Can a Serum Really Give You Thicker, Healthier-Looking Hair?

pills for thickening hair

In 2018, Deciem launched its first haircare product: The Ordinary's Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density ($18). The hair serum is designed to be applied topically every night and promises fuller, thicker, denser and healthier-looking hair.

Sounds great, right? So far, reviews for the Multi-Peptide Serum have been overwhelmingly positive. Fans of the serum have reported that not only does it promote growth and denser-looking hair, but many have also commented on how it helps to treat dry and flaky scalps.

It got me thinking, though: With hair loss affecting nearly 30 million women in the US, can a topical hair serum ever really affect your hair growth? Much of hair loss is caused by stress, so can a topical serum treat the condition without directly tackling the cause?

The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Serum For Hair Density
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Serum For Hair Density $18.00

I spoke to trichologist Anabel Kingsley and S. Khan, a consultant for Kerluxe Hair Restoration, to get their thoughts on hair thickening serums. My first question: Can they really help, or is it just a placebo effect? "The maximum rate to which your hair will grow is genetically determined," Kingsley tells me. "For most people, this is approximately half an inch a month, and unfortunately there's nothing you can do to speed this up."

Kingsley suggests that looking after your scalp is essential if you want to grow your hair long and strong: "There are ingredients that can help to optimize the scalp environment to encourage and support healthy hair growth, but it's important to note that these are heavily dependent on the concentrations of the ingredients, the quality of them and how they are formulated into the product."

Khan agrees: "Hair is dead keratin fiber, therefore, the only way to improve the quality of hair being produced by the hair follicles is by optimizing the scalp condition as a foundation to producing healthy hair." However, The Ordinary's Multi-Peptide Serum (designed to directly target the scalp) formula seems like it might be onto something.

So what specific ingredients should you look out for? Khan believes that anything that can increase blood flow to the scalp is beneficial. Minoxidil, niacin, arginine, and polyphenols can help to do this. However, the only topical treatment that is FDA approved and has been proven to stimulate hair growth (especially in hereditary hair loss) is minoxidil, and it isn't an ingredient present in The Ordinary's Multi-Peptide Serum.

If these ingredients sound scary, opt for essential oils. A few that can help with scalp health (and thusly hair growth) are rosemary and peppermint.

But there are plenty of ingredients in the serum that may support scalp conditions and could help with healthier-looking hair. Antioxidants, biotin, vitamins, and minerals are all meant to keep your scalp at its optimum condition. Menthol is often used as a stimulant, and salicylic acid is meant to gently remove dead skin cells from the scalp.

hair thickening serum: do they really work?

I've been testing out The Ordinary's Multi-Peptide Serum, but I feel like it's too soon to give a fair review of whether or not it's really had a difference in my hair's density or thickness. However (in part thanks to the positive reviews), I do have high hopes and will report back soon. Fingers crossed that this story will be complete with a swishy hair selfie.

Shop More Hair Growth–Boosting Products

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer $49.00

FYI, your hair will not grow past a certain length if it keeps breaking off. To try to minimize breakage, use a weekly pre-shampoo conditioning treatment. These promise to plump the hair shaft with moisture, improving elasticity and strength. Philip Kingsley's Elasticizer, which was originally formulated for Audrey Hepburn, is one of the very best.

Bumble & Bumble Scalp Detox
Bumble & Bumble Scalp Detox $34.00

Like micellar water for your hair, this fizzing foam helps to gently cleanse the scalp whilst salicylic acid is meant to help remove pore-clogging debris and dead skin cells. Perfect for a super-clean feeling, especially if you're guilty of overusing dry shampoo from time to time.

Kèrluxe Re-activisse Hair Shampoo
Kèrluxe Re-Activisse Hair Shampoo $60.00

This shampoo promises to restore strength and help to reduce scalp sensitivity and irritation. Menthol is meant to stimulate the scalp whilst Redensyl is meant to maintain stem cell life and provide anti-irritant effects on the scalp associated with hair loss concerns, according to the brand.

Ouai Haircare Thin Hair Supplement
Ouai Haircare Thin Hair Supplement $28.00

If your hair is falling flat, it's important to make sure you're getting the right nourishment from within. Ouai's Thin supplements contain a powerful punch of biotin meant to accelerate natural hair growth, ashwagandha meant to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, amino acids meant to boost keratin production and omegas 3 and 6 meant to increase radiance. Take one tablet per day, and expect to see results after 90 days of daily use, according to the brand.

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Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Hair loss in women. Updated February 10, 2021.

  2. Ashique S, Sandhu NK, Haque SN, Koley K. A systemic review on topical marketed formulations, natural products, and oral supplements to prevent androgenic alopecia: a reviewNat Prod Bioprospect. 2020;10(6):345-365. doi:10.1007/s13659-020-00267-9

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