We all long for thick, healthy, shiny locks of hair, so even the smallest bit of thinning can feel disastrous. Hair loss can happen to anyone, but once you figure out why it’s happening, it may be easier than you think to treat it.
There are numerous hair thinning causes, including genetics, lifestyle habits, diet, and even medical issues. However, there are many ways to combat hair loss and regrow healthy locks. Adding vitamins and changing up your diet and exercise plans can help, in addition to professional help and other lifestyle changes.
Understanding why your hair is thinning is the first step in stopping and treating it. While it’s completely normal to lose up to 100 hairs each day (source: American Academy of Dermatology), different factors could inhibit regrowth or exacerbate hair loss.
What’s the Difference Between Thinning Hair and Widespread Hair Loss?
Thinning hair occurs when someone experiences minor or moderate hair loss. Maybe you once had thick, healthy locks that are now gradually getting thinner. You might notice light spots of hair on your head that expose your scalp.
Unlike thinning hair, widespread hair loss (often caused by alopecia) is a catalyst to baldness. Extensive hair loss is characterized by patchy bald areas and even hair loss on other parts of the body.
Fortunately, thinning hair occurs gradually, and it is easier to stop and treat than widespread hair loss. You have time to figure out the cause and plan a specific treatment that will benefit you the most.
What Causes Hair to Fall Out?
There are numerous causes of hair loss, including lifestyle habits, genetics, and medical conditions – or a combination of any of the three. If you notice you’re shedding more than 50 to 100 hairs each day, you should monitor your habits – and potentially see a doctor.
Genetic Causes of Hair Loss
According to a Harvard Medical School study, hereditary-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss. While most individuals will experience some form of hair loss as they age, up to 40 percent experience noticeable changes due to genetics.
Hereditary-pattern baldness begins gradually with hair thinning (source: Harvard Medical School). In men, it usually begins at the temples. Advanced hair loss in men leaves only some hair along the sides and back of the head.
Women often experience more widespread but better-concealed hair loss. According to the Harvard Medical School, most women experience noticeable hair thinning on the top of their heads and down the middle of the scalp.
How to Prevent Genetic Hair Loss
Unfortunately, once hereditary-pattern hair loss begins, it is permanent (source: Harvard Medical School). However, several over-the-counter treatments like minoxidil and finasteride can prevent or slow further balding. Both medicines are discussed further below.
Lifestyle Habits That Cause Hair Loss
Many hair loss causes and thinning are lifestyle habits that you can easily change to prevent the regrow lost hair. Even if your hair thinning is also caused by genetics or a medical condition, correcting bad habits can help prevent or slow further damage. Lifestyle habits that could be diminishing your long, luscious locks include:
Over-Treating Your Hair
If you regularly use treatments like coloring, perms, etc., and noticing hair loss, it's time to put the chemicals away. While the Food and Drug Administration regulates ingredients used in dyes and perm treatments, there are still many unknowns with the chemicals used and the effects on your scalp and body.
Many ingredients in hair dyes and perm products cause allergic reactions and hair loss in some people (source: American Cancer Society). Doctors even advise against dying, perming, or treating your hair if you’re pregnant because of the unknown effects of the chemicals in the products could have on an unborn child.
The American Cancer Society provides these tips for safely using hair dye and other treatments:
- Follow package directions and heed all caution statements
- Test a small patch of hair for allergic reaction or hair loss before putting the product on your entire scalp
- Wear gloves
- Don’t leave the dye in any longer than the directions recommend
- Rinse your scalp thoroughly afterward
- Don’t mix different products
- Never use hair dye on eyebrows or eyelashes
Use of Harsh Hair Products
The styling products you use every day could be having a detrimental effect on your hair’s health. Products like strong, extreme hold hair spray and styling gels can dry out your hair and irritate the scalp. If you don’t properly wash out the products, they can damage hair strands. Gels can build up oil and cause flakiness and greasy follicles.
Wearing Too Tight Ponytails Too Often
Maybe you love a stylish updo or often put your hair up to work out, clean, or simply keep your hair out of your face. But that tight ponytail could be causing hair thinning and spots to appear on your scalp.
If your ponytail is too tight, it can tug on the hair follicles and break them. Wearing hair up too tight and too often can even lead to alopecia (widespread hair loss). Give your hair a break from the tight updo and go for looser styles thatleaves your hair strands free.
Not Getting Enough Vitamins and Minerals
The most important vitamins essential to hair health are vitamins D and B12. If you’re experiencing hair thinning, you may not be getting enough of either – or both. Before you head to the pharmacy to buy out the vitamin supplements, get a blood test from your doctor for a correct diagnosis.
Low iron levels can also contribute to hair thinning. You may not be eating enough meat, or an underlying medical condition might be causing low iron levels. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to diagnose low iron levels and determine any causes besides diet.
Folic acid, biotin, and other minerals are also integral in hair health. Thinning hair could indicate you’re not getting enough of these nutrients in your diet and may need a supplement. Always consult your doctor before starting regular vitamin or mineral supplements.
Poor Diet and/or Lack of Exercise
Your body reflects what you put into it and how you treat it. Lack of exercise, too much junk food, and even alcohol overconsumption can be reflected in hair thinning. Practicing healthy habits and implementing nutrition and exercise can stop and reverse hair thinning.
Pulling at Your Hair
Hair pulling is a bad habit, usually caused by stress or anxiety. While it's a less common cause of hair thinning, those that do pull on their hair typically experience some form of hair loss. Picking at your hair could be coming from another lifestyle or medical cause. It's best to discuss habits like this with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Medical Conditions That Could be Thinning Your Hair
There are several medical conditions with hair thinning as a symptom. If you suspect your thinning hair is a result of an underlying medical issue, consult with a doctor as soon as possible. Listen to your body and monitor any other symptoms that could arise. A few medical conditions that can cause hair thinning include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Hormonal imbalances including menopause
- Going off birth control
- Extreme weight loss
- Autoimmune diseases or immune deficiencies
- Skin disorders
- Thyroid issues
- Eating disorders
Other Reasons Your Hair Might be Thinning
While the above causes of hair thinning are common, the two most likely reasons for hair thinning are age and stress.
The Correlation Between Age and Hair Loss
Aging affects the entire body, including your hair. As you get older, your hair will naturally change in color and texture (source: Cleveland Clinic). Hair follicles' life cycle shortens over time, and genetics and medical conditions can worsen hair loss. Menopause also plays a significant role in female hair loss.
Effects of Stress on Hair Health
While some stress is good, too much can be detrimental to your body's health. Stress is known to inhibit healthy hair growth and worsen thinning. When you're stressed, your body produces different hormones that produce various symptoms, including headaches, upset stomach, and hair loss.
The hormones interfere with the hair growth cycle, which worsens shedding. Sometimes, stress affects your immune system, which in turn attacks hair follicles.
How to Stop Hair Loss – and Regrow It
If you're experiencing thinning hair, don't despair. It is possible to stop hair loss in its tracks and even reverse some of the damage. After finding the underlying cause of your thinning hair, change your habits, or seek medical advice.
Stop Wearing Tight Hairstyles
Style your hair loosely and avoid tight ponytails and other updos. Avoiding tight hairstyles is especially essential if your hair follicles are prone to breaking.
Keep Your Scalp Healthy
A healthy scalp is a happy scalp, and treating it with some TLC will keep it growing healthy hair. Use conditioner every time you wash your hair and consider using a hair mask once or twice weekly.
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
Washing your hair too much can thin it out and washing your hair too little can do the same. The oils in your hair are important to the growth cycle, so washing them out every day causes dryness, thinness, and other issues.
How often you should wash your hair depends on your hair type, but most people only need to shampoo and condition every two or three days. The only people who should shampoo daily are those with fine hair or those who sweat a lot, resulting in overly oily scalps. On non-wash days, spray some dry shampoo at the roots to keep excess oil at bay.
Air Dry or Gently Style Your Hair
Avoid harsh sprays, gels, dyes, and perm products as much as possible to optimize your hair’s health. Stop blow drying or heat styling your hair often. When you do, use a heat protectant spray that will ensure your locks stay protected against the high heat of tools like straighteners, curlers, and dryers.
Listen to Your Body – and Seek Help the Moment You Notice Hair Loss
Head to your doctor or dermatologist immediately upon noticing hair thinning. They are knowledgeable professionals who will help you investigate the cause and treat the problem.
Listen to your body and take note of any other changes apart from hair loss. Thinning hair can be an effect of an underlying medical condition, so reporting different symptoms to your doctor will help her make the right diagnosis and create the optimal treatment plan.
Minimize Stress in Your Life
Stress is one of the most common causes of thinning hair. It's something you can quickly minimize to keep your body happy and healthy. There are endless relaxation and preventative techniques you can implement into your life to reduce stress. Some of the most common include:
- Get consistent, quality sleep at night
- Exercise regularly
- Eat nutritious meals full of fruits, vegetables, and protein
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid excessive smoking, drugs, and alcohol
Implementing a mindfulness practice like yoga or meditation also helps reduce stress and keep a positive mindset. Your doctor can also provide tips for minimizing stress more tailored to you and your lifestyle.
Incorporate Regular Exercise
In addition to minimizing stress, regular exercise can reverse hair loss and keep your body healthy. Cardio like jogging increases blood flow, and the sweat you produce helps clear out toxins in your scalp’s pores.
Eliminate Bad Habits
Have you noticed any bad habits that worsen your stress or cause thinning hair? Bad hair care habits like not washing enough, washing too often, or constant styling with harsh products and heat contribute to hair loss and thinning. Start implementing good hair care practices as soon as possible to stop and reverse thinning hair.
Poor diet and lack of exercise can result in various health issues, including acne, weight gain, and hair loss. Reversing these habits can stop and ultimately regrow hair.
Check Your Vitamin Levels
A nutritional deficiency could be causing your hair loss. If you suspect a significant deficit, schedule a blood test with your doctor's office to check vitamin levels, and begin a supplement. According to Healthline, these are the most essential vitamins and nutrients vital to healthy hair growth:
Vitamin A promotes cell growth in all parts of the body, including hair. It’s vital in producing sebum, a product from your skin glands that moisturizes the scalp (source: Healthline). While vitamin A is essential to a healthy diet, too much can also cause your hair to thin. In addition to supplements, you can find vitamin A in these foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Spinach and kale
- Milk and yogurt
Biotin and Vitamin B12
The B-vitamin biotin is essential to healthy hair growth, and a deficiency is detrimental to your follicles. It aids in red blood cell production, which helps carry nutrients to hair follicles. According to Healthline, biotin is abundant in so many foods that most people don't need to supplement. These are the best foods to find biotin:
- Whole grains
- Dark and leafy greens
Another essential B-vitamin is B12, usually only found in animal products like meat and dairy. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, consider taking a B12 supplement to promote healthy hair.
When you're sick, you might take vitamin C supplements to boost your immune system. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant. It also helps create collagen and aids in iron absorption in your body, both of which are important in the hair growth cycle (source: Healthline). The following foods are rich in vitamin C:
- Guavas and citrus fruits
While researchers are still trying to figure out the correlation between vitamin D and hair growth, low nutrient levels have been linked to alopecia (source: Healthline). This is just another reason to get outside and enjoy the sun! Unfortunately, many people aren’t getting enough vitamin D and should take supplements or add these foods to their diets:
- Fatty fish
- Fortified foods
Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant that boosts hair growth. If you’re not getting enough, add a supplement to your diet or eat these foods:
- Sunflower seeds
The iron mineral is not only crucial for hair growth but other bodily functions, including hemoglobin production, to help carry oxygen to parts of the body. Iron deficiencies can cause many medical issues, including anemia (a common symptom of anemia is hair loss).
If your doctor diagnoses an iron deficiency, he or she may prescribe a supplement or have you eat these foods:
- Clams and oysters
- Red meat
Zinc is important for healthy oil glands near the hair follicles and tissue growth and repair (source: Healthline). While eating enough zinc is vital to regrowing hair and minimizing thinning, too much can also have the same effect. Keep a healthy zinc balance in your system with these foods:
- Pumpkin seeds
Hair follicles are made up of proteins like keratin and collagen. Eating a diet high in protein will decrease hair loss and keep your locks long and healthy. The best protein sources are meats, eggs, and beans. Still, there are a variety of protein powders available to supplement your diet further.
Change Your Diet
As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat.” Your body responds to what you put into it, and junk foods with lots of sugar and chemical ingredients are harmful to your body’s systems, including hair growth. To regrow thinned out hair, start eating foods with the best nutrients for your hair, including protein, healthy carbohydrates, and all the vitamins and minerals above.
According to Healthline, hair follicles are mostly made of protein, and that's why a diet poor in protein can contribute to hair loss. Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains and potatoes have a lot of vitamins essential to healthy hair, including vitamin A.
The Best Foods for Hair Growth
If you want long-lasting healthy hair, eat foods that will help you reach that goal. If you want to regrow hair thinned out from stress, poor diet, or any other lifestyle habit, incorporate nutritious foods. They will effectively reverse the damage and get you back to having long, luscious locks. According to Healthline, these are the best foods for optimal hair growth:
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Fatty fish rich in omega-3s like salmon, mackerel, and herring
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts and seeds
- Sweet peppers
- Beans and soybeans
Best Treatments for Thinning Hair
In addition to lifestyle changes and doctor visits, there are a variety of treatments you can implement yourself to treat and prevent thinning hair. Many treatments can take several months, so be patient and don’t expect quick results.
Regrowing thin hair is as easy as implementing natural remedies you can do yourself at home. The following practices and hair products are known to stimulate growth and prevent thinning.
A simple massage for your scalp can restore the oils and nutrients essential to the hair growth cycle. Not only will a scalp massage help relieve stress, but the stimulation can improve your hair’s thickness (source: Healthline). For extra relief, have a friend or family member massage your scalp for you!
Essential oils are a form of aromatherapy often used to treat stress and calm the mind. The oils are extracted from plants, and the liquid is diffused into the air. In addition to their calming qualities, essential oils have proven to improve thinning hair and promote healthy growth. These are the best essential oils to help your hair:
- Clary sage
- Tea tree
Essential oils aren’t for everyone and can cause allergic reactions. Always dilute essential oils, and contact your doctor or dermatologist if you notice a reaction to the oils.
Fortunately, there are products available to target hair loss and thinning specifically. Researchers have created anti-thinning shampoos filled with vitamins and minerals vital to hair health. Using a great anti-thinning shampoo will leave your hair feeling healthy and refreshed in no time.
Multivitamins and Hair Supplements
Vitamins and supplements not only support healthy hair but other bodily functions. Suppose you're not getting enough nutrients in your diet. In that case, it may be time to consider adding a daily multivitamin to your plate. Taken once a day, multivitamins ensure your body is getting everything it needs to function properly.
There are also supplements available specifically for hair health. From biotin and collagen to folic acid and omega vitamins, there are numerous supplements available. Consult your doctor before starting supplements.
Folic Acid Supplements for Thinning Hair
Folic acid is a B-vitamin that stimulates cell production and aids in growing new hair in thin spots. The cells that folic acid affects are mainly found in your hair and nails, so a supplement can help with nail and hair growth and reverse thinning.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
If you’re not getting enough omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, consider taking a fish oil supplement. Fish oil has a lot of benefits for the body, including:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Dry and flaky scalp prevention
- Heart health and disease prevention
- Healthy skin support
- Boost mental health
If a lot of fish is already in your diet, fish oil is not recommended. However, those who don’t eat a lot of fatty, oily fish should talk to their doctor about taking fish oil supplements.
Medicines to Treat Hair Thinning
If natural and home remedies and lifestyle changes aren’t showing results, talk to your doctor to consider over-the-counter and prescription options to treat thinning hair.
Minoxidil, or Rogaine, is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter medicines to treat hair loss. Daily use promotes the hair growth phase of the cycle. Unfortunately, the results take a long time. Many people take Rogaine daily for several months before seeing any progress.
Finasteride is another over-the-counter medication doctors prescribe to block the production of hormones that shorten and thin hair. The medication is more effective for men than women.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
If all else fails in terms of habit changes, treatments, and other medications, your doctor may consider a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment. The therapy takes platelets from your own blood. It uses them to promote growth, healing, and stimulation in the scalp and hair follicles. This is the most expensive and intensive treatment, so it should only be a last resort.
Hair thinning has many causes, so it’s important to find what’s causing yours before treating it. From changing bad habits and introducing healthy ones to taking care of your hair and consulting a doctor about supplements or medications, there are plenty of ways to treat thinning hair. Always consult your doctor or dermatologist before starting a treatment plan.