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The Skinny on Thinning Hair: Causes, Tips, and Treatments

In the past few years, I’ve noticed that my hair is getting thinner and thinner. There has a been a reduction in density and in hair texture as individual strands seem to grow in finer and finer. As a hairstylist, many of my older clients tell me that their hair is not as thick and full as it was when they were younger. I set out to find out why this is happening and a little more about the most promising treatments.

It’s perfectly normal to lose 100 strands of hair a day, regardless of your age, but both men and women experience some degree of thinning as they age. While this is normal, it’s important to see a doctor who can help you identify vitamin deficiencies or health issues that may be contributing to hair loss. However, losing hair is only a part of the problem. While the exact cause is unclear, hair follicles get smaller as we age, producing finer hairs that become less and less noticeable.

In women, hormonal changes and menopause may be the culprit. Declining estrogen levels, iron deficiency, and stress are likely contributors, along with a lack of sufficient protein in your diet, an over abundance of vitamin A, and inflammation. Heredity is also a factor; though all of us experience thinning as we age, the amount of thinning may be determined by genetics. Acute situations like post-pregnancy, fevers, and extreme weight loss can also lead to temporary hair loss.

Luckily, hair products are constantly evolving and improving. Hair color is more gentle than it was only a few years ago and styling aids often contain nourishing oils, vitamins, heat protection, and strengthening ingredients. The hair loss prevention industry continues to innovate as well.

Shall we begin?

The Skinny On Thinning Hair 1 of 9
What can you do to treat your thinning hair? Click through to find out!
Topical Minoxidil Solutions 2 of 9
While it’s unclear exactly how it works, minoxidil is FDA-approved for slowing hair loss and hair regrowth. The solution, which you apply directly to your scalp, appears to thicken existing hair and increase hair follicles. Men’s and women’s formulas are available over the counter in 5 percent and 2 percent minoxidil concentrations, respectively.

Try:
Rogaine Topical Solution $49.99 for a 3-month supply
Redken Cerafill Retaliate Minoxidil Topical Solution
Bosley Hair Regrowth Treatment $34.95
Regenepure Precision Minoxidil Spray (for men) $39
Supplements 3 of 9
While not approved by the FDA to treat hair loss, supplements are a popular option and many formulas have a loyal following. Adding one of these popular vitamin and nutrient concoctions to your routine is an easy, non-drug way to nourish hair follicles from the inside. Many include biotin, zinc, horsetail extract, and iron, all thought to contribute to stronger, healthier hair and some include additional ingredients like marine extracts, keratin, and lilac.

Try:
Viviscal Extra-Strength Hair Nutrient Tablets $49.99 for a 3-month supply.
Phyto Phytophanere Hair and Nails Dietary Supplement $59
GNC Women’s Ultra Nourish-Hair $12.99
Reservage Organics Keratin Booster $31.99
MD Nutri-Hair $49.99
Diet 4 of 9
Supplements can help, but there is no substitute for a healthy diet. Incorporating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like flax seeds, nuts, soybeans, and seafood, as well as dark leafy greens and lean protein will promote healthy hair from within. Since inflammation can acerbate the problem, it’s also recommended to add anti-inflammatory foods like some herbs and spices, avocado, and pumpkin.

Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan/Flickr
Doctor-Prescribed Treatments 5 of 9
As I noted above, it’s best to visit a doctor before trying any hair loss treatment. If together you find that diet, supplements, and over-the-counter treatment options fail, there are some additional options.
See your family doctor, a dermatologist, or a trichologist (hair and scalp specialist) for more information.

Learn more about:
Finasteride (Propecia) – A pill prescribed to men only to treat male pattern hair loss.
Corticosteroids – Used to treat alopecia areata, an auto-immune disease that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles, it may be administered via injections, topical ointments or creams, or oral medications.
Spironolactone (Aldactone) – This and other medications that block dihydrotestosterone from hair follicle receptors are sometimes prescribed to women who suffer from hormone-related hair loss.
Laser Therapy – Low level laser treatments are used to stimulate follicles for men or women with hereditary hair loss (androgenic alopecia).

Photo credit: Alex Proimos/Flickr
Concealers 6 of 9
Call me crazy, but I’ve seen these hair powders and sprays in action and they really work and look natural. The trick is to find a product containing fibers that adhere to existing hair, creating an instantly fuller look. I feel like there’s a bit of reluctance to try hair powders and sprays and I’m not sure why. If Mother Nature isn’t going to cooperate, I see no harm in cheating it a bit while you (and science!) work on long-term solutions or wait for regrowth following post-partum hair loss.

Try:
Spritz ‘N Color for Bald Spots and Thinning Hair $15.95
Mega Thik Hair Building Fibers $29.95
XFusion Keratin Hair Fibers $30
Toppik Hair Building Fibers $24.95
Hair Care for Thinning Hair 7 of 9
These shampoos, conditioners, and serums go beyond adding volume with help of rice and/or wheat proteins and offer ingredients that promote healthier follicles to preserve your locks.

Try:
Nioxin System Kit $44
Redken Cerafill Defy (Visit redken.com to find a salon near you)
Aveda Invati Solutions for Thinning Hair $114
Alterna Caviar Clinical Starter Kit $98
Styling 8 of 9
A great haircut and/or hair color service can go a long way toward hiding thinning areas. Talk to your stylist about:
Getting bangs — Bangs are a terrific way to hide a receding hair line or fine “baby” hairs around your face. They additionally prevent you from pulling those weakened hairs back, risking breakage.
Changing your part — Female pattern baldness tends to happen at the top of the head, switching your part around will prevent one area from being overexposed to the elements and excess wear.
Going shorter — There is a reason many older women opt for shorter hair. It looks fuller and longer styles can make fine hair look thin and limp.
Color services — While breakage may be a problem for fragile hair, it’s a myth that hair color contributes to actual hair loss. In fact, most stylists recommend permanent or demi-permanent hair color as a means to “plump” the hair strand and highlights to give the illusion of depth.

Photo credit: Bobbi Vie
TLC 9 of 9
If you are finding the diameter of your ponytail is diminishing, hair loss or thinning may not be the cause at all. Overstyling, too-tight ponytails and braids, and chemical services can all lead to breakage, making hair appear thinner. Be extra gentle with your hair and because breakage can be caused by either a lack of or overabundance of protein, ask a stylist for product recommendations to strengthen your locks.

Photo credit: Artur Chalyj
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