Thinning hair can be jarring. Many will quickly look for ways to repair their strands, but can they?
Those who believe their hair might be thinning do have steps they can take.
We spoke with Dr. Nava Greenfield of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City as well as Dr. Sara Perkins, dermatologist with the Hims & Hers dermatology board regarding the factors that could lead to hair thinning and potential treatment options.
There is not a one size fits all reason for hair thinning. In fact, there is a multitude of potential causes according to Greenfield and Perkins. Ultimately, it will likely take a dermatologist’s diagnosis. However, they did offer some common causes.
Greenfield told LifeSavvy that genetic hair loss—called androgenic alopecia—is the most common cause. It occurs in all genders and is non-inflammatory and non-scarring. Typically, it’s in a “patterned distribution on the scalp.”
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Perkins points to supplements like Nutrafol that is backed by some data for hair growth.
While it’s most common, it’s far from the only reason for thinning hair. Perkins added that everything from hormonal changes to inflammation to scarring can cause it. Underlying health conditions such as hypothyroidism and anemia could lead to thinning and might be accompanied by other signs such as fatigue, pallor, or weight gain.
Both dermatologists recommended seeing a professional in order to find the underlying reason.
If you believe you’re experiencing hair thinning via hair loss, you should first examine just how much you’re losing.
“Normally we lose about 100 hairs a day which is more than most people would expect,” said Greenfield.
It’s when you notice more significant loss than you’ve previously experienced or see parts of your scalp that have thinner or no hair that you should consider treating your hair loss.
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Perkins added, though, that some increased hair loss is normal.
“Some estimates suggest that up to 50% of women will notice some degree of thinning by age 50,” said Perkins. “Gradual thinning or widening of the central part is not necessarily cause for concern if it’s not bothersome to the individual.”
Instead, Perkins said to look for rapid loss, bald patches, scalp itching and burning, or scarring.
When it comes to at-home treatments, you’ll likely need to receive a diagnosis of why your hair is thinning before proceeding according to Perkins and Greenfield. For example, if your thinning hair is caused by a nutrient or vitamin deficiency, you’ll need a diagnosis to determine which area you’re deficient in and then move forward with supplementation.
However, there are a few things you can do on your own. Perkins recommended two supplements: Viviscal and Nutrafol. Both are over-the-counter options that have positive data that back up their efficacy claims.
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Minoxidil is a treatment option.
She also pointed to topical minoxidil, like that sold by Hims & Hers. The ingredient has been backed up by decades’ worth of data. However, you will need to continue use indefinitely in order to keep the benefits.
Light and low-level laser therapy also have preliminary data that show benefits for thinning hair according to Perkins. Studies have illustrated that the therapy can stimulate the scalp and stem cells in the hair follicle, moving the hair into anagen phase—the active phase of hair growth.
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Light therapy might be an option for thinning hair.
Note: Before taking any supplement or using any topical treatments, it’s best to consult with your physician.
If you aren’t quite ready to head into your dermatologist’s office or try supplements, both Perkins and Greenfield said there are smaller changes that can potentially help hair thinning.
Both dermatologists pointed to a well-balanced and nutritious diet as a way to supply your body with necessary nutrients and vitamins.
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Incorporate a heat protectant if you must use hot tools.
Your hair care routine is also a place to make changes according to Greenfield. Avoiding high heat like that from hot tools and hair dryers, skipping chemical treatments such as hair coloring, and keeping your hair in loose styles that don’t put stress on the follicle can all help.
For those who decide to visit their dermatologist, there are a few in-office treatments that can be effective in treating hair loss.
Both Perkins and Greenfield say a platelet-rich plasma treatment has shown results. The process involves injecting your own platelets into your scalp. The idea is that those platelets will stimulate dermal papilla cells that can assist in hair growth.
Steroid injections and oral medications are also available and can be given or prescribed in-office.
For those who do decide to pursue these in-office options, Perkins and Greenfield said patients can expect an interview regarding their hair thinning and symptoms as well as a medical history. The dermatologist will then examine the scalp and hair follicles.
Once that’s done, a patient will likely receive a treatment recommendation and a rundown of the risks, benefits, timeline, and expectations.
If you believe you’re experiencing more hair thinning than is normal, your best course of action is to contact your dermatologist. Until your appointment, though, you can always try some natural, home remedies for hair growth.