How to Prevent and Style Thinning Hair
Pump Up the Volume
Nearly half of women with thinning hair would give their life's savings for a full mane, research finds. Luckily, you don't have to. An array of options, from OTC remedies to custom add ons, are now available. Discover the causes of hair loss, plus smart solutions that will get you on a path to fullness.
Make Some Styling Tweaks
A simple shift to your hair routine could be all you need. Priority number one: Limit braids, too-tight workout ponytails, and extensions. And however unhip ye olde scrunchie may be, use it to keep your hair off your face while you exercise, says Doris Day, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. A scrunchie, or the more discreet Invisibobble Power ($9; sephora.com), puts much less stress on your follicles than even coated hair bands. (Learn from this ballerina who lost her hair because of how tight her buns were, yikes!) Celebrity stylist Ted Gibson, of the eponymous New York City salon, offers other great tips: Cut bangs—if you have them, make them start closer to the crown—for fullness up front; blow-dry against the direction your hair normally falls to add height; and go for a messy part to obscure a widening one.
Change Up Your Products
For mild thinning, spray a volumizer at the roots, but don't overdose. "Even a volumizing product can cause your hair to fall flat," says Gibson, who recommends his Ted Gibson Runway Ready Volume Mist ($48; tedgibson.com). Also try Philip Kingsley Plumping Cream ($33; philipkingsley.com). Work it through towel-dried hair, then blow-dry. And use thickening and strengthening shampoos and conditioners such as TRESemmé Beauty- Full Volume Reverse Wash System ($5 each; drugstores) and Julien Farel Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner ($25 each; julienfarel.com). (Consider taking these steps to go the extra mile and protect hair from sweat damage. Yes, it's a thing.)
Get a Nutrient Makeover
"Vitamins B and D and iron are the first deficiencies to test for and correct," Dr. Day says. Eating vitamin- and iron-rich foodssuch as whole grains and lentils is the best way to receive these nutrients—which are building blocks for hair growth— but you can also supplement with Viviscal Extra Strength tablets ($50; viviscal.com) or Nutrafol ($88; nutrafol.com). (Considering using castor oil, which is known to help hair growth.)
Try an Over-the-Counter Remedy
Studies show that Minoxidil, the key ingredient in at-home hair-loss treatments, can make a real difference for genetic hair loss (telltale signs are thinning at your crown and part). Choose from an easy-to-use foam, like Women's Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Topical Aerosol ($30; drugstores), or a spray such as the new Qilib Hair Regrowth and Revitalization System for Women ($46; drugstores).
Visit a Pro
If you're ready for the big guns, consider a series of in-office treatments, called PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy, in which your own plasma is injected into your scalp to stimulate growth. "It works well enough that I offer it at my practice," Dr. Day says. Also, the FDA has cleared low-level lasers for hair loss. You wear the hat-shaped Capillus82 Laser Cap ($799; capillus.com) for 20 minutes every other day. Or there are hair-extension systems. A piece made with human hair (sized to cover the affected area) is permanently attached by weaving each strand of your own hair into the hidden net. There's no need for glue, and it stands up to all the usual suspects (styling, swimming, great sex) for up to two years, says Lucinda Ellery, whose signature Intralace Systems cost up to $3,500 (lucindaellery-hairloss.com).
Why You're Losing Hair
Half of us will experience hair loss or shedding in our lifetime, and while rising stress levels certainly don't help, even healthy habits can be indirect culprits (think: habitual gym ponytail). "Almost a third of my practice consists of women who have thinning concerns," Dr. Day says. Among the top causes she sees? Telogen effluvium, a.k.a. stress shedding, which can happen a few months after any shock to your system, from the good (childbirth) to the bad (a layoff) to the ugly (an epic breakup). She also sees alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder that typically causes hair to fall out in round patches), a genetic predisposition toward hair loss (this is where female-pattern baldness comes in), nutrient deficiency, traction-related thinning (the result of chronic extensions or tight ponytails), simple aging, and even overprocessing (chemically straightening, heat-styling, and more). Once you know your woe, it's just a matter of finding the right fix.