How to Get Thicker, Fuller Hair: A Data-Backed Answer
Whatever your challenges with thinning – or just plain thin – hair, it’s easy to find yourself in a cycle of dead-end products boasting quick relief, few results, and endless frustration.
There are steps you can take to grow a thick, full mane you can be proud of.
Here are five simple, scientist-approved ways to improve your hair health this year:
1. Change What You Eat
If you want thicker hair, there are styling tricks and then there are foolproof ways to change your body from the inside-out.
To make strong, healthy strands of hair, your body needs plenty of protein, while Omega-3 fatty acids will help you produce nourishing oils for your scalp.
“All basic nutrients contribute to keeping us whole and healthy, but protein provides the building blocks that allow us to repair, replace, or grow bones, skin, muscles, and hair,” explains nutritionist and health expert Joy Bauer at her website. (You’ve probably seen Bauer dispensing must-follow advice on NBC’s Today Show!)
“People who don’t get enough protein in their diets, such as those with anorexia nervosa or who follow any extreme weight-loss diet, will slow the rate of new hair growth,” she adds.
While some hair loss is genetic, more likely thinning strands are brought on by stress, medication, or – let’s face it – just getting older.
Eating a hair-healthy diet can make a big difference as you face these hormonal changes, especially if you’ve recently switched to a vegetarian lifestyle or feel sideways with stress.
Look for dietary staples like chicken, turkey, and other forms of lean protein to help your body build keratin, an important protein for hair growth. Gone green? Think eggs, lentils, legumes, and tofu.
Even if you are getting enough protein, be aware of your mineral intake, too, suggests dermatologist David Leffell.
“Because both zinc and iron are key to cell production in hair follicles, a deficiency in either nutrient could also cause hair to thin or even fall out,” Leffell told Self Magazine.
Hunt down fortified cereals, lean beef, and shellfish – like oysters – for a diet rich in iron and zinc. Veggies like broccoli and spinach, along with lentils and beans, are also important sources of iron.
Finally, stock up on fish, walnuts, and flaxseed – all foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that will give your hair sheen and volume by fostering a healthy scalp.
2. Shower Smarter
Tired of all that hair circling the drain? Use your time in the shower to work on cleaning your scalp instead of nailing your best Adele impression. (Girl, we know you can get it.)
In fact, scaling back the number of times you shampoo per week could help you grow healthier, well-hydrated – and, yes, thicker – hair, says beauty writer Jessica Prince Erlich.
“Overwashing can dry out your hair, so the less you shampoo, the more hydrated it will be and the longer it will grow without breaking,” Erlich writes at Harper’s Bazaar.
“When you do shampoo, consider a sulfate-free formula; they often contain less harsh detergents, or none at all, and therefore help preserve your hair’s natural oils,” she adds.
Dermatologist Nicole Rogers, however, urges consumers to be wary about the marketing claims made by companies with sulfate-free shampoos.
“There is no scientific evidence that the ‘sulfate-free’ component makes shampoo gentler than other shampoos that contain sulfates,” Rogers told the American Academy of Dermatology.
While sulfates are known irritants for people with sensitive skin, natural or relaxed hair, and eczema, there’s no guarantee that sulfate-free shampoos will help a finicky scalp.
Your best bet is to closely examine the ingredients label on your shampoo and avoid known irritants or allergens.
As ladies with sensitive skin know, this is usually easier said than done!
Use resources like the product ratings database at The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to research product ingredients and find the best fit for you.
3. Get A Haircut
It’s easy to feel ashamed or uncertain if you’re experiencing hair loss – but don’t let thinning hair scare you away from the salon chair.
“Although it seems counterintuitive, trimming your hair while growing it out will actually encourage hair growth by getting rid of any damaged, broken, or split ends,” writes Ashley Okwuosa at Women’s Health.
Even healthy hair will start to split after about 3 to 4 months after your last cut, and split ends make the structure of your hair weak.
“The ends, which have been styled and colored the most (since the farther a strand is from its root, the older it is), are vulnerable to splitting,” explains Hannah Morrill at Real Simple.
“When you don’t trim regularly, hairs can split right up the shafts and break off, even though the follicles are still in the growth phase,” she adds.
That’s not exactly an ideal environment for the thicker, fuller hair you’re probably imagining!
While it might be painful initially, it’s worth it to sit in that stylist’s chair and get a trim – your hair will thank you.
4. Cool It
Damage from styling tools is a one-way ticket to splitsville – not to mention duller, drier, flatter hair.
Limiting heat styling protects your hair cuticles, which are crucial for growing thick, healthy hair, says Dr. Alan Baumann, a physician and hair transplant surgeon.
“Once the cuticle is damaged, the moisture balance is disrupted and your hair is more prone to breakage,” Bauman told Prevention.
Lowering the heat on your hair dryer – or letting your hair air dry before using heat – will make a huge difference and protect your delicate strands.
Just be careful when you’re air drying your hair, cautions health and beauty writer Nina Elias.
Wet hair actually swells and “the longer the swelling goes on…the more pressure it puts on the delicate proteins keeping hair intact, which can lead to more damage,” she explains at Prevention.
Your best bet is to let your hair dry most of the way before turning on a hair dryer, Elias suggests. Just remember to keep that heat setting on “low.”
5. Drink More Water
Not to sound like your mom or your overbearing auntie, but you need to start drinking more H2O – especially if you want to grow thicker locks.
That’s because the water you drink helps hydrate your entire body – and makes a huge impact on the moisture levels in your skin and hair, says stylist Jeanie Syfu.
“It’s the oldest trick in the book, and truly the top trick to getting your hair to look its best. When you don’t drink enough water, your hair and skin dry out, which can also slow down the process of new hair growth,” Syfu told Self.
Time to break out that water bottle and get drinking – but it might take more water than you’re expecting.
“Because your body will take care of your vital organs and tissues first, with limited water intake, your hair can get dehydrated far sooner than the rest of your body,” nutritionist Kimberly Snyder explained to Fitness.
“Water also helps flush toxins from the body that can hinder your hair from growing in healthily,” she added.
More water and fewer toxins? Your skin – and hair – will look amazing.
A few simple changes to your everyday routine – from your diet to the products you use in your shower – can make a remarkable difference in the way your hair looks and feels.
So if thin, limp strands have got you down, then it’s time to act – and make changes from the inside-out.