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 other suspect products on the market that promise lustrous 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.
Know You Have Limited Control
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: your genetics and hormonal makeup). That being said, large, but slightly more manageable factors like stress, nutritional imbalances, environmental exposures, and sleep quality also come into play. And according to experts, that's really where your work at home comes in. (Sorry, no magical DIY elixirs for thicker hair here.)
Instead, our experts will prescribe home remedies for thicker hair in the form of lifestyle changes to help you foster the ultimate environment for thick and healthy hair—planting the seeds if you will.
"Genetics determines the type of hair you have and how much," explains Michelle Blaisure, Bosley Professional Strength product and technical specialist and certified trichologist. "And although you can't change your genetics, many different factors can alter the hair's natural thickness. 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."
Unsure where to start? According to Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, at Moy Fincher Chipps Facial Plastics and Dermatology, the most important first step is to identify the cause. For instance, she tells us some types of hair loss can be addressed with medications, as they may be connected to internal imbalances. Therefore, the best thing you can do if you're concerned about the thickness of your hair is to make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist or trichologist who can help you understand the cause of your hair loss and treatment options.
"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.
So 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 tell us that certain botanicals and spices have become intriguing agents where hair-loss prevention is concerned. Find her picks below!
According to Herrmann, curcumin is anti-inflammatory and acts as a natural antiandrogen (androgens stimulate hair loss). Try pairing it with black pepper (this lovely formulation does the work for you), which helps increase the absorption and effectiveness.
Just like curcumin, saw palmetto also acts as an antiandrogen to 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: lowered risk of prostate cancer and healthier testosterone levels—just saying.)
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.
As Herrmann mentioned, studies have demonstrated an association 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.
Eat the Rainbow
Diet can be a tricky topic. Simply put, we're all unique, and each of us has different needs (hence why veganism might work well for you but not for your best friend). That being said, every expert we spoke to agreed that 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.
"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 cord.
"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 Ronald Moy, MD, FAAD, at Moy Fincher Chipps Facial Plastics & Dermatology.
Foods like turkey, peanuts, and mushrooms are all great sources of vitamin B3.
The Three S's: Smoking, Sleep, and Stress
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.
Smoking: 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.
Sleep: 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: "Stress reduction is important, as increased cortisol can lead to excess hair shedding," expresses 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.
Ultimately, Herrmann tells us she likes a balanced approach when it comes to home remedies for thicker hair. And although there are some in-office treatments and procedures available (like Regeneo PRP injections, which can help support healthy hair growth) using increasing nutrition, adding botanicals to help decrease inflammation, and monitoring other lifestyle factors like sleep, stress, and smoking, you'll likely have a better chance of achieving a thicker hairline. 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) or Bosley's Healthy Hair Vitality Supplements for Women ($35) are great places to start on your journey toward thicker hair.