If you search online for "natural hair loss treatments," a long list of tonics, creams, and supplements appears.
But do they work? Paradi Mirmirani, MD, a dermatologist for Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, Calif., spends a lot of time steering patients away from products recommended by their friends and family members. Most of those products are costly and have little to no benefit.
"Most natural hair treatments are bunk," Mirmirani says.
Though few natural treatments have been well-studied for hair loss, there are a handful that may help you hold onto your mane longer if it's starting to disappear.
Depends on the Cause
If a medical condition is causing your hair loss, it may need to be treated.
"If something needs our attention, you fix that and the hair takes care of itself," says Molly Roberts, MD, president of the American Holistic Medical Association.
Sometimes medication is needed, Roberts says, but she often tries more general methods first -- such as the following:
Protein is important to strengthen hair and promote growth. The recommended daily amount is about two to three 3-ounce servings of meat or a combination of four to five servings of dairy and beans.
Kravich tells patients dealing with hair loss to include nuts and seeds, eggs, and fish in their diets. All are important sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower inflammation and create a healthier scalp.
It's best to avoid a rut; eat a variety of foods every day. Kravich recommends eating six to 10 servings of various vegetables daily, two to four fruits, and an assortment of grains and legumes and lean meat products.
Roberts says there are some nutrients that may be helpful for hair:
- Iron: Anemia can cause hair loss. But iron supplements are only recommended if you've tested positive for iron-deficiency anemia, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
- Zinc and biotin: These supplements are assumed to help with hair growth because people with metabolic disorders lacking them can have thin or brittle hair and nails, Mirmirani says. She doesn't recommend supplements, but she also doesn't discourage their use.
Saw palmetto is sometimes touted for hair growth, but there isn't enough evidence to back that up, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Know Your Supplements
If you're going to use supplements with your hair in mind, tell your doctor before you start taking them. That way, your doctor can watch out for any possible side effects, including interactions with other drugs you're taking.
Even though supplements don't require a prescription, they're still something your doctor needs to know about, so she has a complete picture of everything you're taking.
Though a seal doesn't guarantee safety, the approval of organizations like U.S. Pharmacopeia and NSF International means that a supplement was manufactured properly, contains what is on the label, and doesn't contain harmful levels of contaminants.
Rubber bands, dyes, perms, straightening irons, and curling wands can be hard on your hair. If your hair is thinning, you don't want it to break as well. Be gentle with your hair -- don't overdo brushing or washing, Roberts says.
Some patients quit styling their hair altogether, Mirmirani says. This can lead to thin, unstyled hair, which makes them less satisfied with it.
- Use scalp coloring products to minimize the contrast between your hair and scalp if it's beginning to show through.
- Try hair extensions to boost volume.
- Keep your hair cut short so it doesn't hang and appear thinner.
- Try parting your hair on the side. That takes the focus off the crown, where hair often thins.
- Use body-boosting hair products, which can make hair look thicker.
Losing your hair can be stressful. And stress (physical and emotional) can sometimes increase hair loss.
"Before you start to worry about it, go to a doctor to see if you should worry about it," Roberts says.
More hair in your brush may not be the beginning of the end for your tresses. Roberts says there are times when some extra hair loss is normal -- for women, that includes during menopause and after pregnancy.
"Hair loss is an emotional thing for a lot of people," she says. "Clearing out that stress may help them hold onto it longer."