Thinning hair doesn’t always mean hair loss, however if left untreated it can lead to hair follicle miniaturisation that can reduce blood supply to the hair follicle, curb its nourishment and worsen initial hair thinning and deterioration. This process can lead to the appearance of thinner see-through spots of hair on your scalp. (Important to note that even bald scalp still often has peach fuzz-like hairs on it, meaning that hair follicles still exist!)
Multiple reasons cause hair thinning: products, lifestyle choices, habits, genetics, overall state of health or all of them combined. Medical conditions and certain medications can also lead to hair thinning. Because hair thinning starts from the root, it affects the entire length of hair, it doesn’t necessarily show up as soon as the cause emerges, so it can have a lag of 6-18 months to show up in an overall thinner-looking ponytail.
It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs per day, namely, “In general, you will see greater shifts in natural daily hair shedding between different ethnicities,” says Diane Minar, a senior scientist at Uniliver. “Caucasians generally lose on average 100 hairs per day, Asians about 70, and Africans about 60 hairs per day.” However, dividing by ethnicities can be unhelpful, since your hair structure can have little to do with your ethnicity, so you need to determine your own hair type in order to judge what is normal for you.
Often lifestyle habits impact our hair health the most, however because of the lag in the effect: i.e. when you change your habits for the better, hair will be amongst the last ones to “catch up” with those changes, people get discouraged on their habit changes. Nevertheless,developing and sticking to the right habits is key when it comes to thickening your hair again. And, patience might be one the best tools in your anti-thinning arsenal.
Common reasons for hair thinning
- Over-treating your hair. This includes color treatments, permanent hair dyes, perms, relaxers. This also includes extensive use of heat-styling products, since overexposure to heat dries out the moisture of the hair making it susceptible to breakage. Frequent use of a blow dryer damages the scalp, especially if hot air is blown on the hair roots, that inevitably will damage hair follicles and impede the thickness of the hair growing out of it.
- Using harsh hair products, such as extreme-hold hair sprays and gels. Simply put – products like these when used often add extra weight on your hair strand, putting your hair follicles under unnecessary stress, as well as wrapping the strands in chemicals that may “suffocate” the hair strand.
- Wearing your hair up too tightly. In a similar fashion to the extreme holds, tight hair styles described above, tight hair styles put your hair follicles under pressure, which further weakens them.
- Insufficient minerals in your diet. These deficiencies are very individual, but lack of iron, B12 and other vitamins are linked to hair thinning, since when the body is deficient in those, it diverts the scarce minerals to the life-supporting functions in your body: hair growth is not one of these functions, so your body often feeds it last.
- Stress. Stress leads to higher levels of cortisol, our “fight or flight” hormone that led to our survival as species. However in prolonged states of stress, our body decides to preserve life-saving functions of our body, and much like the above – hair growth is not one of those essential functions that our body chooses to support in times of prolonged stress.
Thinning hair may also be hereditary. Underlying medical considerations can also lead to this condition. You might have thinning hair if you:
- recently had a baby – known as post-natal hair loss. During pregnancy people tend to lose less hair, due to elevated levels of estrogen. However after childbirth, the body returns to the normal level of hormones, therefore leading to those extra hair that should have been shed to finally leave the follicles in a short span of time.
- stop taking birth control pills – similar mechanism as post-natal hair loss, hormone levels return to normal therefore leading to the loss of hair that “stayed extra time” during the medication. Often birth control pills also impact androgen hormones: and as our hair follicles – especially those on top of the scalp – have androgen-sensitive receptors, those get triggered when stopping birth control medication.
- are going through hormonal changes – those could be estrogen, androgen, as well as TSH (thyroid hormone) changes
- have lost more than 20 pounds / 9 kg in a short amount of time – as this drastic change signals your body that you’re going through periods of stress. Such hair thinning and / hair loss known as “telogen effluvium” which leads your body wanting to preserve itself and its crucial life-sustaining functions: where hair growth and hair follicle health isn’t one of those functions
- are being treated for an autoimmune disease – often autoimmune diseases are treated with corticosteroids, that affects hormone levels and are associated with hair loss and hair thinning in general. Some autoimmune diseases are known to actually attack hair follicles as foreign body – known as alopecia universalis.
- have immune system deficiencies – if your immune system is compromised, your body is less concerned about hair growth, so this can lead to less blood supply to hair follicles and minerals and nutrients being diverted towards supporting your immune function instead.
- have a skin disorder or infection – an example would be a seborrheic dermatitis because increased sebum production can create irritation and inflammation in the scalp, which can cause intense itchiness. Scratching the scalp can damage hair follicles, which obstructs natural hair growth, causing hair to thin and / or fall out.
Thinning hair is sometimes confused with alopecia, which is widespread hair loss, though the two can be linked since both are linked to the blood supply, the two are not necessarily the same thing. And hair may thin without falling out, an example would be a thyroid condition.
Treatments and home remedies
Most cases of thinning hair are treatable at home. Consider the following 9 options, and talk to your doctor before taking any supplements:
1. Scalp massage
Perhaps the cheapest method of getting thicker hair is a scalp massage. It doesn’t cost anything, and there are no side effects. Best done on dry hair by gently applying pressure with your fingertips around your scalp encouraging blood flow. Massaging your scalp 2-3 times a week for 5-10 minutes at a time can stimulate blood flow to your scalp, therefore enabling better delivery of nutrients to your hair follicles. Massaging your scalp while hair is wet is not recommended, as wet hair is more fragile, therefore it can lead to more hair damage.
Dermaroller is by far one of the cheapest and easiest tools to use when it comes to localised treatment of hair thinning and hair loss. Dermaroller is a hand-held tool with a long handle and a drum covered in small (0.5-2mm) metal needles, mostly made of titanium or stainless steel. Micro-wounds that are produced by rolling a dermaroller across your scalp works from two angles: (1) it increases blood flow to the area, and (2) induces local production of collagen. Other variations of microneedling can be done by using a derma stamp or derma pen. This can also be combined with an essential oil applied to the scalp for maximum anti-thinning effect on your hair.
Healthy hair is closely linked to overall good health. Often at The Hair Fuel we say “hair is a litmus test of your overall health”. In cases of malnourishment, or with certain eating disorders, new hair may not receive sufficient nutrients and minerals from food. Nowadays, food coming from the mass-production food industry doesn’t necessarily provide all the nutrients we need, anyway. The produce loses its nutrients, for example, ripening not under the sun but in fridges as it is being transported from thousands of miles away. While a simple daily multivitamin is a good practice for everyone, addressing an area of deficiency specifically for you can help you address the problem of thinning hair. A blood test from your healthcare provider can help determine if you’re deficient in any nutrients.
4. Essential oils
While primarily essential oils are used in aromatherapy and other types of alternative medicine, because they are derived from certain plants some essential oils can retain and often enhance a plant’s vasodilatory effects (i.e. they enlarge blood vessels, improving blood flow to the scalp). Examples would be peppermint oil and rosemary oil.
5. Folic acid supplements
Folate or folic acid (human-made folate) is a type of B vitamin that’s important for new cell generation and creation of red blood cells, responsible for delivery of oxygen – including that to your hair follicles. It is important to understand if your body is deficient in it, some conditions that are linked with folate deficiency (diet lacking raw fruit & vegetables, as folate destroyed by heat, types of anemia, drinking high amounts of alcohol). Folate is found primarily in legumes, leafy greens, eggs, beets, bananas, citrus fruits, and liver.
6. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
Omega 3 and omega-6 fatty acids are called “essential” fatty acids, because they can’t be made by the human body. Omega-3 helps your body fight inflammation, an underlying cause of numerous conditions, including hair thinning. The latter occurs as the body fights the inflammation it spends less resources and energy on hair growth. However, to fight inflammation in your body, including that in your scalp, your body can send DHT molecules to your scalp – which will lead to hair follicle miniaturisation and hair thinning. Omega-6, on the other hand, benefits overall skin health, including scalp – key element of hair growth. In addition both impact skin and hair elasticity leading to less hair breakage.
Best known as its commercial name Rogaine (US) or Regaine (UK), minoxidil is a hair loss treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that’s available over the counter in most drug stores and pharmacies. It was initially discovered as a treatment for high-blood pressure in the 1950s. When applied on the scalp, it has vasodilatory, or blood vessel enlarging, function – and improves blood flow locally. However, minoxidil has side effects including migraine AND hair loss (after one stops the usage of the product). Scalp irritation and unwanted hair growth on the face and neck are other possible side effects to look out for.
Spironolactone (Aldactone) is prescribed for people who have thinning hair related to androgen production, it is an anti-androgenic steroid drug – that affects your overall hormone levels. In women specifically, this medication may help treat thinning hair and subsequent hair loss related to hormonal fluctuations. Note, that spironolactone isn’t prescribed as medication for hair loss, but rather to treat conditions that have hair loss as a side effect. A blood test is needed to make sure hormonal imbalance is present to have it prescribed. Needless to say that, if you don’t have a hormonal imbalance you should not be taking medication for it, as it might not only not help with hair thinning, but actually worsen the situation and affect the overall state of your health.
Finasteride (Propecia) is a prescription hair loss medication for males, as it affects the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Unlike topical treatments such as minoxidil, Propecia comes as a daily pill that men take for hair loss. Any hormonal-based therapies is similar to “shooting sparrows with a canon”. Finasteride is a local problem (i.e. scalp) but taking a hormone-affecting pill will affect your entire body. As such, Finasteride can lead to other side effects, including impotence, loss of interest in sex and trouble having an orgasm, dizziness and weakness. Women should avoid these medications due to serious side effects — especially if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Hair thinning treatments that don’t or unlikely to work
A few mentions on some popular remedies and treatments that claim to treat hair thinning but actually their efficacy is questionable:
1. Anti-thinning shampoo
Thickening shampoos – although these can help the appearance of your hair looking thicker, these do not actually impact the diameter of your hair follicle, therefore not leading to a permanent solution of hair thinning problem. In addition, anti-thinning and thickening shampoos simply don’t stay sufficient time on your scalp to affect the hair growing function of the follicles: i.e. only for the duration of the hair washing procedure.
Biotin, or vitamin B-7, is a water-soluble nutrient that’s naturally found in foods such as nuts, lentils, and liver. However biotin deficiency is fairly rare: some people — such as pregnant women and people who drink high amounts of alcohol — may develop mild deficiencies. If you eat a balanced diet, it’s unlikely that you’re low in biotin and taking extra biotin supplement will not help with hair thinning
While the process of thinning hair is concerning at first, it is treatable, once you have investigated and addressed the root cause. All the while you need to focus on supporting the blood flow to the scalp to ensure your follicles receive sufficient nutrients and oxygenation. There are various products exists some more efficient than the others, but keeping up healthy bloodflow to scalp is the fundamental reason behind The Hair Fuel formulation. Because of the lag described previously the effect of any anti-thinning hair treatment may not be seen for 6-12 months. The expected result of hair thickening by our mask can be seen within 3-6 months.
Who we are:
The Hair Fuel is an all-natural hair growth mask created by Laura Sagen, who embarked on her journey of hair regrowth as she lost a third of her hair after one horrendous visit to a hairdresser. Started off as tinkering in the kitchen, she developed the formulation rooted in science of scalp blood flow which she has used for years, before a light bulb moment to offer it to other people. This is what has become The Hair Fuel.
We work closely with our lab and manufacturers to ensure the highest quality product. But we know that a product alone is never enough – so we hold your hand throughout your own, unique hair growth journey. Our flagship product – The Hair Fuel mask – coupled with our advice, digital tools and on-going web / chat support are there to help you grow the best hair you can. It’s a big claim – but we’re unafraid to make it. Check out our starter bundles >>