Experiencing thinning hair? Start by treating your scalp, suggests Dr. Michelle Henry, a board certified dermatologist based in New York. "You don’t want excess buildup on the scalp because it can lead to inflammation, irritation, and compromise both the rate and the caliber of the hairs," she tells Bustle. So the best products for thinning hair all work to keep your scalp healthy, because a healthy scalp = healthy hair. Combining them with products that nourish and care for the hair you have will give you the best possible outcome.
Before starting any sort of treatment, Dr. Henry says it's best to speak with your doctor, since there are myriad reasons — physical and mental — why someone might be experiencing hair loss or thinning, including “genetics (androgenetic alopecia), age, autoimmune diseases (alopecia areata), tight hairstyles (traction alopecia) or increased stress (telogen effluvium). Stressors can range from various traumatic live events, including illness, which we are seeing now with COVID-19, childbirth, surgery, a stressful life event, or extreme weight loss," Dr Henry explains.
Though male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness is unfortunately not preventable, it can be slowed and reversed with a combination of therapies. Listed below are the best over-the-counter products to treat thinning hair on your own, from a doctor-approved scalp scrub to a complete hair care system to an all-natural remedy and more. Scroll on to see them all.
1. The Overall Best Product For Thinning Hair
If a patient has been diagnosed with male or female pattern hair loss, minoxidil is often Dr. Henry's suggested first line treatment, "as it is the only FDA approved topical treatment for androgenetic alopecia," she says. Minoxidil works to slow down and even stop hair loss, and some, though not all, patients find it supports new hair growth, too. Bear in mind that it takes at least two months — and often longer — to see results, so plan on sticking with it for a while to see if it works for you.
2. The Best Hair Care System For Thinning Hair
Get into a good daily care routine for your hair, Dr. Henry advises. "Patients often stop shampooing regularly when they see their hair thinning, but you have to keep up with your routine to prevent buildup. I like the Nioxin System Kits, which promote thicker, fuller hair and come in six formulas for different hair types and levels of thinning." The three-step kit contains a gentle shampoo and conditioner, as well as a leave-in scalp treatment to encourage the appearance of thicker hair.
3. The Best Scalp Scrub For Thinning Hair
"You don’t want excess buildup on the scalp because it can lead to inflammation, irritation, and compromise both the rate and the caliber of the hairs. I suggest a scalp scrub like Nioxin Purifying Exfoliator once a month to help eliminate that buildup," Dr. Henry suggests. It contains ingredients like shea butter, mint, zinc pyrithione (an anti-dandruff medication), niacinamide (a form of Vitamin B-3), witch hazel, rosemary, and sage, which work together to reduce scalp debris and buildup, and even help with itching.
4. The Best Anti-Dandruff Shampoo For Thinning Hair
Though Dr. Henry says that dandruff does not cause hair loss on its own, dandruff can cause itchiness, and "the act of aggressive scratching can lead to hair loss." To treat dandruff, choose a medicated shampoo that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, or tar. Nizoral's main ingredient is ketoconazole, which effectively reduces itching and flaking of the scalp.
5. The Best Natural Product For Thinning Hair
If you're looking to take a more "natural" approach to your thinning hair, massaging rosemary oil into your scalp can be quite beneficial. Dr. Henry says, “In a recent study, rosemary oil was seen to be equivalent to 2% minoxidil." As a bonus, it smells lovely and is great for your skin.
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Unlike the other products listed here, the primary goal of Cover Your Gray Fill-In Powder isn't to thicken hair or nourish the scalp. Instead, it's makeup that gives the appearance of more hair, particularly when you apply it on a thinning part or bald spot. This rain- and sweat-proof color is easy to apply with the included brush, and washes out with shampoo. The affordable powder comes in four different shades to match most hair colors, too.
Dr. Michelle Henry, board certified dermatologist and Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College.