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Whether you wear your hair long or short, few features as eye-catching and impressive as a full, thick head of hair.
As such, just about every hairstylist, beauty expert and dermatologist has been asked the same question again and again: What’s the secret to growing thicker, fuller hair?
The reality of hair growth is that there isn’t a secret. Instead, the key to getting thick hair is a mix of good hair care habits, a healthy lifestyle and a few science-based treatments and hair growth as well.
Below, we’ve gone into more detail about the hair growth process and shared 12 actionable tips that you can use to make your hair thicker, stronger and healthier, all without spending a fortune on salon treatments or costly brand name hair care products.
Before we get into the specifics of growing thicker hair, it’s important to get one thing out of the way: growing thick, healthy hair takes time.
Contrary to what advertising might claim, there’s no overnight solution to thin hair. Your hair is made up of several proteins that grow as the result of a multi-phase cycle, and no product, no matter how expensive, can shorten this complicated process into a few hours.
However, with the right approach, it’s very possible to thicken your hair and improve its shine, strength and texture over the course of a few months.
We’ve shared 12 steps below to help you do exactly this, starting with simple changes that you can make to your habits and hair care routine.
Minoxidil is a topical hair loss medication. It comes as a liquid solution or foam and is designed to improve hair growth in the areas of your scalp with thinning hair.
You may have heard of minoxidil as Rogaine®. Although it’s best known as a treatment for male pattern baldness, it’s also safe for use in women.
Minoxidil works by stimulating blood flow to your scalp and moving hair follicles into the anagen, or active growth, phase of the hair growth cycle. This promotes the growth of thick, healthy hair and helps to minimize the effects of hair thinning.
It takes three to four months for minoxidil to start working. During this time, your hair may look a little thinner than usual. Over time, you’ll notice your hair getting thicker and areas with thinning becoming more full and voluminous.
Your diet plays a role in countless aspects of your health, including the thickness, integrity and strength of your hair.
Hair is made up of proteins and lipids, in particular the protein keratin. As such, it should come as no surprise that proteins, fats and other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, play major roles in its growth.
For healthy hair, try to eat a balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins, minerals such as iron, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Good foods to prioritize for strong, thick and healthy hair include avocado, berries, leafy greens, eggs, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts, lentils, sweet potatoes, poultry, oysters and leaner cuts of red meat.
If hair-friendly foods aren’t your thing, adding a multivitamin supplement to your daily routine can help you to take in the nutrients you need for thick, healthy hair without any need to make major changes to your diet.
While most multivitamins include ingredients that promote hair growth, you’ll get the best results by choosing a supplement that’s rich in hair-friendly vitamins.
Stress can cause a form of diffuse hair loss called telogen effluvium, which may give your hair a thin appearance and make the top of your scalp more visible.
This type of hair loss often occurs a few months after a stressful or traumatic event. It’s linked to changes that occur in your hair’s growth cycle. Although this hair loss isn’t permanent, it can be a major annoyance that has a real, noticeable impact on your appearance and self-esteem.
In addition to stress, other factors, such as injuries, infections and illnesses that cause fever can also trigger telogen effluvium.
Our guide to stress and female hair loss shares actionable techniques that you can use to limit stress and reduce your risk of developing this form of hair shedding.
While washing your hair might seem so simple it doesn’t require instructions, washing your hair the right way is a little more complicated than most people think.
However, it’s worth learning, as washing your hair strategically can prevent oil buildup and give your hair the right conditions for optimal growth.
First, start with a good quality shampoo that’s designed to prevent hair shedding. Our shampoo is formulated specifically to strengthen and moisturize your hair while preventing the build-up of sebum (one of several factors in hair loss).
Second, try to wash your hair whenever your scalp feels oily. If you have an oily scalp naturally, you may need to wash your hair every day. If your scalp and hair are relatively dry, washing on an every-few-days basis is perfectly fine.
When you wash your hair, make sure to apply shampoo to your scalp, not the full length of your hair. This helps to clean away excess oil from your scalp without negatively affecting your hair’s appearance or texture.
Finally, always use conditioner. When you apply conditioner, focus on the tips of your hair. This helps to strengthen your hair, soften its feel and provide extra protection from the effects of sun exposure.
As well as washing your hair the right way, it’s important to choose a shampoo and conditioner that are a good match for your hair type.
For example, if you have hair that’s dry and damaged because of styling tools or treatments, a 2-in-1 shampoo may help to restore some of its strength and volume.
Similarly, if you color your hair, using a shampoo that’s designed for artificially colored hair will help to keep it in optimal condition.
While choosing the right shampoo won’t necessarily speed up your hair’s growth, it can help to create the appearance of thicker, denser and fuller hair by strengthening your hair and giving it more volume.
Heat can damage your hair and give it a thinner appearance. In fact, research shows that even something as simple as blow drying your hair too closely can cause cracks and holes to form in the cuticle, or outermost layer of your hair.
While this doesn’t cause female pattern hair loss, it may affect your hair’s texture, strength and perceived thickness.
If you dry your hair using a blow dryer make sure that you hold it at least six inches away from your scalp to limit damage. Try to use a lower temperature, which is less likely to cause cracks or other structural issues to develop in your hair.
To reduce drying time, try wrapping your hair in a microfiber towel as soon as you get out of the bath or shower.
Finally, if your hair looks thin, try to avoid using curling irons, flat irons, hot combs or any other devices that directly apply heat.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends only using devices like these for special occasions, such as a wedding or job interview.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to brush your hair often to stimulate growth or keep it healthy.
In fact, the available research (which is admittedly scarce) mostly shows that brushing isn’t very good for your hair.
In a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, a team of researchers looked at 14 women and found a link between frequency of hair brushing and increased hair loss.
Try to brush your hair only when you need to, such as before a big date or important event. Use a careful, gentle motion and avoid tugging on your hair, as this may loosen your hair and cause hair shedding.
While eating a healthy diet is a good thing for your hair, eating too few calories can lead to hair shedding.
If you’re on a diet, take it slow and avoid crash diets that place huge restrictions on your calorie intake. Focus on sustainable weight loss and aim for a small calorie deficit that you can achieve day after day instead of a highly restrictive diet that limits your food choices.
To keep your hair protected, make sure to prioritize important nutrients like iron, which is vital for preventing iron deficiency hair loss, and biotin, which helps to promote healthy hair growth.
Hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks and even tight ponytails can look great, but they also have the potential to damage your hair follicles and cause a form of hair loss called traction alopecia.
This type of hair loss is most common in African American women. It often begins around your hairline and worsens over time, eventually causing permanent hair loss as hair follicles become loosened from your skin.
To reduce your risk of developing traction alopecia, make sure not to wear your hair in an overly tight hairstyle for too long. If you normally wear your hair up, try giving it time to rest by wearing it in a loose style overnight.
Smoking is by far the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It’s also a habit that can have a serious negative impact on your hair’s strength, color and overall appearance.
Experts have long known of a link between smoking and hair damage, and recent research has made it more apparent than ever before.
In a systematic review published in the journal Skin Appendage Disorders in 2021, researchers found that hair loss and premature hair graying are closely associated with smoking.
Put simply, smoking not only appears to contribute to hair loss, but it may also cause your hair to turn gray earlier in life than for non-smokers.
Several medications are linked to a form of temporary hair shedding called telogen effluvium, in which your hair thins across your entire scalp.
These include beta-blockers, retinoids (medications derived from vitamin A), anticoagulants and several medications used to treat epilepsy and thyroid disorders.
If you’ve recently started taking prescription medication and noticed that your hair looks thinner than usual, you may want to raise the subject with your healthcare provider.
In some cases, you may be able to make changes to your medication use or switch to another medication that’s less likely to affect your hair.
With the right combination of hair care habits, nutrition and medications like minoxidil, you can add serious volume to your hair over the course of a few months.
For optimal results, focus on making one or two changes to the way you care for your hair on a weekly basis. This could mean switching to a new shampoo, starting a hair growth supplement or making simple changes like letting your hair down while you sleep.
Over the long term, these small changes and positive habits can make a big difference to your hair’s thickness, texture and appearance.
Worried about your hair? Our guide to female hair loss explains why hair loss happens, as well as the steps that you can take to strengthen and protect your hair. You can also view our entire range of hair care products for women online.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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