Do the Results of a $16 Hair-Thickening Serum Really Compare to This $78 Version?

Shoppers with thinning scalps recommend both for thicker, healthier hair.

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Save vs. Splurge: Scalp Serum
The INKEY List / René Furterer.

Recently, it seems like there is more awareness around a reality that many have struggled with for years: Hair loss can affect people of all ages and genders. Thankfully, so many cosmetics brands have listened, and as a result, growth-promoting formulas are now far more accessible. The only issue? With so many products to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which will best suit your needs.

While hair thinning can be brought on by a huge range of factors, one great place to start (in addition to speaking to your dermatologist) is by finding products that target your scalp. Certain leave-in scalp treatments are effective, and according to a previous interview with trichologist Gretchen Friese, “can increase circulation” and “remove toxins and debris from the follicle to create a better environment for healthy growth.”

In the rapidly expanding market of hair growth products, you can find scalp-supporting treatments for as much as $500 and as little as $2 — but you don’t need to abandon your budget to try an effective product. With that in mind, check out these two scalp serums that shoppers swear by.

Caffeine Stimulating Scalp Treatment

The Inkey List

Save: The Inkey List Caffeine Stimulating Scalp Treatment

Buy It: $16,

Key Features:

  • Main Ingredient: Caffeine is an antioxidant-rich ingredient that protects skin and hair from free radical damage while increasing circulation to the scalp, supplying follicles with oxygen and nutrition needed to grow. 
  • Other ingredients: Lactic acid, a member of the AHA family, exfoliates dead skin and buildup from hair products that can inhibit new growth. Meanwhile, glycerin draws moisture into strands, making them softer and less prone to breakage. 
  • How to Use: Give the bottle a shake and apply the product directly to your skin. Use the product across your entire scalp and leave the formula on overnight (you can wash it out in the morning, but don’t have to.) The brand recommends nightly use over a three-month period.

What We Love:

The Inkey List is known best for creating reasonably priced products, but don’t let this serum’s low cost and short ingredient list dissuade you. One shopper raved that their hair started “growing like crazy” after using the treatment consistently, and another added that they experienced a “reduction of hair loss” and “slight growth” in the balding regions of their scalp after going through two bottles. Plus, multiple reviewers add that the formula doesn’t leave their mane feeling greasy.

Keep in Mind:

This treatment comes in a 150-milliliter bottle, and many shoppers report running out of and needing to repurchase the product multiple times within the recommended three-month period.


Rene Furterer

Splurge: Rene Furterer Triphasic Recreational Concentrated Serum

Buy It: $78,

Key Features:

  • Main Ingredient: Topical use of amino acids can fill in cracks in hair cuticles and hydrate strands, both of which help to prevent shedding and breakage. What’s more, the ingredient is often used in volumizing treatments to add body to fine hair. 
  • Other Ingredients: Like amino acids, biotin may help to improve the overall strength of hair, although there are no conclusive studies to support this. Another element in the formula, spearmint oil, might help to stimulate blood flow to the scalp, therefore encouraging new growth. 
  • How to Use: For best results, the brand recommends applying this serum once a week. After going through your usual hair cleansing routine, massage an entire vial into your damp scalp. Do not rinse out the formula. 

What We Love:

Although $78 is steep, each purchase of this treatment comes with three months’ worth of vials — enough time to know if the product is effective for you.  “My hair looks healthier, fuller and most importantly, less and less hair is falling out,” noted one reviewer after using the serum for three weeks. Other shoppers agree that it only took a few vials to begin seeing new growth, and many rave that it also adds shine and softness to your mane. Not to mention, actress Dakota Johnson uses the brand — and one look at her hair may just convince you to splurge. 

Keep in Mind:

This formula includes denatured alcohol, an ingredient that may be irritating to those who have dry or sensitive skin. 

In Conclusion:

While The Inkey List’s formula is packed with effective ingredients, ordering a new bottle multiple times will start to add up. Rene Furterer’s system of delivering weeks’ worth of product in one package will take the stress out of needing to restock, but is certainly an investment. These issues aside, both serums are from trusted brands, and come highly recommended by shoppers experiencing hair loss.

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