, pregnancy, or having surgery. According to Dr. Hadley King, a dermatologist in New York City, “Hairs are generally found at all different stages of the hair cycle,” but under extreme stress, the hair can become synchronized, causing many to fall out at once. The good news, according to King, is that this type of hair loss can be reversed. It does regenerate. Green noticed that, for instance, during the early stages of the pandemic, the stress of isolation led to many of her patients’ hair loss getting worse rather than an infection. (This American Academy of Dermatology fact page has further information on the reasons behind hair loss.)
How to treat thinning hair
The specialists we spoke to all agreed that the reason for the hair loss will determine the best course of treatment for thinning hair. Green acknowledged that there isn’t a “magic button,” but there are several measures you can take to either maintain your remaining hair or encourage hair growth:
- Minoxidil: King claims that the most effective treatment for both sexes is minoxidil. It basically opens the blood cells, allowing “more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to reach the follicles,” according to King, and is used in shampoos and well-known products like Rogaine (more below).
- Argan oil and/or tea tree oil: Tea tree oil or argan oil: “Tea tree oil will protect your hair and is rich in fatty acids,” explained Green. It can also aid in moisture retention for your hair. According to Green, tea tree oil “has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can calm an itchy scalp” and is another ingredient that many of her patients enjoy in their shampoos.
- Glycerin-based styling products: Products for styling hair that contain glycerin are beneficial for maintaining the moisture in the hair, according to King. “Hair breakage will be reduced with a hair care plan that permits the protective layer, or cuticle, to remain intact as long as feasible,” she stated.
In addition to oral medications and different dermatology procedures like platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP) or prescription-only laser caps, products like shampoos and serums can be used. Most crucially, for topical therapies to be effective, they must stay on your head. How much benefit you receive if you wash it in and out, like you would with a shampoo, “is debatable,” according to Green. Furthermore, hard data is the most vital component of all. Many items on the market make claims about results that aren’t supported by solid research, according to King.
Taylor Rose, a licensed trichologist and expert on hair health, suggested avoiding harsh detergents like ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLES), and sodium lauryl sulfate and instead opting for shampoos free of these substances (SLS). Some alcohols can also dry out hair; Rose advised avoiding those with the prefix “prop” in their names, such as isopropyl or propanol.
Best shampoos and conditioners for thinning hair
Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Foam for Hair Loss
Rogaine is probably one of the few hair-growth products that have been FDA-approved, according to Green. This foam contains the active ingredient in Rogaine treatments, minoxidil, which promotes hair growth. The 5% minoxidil content of the men’s and women’s foams is the same, however, Rogaine advises men to apply a half capful twice daily straight to the scalp in the area experiencing hair loss. The company advises women to use half a capful only once a day. According to the brand, users can anticipate results in 120 days, and regular use is required to maintain any results. On Amazon, 24,374 reviews of Rogaine’s unscented foam have given it an average rating of 4.2 stars.
Products related to this item
Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Solution
Similar to Rogaine’s foam product, men’s and women’s versions of this topical solution are offered for sale separately. However, the women’s medication is less potent and only includes 2% minoxidil. After 120 days of consistent treatment, Rogaine claims consumers might expect to notice effects. On Amazon, the answer has received a 4.2-star rating overall out of 14,598 reviews.
Nioxin Kit System
Nioxin’s hair care system kits and products, which are a favorite among Green’s patients, use minoxidil, just like Rogaine does, to promote hair growth. The System 1 kits target light thinning in natural hair, hair that has been colored, and hair that has been bleached. They come with a therapeutic shampoo, conditioner, and scalp treatment. The same hair types are targeted by the System 2 kits, but for advanced thinning. Additionally, Nioxin offers its styling tools, leave-in conditioners, and additional shampoos and conditioners separately. On Amazon, 22,778 reviewers of the Nioxin System Kit have given it an average rating of 4.4 stars.
Avalon Organics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
Despite not being designed to promote hair growth, this Avalon Organics shampoo is a well-known favorite among Dr. Green’s patients who have an irritable scalp (in our guide to the best shampoos for head acne, multiple experts recommended tea tree oil-based products). On Amazon, 3,994 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 stars were written about the paraben- and cruelty-free shampoo.
Art Naturals Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo
Green also suggested this argan oil shampoo, which many of her patients reportedly like using. Argan oil, which is also a component in a Select favorite clarifying shampoo, can aid in moisturizing and retaining moisture in dry hair. In Select’s list of the finest drugstore shampoos, King specifically mentioned the cleaner cocamidopropyl betaine as a milder substitute for abrasive detergents and sulfates. On Amazon, the shampoo has received 72,735 reviews with an average rating of 4.4 stars.
Nutrafol Root Purifier Shampoo
King and Green both suggested Nutrafol, a brand of drug-free, all-natural oral vitamins and other hair-care items. Before using any supplement, it may be best to speak with your doctor, but you might start by utilizing the Root Purifier Shampoo. The shampoo, according to Select editorial director Lauren Swanson, “hydrates the scalp without becoming excessively greasy or weighing down the hair.” The brand claims that the mild cleansers in the sulfate-free shampoo “thoroughly cleanse while optimizing pH levels of the scalp microbiome for improved hair health.” On Amazon, 183 reviews of Nutrafol’s shampoo had a 4.3-star rating on average.
It depends on your hair type, according to Rose, but generally speaking, “it is preferable to use a soft shampoo free from harsh elements to ensure you are not adding to the problem more,” she said. She suggested using this Grown Alchemist product, which the company claims smooths the hair follicle and shields it from heat damage. 1,209 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.3 stars.
Products related to this item
How to prevent hair loss
Sadly, hair loss is greatly influenced by genetics, however, treating the issue quickly will help. Because once you lose your hair and those hair follicles are dead, they can no longer regrow, Green advised stopping the problem before it became worse. It simply vanished.
However, there are several techniques to delay what seems to be an unavoidable process, as well as some easy hair care advice and methods to stop hair loss altogether:
- A healthy lifestyle: Rose suggested engaging in activities like yoga, journaling, meditation, and eating a diet high in nutritious foods as ways to relieve stress. Because protein is a component of hair, she advised, “Make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet.” As much as possible, Green advised staying away from alcohol and cigarettes since “they obviously weaken hair and they are just generally bad for you.” King continued: “No crash diets either.”
- Protect the hair you still have: According to Green, wearing a tight bun every day strains your hair and can lead to irreparable damage. as well as routine usage of heated hair styling equipment. According to King, a hair care routine that allows the cuticle to remain intact for as long as possible would reduce hair strand breaking and drying out.
- Use gentle fabrics: Use soft textiles because damp hair is quite brittle. Rose advises using a microfiber towel to dry off after a shower and wearing a satin hat or pillowcase to bed.
- Scalp massage: King mentioned that some studies have found that massaging the scalp might encourage hair growth, particularly when combined with certain oils (more on that below). And it feels fantastic.
Additionally, if you see that your hair is thinning, don’t wait to consult a specialist and speak up for yourself when it is time for your visit. One of the most upsetting aspects, according to Green, is how frequently male doctors ignore women patients. “Compared to when they were launched just a few years ago, the situation is drastically worse presently. Speak up to stop that from happening.” A qualified doctor will schedule some time to talk and evaluate your particular circumstances.
What about hair growth oils?
It is not surprising that so many hair growth oils have appeared on the market given how traumatic losing your hair can be. While ginseng root, rosemary, pumpkin seed, castor oil, and minoxidil remain the most effective topical hair growth treatments, King said that there have been some notable research on the effectiveness of these other oils (even two smaller tests conducted on mice have linked lavender oil and peppermint oil to hair growth). In a 2015 study, minoxidil and rosemary were evaluated for hair growth, and after six months, both test groups experienced significant increases in hair growth.
Though the findings hint at potential future advances in science, Kind stated that the information simply isn’t available yet: “the bottom line is we need bigger, better research to evaluate whether or if these chemicals help whit hair development.
Meet the experts
We collaborate with specialists at Select who possess specific expertise and authority as a result of pertinent education and/or experience. We also take measures to guarantee that all expert views and guidance are given impartially and without any unreported financial conflicts of interest.
- Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King practices medical and cosmetic dermatology in New York City.
- A board-certified dermatologist in New York City with a focus on cosmetic dermatology is Dr. Michele Green.
- The @thehealthyhur TikTok account is maintained by trichologist and hair health expert Taylor Rose.