Both men and women can experience hair thinning or hair loss due to illness, medications, chemotherapy, genetics, or even stress. Many people feel self-conscious about losing their hair—but don’t pull your hair out. Check out the variety of products designed to prevent further hair loss, thicken the hair you have, and stimulate new hair growth.
Promoting hair growth also requires maintaining a proper diet and vitamin intake and reducing stress. You may want to avoid products containing sulfates which may harm hair growth. Keep in mind, however, that hair transplants are the only proven permanent method for truly replacing lost hair.
Shampoos & Conditioners
What they are: Hair-growth shampoos and conditioners contain active ingredients that may help thicken hair and stimulate growth, including amino acids, B vitamins, silica, and biotin.
Why to buy: These products are best for men and women looking to thicken the hair they already have. Most hair-growth shampoos and conditioners contain ingredients that help hair appear thicker, rather than actually growing new hair. Many are meant to be used in combination with oral or topical minoxidil treatments, claiming they help prepare the scalp to grow new hair.
Things to consider: You may need to try several formulas before you find one that works for you and your hair. If you have sensitive skin, read ingredients carefully and look for products that are hypoallergenic and pH balanced. There is some evidence that shampoos containing ketoconazole, an anti-fungal medicine used to treat severe dandruff and scalp itching, may also help with hair loss but it is not yet approved for that use. You may be tempted to use any product claiming to cure hair loss, but using products that have not been approved by the FDA, like aminexil and ketoconazole, is not recommended.
Minoxidil Treatments—Sprays & Liquids
What they are: Minoxidil is used to stimulate new hair growth, usually in cases of hereditary hair loss. When applied to the scalp, it can promote hair growth in men with male pattern baldness. Minoxidil may also help women with thinning hair and frontal hair loss. It’s available as a spray or topical liquid with 2% or 5% concentrations and is commonly sold over the counter in a variety of branded and generic products.
Why to buy: Minoxidil is a safe and proven treatment for stimulating hair growth in both the crown area and the hairline.
Things to consider: It may take several months of regular use before you notice any improvement. The effects of minoxidil are temporary and it must be applied regularly (once or twice daily). Once you stop using minoxidil the regrown hair will usually fall out within a few months. Most doctors recommend that women use lower strength formulas of minoxidil and avoid use while pregnant or nursing. Common side effects include burning or irritation of the eye, itching, redness or irritation at the treated area, as well as unwanted hair growth elsewhere on the body. Some people notice changes in hair color or texture after using minoxidil. The alcohol present in topical preparations may dry the scalp, resulting in dandruff.
Laser Hair Regrowth
What it is: Low-level laser therapy, or LLLT, uses infrared light therapy to stabilize hair loss and encourage hair growth. Treatment through LLLT can be done in two ways—at a clinic, or through a home device known as the laser hair comb. The laser comb is a hand-held device you can use anytime and anywhere. For best results, use the laser comb for 10 to 15 minutes daily.
Why to buy: Laser therapy is a nonchemical, noninvasive approach to hair regrowth which may also make your hair thicker, fuller, softer, and more manageable. Infrared light increases cellular metabolism, blood circulation, and oxygen supply to the follicles in the scalp and claims to convert hairs from the resting phase to the growing phase. Laser therapy is a safe option for men and women with few side effects.
Things to consider: Laser therapy is designed for anyone just starting to lose their hair and is not effective in severe cases of hair loss. Most people experience a reduction or stabilization in hair loss through laser therapy; approximately half of people who try laser therapy will experience actual hair regrowth.
What they are: Oral tablets containing finasteride (often sold under the brand name Propecia), are used to stimulate hair growth. Minoxidil, a high blood pressure medication that slows or stops hair loss and promotes hair regrowth, is also available in oral tablets. Finasteride inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), thus reducing DHT levels in the scalp. This can reverse hair loss due to male-pattern baldness. Minoxidil stimulates hair follicles and growth, but does not reduce DHT.
Why to buy: Finasteride is recommended as first-line treatment for male pattern baldness. Like minoxidil, finasteride has been shown to work on both the crown area and the hairline area, but is most successful at regrowing hair in the crown area. Finasteride and minoxidil may be used simultaneously when hair loss is progressive or further hair regrowth is desired.
Things to consider: Oral medications for hair growth are not targeted and can cause hair to grow in many places, not just your head. Women who may become pregnant should not use finasteride or even handle the medication because it can be absorbed through skin and may cause genital abnormalities in male fetuses. Finasteride tends to have more side effects than minoxidil—consult your doctor on what approach is best for you.