Simple styling tricks and great products to help thicken and boost thinning hair
Curly, straight, short, long, dyed, natural – we bet over the years you’ve enjoyed experimenting with how you wear your hair. But whatever your style, there’s one issue that can affect any of us, and it’s one we don’t like to think about – hair thinning. While male balding is openly discussed, there are still misconceptions about how thinning hair affects women, which is remarkable considering that 40 per cent of us will experience some form of hair thinning or loss by the time we hit 40.
‘It’s important to realise that hair reduces in volume naturally as we get older,’ explains Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley. ‘Just like your skin and muscles, your hair follicles age and change.’
Though thinning hair is more likely to be gradual than drastic, it’s worth recognising the differences between the various conditions – there are thought to be 50 hair loss disorders affecting both men and women – and what you can do to get a fuller-feeling mane.
What causes thinning hair?
While most women will notice their hair feeling less voluminous after menopause, there are two common conditions that cause thinning at any age. First is androgenic alopecia. ‘Hair thinning occurs when follicles in certain areas of the scalp are genetically predisposed to be sensitive to circulating androgens (male hormones),’ explains Anabel.
‘When hair follicles have this sensitivity, they very gradually get smaller and produce hairs that’s finer in diameter and a shorter length with each passing hair growth cycle.’ This leads to a gradual reduction in volume, rather than noticeable, excessive hair fall.
Then there’s telogen effluvium. ‘This is more of a reactive type of hair loss, caused by internal factors,’ explains Anabel. ‘It’s not reliant on genes but rather occurs when an internal imbalance triggers more hairs than usual to move from the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle, to the telogen (resting/shedding) phase.’
The effect is more immediately obvious – there’ll be noticeable fall-out when you shampoo or style your hair.
Spot the signs of thinning hair
If you think your hair feels finer in your 40s and 50s, it’s most likely down to pre- and post-menopause-related changes, when your oestrogen levels naturally drop and the percentage of androgens rises accordingly.
‘If your hair follicles are sensitive to normal levels of circulating androgens, hormonal changes in your 40s and 50s can exacerbate a reduction in hair volume,’ says Anabel. ‘You may notice your hair becomes finer, and your scalp appears more visible than before.’
In fact you can lose more than 15 per cent of the volume of your hair before it even becomes noticeable. And whereas in men this presents as a bald patch at the back, you’re more likely to notice your parting looks wider. For women experiencing androgenic alopecia, hair generally tends to thin at the top, frontal area, just behind the hair line.
How to stop your hair thinning
While you can’t control genetics or stop time, there are some steps you can take to help some forms of hair thinning.
‘The more reactive type of hair loss is usually triggered by a systemic upset or a nutritional, vitamin or mineral imbalance,’ says Anabel. ‘It’s not progressive and will stop once the underlying cause is addressed.’
Culprits include poor nutrition, stress, smoking and low levels of vitamin D. So if you’re starting to observe signs of hair thinning caused by hormones, you can avoid exacerbating this by getting on top of lifestyle factors, which are under your control.
What to eat to reduce hair loss
‘Diet plays a huge role in a healthy hair growth cycle, so optimising nutrition should be the cornerstone of any treatment for hair thinning,’ says Anabel. ‘A nutritious diet can help keep hair shedding to a minimum. Stress management can also help, as stress may raise male hormone levels.’
Aim to eat about 120g of protein-rich foods per day such as:
- oily fish
- lean red and white meat
- cottage cheese
How to style thin hair to appear thicker
Create the illusion of bigger hair with styling tricks from Michael Lendon, Aveda’s master creative director:
- Always towel-dry your hair gently. Being aggressive with rubbing can be destructive to your cuticles and leave the outer layers of each strand vulnerable.
- Avoid leaving thinning hair to air dry. Build in volume and body with product before it has a chance to dry flat and limp.
- Dry hair on a medium heat and low air speed, in sections. Lift from the roots before moving onto the mid-shaft and ends to maximise volume.
- Experiment with highlights – keeping them finer through the top of your hair and chunkier underneath will give the illusion of thicker, fuller hair.
- If you’re getting a professional colour, keep the roots darker to help your hair look more solid at the scalp.
The best products for thin hair
As well as addressing any hormonal or dietary imbalances, try these products to give your mane and confidence a boost.
- HAIR SUPPLEMENT New Nordic Hair Volume Supplements (from £24.95). Made from apple extract, horsetail, biotin, zinc and copper, this will supply your scalp with the nutrients it needs.
- SHAMPOO Mauli Grow Strong Shampoo (£34). The hero ingredient is antioxidant-rich herb ashwagandha, which increases scalp circulation and helps stop hair shedding.
- CONDITIONER RevitaLash Thickening Conditioner (£38). This contains loquat leaf to boost thinning hair, and biotin and keratin to strengthen.
- THICKENING TONIC Aveda Invati Advanced Scalp Revitalizer (£15 for mini). A spray that helps to leave your hair looking thicker, with more lift at the roots.
- SCALP DROPS Philip Kingsley Tricho 7 Scalp Drops (£50). This contains a combination of zinc sulphate, azelaic acid and B6, which helps inhibit the conversion of testosterone.
- BODY BOOSTER Time Bomb Mass Appeal Hair Thickening Supplement
(£18.50). This leave-in formula will help add body and volume to fine, flat, wispy strands, and make them feel less fragile when styling.
- LEAVE-IN TREATMENT Viviscal Densifying Elixir for Gorgeous Growth (£19.99). This contains natural extracts such as pea sprouts to help reduce hair shedding, while the combination of biotin, keratin and zinc gives an instant volumising boost.
- VOLUMISING HAIRSPRAY Living Proof Full Perfect Hair Day Body Builder (£10). This gives you buildable body on dry, styled hair. The adjustable nozzle allows you to control how much comes out.