Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on August 20, 2020
Washing your thinning hair won't necessarily send more of it down the drain. Some shampoos can even strengthen it. Avoid products with harsh detergents, like sodium lauryl sulfate,which can cause breakage. When you suds up, don't rub shampoo into the hair itself. Instead, gently massage it into your scalp and let it slide down through your locks.
Try Some Makeup
You use makeup on your face, so why not on your scalp? Try a tinted hair spray or a colored powder made specifically to disguise hair loss. These come with an applicator like the kind you use to apply eye shadow. Choose a shade that matches your roots. Apply the product lightly -- tap the excess off the brush and dab it gently onto your scalp.
Take a Powder
Running late? Save time by using a dry shampoo. Made with talc or cornstarch, they can give thinning locks a boost by soaking up excess oil. You'll find them in powders or sprays -- just apply, let sit, then comb through the hair. It's OK to use them every 3 or 4 days, but don't skip the shampoo entirely.
Go Under Cover
A wig offers you different hairdo every day. Wig shops are easy to find, and they offer something for many budgets. Not into wigs? Opt for a hat or scarf. You can even find baseball caps with ponytails attached. Don't worry that wearing them will lead to more hair loss; that's a myth. Wearing hats all day can cause friction and make hair frizzy.
Color Me Lighter
When dyeing thin hair, choose a shade that's close to your natural color. The less contrast between your hair and scalp, the better. Avoid bleaching -- the dramatic color change requires more chemicals, which can make hair break. If you color at home, follow instructions to the letter. If you can afford salon color, a pro who's more skilled at using the products could be well worth the cost.
Get Into Condition
Hair -- whether it's thick or thin -- needs moisture to bounce and shine. If yours needs a boost, try conditioner. You might think it'll weigh down your locks, but dry tresses will absorb the product. Conditioner can make your hair more manageable, add shine, and protect it from breakage.
Switch Up Your Style
A layered cut can add bounce and fullness. Sweep thinning hair into an updo, or add clip-ons hairpieces for a look that's more subtle than a full wig. Avoid tight styles such as cornrows, ponytails, or pigtails. They can cause breakage and pull out hair at the root, causing scarring that prevents regrowth.
Don't Be a Tease
Teasing seems like an easy way to give your locks a boost, but it can damage your hair and cause split ends and fly-aways. Save it for special occasions, and get it done at a salon to help prevent breakage. Combs designed to sit on the crown of your head and push hair up can give you a lift without the damage.
To Extend or Not to Extend?
Regular extensions won't hurt your hair, but they're designed to add length, not thickness. And because most are placed on the sides of the head, they can't add fullness at the top. Some companies and salons offer products designed for thinning hair, but they may be pricey.
Tools of the Trade
It's OK to use a round brush, hot rollers, blow driers, and curling -- or straightening irons. Just choose a cool setting and don't overdo it. Use a heat-protectant spray or gel. When your tresses are dry, stop. If you use gel or spray, comb your hair first, before it dries, or the strands will harden and get brittle.
A Permanent Solution?
A permanent can add volume and make it seem like you have more hair than you do. If hair is already breaking, though, a perm may not be the best option -- it can damage hair. If you must perm, a salon perm, where timing and chemicals can be carefully controlled by a pro, is a better bet than home perming.
Seek Professional Help
If you're losing hair, visit your doctor. They can help pinpoint the cause -- whether it's a health condition, medications, stress, or other lifestyle issues -- and suggest treatments.
American Academy of Dermatology: "How to Stop Damaging Your Hair?"
Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, clinical instructor, University of California San Francisco.
Dave Lemke, Kings Head Hair Salon, Milwaukee, WI.
Draelos, Zoe D. International Journal of Trichology, Jan-Jun 2010.
Micro Point Solutions by Cyberhair.
David Suzuki Foundation.
Jalan Woodward, Baton Rouge, LA.