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The question of how to get thicker hair is an all-too-common one for hairstylists. Upwards of 50 percent of women experience hair loss at some point in their lives, and that number has only increased in recent years: 22 percent of women reported dealing with hair loss after having COVID.
Tackling hair loss is arguably the question most beauty experts hear most often—and there is no one right answer. From slapping on nourishing hair masks and scalp oils to popping hair-growth supplements and using thickening shampoos, most of us are willing to do (or buy!) anything that will help us achieve lush hair. But don't waste your time on pills or products that won't work for you. The biggest expert tip is to keep it simple. “Less is more when it comes to promoting hair growth, but compliance is key,” says Debby Vellozzi, the head of product development at Virtue Labs. “Growth products are meant to be used daily and while it takes time, they truly work.”
Here, we speak with celebrity hairstylists and a trichologist to break down everything you need to know about growing thicker and longer hair—the right way.
We have great hair news for avocado fanatics. According to Michelle Blaisure, product and technical specialist and certified trichologist for Bosley Professional Strength, a diet full of healthy fats is essential for thick and healthy hair. “While genetics determines hair texture and curl, our diet plays a role in how genes can get expressed,” Blaisure says. “Be sure to get plenty of good-quality protein and good fats like olive oil and omega-3s.” She recommends salmon, avocados, nuts, vegetables, and fruits to get all the key nutrients needed for growing stronger hair.
Use the Right Shampoo & Conditioner
It sounds obvious but bears repeating: Different hair types require specific products that cater to their exact needs. Cutler x Arlo Salon co-owner Jenny Balding says those with fine hair should look for volume-building shampoo and conditioners, such as the Kérastase Bain Densité Shampoo, to boost the appearance of thickness and add shine. For those with coarse hair, Balding suggests products that tame frizz and moisturize, like Living Proof’s Perfect Hair Day Conditioner and finish with a nourishing cream (try Salwa Petersen Chébé de Tchad). A good rule of thumb is to pick a shampoo that gently cleanses the scalp and a conditioner that boosts hydration (applied to the mid-lengths to the ends), says Lars Skjoth, the CEO and founder of Harklinikken.
“There is nothing better for shine than the hair’s natural oils,” Flora says. You can help distribute the natural oils by gently brushing your hair regularly (more on that below). Just don’t go more than a few days before a shampoo; you still need to rinse away product buildup to maintain a healthy scalp. Speaking of your scalp …
Start with Your Scalp
When it comes to hair growth, don’t sleep on your scalp. (Well, you know what we mean.) The scalp has a rich microbiome of bacteria and fungus necessary to keep the skin—and hair it grows—healthy, explains Blaisure. When we don’t shampoo enough or use harsh cleanser, it leads to skin problems that negatively affect hair growth. “The skin has immunity functions and is our first line of defense against toxins and environment aggressors. When the scalp is compromised, the scalp cannot defend itself,” she says. “Keeping a healthy balance of moisture and natural oils is important on the scalp just as it is on your face.”
She blames overuse of hair stylers and harsh cleaning agents (i.e. sulfates) for stripping the hair and disrupting the scalp’s pH balance. She recommends limiting thickening products that leave behind a heavy residue and make hair look dull, as well as anything with a high pH level.
Linda de Zeeuw, master stylist at Rob Peetoom in Brooklyn, suggests massaging your scalp to activate blood flow and to avoid washing your hair more than three times a week. De Zeeuw also warns against overusing dry shampoo—heartbreaking, we know—as it can build up a layer of residue on your scalp and clog hair follicles, preventing new, healthy hair from growing.
Get the Blood Flowing
Before you stock up on promising products, try giving yourself a scalp massage, which encourages blood flow and helps break up scar tissue in the hair follicle to promote thickness. With your fingertips, move in small circular motions with a moderate amount of pressure. And although scalp massaging tools have grown in popularity, Skjoth warns that sharp rubber devices or metal massaging devices can potentially damage the follicles and prevent hair growth. “When done the right way, a regular scalp massage can work wonders for microcirculation of the hair follicles especially when used in conjunction with a serum like a custom Harklinikken Extract,” he adds.
Read the Ingredient List
Skjoth recommends avoiding products that contain silicones, artificial colors, or—if you're sensitive—fragrance. “These ingredients can cause scalp issues, which can sometimes cause dermatitis, folliculitis (infection of the hair follicle), and if left untreated can lead to permanent loss of hairs in the inflicted hair follicles.”
Instead, look for ingredients that boast anti-inflammatory properties, which stabilize the scalp microbiome and balance excess sebum that often plays a part in hair thinning. The Harklinikken Stabilizing Shampoo features extract from burdock root to sooth and reduce inflammation.
Try a Hair-Growth Supplement
Taking a multivitamin along with a hair supplement can make a big difference, according to Balding. Blaisure agrees, adding that certain vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are necessary for healthy hair follicle function and growth. “These need to be added for many people along with a healthy diet,” she says.
Choose something like the Bosley Professional Strength Healthy Hair Vitality Supplements, which are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 and horsetail and pumpkin seed extract, or Viviscal, which contains a proprietary collagen complex to support healthy hair growth. We also love Nutrafol, which won a BAZAAR Hair Award in 2021. Nearly every dermatologist we interviewed agrees: In a sea of powders, gummies, pills, and shots promising thicker and fuller hair, Nutrafol is the one that delivers expert results.
Be patient: Results from pills can take three to six months—and you’ll need to keep popping them to maintain your new hair growth.
Ditch Hot Tools
We know it can be hard to break up with your hair dryer or flat iron. But if you truly want healthier hair, start writing that breakup text. “Keeping hot tool use at a minimum will lessen hair damage,” Balding says. “It will make a huge difference.” She stresses that if you cannot stay away from your favorite hot tools (guilty), it’s crucial to use a heat-protectant spray, like Moroccanoil Perfect Defense, and a hot tool brand that regulates heat and temperature evenly, like the T3 SinglePass Flat Iron. We also love the Dyson Airwrap, a styling tool-and-dryer hybrid that uses air and minimal heat to dry and curl hair.
Brush with Purpose
When’s the last time you actually gave thought to brushing your hair? Regular and deliberate brushing can affect your hair’s thickness, Blaisure says, because it helps distribute the natural oils that will help protect it from damage and add shine. Brushing every day, regardless of your hair texture, will also help exfoliate the scalp and remove dead hair.
But it’s only helpful if you’re using the right brush. Flora likes using a round ceramic brush like the Ibiza Hair Cork Series to help create shine while doing a blowout. Zeeuw suggests using a boar-bristle brush, like the cult-favorite Mason Pearson. “It polishes the hair and adds a natural glow, because you are dispersing the natural oils from the scalp into the hair,” she says. As for the biggest brushing faux pas? “Don’t use a plastic brush,” she says. “That will damage your hair and make it staticky.”
When in doubt, you can always fake it until you make it. When creating the illusion of thicker hair, Flora says to use something lightweight that will plump the hair at the root without weighing hair down (we like GHD Body Goals Total Volume Foam). To finish off a look, she likes to use a thickening texture spray, like Fekkai Full Blown Volume Dry Texturizing Spray, for even more added volume.
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