From shampoo and conditioner to mousse and thickening spray, these are the products to give your locks a helping hand in the face of hair loss

It’s understandable that – whether it only happens mildly or leaves actual bald spots – the first signs of hair thinning can be scary, but you’re not alone. Research conducted by Nioxin found that more than 40% of women have suffered hair loss in some form, despite many people believing that the only common type of hair loss is male pattern baldness. In fact, there are a whole host of other reasons that hair might start to thin and fall out, especially for women. So, we spoke to trichologists about them.

What causes thinning hair?

“There are many causes of thinning hair but it most frequently fits into two main categories, either androgenetic alopecia or chronic telogen effluvium,” says consultant trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver MIT.FTTS.

“Androgenetic alopecia is also known as female pattern hair loss in women or male pattern baldness in men. This is caused by a combination of hereditary and hormonal factors plus androgen [hormones that are typically thought of as ‘male’ despite the female body naturally producing a small amount of them too] sensitivity,” she continues. 

However, “chronic telogen effluvium is more common in women,” she says. This tends to be a result of “poor health, stress and nutritional problems”. As Mark Blake (MIT WTS IAT), Nioxin’s trichologist, simply puts it with regards to the latter issue, “You can only grow hair from what your body is consuming, so if you are not consuming a balanced healthy diet, you will struggle to grow luscious healthy hair.” And the studies back it up. “Low iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D are frequently found in women suffering from chronic hair thinning,” says Sally-Ann. 

While “postpartum hair loss is experienced by many women and often recovers without treatment,” there are women who find that “their hair is significantly thinner than it once was” by the time they’ve had two pregnancies,” Sally-Ann reveals.

So much for hair thinning being solely a male issue, huh?

How can thinning hair be prevented?

Prevention is almost impossible with regards to pattern baldness, says Sally-Ann, as this “is largely a natural process”. With early recognition, however, it “may be controlled with treatment,” she says.

When it comes to chronic telogen effluvium, “Early detection [with things like blood tests] and treatment of the deficiencies that lead to it” are key for both prevention and reduction, Sally-Ann says. Although it’s obvious that limiting your intake of essential nutrients can lead to such deficiencies, one thing that Mark suggests eating for “healthy hair” is eggs.

And “always take a vitamin D supplement as vitamin D deficiencies are being linked to many hair loss conditions in some studies,” he says.

Aside from diet, Mark also recommends “paying particular attention to your scalp, as this needs to be healthy and clean in order for your hair to grow in the first place.” In practical terms, this means “ensuring your scalp is clean and that you wash your hair regularly, but not too much,” he explains.

What are the causes of thinning hair in menopause?

As if the possibility of postpartum hair loss wasn’t annoying enough, another thing that some women might have to deal with in their lives is thinning hair as a result of menopause. Scientifically, the cause of this is the “lower oestrogen and progesterone levels after the menopause that tip the male and female hormone balance,” explains Sally-Ann. Then, those “androgens affect some genetically predisposed hair follicles, causing them to grow weaker, finer and shorter. Eventually, hair growth potential is exhausted and these follicles produce only short fine vellus hair or no hair at all,” she says.

However, Mark is keen to state that while “around 40% of women notice hair thinning after menopause, it usually starts to happen in a phase called peri-menopause when the ovaries begin to make less oestrogen.” Because “you don’t usually notice hair thinning until you have lost around 50% of your hair’s density”, it may go undetected “until you actually get to the menopause itself, even though it may have been happening for the last couple of years,” he says. To combat this, he recommends “asking your GP for a blood test to establish if you are in peri-menopause or menopause.” 

Does stress cause thinning hair?

An episode of heavy hair shedding that occurs around two months after a stressful event is known as “acute telogen effluvium (ATE)”, says Sally-Ann. But “ATE usually stops two to three months after it begins and starts to recover a couple of months later, often without the need for treatment,” she adds. However, if someone’s life is constantly stressful, this can become more of a long-term issue. 

Why hair shedding happens as a result of stress is to do with cortisol: “Stress causes elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that prioritises what the body needs to survive. Hair is non-essential tissue that needs lots of energy to grow, but it has to take a back seat when the body is under stress and needs to survive. This means that the hair follicles may simply be shut down by the body when it is in its survival mode,” explains Mark. “Once the causative factors of the stress are removed, hair should start to grow back again eventually.”

How can you style thinning hair to make it look fuller?

Fortunately, there are ways to style thinning hair to make it look fuller while you wait for targeted treatments to take hold. “When you have thinning hair it's important to create volume in the right areas and not to have it too long as that will highlight the fact that the hair is thin and can look wispy,” says colour specialist and founder of London’s STIL salon, Christel Barron-Hough. She suggests a bob “as that will create an illusion of the hair looking fuller due to the shape and length of the haircut.” Or a short pixie cut to “create volume and movement on the top of the head”. 

When styling thinning hair, she recommends creating volume in areas where the hair is fuller. “If the hair is thinning around the hairline, for example, try to add volume on the crown area instead.” 

In terms of colour, “a darker colour will promote strength and thickness, a lighter colour will promote texture, so sometimes it's best to go a little darker with thinning hair,” says Christel. “You can still be blonde but play around with different hues and tones to create an illusion of the hair looking fuller. A beige blonde can look fuller than a pure white blonde.” (Don’t forget to do a patch test 24 hours before using any hair dye to make sure you’re not allergic to it.)

How can you reduce the appearance of thinning hair?

From shampoos and scalp solutions to thickening creams and supplements, here are some products to help with the appearance of thinning hair:

Treatment for hair thinning due to menopause

Try: Pantene Hair Biology Menopause Hair Thickening & Scalp Soothing Treatment

Enriched with Pro-V, vitamin B3 and white tea, Pantene’s Hair Biology Menopause Treatment isn’t just hair-thickening but scalp-soothing, tackling the problem of thinning hair quite literally at the root. The fact that it’s a leave-in formula makes it fabulously convenient, too. 

Shampoo to help with hair growth

Try: Nanogen Thickening Treatment Shampoo for Women

It’s easy to trust Nanogen knowing that it’s a brand trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver works closely with. Invigorating to use, its Thickening Treatment Shampoo contains redensifying peptides to get your hair to a suitable level of lusciousness and is suitable for minoxidil users.

Treatment for thinning hair containing minoxidil

Try: Regaine For Women Regular Strength Minoxidil 2% Scalp Solution

If you are suffering from hereditary hair loss, minoxidil – which is thought to work by aiding blood flow to the scalp – could potentially be your saviour. Regaine offers a scalp solution containing just that. (Suitable for adult women 18 to 65 years of age. Contains minoxidil 2%. Always read the label.)

Hair thickening spray

Try: NIOXIN 3D Styling Thickening Hair Spray

Offering superior hold and thickening capabilities (it helps to boost the diameter of each hair strand and increase its density), this is the best hair spray to use if you are burdened with thinning hair. It doesn’t cause stiffness, either – just natural movement and shine.

Hair thickening cream

Try: Watermans Grow More Elixir

An ideal hair thickening product for vegans in particular, the Watermans Grow More Elixir nourishes hair follicles while soothing the scalp to make it a suitable place for healthy hair growth. 

Volumising Shampoo

Try: Rhyme & Reason Volume & Boost Shampoo

If you’re looking for a volumising shampoo that is not only eco-friendly but also smells amazing, look no further than the Rhyme & Reason Volume & Boost Shampoo. Bolstered with bamboo extract, lilly pilly and peptides, it provides bounce and body while eliminating the grease that can make hair look flat. 

Lightweight conditioner that doesn’t weigh fine hair down

Try: Charles Worthington Everyday Gentle Weightless Conditioner

Heavy hair products are simply extra weight you don’t need when you have thinning hair, which is why a weightless conditioner – such as the Charles Worthington Everyday Gentle Weightless Conditioner – is a much better bet. Amazingly, it also reduces hair breakage by up to 82%.

Hair thickening dry shampoo

Try: Colab+ Dry Shampoo Extra Volume

Whenever we’re in a rush, dry shampoo is an absolute blessing. But a dry shampoo that also provides volume? That’s something of a miracle.  

Value hair thickening product

Try: Plantur 39 Phyto-Caffeine Shampoo for fine, brittle hair

A perfect product to start using to combat thinning hair as you enter peri-menopause is Plantur 39 Phyto-Caffeine Shampoo. Developed in collaboration with the dermatology department at the University of Jena in Germany, its phyto-caffeine complex helps to protect hair roots from the exhaustion that halts hair growth.

Hair thickening mousse

Try: NIOXIN 3D Styling Bodifying Hair Foam

When it comes to hair styling products, mousse can boost body like little else. Even better than a conventional hair mousse, however, is the Nioxin 3D Styling Bodifying Hair Foam, which protects hair density to make it look fuller. 

Photography: iStock