Bad hair days happen to the best of us, but what happens when every day is a bad hair day? When thin, limp, weak hair becomes your every day? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The good news is that you have options. From clever cuts and innovative products to smart styling and even small changes to your diet, there are countless ways to thicken up your hair. However, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all. In most cases, it will be a combination of things that yields visible results.
“I find a holistic, personalised multi-pronged approach is the most effective way to treat any form of hair loss,” says Philip Kingsley brand president and consultant trichologist, Anabel Kingsley. “Your metabolic and genetic profile, as well as your lifestyle and diet, may be very different from a friend who is also experiencing hair loss. However, in all instances, you want to be optimising each possible factor that can affect your hair growth cycle, such as health, nutrition, thyroid function, stress levels, and scalp health, as well as the condition of your hair itself.”
What causes thin hair?
The key to getting thicker hair is identifying the cause of your thin hair in the first place.
One of the most common types of hair loss in women is Androgenetic Alopecia, which is characterised by an overall thinning of hair. “It occurs when follicles are genetically predisposed to be sensitive to normal levels of circulating androgens (male hormones),” says Kingsley. “Treatment for this does take time, and the improvement you can expect to see does depend on the degree of your follicle sensitivity and how severe the density loss is when you start treatment. This is why seeking help as soon as you notice changes is really important.”
Another very common cause of hair loss, especially in women, is Telogen Effluvium, which is characterised by excessive or daily hair shedding. This is not genetic and can happen to anyone. “It does not change the size of your hair follicles, or hair diameter,” says Kingsley. “What TE does cause is a sudden and greater than normal number of hairs to move from the growth to the resting (and then shedding) phase of your hair cycle. It is a reactive hair loss caused by an internal imbalance or shift.” This can relate to hormonal changes, vitamin deficiency and/or stress.
For cases of Telogen Effluvium, the underlying cause needs to be identified and then addressed. “For instance, if you are losing your hair solely or in part due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency, dietary changes and nutritional supplements will form an integral part of your hair loss treatment plan. If your hair loss is due to hypo or hyperthyroid, this must be addressed with the appropriate medication.” As for stress? Self-care and plenty of sleep are key.
Another culprit behind thin hair is over-styling and over-colouring. Heat-based styling products and bleach-laden colouring agents can strip your hair of all its strengthening fibres, leaving it weak.
If you can bear to, take a break from colouring your hair and step away from the styling products. Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to give your hair a thorough cleanse, too, from brands such as Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti.
Products with natural ingredients here are key. “Natural ingredients or products are much more gentle for the skin and hair,” says Masa Ohta, lead therapist at natural hair care brand Leonor Greyl. “They can work deeply into the layers of the hair without any synthetic coating to support thickness and hair health.” Overnight masks and oils will also help to nourish the hair. Bleach London’s Reincarnation Mask is particularly good.
How to make your hair thicker through diet
One of the easiest ways to thicken hair is through diet and supplements. “Vitamin deficiency affects our scalp and the hair condition,” says Ohta. “If you are concerned, you should ask for a blood test to see what is lacking within your body, and speak to your doctor for advice.”
Otherwise, it’s best to look for multivitamins packed with keratin, the amino-acid L-lysine, soya protein, iron and vitamins B12 and D3. All of these help to contribute to your hair’s thickness.
For a good general multivitamin, try Lumity Morning and Evening Female Supplement Starter Kit. Or there’s Hairburst and Klorane, which are great for specific hair concerns, while Mama Mio Pregnancy Gummies are a suitable option for pregnant women.
Nutritionist Moon Bedeaux recommends biotin. “When it comes to hair growth and improving its condition, my secret weapon has to be biotin. It’s the hair, skin and nail strengthening vitamin. I recommend taking this in a minimum 5,000 MCG liquid form daily in order to get the most recognisable results. I like to use Life-flo. Or opt for routine biotin vitamin injections – I like Get A Drip.”
Bedeaux goes on: “However, if you suffer from acne prone skin proceed with caution as it may trigger this. Food sources which are rich in biotin are egg yolks, legumes, liver and nuts and seeds, which shouldn’t trigger breakouts as the amount contained isn’t so concentrated.”
Beyond this, it’s wise to keep to a simple, nourishing diet full of lean proteins, leafy greens, and carrots for vitamin A.
How to cut your hair to make it look thicker
For those looking for a short cut, a quick trip to the salon can solve even the most stubborn of hair woes. What to ask for? Try a shoulder length bob or any kind of blunt style to create a thicker, fuller appearance.
“Excessive layering can take the volume out of the hair, making it look quite flat and lifeless,” says celebrity hair stylist George Northwood. “My advice is to keep thinner hair all one length. A micro-trim is another great cut for fine hair, simply taking the most minute ends off your hair every six weeks can help the hair look more thick and healthy.”
As for styling, Northwood recommends rough drying the hair upside down to create volume at the root. “When you flip your head back up, smooth the lengths and ends of your hair with your fingers or a brush and leave the roots as they are for a voluminous look,” he says.
And be smart about colour. Avoid anything too one-dimensional – multiple tones in highlights or lowlights will give the hair depth and avoid it looking too thin.
What are the best products for thickening hair?
Aside from clever cuts and dietary changes, there are a wealth of volumising products on the market to try at home.
“Don’t be afraid to shampoo your hair,” advises Kingsley. “Contrary to popular belief, shampooing does not cause hair loss. Quite the contrary. Frequent washing helps to keep the scalp environment healthy – which is essential to hair growth.”
Thickening shampoos are now very effective, and there are plenty to choose from. The best solutions offer nourishing treatment for the hair, while lifting excess oil and product from hair shafts to stop it from being weighed down. Ouai Haircare from celebrity favourite Jen Atkin does a very good shampoo and conditioner. As does NatureLab TOKYO, Living Proof, and Oribe. The Aveda Invati range and Kérastase Densifique are also excellent.
But be careful not to use too much product. “I often see clients with fine hair complaining about their hair feeling weighed down and greasy,” says Northwood. “What they haven’t realised is that their hair has an intense build-up of product from heavy conditioners or hair oils that is making it feel heavy and dull. In this case, I always recommend a good, deep cleansing detox shampoo. My UNDONE Unpolluted Shampoo is great when you use it once a week; it will gently strip out all of the build-up and leave you with a clean slate. Hair will be instantly revived and feel much lighter and full of body.”
To promote healthy hair in the long term, Kingsley recommends a pre-shampoo treatment to add elasticity and strengthen the hair overall. “I love our Elasticizer, originally formulated for Audrey Hepburn. Because it’s a pre-shampoo treatment, it will not weigh your hair down. You leave it on your strands for long enough to penetrate (20 minutes to an hour) and then shampoo away any excess residue.”
Though often overlooked, the way you brush your hair can be instrumental to its overall condition. For thickening hair, opt for a ceramic-barrel brush when blow-drying. Try ghd or WetBrush. And choose an ionic dryer by BaByliss or Bio Ionic to blow out negative ions, leaving the hair smoothed and de-frizzed.
“By introducing warm air beneath the brush at root level, this will add mega amounts of volume,” says Northwood. “When you remove the brush, make sure you twist it out of the hair instead of brushing it through, this will make sure the shape and volume of the curls stay intact.”
When it comes to styling thin hair, a good volumising spray is a must. Spritz directly at the roots to give hair height and a volume boost, making it appear bouncier and thicker.
“Our hair tends to become dryer as we get older,” says Kingsley. “This can cause it to break and fray, so using light, moisturising products is very important. Don’t underestimate the impact that a good volumising product can have. They can immediately camouflage hair thinning and boost your morale and confidence.”
To maintain hair thickness in the long term, and promote overall healthy hair growth, Ohta recommends paying particular attention to the scalp, cleaning it every two to three days and incorporating a good scalp oil into your hair care routine. “A tight scalp means there is tension which is caused by stress, this is a cause of hair loss,” she says. “Stimulate hair fibre and growth, and support good blood circulation, by regularly massaging the scalp.” Leonor Greyl does a particularly good scalp oil, Regenerescence Naturelle, powered by ginger extract and chilli rose, which you apply onto a dry scalp once or twice a week. As does Grow Gorgeous and Inkey List.