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When it comes to your hair, thinning strands are something not everyone wants to 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, MD, and director of cosmetic surgery at Refresh Dermatology in Houston, Texas. “At any one time, approximately 10 percent 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, discover the best shampoos for thinning hair.
Best Overall: Biolage Advanced Full Density Thickening 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 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 Anti-Dandruff: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
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 Natural Hair: SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampoo
This ultra hydrating shampoo is ideal for those with curly or kinky hair who want to grow their strands thicker and stronger. It's jam packed with castor oil, which increases circulation to the scalp and also assists with the absorption of other products. Users rave that they are able to retain length and thickness without sacrificing a squeaky clean.
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 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 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 Strengthening: Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo
When it comes to thinning hair, you want to go for a product that targets the scalp first, and this rosemary mint shampoo does just that. The formula is infused with biotin, which is clinically proven to fortify your hair with the nutrients it needs to grow thicker and stronger. You'll also love that a little goes a long way, so you're totally getting your money's worth.
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.
“When it comes to thinning hair, the most important thing is to be consistent with your routine and be patient,” says Adam Federico, Director of Content for R + Co. If you're looking to begin repairing your thinning hair, Biolage Advanced Full Density Thickening Shampoo is a foolproof pick. Composed of Biotin, Zinc, and a Gluco-omega blend, it will remove follicle-clogging impurities that can prevent new hair growth while strengthening your hair. If you’re hair thinning is due to chronic dandruff, Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo will help because of its infusion of ketoconazole (an anti-fungal and yeast medication that disrupts the production of the hormone that affects the hair follicle, DHT). Lastly, for some affordable options that are super effective, try Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Shampoo, OGX Biotin & Collagen Shampoo, and Mielle’s Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo.
What to Look for in a Shampoo for Thinning Hair
When you’re already dealing with thinning hair, you want to prevent breakage as much as you can. To do this, your hair needs to strengthen with ingredients like biotin, keratin, and zinc. “Biotin improves the internal structure of the hair which can help to prevent snapping and breaking,” says Federico. In short, the less breakage you have the better your hair will be because you’ll keep more from falling out.
If your hair is dried out, oils can help replenish moisture loss and prevent breakage. “Coconut oil promotes scalp health and helps prevent splitting and breakage,” explains Federico. These oils can be especially healthy if your hair is thinning out due to damage from chemical treatments or dyes.
Sulfates break down hair protein, strip hair of its natural oils, and can potentially cause even more breakage. Due to this, avoiding sulfates as much as possible will help prevent more breakage and help avoid dryness.
FYI, your scalp routine matters too. “In order to repair thinning hair, you must take a very aggressive approach to it,” explains Federico. “First and foremost I recommend doing everything you can to assure that your scalp is in its best condition.” He further explains, “because hair grows through follicles on your scalp, if those follicles are blocked or obstructed by dead skin cells, growth can slow or stop completely.” He advises doing an apple cider vinegar rinse once a week (he recommends R + Co’s Acid Wash Apple Cider Vinegar Cleansing Rinse) and a scalp scrub (he recommends R + Co’s Crown) to keep your scalp healthy.