Thinning hair refers to minor to moderate hair loss. Unlike widespread hair loss, thinning hair doesn’t necessarily cause baldness. It does, however, give the appearance of thinner spots of hair on your head.
Thinning hair happens gradually, which means you have time to pinpoint the causes and figure out the best treatment measures.
What causes it?
Thinning hair may be caused by lifestyle habits, genetics, or both. Certain medical conditions may also lead to thinning hair. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it’s normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs per day. Any more than this means you could be shedding more than you should.
Lifestyle habits are a key contributor to thinning hair. These include:
- Over-treating your hair. This includes color treatments, perms, relaxers, and more.
- Using harsh hair products, such as extreme-hold hair sprays and gels. Temporary color can also be harsh for your hair.
- Wearing your hair up too tightly. Whether you’re wearing an up-do or pulling your hair up in a ponytail for working out, this can tug on your hair and break it from the follicles, causing thin spots over time.
- Not getting enough iron, folic acid, and other minerals in your diet. These all help follicles produce hair naturally.
- Experiencing uncontrolled stress. Stress is related to an uptick in hormones like cortisol. Too many stress hormones may kill off new hairs that are trying to grow from the hair follicles.
Thinning hair may also be hereditary. Underlying medical considerations can also lead to this condition. You might have thinning hair if you:
- recently had a baby
- stop taking birth control pills
- are going through hormonal changes
- have lost more than 20 pounds in a short amount of time
- are being treated for an autoimmune disease
- have immune system deficiencies
- have a skin disorder or infection
Less commonly, thinning hair may be caused by:
- pulling at your own hair
- eating disorders
- a high fever
Thinning hair is sometimes confused with alopecia, which is widespread hair loss. While thinning hair may eventually lead to hair loss, these two entities aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Treatments and home remedies
Most cases of thinning hair are treatable at home. Consider the following 12 options, and talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
1. Scalp massage
Perhaps the cheapest method of getting thicker hair is a scalp massage. It doesn’t cost anything, and there are no side effects.
When you wash your hair, gently apply pressure with your fingertips around your scalp to encourage blood flow. For even more benefits, you can try a handheld scalp massager to also remove dead skin cells.
2. Essential oils
Essential oils are liquids derived from certain plants, and they’re primarily used in aromatherapy and other types of alternative medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, lavender oil has been used with success by some people with pattern baldness. The oil is often combined with other types, such as those made from rosemary and thyme.
Still, there’s not enough evidence that essential oils can treat baldness or thinning hair. If you do decide to give this treatment a go, make sure you test a small amount of the oil on your arm and wait 24 hours to see if any reaction develops. Redness, hives, or a rash could indicate an allergic reaction.
3. Hair thinning shampoo
Hair thinning shampoo works in two ways. First, such products provide volume for your hair, so it looks thicker. This can be helpful for people who have thinning or naturally fine hair.
Shampoos for thinning hair or hair loss also contain vitamins and amino acids that promise a healthier scalp to generate more hair over time. To get the best results, use products every day. You can also ask your healthcare provider about a prescription-strength version of the shampoo.
Healthy hair is dependent on your overall good health. In cases of malnourishment, or with certain eating disorders, new hair may fail to generate from follicles. A blood test from your healthcare provider can help determine if you’re deficient in any nutrients.
If you are low in several key areas, your healthcare provider might recommend a daily multivitamin. Healthy hair needs iron, folic acid, and zinc to keep growing thick and strong.
However, the Mayo Clinic advises against taking any extra vitamins if you’re already getting the nutrients you need. This is because there isn’t any evidence that doing so will reverse thinning hair. Furthermore, getting too much of certain nutrients may actually do more harm than good.
5. Folic acid supplements
Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that’s important for new cell generation. In terms of thinning hair, folic acid is thought to help follicles generate new hair in balding areas. Still, as with multivitamins, there isn’t enough evidence that folic acid is guaranteed to help make your hair thicker.
Biotin, or vitamin B-7, is a water-soluble nutrient that’s naturally found in foods such as nuts, lentils, and liver. If you eat a balanced diet, it’s unlikely that you’re low in biotin. However, supplemental forms of biotin have been on the rise in recent years, thanks in part to marketers promising more energy and better hair growth with such products.
While biotin helps break down enzymes in your body, there’s little evidence that it can help with thinning hair.
You shouldn’t take biotin if you take vitamin B-5 supplements — when taken together, these can reduce the efficacy of one another.
7. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are called essential fatty acids. This is because they can’t be made by the human body. Omega-3 helps your body fight inflammation, an underlying cause of numerous conditions. Premature hair loss may also be related to inflammation. Omega-6, on the other hand, is important for overall skin health, which might benefit the scalp.
Plant-based oils are primary sources of omega-6, while omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish. If you don’t normally consume such foods, talk to your doctor about using a supplement.