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When it comes to your hair, thin is most definitely not in. It’s also important to remember that there’s a difference between simply being born with a finer texture, and experiencing actual hair loss and thinning. Even within the latter, there’s a certain amount of shedding that everyone will experience.
“Hair falling is normal as the hair enters a resting phase, called the telogen phase,” explains Suneel Chilukuri, M.D. and director of cosmetic surgery at Refresh Dermatology in Houston, Texas. “At any one time, approximately 10% of the hair is in this resting phase. It’s normal to lose approximately 100 hairs per day.” In other words, there’s no need to stress about seeing a few strands in your brush or in the shower drain. But on the flip side, there’s true hair loss, which is much more extreme and, “indicates miniaturization of the hair follicle, leading to permanent hair loss,” notes Chilukuri.
But don't panic. It’s important to remember that healthy, strong, thick hair can only come from a healthy scalp, which is why it’s a good move to opt for a shampoo made for thinning hair. “The right shampoo can promote a healthier scalp to keep the hair in the anagen (growing phase) longer, which results in less hair fall,” says Chilukuri.
Ahead, the best shampoos for thinning hair.
Best Overall: Matrix Biolage Advanced Full Density Shampoo
This pick first goes to town by gently removing follicle-clogging impurities that can impede healthy new hair growth. Then it delivers a host of important nutrients—think biotin, zinc, and a gluco-omega blend—to strengthen the hair you have. So much so that, when used with the accompanying conditioner, it reduces breakage by up to 95 percent. And when you’re already dealing with thinning, the less breakage the better.
Best Anti-Dandruff: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff
It may not seem like the most obvious connection, but untreated, chronic dandruff can also lead to unwanted shedding. The active ingredient in this pick, ketoconazole (say that three times fast), is an “anti-fungal and anti-yeast medication that has been shown, when taken systemically, to disrupt the action of DHT,” says Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. (DHT is a hormone that affects the hair follicle and can lead to thinning hair.)
“When using this shampoo, let it sit for two to three minutes on the scalp prior to rinsing in order to get the most benefit," he suggests. Fewer flakes and thicker hair? Yes, please.
Best for Damaged Hair: Jason Thin-to-Thick Extra Volume Shampoo
Sulfate- and paraben-free, this instead uses botanical extracts to gently cleanse hair, without over-drying or stripping it (a major no-no for damaged strands). Couple that with the addition of strengthening panthenol and biotin, and you have the perfect recipe for thicker, stronger strands.
Best for Curly Hair: SheaMoisture Detox & Refresh Scalp Shampoo
The mint and ginger in this formula help boost circulation in the scalp, an essential step in the quest for healthy hair growth. At the same time, activated charcoal removes unwanted impurities and residue, and organic shea butter keeps your curls or waves nice and hydrated.
Best Budget: Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Shampoo
The oral hair supplement this brand makes is a cult-favorite, but their topical products are just as good. Take this sudser. It works well on all hair types and textures, can be used daily, and, along with strengthening ingredients such as keratin, biotin, and zinc, it also contains their proprietary Ana:Tel complex to promote thicker hair, too. Bonus points for the fresh, botanical scent and affordable price.
Best System: Aveda Invati Advanced Three-Step Kit
Taking a multi-pronged, multi-step approach is the most effective way to target hair loss; this three-part system makes it easy to do just that. Start with this exfoliating shampoo, which uses wintergreen-derived salicylic acid to clear out impurities that can clog hair follicles, while also gently cleansing and detangling. Follow that up with the conditioner and leave-in scalp revitalizer to reduce hair loss due to breakage by up to 53% in just 12 weeks.
Best Natural: Seed Phytonutrients Volume Shampoo
Loaded with natural ingredients and free of questionable chemicals, this relies on grapefruit seed oil, which helps keep your scalp clean and minimize oil production. Rice protein makes strands look instantly fuller, but also strengthens them over time. Even the (addicting) scent is completely naturally-derived, and the unique paper bottle with minimal plastic minimizes your environmental impact, too.
Best Drugstore: OGX Biotin & Collagen Thick and Full Shampoo
Just like collagen can do amazing things for your skin, it’s also an important ingredient for hair, namely when it comes to adding lots of volume. Here, biotin plus collagen plus wheat proteins make for a formula that quickly leaves hair looking thicker and fuller; we’re talking after just one wash.
Best for Scalp: Nioxin Scalp Optimizing Cleanser for Thinning Hair
This shampoo gets right to the root of the issue (pun intended, obviously). Antioxidants and essential oils work to target inflammation and irritation on the scalp, creating a healthier foundation that in turn leads to healthier hair.
“Nioxin formulates their shampoos with antioxidants, peppermint oil, tea tree oil and amino acids that are designed to strengthen the hair and prevent damage. It may not prevent hair loss, but it may help strengthen and improve the hair that you have,” says Fenton. Reach for this two to three times a week, more often if you have a particularly stressed out scalp.
Best Volumizing: Living Proof Full Shampoo
No matter whether your hair is naturally fine, you’re experiencing more shedding, or that dreaded combination of both, reach for this guy. The star of the show is a patented healthy hair molecule, which efficiently and effectively removes residue and build-up. Less gunk and grime equals thicker, fuller hair. Plus, that molecule also repels dirt and oil so hair stays cleaner, longer. We’re not mad about that.
Best for Colored Hair: Verb Volume Shampoo
A patented copolymer adds both body and hold, while hydrolyzed keratin protein adds strength and pliability. While it’s great for all hair types, we especially like it for colored hair; not only is it sulfate-free, it also offers UV protection to ward off fading and color changes.
Best Dry Shampoo: TruHair Volcanic Volume Dry Shampoo Paste
Part dry shampoo, part styler, this is an easy way to boost limp locks, fast. Volcanic spring powder coupled with argan and coconut oils gives it its creamy consistency. To use, massage a dime-sized amount into your roots with your fingertips and repeat as needed. Not only will it absorb excess oil, but it also bulks up the hairs for an instantly fuller look.
As a parting note, keep in mind that the reasons for hair loss, particularly in women, are wide and varied and can range from stress to hormonal changes to a diet deficiency to even your chosen hairstyle. “It’s always best to see a board-certified dermatologist for any new signs of hair loss, as it can sometimes be a sign of a larger underlying problem,” advises Dr. Fenton. A professional can help you determine the cause and plot your best course of action.