When it comes to the search for thicker hair, we live in a world with lots of quick fixes: extensions, styling hacks, and plenty of suspect products on the market that promise volumized results with just a pop of a pill or spread of a cream. But what about results that are actually sustainable? Is there such a thing? And are there any home remedies for thicker hair that can actually make a difference in the long run? As you can see, we have questions. So we decided to reach out to the most knowledgeable experts (specifically, trichologists and dermatologists) to get their take on the topic and to learn what we can do at home if we're looking to beef up our scalp's thread count.
Now, don't shoot the messenger, but when it comes to hair woes (namely amount, density, the like), you only have so much control. And most of the time, you can credit thickness, or lack thereof, to things you can't really dictate (read: genetics and hormonal makeup). That being said, there are slightly more manageable factors, such as stress, nutritional imbalances, environmental exposures, and sleep quality that come into play. And according to experts Jennifer Herrmann, Ronald Moy, and Michelle Blaisure, that's the best place to start.
Meet the Expert
- Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, is a board certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. She is based in Los Angeles.
- Ronald Moy, MD, FAAD, of Moy Fincher Chipps Facial Plastics & Dermatology has over 25 years of clinical experience. He is considered one of the nation's leading cosmetic and facial plastic surgeons.
- Michelle Blaisure is a product and technical specialist and certified trichologist at Bosley Professional Strength.
"Although as dermatologists we're taught to put certain types of hair loss into categories (scarring versus non-scarring, hereditary versus acquired, inflammatory versus noninflammatory), each with distinct treatment options, we're now learning that there may be more similarities than differences across the hair-loss spectrum," Herrmann points out. And interestingly, even minute amounts of inflammation within the body have been seen as a common thread:
"Factors such as UV, toxins, smoke, exposure to pro-inflammatory bacteria or yeast, stress, and hormones (androgens) can all promote a pro-inflammatory, pro-oxidant environment around growing hairs. Over time, this can lead to dysregulation of the hair's normal growth cycle, leading to hair thinning and loss," explains Herrmann. To try to counter this, consider taking anti-inflammatories, whether that be in the form of herbs, foods, or even supplements if you're experiencing chronic inflammation. Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into your diet won't hurt either.
Drink a Golden Milk Latte
If you'd rather try a more lifestyle-focused home remedy for thicker hair versus a medication (there are only two FDA-approved medications for hair loss: minoxidil and finasteride), Herrmann tells us that certain botanicals and spices have become intriguing agents where hair-loss prevention is concerned.
According to Herrmann, curcumin is anti-inflammatory and acts as a natural anti-androgen (androgens stimulate hair loss). Since turmeric is rich in curcumin, why not indulge in a golden milk latte for a change? A dash of black pepper might even help increase absorption and effectiveness.
Take Saw Palmetto
Just like curcumin, saw palmetto also acts as an anti-androgen, which may promote thicker hair. Plus, for any men in your life, it has been linked to a whole host of other health benefits as well (think: prostate inflammation and healthier testosterone levels).
Why is it that stress seems to be the perpetual big bad wolf when it comes to virtually every health woe? And according to Herrmann, it isn't doing our strands any favors in the thickness department either. (FYI: Increased cortisol, aka our body's reaction to stress, can lead to increased hair shedding.)
So if quitting your job and fleeing to Fiji isn't in the cards anytime soon, incorporating an adaptogenic supplement like ashwagandha can be a savvy alternative. Plus, it also happens to be rich in hair-healthy antioxidants. Win-win.
Get a Dose of Vitamin E
As Herrmann mentioned, an association has been found between oxidative stress and hair health. And since those with alopecia and thinning strands generally exhibit lower levels of antioxidants in their scalp, supplementing with antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals could be helpful.
Vitamin E has long been hailed as an amazing natural source of antioxidants and tocotrienols, which belong to the E family. They are not only easy to incorporate into your routine (we love the smoothie route), but they have been scientifically proven to benefit hair loss.
Eat the Rainbow
Making certain diet tweaks can be a great option if you're looking to encourage thickness and growth. And not surprisingly, the more vitamin-rich (i.e., colorful), the better. "To encourage hair growth, I always recommend a diet high in protein and vitamins like B3, which helps repair all cells at their locations of growth. Try focusing more on fruits and vegetables and less on carbohydrates," recommends Moy.
"Diet is important in maintaining your hair thickness and even more so when hair starts to get thin," says Blaisure. "For instance, if you're deficient in vitamin A, vitamin B (especially B12 and folate), vitamin D, and minerals, such as zinc, copper, and iron, you might experience hair loss or thinning. Conversely, if you're getting too much of these vitamins (especially vitamin A, copper, iron, fish oil or EFAS), that can cause hair loss." Case in point: Balance is always key, and by eating a diverse and colorful diet, you'll likely strike the perfect chord.
We recommend looking into different sources of vitamin B3. Foods like turkey, peanuts, and mushrooms are all great options and can be added to a salad for extra vitamin-packed goodness.
In addition to the role diet plays, other lifestyle factors can also affect your thicker hair goals. The short of it: Try decreasing things like smoking and stress and increasing practices like sleep and activity. Don't worry, we break it down below.
According to Blaisure, smoking has been linked to hair loss, as it decreases oxygen in your blood, therefore restricting the circulation and blood flow hair requires to grow healthy and strong. And as Herrmann points out, smoking can also increase oxidative stress and inflammation around the hair follicle, leading to accelerated strand loss—not good.
Get the Sleep You Need
Sleep is vital, as it's when our bodies perform the most cellular and DNA repair. Moy points out that getting good sleep is crucial for a thicker mane.
"If you are sleep-deprived, your body will be under higher levels of stress, and stress is a known cause of hair loss," adds Blaisure. "To make matters worse, this puts our bodies in a state of wanting to eat sugar and simple carbohydrates, which can ultimately discourage healthy hair growth."
"Stress reduction is important, as increased cortisol can lead to excess hair shedding," says Herrmann. So, on the flip side, try channeling and coping with stressors (because they're inevitable) by using things like exercise and meditation to your hair's advantage.
As Blaisure tells us, even just 10 minutes of meditation may help to calm the mind and lower stress levels, and Moy adds that exercise can even encourage hair by increasing blood flow and promoting superior cell renewal.
Consider Taking Supplements
Ultimately, Herrmann tells us she likes a balanced approach when it comes to home remedies for thicker hair. Although some types of hair loss can be addressed with medications, as they may be connected to internal imbalances, and others with in-office treatments (like Regeneo PRP injections), you'll likely have a better chance of achieving a thicker hairline by monitoring lifestyle factors. "So the ultimate goal is to nurture and maintain the hair's thickness and density through things like diet, supplementation when needed, and possibly even topical treatments to help stimulate healthy hair growth," says Blaisure.
And if you're looking to kill multiple birds with one stone (and an onslaught of new powders and grocery staples just seems overwhelming), comprehensive supplements like DNAEGF Renewal's Remedy Blend ($25) (morning) and NOX Blend ($25) (evening) are great places to start on your journey toward thicker hair. However, as Herrmann mentioned previously, if you're concerned about your hair and scalp health, it's always best to speak to your physician or a board-certified dermatologist before taking any new supplements or treatments.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Saw palmetto. Updated May 6, 2020.
Thom E. Stress and the hair growth cycle: Cortisol-induced hair growth disruption. J Drugs Dermatol. 2016;15(8):1001-1004.
Beoy LA, Woei WJ, Hay YK. Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers. Trop Life Sci Res. 2010;21(2):91-99.