Hair Thinning: How To Tell And What To Do

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shruti Chavan, MBBS Dermatologist
Written by Arshiya Syeda

Thinning hair is something everyone hopes to avoid. It is one of the most dreaded problems faced by a majority of people, irrespective of gender. To add to the stress, there are a plethora of reasons why one may face hair thinning. Figuring out why exactly your hair is thinning is, in itself, a challenge.

The good news is that most of the causes of hair thinning can be diagnosed early and given the right kind of treatment. To get proper treatment at the right time, it is vital to recognize the signs of hair thinning. Keep reading to find what these signs are and how one can identify them.

Signs To Know If Your Hair Is Thinning

Losing a few strands of hair every day is completely normal and nothing to be bothered about. However, if any of the following signs are observed, it might be worrisome:

  • Excess Hair In The Shower Drain: If you notice a little more hair shedding than usual, it can be a cause of concern. If the reason for this is a change in shampoo, this shedding might just be because the hair is getting used to the new ingredients. However, if this is being observed over a longer period, chances are your hair is thinning and will require some fixing.
  • A Visible Scalp: If you can start seeing your scalp through your hair, it can be because of hair thinning. This happens because the rate at which hair growth occurs is much slower than that of hair loss. The hair’s growing phase, called anagen, decreases and may lead to follicular miniaturization. With follicular miniaturization, your hair grows short and thin. (1)
  • Excess Hair Loss When Brushing: If you have skipped combing your hair in the past one or more days, you may expect some excess hair loss that is normal. However, with hair thinning, you will notice more than usual shedding even with regular combing.
  • Your Hair Feel Thinner When Tied Up: If your usual hair tie/scrunchie feels loose or needs one more loop than usual when tying your ponytail, it means that your hair has noticeably thinned. This is provided that the hair tie has not lost its elasticity.

The next section discusses the few things one should do if you notice these signs. Follow these before taking any drastic step or jumping to the wrong conclusion.

The First Few Things You Should Do When You Notice Your Hair Is Thinning

  1. Let Your Hair Breathe: If people find it difficult to breathe in cramped-up spaces, hair does too. Tying or braiding it tightly all the time will stress out your hair and may cause hair fall (2). Go the Rapunzel way and let it down for a while or tie it loosely.
  1. Check On Your Mental Health: It is said that mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression add to hair loss. Some people with mental health issues even pull out their hair (2). Furthermore, the loss of hair has proven to add to the stress, especially on women (3). Book an appointment with a therapist if you are experiencing any mental health concerns.
  1. Check For Dandruff: Often, dandruff is caused by a fungus (4). The presence of fungus on the scalp may lead to a condition called cicatricial alopecia (2). There are many treatments for dandruff available, so either consult a doctor or try some DIY remedies.
  1. Stop Heat Styling Your Hair: Applying high heat to your hair can damage it permanently. Try using leave-in conditioners or heat-protectant products before heat styling it (2).
  1. Check the pH of your shampoo: A study suggests that most commercial shampoos are too alkaline. However, your hair is slightly acidic (5). Switch to a pH-balancing shampoo to reduce hair thinning.
  1. Keep Vitamin B3, Biotin, And Fatty Acid Levels In Check: The deficiency of these three nutrients has been found to decrease hair growth and increase hair fall (6). In addition, two common types of hair loss, namely androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium, were improved when low levels of vitamin D were supplemented (7). However, it is important that a professional diagnose these deficiencies before prescribing supplements.
  1. Check Your Iron Levels: In people who are anemic, it was seen that iron deficiency led to hair fall. Consult a doctor to get your iron levels checked.
  1. Eat Protein-Rich Foods: Lean meat, fish, eggs, and nuts can be eaten to increase your protein intake. A deficiency in protein affects the overall health of a person and cause hair loss and thinning (6).
  1. Consider Hair Treatments: If none of the above-mentioned tips work, it may be worth considering a professional treatment. The different kinds of treatments available are discussed in detail below.

The next section will discuss how hair thinning can be treated.

How To Treat Hair Thinning

There are many treatments available that claim to help with hair thinning and hair loss. However, how exactly do these medical treatments work, and how many DIY remedies have any scientific backing? Keep reading to find out.

Medical Treatments:

  1. Minoxidil: This is a drug that reportedly helps induce hair growth (8). It is recommended to use this drug at the advice of a dermatologist. It might cause irritation or increase in hair fall initially. Hence, always start with a lower amount and then increase the frequency and amount of minoxidil after a few weeks.
  1. Anti-androgens: This is specifically for women. Androgens are male sex hormones that are given to women to induce hair growth. This should strictly be taken only under the supervision of a doctor (1). This method works only in case of androgenic alopecia where the cause of hair fall is hormone-related.
  1. Iron Supplements: In people with iron deficiency, it is often found that their hair growth gets affected as well. Hence, eating iron-rich food or taking iron supplements may help with hair thinning (6).
  1. Hair Transplantation: In this treatment, a narrow strip of scalp is removed over the course of a few sessions. This strip is separated into tiny grafts which are then planted where hair thinning is noticed (1). This procedure is done so that the results are much more realistic (9).

Apart from medical help, there are a few popular DIY home remedies (backed by research) known to help with hair growth that are discussed in the next section.

DIY Treatments

  1. Onion Juice: Onion extract is claimed to be miraculous for hair growth. There are also onion extract shampoos available on the market. A study found that using onion juice for hair growth was beneficial (10). This simple DIY can be done by grating onions and extracting the juice through a washcloth. Apply the juice directly to the scalp once or twice a week for 15-30 minutes before showering.
  1. Witch Hazel: This is a genus of flowering plants that may benefit hair growth (11). There are many hair products available with witch hazel in them.
  1. Green Tea: Another ingredient popular in the DIY world of hair care is green tea. The epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) present in green tea has been found to promote hair growth in hair follicles (12).
  1. Coconut Oil: Protein deficiency is harmful to hair growth. Using coconut oil before and after washing the hair was seen to reduce protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair (13). It penetrates deep into the hair shaft. In addition to using coconut oil, a study also suggests that a thorough scalp massage helps in increasing hair thickness (14). To make the most of this cheap DIY remedy, apply coconut oil onto the scalp and massage for a few minutes. Leave it on for at least half an hour before washing it off.
  1. Egg Yolk: A messy and smelly DIY is sure not going to be a pleasant experience, but if using egg yolk works for hair growth, it is only a small price to pay for a much bigger benefit. The water-soluble peptides found in egg yolks may help with hair follicle growth (15). Use it as a part of a DIY hair mask.
  1. Neem Extract: Neem is popularly known for its antifungal properties. One of the problems caused by fungus is dandruff. The presence of dandruff can clash with hair growth. Neem extract may be beneficial in getting rid of dandruff (16).

Before trying the above-mentioned remedies, it is always recommended to patch test and stop if any allergic reaction is noticed.

While these DIYs may help reduce hair fall in the long run, you may be wondering what can be done for a quick fix. The following hair hacks will help hide your thinning hair.

Quick Fixes

  1. Style Your Hair Differently: Apply a volumizing mousse and part your hair on the opposite side to add more bounce and volume and make it look deceptively fuller.
  1. Use Black/Brown Brow Products: Products used to fill in the eyebrows can also be used to fill in the balding spots on your scalp or thinning hair around the hairline.
  1. Cut Your Hair Short: A shorter hair cut can make your hair look thicker and healthier. It is also easier to manage.
  1. Hair Extensions: This is a life hack for people who wants to sport varying hair lengths. Just buy some clip-on hair extensions to add volume to your hair instantly. However, this can be quite expensive.

Conclusion

Hair thinning is a common problem found in a majority of the population. It can be quite stressful. However, it is important to understand that most often, one of the above-mentioned treatments may help reverse it.

Hair fall of about 100 strands a day is natural and normal. One might notice a change in hair loss when undergoing some treatments, a change in shampoo, or stress. If you are experiencing more than usual hair thinning, it is important to identify the signs and consult a doctor for professional advice rather than self-diagnosing.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How often do I have to wash my hair if my hair is thinning?

Oily hair requires more number of washes in a week than dry hair. In general, you can wash your hair twice a week. Increase the number of washes if your hair is still oily.

Can a diet change cause hair loss?

Hair growth depends on the intake of proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients. Hence, if your new diet is lacking in those, it can affect hair growth.

How many strands of hair are lost in a day?

Approximately, it is normal to lose about 100 strands of hair in a day. However, this can vary depending on your mental health, diet, hair products, and lifestyle.

Recommended Articles

16 Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Check out our editorial policy for further details.

  1. Treating female pattern hair loss
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/treating-female-pattern-hair-loss
  2. Hair loss: An overview
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11446462_Hair_loss_An_overview
  3. Psychological effects of androgenetic alopecia on women: comparisons with balding men and with female control subjects
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8408792/
  4. How to treat dandruff
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/152844#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
  5. The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158629/
  6. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  7. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  8. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  9. Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684510/
  10. Onion juice (Allium cepa L.), a new topical treatment for alopecia areata
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12126069/
  11. North American Virginian Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): Based Scalp Care and Protection for Sensitive Scalp, Red Scalp, and Scalp Burn-Out
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158622/
  12. Human hair growth enhancement in vitro by green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17092697/
  13. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12715094/
  14. Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740347/
  15. Naturally Occurring Hair Growth Peptide: Water-Soluble Chicken Egg Yolk Peptides Stimulate Hair Growth Through Induction of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Production
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29583066/
  16. ANTIFUNGAL PROPERTIES OF NEEM (AZARDIRACHTA INDICA) LEAVES EXTRACT TO TREAT HAIR DANDRUFF
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333671637_ANTIFUNGAL_PROPERTIES_OF_NEEM_AZARDIRACHTA_INDICA_LEAVES_EXTRACT_TO_TREAT_HAIR_DANDRUFF
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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
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