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Whether you’re thinning on top, dealing with hair breakage or loss, or just want to get through that growing out phase faster, you don’t necessarily need to run to the nearest doc to achieve Rapunzel status. We turned to the experts for their best natural hair growth tips. Turns out, the nutrients we eat, the supplements we take, the shampoo we use, and a few other at-home tricks can help your hair go the distance.
Check out these simple hair growth remedies to strengthen and lengthen your strands, plus extra info on options you can chat with a doc about.
Your hair grows out of your follicles. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the average person has about 100,000 follicles on their scalp. You are born with all of the follicles you will have in your lifetime.
Each hair starts as a root inside the follicle. Then, blood in your scalp nourishes the root, and the root creates more cells. It keeps growing until it passes through an oil gland and pokes out of your skin.
There are three phases to hair growth:
- Anagen phase. This is growth phase and can last for several years.
- Catagen phase. This is the transition phase when the follicle decreases in size. This affects less than 10 percent of the hairs on your head at a time.
- Telogen phase. This is the resting phase and affects 5 to 10 percent of your hair at a time.
The phases are controlled by complex processes in your body that aren’t yet fully understood.
There are *so* many potential culprits behind hair loss, thinning, excessive shedding, and sluggish hair growth:
- Stress. It’s time to download that meditation app.
- Autoimmune reactions. You may already associate conditions like alopecia areata with hair loss, but conditions like lupus and celiac disease can make your strands thinner or go AWOL. Some diseases can cause bald patches.
- Vitamin or nutritional deficiencies. These can cause shedding, thinning, or breakage.
- Weight loss of more than 20 pounds. Restrictive diets and sudden weight loss are linked to a condition known as acute telogen effluvium.
- Surgery with anesthesia. Having surgery can cause telogen effluvium.
- COVID-19. Telogen effluvium can occur after a COVID-19 infection.
- Fungal infections. A ringworm infection of the scalp can cause bald spots.
- Hormonal changes or imbalances. Pregnancy and birth, birth control pills (starting or stopping), and menopause can totally trigger hair changes.
- Harsh hair products. Some shampoos contain ingredients that strip your hair of natural oils.
- Overstyling or processing. You *might* have to chill with the bleach. Trichorrhexis nodosa causes hair loss or breakage due to fragile hair, and can be caused by chemicals, pulling your hair too tight, or genes.
- Thyroid conditions. Hair loss or thinning may develop slowly with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
- Certain medications. Chemotherapy drugs, gout medication, antibiotics, and certain antidepressants are just some of the possibilities.
- It’s hereditary. Yup, it could just be in your DNA.
1. De-stress your tresses
Studies have found stress can be a major trigger for hair loss, and it manifests in three types:
- Telogen effluvium (TE). Telogen effluvium happens when the hair stops in a growth cycle. You may notice more shedding hair all over your scalp. Your hair starts to regrow but the shedding can last for several months.
- Alopecia areata (AA). An autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your follicles. Many autoimmune diseases can be triggered by stress. Alopecia areata causes discrete patches of hair loss.
- Trichotillomania. A hair-pulling disorder that’s considered an impulse control disorder. Trichotillomania usually begins in your teens.
The good news: Stress-induced hair loss is likely not permanent. The recovery period depends on which stage of hair growth your stress decided to stall: The anagen phase (aka the growing phase) can last 2 to 5 years, while the telogen or resting phase lasts about 3 months.
So what can you do? You can eat a healthy diet and try topical treatments to stimulate hair growth, but to get to the root of the problem, you’ll need to manage your stress. If you feel you’re unable to manage your stress, reach out to a therapist.
Check out these resources for managing stress
2. Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet
If you’re currently restricting calories or are just unsure if you’re getting all the hair-healthy nutrients your bod needs, try to incorporate the following key nutrients for hair health into your diet:
- Iron. Good sources of iron include red meat, liver and organ meat, spinach, shellfish, and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin C. For vitamin C, try bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and citrus.
- B vitamins. Reach for dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, and avocados to get your B vitamins.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, oysters, and cod oil are higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Vitamin E. To up your vitamin E intake, Reach for olive oil, broccoli, spinach, shrimp, and sunflower seeds.
- Zinc. You’ll find zinc in cashews, chickpeas, shellfish, and red meat.
- Vitamin D. In addition to the sun, egg yolks, salmon, canned tuna, and fortified foods like milk and orange juice are high in vitamin D.
3. Try a DHT-blocking shampoo
When searching for a good over-the-counter (OTC) shampoo for hormonal hair loss and other causes of hair loss, look for a product that contains ingredients that block dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
Derived from testosterone, DHT is an androgen hormone linked to hair loss that attaches to your hair follicle and slowly miniaturizes them over time. For most people, it happens gradually. And while these androgens are important in the development of male development characteristics like a deep voice, body hair, and muscle mass, most male hair loss is caused by DHT.
DHT-blocking shampoos can help stop or slow DHT-related hair loss. Ingredients like ketoconazole, iron, biotin, and B vitamins are popular in these products, but saw palmetto is long considered a superstar in this area. You’ll find it front and center in the many thickening shampoos, including the two below.
P.S. Do not use DHT-blocking shampoos if you’re pregnant. This can affect growing male body parts.
You can also try shampoos with ketoconazole (Nizoral). While not specifically for hair loss or DHT-blocking (it’s an antifungal dandruff shampoo), a 2021 review found that it reduced inflammation in those with pattern hair loss.
4. Upgrade your pillowcase
There’s a reason why women have been wrapping their heads in silk bandanas and bonnets for decades: The slippery surface helps keep frizz and breakage at bay. If flyaways and breakage are your main complaint, swapping your friction-causing cotton pillowcase for a satin one might do the trick.
Try one from accessory superstar Kitsch. It comes in a variety of adorable colors and prints and it’s hella cheap. Buy the Kitsch 100% Satin Pillowcase with Zipper online.
5. Do a weekly coconut oil mask
Is there anything coconut oil can’t do? It’s full of hair-happy antioxidants, improves scalp health with its antifungal and antimicrobial properties, and delivers a healthy dose of protein to the hair shaft to prevent protein loss. Even better, a small 2020 study found that using coconut oil may help protect against hair breakage. More studies are needed to back up these results.
How to: Grab yourself some unrefined coconut oil, warm it up between your hands, and work into the strands until your hair looks wet. Pop on a shower cap and relax for 20 to 30 minutes once a week before washing. Plus, you can also use it as a conditioner or detangler.
Buy Viva Naturals Unrefined Coconut Oil online.
6. Say SEE YUH to sulfates
Harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate, and ammonium lauryl sulfate are oil-stripping soaps that give your favorite shampoo that luxurious foaming action and deliver squeaky-clean strands.
But without those natural oils, your strands can become dry and may be more prone to breakage. If you’re dealing with breakage, switch out your regular ‘poo for something sulfate-free. Or better yet, try a shampoo bar with minimal ingredients.
7. Explore some essential oils
While essential oils aren’t a cure-all for every ailment, a 2019 review found there’s some evidence these little elixirs can help encourage hair growth.
Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, all of which are important to a healthy scalp. And in one study conducted on mice peppermint oil reigned supreme in promoting hair growth in mice as compared to jojoba oil, saline, and minoxidil (a popular ingredient in hair loss treatments like Rogaine). But more studies are needed on actual humans.
In addition to the minty stuff, pumpkin seed oil in capsule form helped a group of men gain 40 percent more hair over 24 weeks, and rosemary oil might just be as effective as that aforementioned minoxidil after 3 to 6 months, according to another study. However, more research is needed to support using essential oils and other alternative therapies for hair growth.
Try the peppermint essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and jojoba oil from Eden Botanicals, an essential oils brand known for being transparent about its products. As with any ingredient though, essential oils can cause contact dermatitis — which can cause more hair loss. If you’ve never used these ones before, it’d be best to perform a patch test before applying them all over your scalp. And they should never be applied undiluted.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
8. Take a collagen supplement
“Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, but it declines with age, and this can make it harder to grow long hair as you get older,” explains nutritionist Heather Hanks, MS, of Instapot Life. In addition to protein, collagen is rich in amino acids. Hanks suggests adding a powdered collagen supplement as a natural way to try and support hair growth.
You can add collagen powder to smoothies, coffee, and tea to bring some collagen into your diet. If measuring out powders isn’t your jam, you can also take collagen in tablet form.
Collagen supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Researchers have brought up concerns that there is limited data on whether supplements marketed for hair and nail growth truly deliver on these promises and other researchers have warned of risks associated with taking supplements, including allergic reactions and potentially increased risk of cancer. More research needs to be published to support their use for hair growth.
9. Treat yourself to a scalp massage
A simple way to stimulate hair growth at home is to indulge in a little self-care. A small study found that scalp massages increase blood flow to your scalp, enhance the strength of your roots, and help nutrients get to your follicles faster.
While more research is needed to support this, massaging your scalp isn’t likely to do any harm and might help you de-stress. You can give yourself a scalp massage with dry hair, but adding a nutrient-rich oil like coconut or castor oil to the mix can only enhance the benefits.
10. Get those B vitamins
We bet you’ve heard of biotin supplements for hair, skin, and nails. That’s because biotin, or vitamin B7, is essential to the process of hair growth by helping to make amino acids the building blocks of protein, including keratin. Not having enough biotin, while rare, can cause hair loss and rashes.
Biotin deficiency can be something you’re born with or can be caused by antibiotic use, anti-epileptic use, and —strangely — eating too many raw egg whites.
Taking 3000 to 5000 micrograms (3 to 5 milligrams) of biotin may help with hair, skin, and nails.
Try this biotin (B7) supplement from Amazon Elements.
Other B vitamins like B6, B12, and folate help make red blood cells, which deliver nutrients to all cells including hair, scalp, and follicles. Look to add vitamin B-rich foods to your diet, or consider a B-complex supplement.
If you’re taking biotin and need to get your thyroid checked, know that biotin supplements can interfere with your results. It’s best to stop taking biotin 1 week before your test.
11. Take a break from styling and processing
Bleach, heat, rough styling, and common chemicals in hair products can absolutely contribute to hair loss, breakage, and shedding.
Traction alopecia (TA), for example, is a type of hair loss caused by over pulling — think tight braids, buns, and ponytails. Not to be a total downer, but blow drying, straightening, use of hot irons, and perming were also found to be associated with changes to the hair on a microscopic level. (Which, in the hair world, still matters.)
We’re not here for miracle cures, but you could try adding Miracle Fruit Seed Oil to your hair regimen. An 8-month long study found it to be up to 300 percent more effective in improving healthy hair characteristics than argan-based or silicone-based oil products. You can buy it online here.
12. Try OTC, prescription, or in-office treatments
There are even more proven prescription, OTC, at-home, and in-office treatments for hair loss. Depending on the root cause of your situation (hormonal, genetic, etc.), you might find success with one of the following:
- Minoxidil (aka, Rogaine). FDA-approved and easily accessible. Works best for top of the head thinning, though it will cause hair to grow longer and thicker anywhere you have active hair follicles, not just the top of your head. Recommended for anyone with hair loss except pregnant women. You can buy it on Amazon or a drugstore, but a doc can also prescribe stronger versions.
- Spironolactone. An anti-androgen medication that works against hair loss-inducing male hormones (androgens) in female pattern alopecia. You’ll need a prescription from a doc for this one.
- Corticosteroids. A topical steroid prescription that may reduce inflammation in alopecia areata and stop your immune system from signaling an attack against your hair follicles. A doctor may inject your scalp with steroids if you have alopecia areata.
- Topical tretinoin. You might know it as Retin-A, but it’s also a proven way to enhance the effects of minoxidil. It can unplug hair follicles and allow minoxidil to penetrate. Recent research shows 43 percent of people who didn’t have luck with minoxidil found success when using minoxidil and topical tretinoin together within just 5 days. You’ll need a prescription for this one, too (annoying, we know).
- Platelet rich plasma therapy. PRP involves extracting plasma from your own blood and injecting it into your scalp. The good news: it can really increase your hair count and density. Bad news: it’s pretty expensive, not covered by insurance, and there isn’t enough data on how long it’s effective for.
- Hair transplant. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you need two things to be considered eligible for a transplant: enough healthy hair on your scalp that can be transplanted, and the ability to actually grow any hair on the thinning area. Results take between 6 and 12 months to fully realize.
- Propecia (finasteride). This is sometimes prescribed to females to stop hair loss.
- Microneedling. This newer treatment has shown promising results but more studies are needed. In this procedure, tiny needles are used to incite wound healing.
Honestly, it’s a good idea to reach out to a dermatologist as soon as you notice something’s up. Derms can help identify the type of hair loss and help you identify solutions (and potentially prescribe medicine) that will work for your unique situation.
Don’t be afraid to talk with a primary care or internal medicine doc if your hair loss is super sudden — it could be due to an underlying health condition — or if you ~think~ any medications could be affecting your hair health.
Don’t want to call a doc? Virtual medicine has your back. Companies like Roman and Lemonaid will virtually (and cheaply!) evaluate your situation and send you a personalized, prescription-grade hair loss regimen straight to your door.
Hair loss, slow hair growth, excessive shedding, and thinning hair can be inconvenient at best and devastating at worst. Everything from nutritional deficiencies to hormonal changes to stress could be behind changes in your hair.
For as many possible explanations, there are nearly as many at-home solutions to try to thicken up your strands and heal your scalp. Eating a nutrient-rich diet, switching up your hair care products, and self-care standbys like massages and masks are just a few.
If you have questions, aren’t having success, or simply want answers from the get-go, a derm is your best bet. They can help determine the root cause, prescribe medication, and help you develop an at-home regimen.