There's a laundry list of things that can cause hair thinning. Stress, nutrient deficiencies, aging, and even the way you style your strands are only a few of the most common culprits behind hair loss. And while you'll want to work with a board-certified dermatologist to figure out (and address) the root of the issue, the easiest ways to fake the appearance of fuller hair at home is with one of the best conditioners for thinning hair.
Conditioning is an important step in any hair-care routine, as it helps to not only restore your hair but also to prevent future damage. This is extra important when your hair is thinning, because you want to keep the hair you do have on your head as healthy and intact as possible. "For those who have thinning hair, merely shampooing is not sufficient," says Lucy Chen, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami. "Using a conditioner smooths the hair’s cuticles, adds body, and essential ingredients. It also makes the hair easier to comb when wet which avoids further breakage." She adds that because conditioners coat and penetrate the strands, they can also act as a first line of defense from the elements, keeping your hair healthy long after you step out of the shower.
In order to do this properly, you'll want to ensure you're using the right product—which means opting for a formula with nourishing ingredients and avoiding anything that may be too heavy for your hair. "Using the right conditioner is important so you are properly nourishing weak, distressed hair and scalp," says Nunzio Saviano, a hairstylist based in New York City. Look for ingredients like biotin, a vitamin that aids in building protein (one of your hair's most important building blocks), as well as wheat, soy, and keratin proteins which help to strengthen your strands and give them structure. Growth stimulating ingredients, like caffeine, peppermint, and peptides, can also be helpful for kicking your scalp into high gear.
As far as formulations go, pros suggest taking a "the lighter, the better" approach to your products. The reason? "Heavy conditioners can weigh down thinning hair types, causing it to break. Heavy conditioning products and some ingredients can clog the pores on the scalp and interfere with healthy hair growth and a balanced scalp," says Saviano. "Avoid synthetic ingredients as much as possible, parabens, surfactants and sulfates, and choose formulas that contains natural botanical and plant-based ingredients that balance, hydrate, and 'feed' the hair and scalp."
According to pros, the best conditioners for thinning serve double duty in stimulating hair growth (so that eventually, you'll have more hair on your head) and helping whatever strands you do have look thicker and fuller than they actually are. With that in mind, keep scrolling for products that fit the bill.
Luxury conditioners for thinning hair
This peptide-packed formula stimulates collagen production in your scalp and supports your hair’s natural proteins, which creates an optimal environment for hair to grow from. Over time, this is purported to result in thicker, fuller hair. It’s a nice, thick formula (which means you don’t need a lot of it to saturate your strands), and its fans love how effective it is in detangling and infusing hair with moisture.
Saviano is a fan of this conditioner, which has been clinically proven to strengthen, minimize breakage, and reduce hair thinning. It’s made with biotin, copper tripeptides, and argan oil, which work together to plump and nourish strands. After eight weeks, participants in the study reported thicker, stronger, and fuller hair, and product reviewers seem to agree. “My hair is dry and thin. I usually have to pick between a moisturizing shampoo or something to help with thinning, this does both,” writes one user, while another reports, “My hair looks shinier, smells great and I’ve noticed that the shedding seems so much better. “
Dr. Chen is a fan of this formula, which has been clinically proven to add strength and volume to your strands. “It’s made with Clover extract that aids in the shrinking of hair follicles. It also has pea peptides which further strengthens hair to prevent additional breakage and damage,” she says. “It’s safe for colored hair, gentle enough to use every day, and is lightweight so it won’t weigh your hair down.” As one reviewer put it, “My hair feels thicker and I am not pulling out handfuls of hair,” which means this stuff is definitely doing its job.
Designed with thinning and aging hair types in mind, this conditioner does a whole lot more than just hydrate and protect strands. It’s made with rosemary and peppermint, which boost circulation in the scalp to stimulate hair growth. Simply massage it into your scalp (unlike most conditioners, you’ll need to use this one on the top of your head in order to reap its growth-inducing benefits) and apply to your strands all the way from root to tip, let it sit for a few minutes, and rinse.
Hair stylist Fabio Scalia of Fabio Scalia Salons in Soho and Brooklyn recommends Kerastase’s Fondant Densité for clients with thinning and fine hair. This daily conditioner has hyaluronic acid, which helps strengthen the hair, as well as intra-cyclane minerals to enhance fiber integrity. Pro tip: Scalian says the application is more important than the product itself. Stay away form the roots, follow u with a deep cleansing rinse, and make sure there is no leftover condition on the the hair.
Another recommendation from Scalia is Kerastase’s Masquintense Fine Hair Mask. A lot of people with fine or thinning hair tend to stay away from masks or deep moisture conditioners because they’re heavy no the hair. But Scalia says that fine/thinning hair still needs moisturizing, and this mask not only provides rich nutrition to the hair, but it also has a small molecule so it doesn’t weigh it down.
Leave in conditioners can improve the appearance of thinning hair as they “coat” the individual strands of hair, which protects and hydrates hair and gives it a fuller look, says board-certified dermatologist Erum N. Ilyas. This OUAI leave-in conditioner can also reduce tangling, which can help reduce hair loss from breakage. It has an amino acid blend, tamarind seed extract, and vitamin E to protect hair.
Nioxin has a range of conditioners to treat various levels of thinning, says Seven Yu, chief beauty and creative director of Glam Set Go. Whether you have natural, colored, or chemically treated hair, or are dealing with light or progressive thinning, there are different Nioxin products. They’re all designed to protect against breakage and strengthen hair.
If your hair is thinning due to aging or malnutrition, or if you have weak and over-processed hair, Yu recommends trying a condition with biotin, like this R+Co pick. “Biotin is a protective protein that can help strengthen your hair. Because it is not a structural protein, you get more instant gratification with Biotin based products,” she says. You should be able to notice your hair feeling stronger and denser after a few uses.
Budget conditioners for thinning hair
This conditioner is made with biotin and collagen, two ingredients pros recommend for thickening up the appearance of your strands. “The ingredients will help to plump the stands of your hair,” says Dr. Chen, who recommends this product. “It’s also infused with natural botanicals like bamboo fiber extract, and has a nice jasmine and coconut aroma.” She adds that it’s also safe for color-treated hair, and is a great option that’s affordable.
Another biotin and collagen-infused product, this conditioner is great for making thin strands appear thicker. Hundreds of reviewers on Amazon have given it five stars, and love the soft, shiny finish that it leaves behind. “It makes my hair feel thicker and stronger,” writes one fan of the product. “I have seen a real difference in a reduction of hair loss and breakage,” says another. Made with a blend of all-natural ingredients, you can be sure that this stuff will never weigh down your hair with sulfates, silicones, or any of the other gunk stylists recommend steering clear of.
The caffeine that this formula gets from its black tea works to stimulate hair growth at the scalp, while biotin and vitamin E help to strengthen and nourish the strand. Reviewers love it for its ability to revive dull, limp hair, and it’s ultra-lightweight so it won’t cause buildup or weigh down your look.
For a leave-in option at a drugstore price point, you can’t do much better than this five-star reviewed spray from hairstylist Marc Anthony (not to be confused with J.Lo’s ex husband, singer Marc Anthony). It’s made with ginseng and caffeine, which stimulate growth, plus moisturizing vitamin E. Simply spritz it on wet hair, and watch it grow to great lengths over the course of a few months.
For more help with hair thinning, check out the video below.
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