Professionals share what actually works.

By Emily Goldman
May 26, 2020
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Hair growth is a finicky process. With so many products claiming to help, discerning between what actually works and what doesn't can feel like a job in and of itself. Whether your hair is super fine and thinning or you simply find yourself wishing for a fuller, thicker head of hair, finding products that will help you achieve the growth you want requires expert input. "The earlier you address thinning hair, the better," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "It is easier to keep the hair that you have rather than trying to grow it back once it has fallen out."

woman tossing shiny hair
Credit: Mike Kemp/Getty

That being said, some hair loss is completely normal. Dr. Zeichner says that, on average, people lose about 150 hairs a day—and it's nothing to worry about. "Once the hair follicles become completely inactive, it is virtually impossible to stimulate them again," he says. "So long as there are no inflammatory or infectious causes of the hair thinning, hair growth products can generally be used to address all causes of hair thinning ranging from genetics to stress to chemotherapy." Before we delve into a number of options, it's important to note that what works for one person may not work for another. And while there are plenty of options available on the market, none of them are guaranteed to work for you. "Just because you know someone who was successful with one treatment doesn't mean it will work for you," warns Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD board-certified dermatologist at New York Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center. "With all [hair treatments], it takes time to see improvement."

Dr. Garshick says that products must be used consistently for three to six months before you begin to see improvement, so patience is key. Additionally, hair loss or hair thinning can occur for many different reasons—hormones, stress, diet, recent illness, medications can all be factors. For this reason, it's always recommended to check with a board-certified dermatologist to help figure out what type of hair loss you have and the best treatment plan, she says. While there currently is no magic pill that guarantees to restore your hair to its original luster, these expert-approved options can facilitate your hair growth journey.

Rogaine

"Rogaine, which comes in a solution or foam and can be used by men and women, is often recommended for those dealing with hair loss as there is evidence to show it slows down hair loss, can make hair appear thicker, and, in some individuals, can help to promote hair regrowth by dilating the blood vessels in the scalp," says Dr. Garshick. "Although it is approved for thinning on the vertex or crown of the scalp, it can be used off-label on other parts of the scalp one to two times daily." She recommends Rogaine's five percent strength formula ($45.49, target.com) to her patients. The key ingredient in Rogaine is Minoxidil. When applied topically, it's the ingredient that dilates the blood vessels in the scalp which has been shown to help stimulate hair growth and reduce further hair loss. It's also the only FDA approved nonprescription option for those with hair loss and is designed to be used regularly.

Bosley Professional Strength Re-Growth Treatment

Another option for people with more extreme hair loss is the Bosley Professional Strength Hair Re-Growth Treatment for women and men, which also contains Minoxidil. Gretchen Friese, Bosley Professional Strength certified trichologist says this is a great, more extreme option for those experiencing more serious hair loss, as opposed to the brand's preventative hair loss shampoos and conditioners. It comes in a two percent strength for women ($17.47, ulta.com) and five percent for men ($17.47, ulta.com).

Nioxin

"Nioxin, across their product line, uses different technologies to help thicken the hair, using proteins and amino acids to strengthen the hair," explains Dr. Garshick. The brand has a complete line of treatments and products designed to combat hair loss and help with hair growth. In fact, they even feature products with Minoxidil specifically for women ($35.98, ulta.com).

Biotin

"Biotin has been controversial when it comes to hair growth as there's very little evidence to support its use," says Dr. Garshick. "That said, anecdotally individuals have found it to be helpful for hair growth and [that's] why some people continue to take it." But before you purchase a bottle, Dr. Garshick emphasizes the importance of speaking to your doctor, as the FDA released a statement in 2017 warning that biotin may interfere with certain laboratory tests, including thyroid and certain markers used to detect heart attacks. "It would be important to consider this if getting lab work done and to stop the supplements beforehand and always remember to indicate all medications, including supplements when visiting your doctor," she says.

Nutrafol

Dr. Zeichner suggests the use of Nutrafol, a clinically studied pill option, which has been shown to improve hair density. It also contains different proprietary botanical ingredients that are helpful to the hair growth process and overall scalp health.

Head & Shoulders and Dove

"In general, treating the scalp can also be helpful for hair growth, as the scalp can experience build-up of oil, sebum, dead skin cells which can lead to blocked hair follicles or dandruff," says Dr. Garshick. In fact, simply keeping the scalp healthy allows for hair to grow more easily, so using specific scalp health-promoting shampoos and conditioners can make a difference. Dr. Garshick recommends Head and Shoulders ($5.99, target.com)  and Dove Dermacare Anti-dandruff shampoo ($4.49, target.com).

Revian Red Hair Cap

"Red light devices like the Revian Red Hair Cap ($995, revian.com) enhance circulation to the scalp with increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to support healthy hair follicle activity," says Dr. Zeichner. But it's an investment, so be sure to read up if you're the right candidate before purchasing the technology. The cap uses Modulated Light Therapy (MLT), according to the company, that utilizes proprietary wavelengths of LED light to release your natural reserves of nitric oxide, increasing local blood flow, reducing inflammation, and boosting the nutrients to hair follicles resulting in new hair growth.

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