Ask a Beauty Editor: What Is the Best Shampoo for Thinning Hair and Hair Loss?
Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You've come to the right place. In our new weekly series, Ask a Beauty Editor, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, haircare, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.
Question: "Can you recommend a shampoo to help aid hair regrowth and/or fullness?" — @sw16
Hair loss isn't painful or dangerous, but that doesn't make it any less horrifying. During my most stressful stint, I still remember obsessively counting every fallen hair strand in the shower drain and taking shots of the back of my head with my handheld Kodak (remember those?). I turned to just about every trendy remedy—holistic and physical—but my hair kept feeling thinner. I was desperate. And I was scared.
But don't freak out! Stressing about hair loss is a rabbit hole and will only work against you (trust me), so a levelheaded attitude is the best medication for a full head of hair. And before you stalk a specialist or dive into thinning hair remedies, keep in mind that hair loss is totally normal. In fact, we shed approximately 50 to 100 strands of hair each day.
It's also important to know the difference between hair thinning and hair shedding. Although often used interchangeably, these two things come with different problems. Having thinning hair refers to the diameter of each individual strand; on the other hand, hair shedding refers to the density of your strands per square inch of your scalp, or in other words, how much hair you have on your head.
According to Gretchen Friese, a BosleyMD certified trichologist, there are many causes for hair loss that happen abruptly (i.e., telogen effluvium or a new medication), but are usually temporary. However, thinning hair can be permanent and typically happens over time as a result of aging.
That's not to say you can't find solutions. If your problem is hair thinning, you're going to want to look for thickening shampoos. "Most thickening shampoos work by increasing the diameter of the hair strand itself, which will create a thicker look to the hair," says Friese. This is usually done with ingredients like protein, biotin, and collagen.
If you have hair loss, look for products that stimulate hair growth. When it comes to a hair growth shampoo, you have two options: prescriptions or over-the-counter treatments.
Prescription shampoos work by stifling two hormones associated with hair loss—testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Over-the-counter growth shampoos typically contain amino acids and antioxidants to reduce inflammation on the scalp and promote a healthy environment for hair growth, including ingredients like caffeine, saw palmetto, niacin, and panthenol.
Whether your problem is hair loss or hair thinning, there are some factors you should always keep in mind. With sensitive scalps, you're going to want to avoid alcohols, sulfates, parabens, dimethicone, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances, and synthetic colors. And don't be like past me and make the mistake of avoiding shampoo to reduce hair loss. In fact, proper shampooing can help stimulate the scalp and unclog hair follicles of particles hindering hair growth.
But enough of that—since you're here for some actual product recommendations, see below for my favorite haircare products for thinning hair, hair loss, and even an option for both (because better to be safe than sorry, right?).
Disclaimer: As with any beauty product, it will take some time to see results, so plan to stick with your new regimen for at least a few weeks before making any decisions. If you're still not seeing results, or if your hair loss gets worse, book an appointment with a trichologist or dermatologist who might test you for more serious conditions like alopecia.
1 For Thinning Hair: Kérastase Densifique Bain Densité Shampoo
This protein-balanced shampoo cleanses hair buildup, increases hair density, and strengthens hair with a trifecta of complementary ingredients. Hyaluronic acid adds hydration and elasticity, and gluco peptides enter the deepest layers of the cuticle to plump existing hair. Meanwhile, ceramides—a lipid that is naturally found in the cuticle—act as a cement of sorts, keeping the hair intact against breakage.
2 For Hair Loss: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Before you ask why I'm recommending a dandruff shampoo for your hair loss, hear me out. Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal and anti-yeast medication that is recommended for hair loss by both dermatologists and trichologists. This is commonly found in—you guessed it—dandruff shampoos. According to Friese, it has been shown, when taken systemically, to disrupt the action of DHT. There's also the fact that this is the best (slash only working) dandruff shampoo that I've ever tried. Chronic dandruff can also lead to unwanted shedding, so it doesn't hurt that this will knock out that possible culprit as well. Tip: Leave it on your scalp for at least three minutes before rinsing to get the full benefit.
Because this is a medicated shampoo, I'd only use it about two to three times a week. In between shampoos, follow up with Bosley Hair Regrowth Treatment ($45; ulta.com). This FDA-approved leave-in treatment contains 2% minoxidil, which has been clinically shown to reactivate hair follicles to stimulate hair growth. Because it comes in a dry spray, you can apply on your problem areas without having to worry about residue everywhere.
3 For Both: Harklinikken Extract
There's a reason why customized beauty has been blowing up, and it's not limited to skincare. If you're not ready to see a trichologist just yet but want something a bit more personalized, try Harklinikken's 5-minute hair assessment. Although it's a bit pricier, each bottle is hand-blended and tailored to fit your individual scalp needs (even lifestyle factors and genetics are taken into consideration), so you can trust that the formula is right for you. Every ingredient is naturally derived, and free of colorants, perfumes, and essential oils that could irritate your scalp.