What Actually Works For Hair Loss, and What's Just Marketing
In beauty, we know some things to be absolutely true — like hyaluronic acid is good for plumping, and vitamin A helps promote cellular turnover. And then there are the gray, slightly murky areas of the industry — like if topical products actually help with hair loss.
First, it's important to note the issue's prevalence: one in five people are affected by hair loss in the US, according to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery. With that said, its causes and how it manifests look different — it might be a byproduct of hormonal changes, a gradual thinning, or even a side effect of the COVID-19 virus. Regardless, it's a common condition that can be distressing for many.
As a result, there's been an increase in products, from scalp serums to shampoo and conditioner duos, that claim to help treat hair loss by promoting hair regrowth. However, it's hard to tell which ones (if any) are actually worth it, and what's just marketing. To better understand what ingredients actually help, we spoke to two doctors. Keep reading for their advice.
Identifying the Cause of the Hair Loss
Before you attempt to treat hair loss, it's essential to get to the bottom of what's causing it. "There are many causes of hair loss, including hormonal imbalances, genetics, stress, hair extensions, etc.," board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Paul Nassif, MD, tells POPSUGAR. Vitamin deficiencies, like not having enough iron, vitamin D, or zinc in your diet, can also lead to hair loss.
Gaby Longsworth, PhD, scientist, certified hair practitioner, and founder of Absolutely Everything Curly, adds, "Hair loss can be temporary, self-correcting, diffuse hair loss, or permanent until the cause is corrected." Temporary hair loss may be able to be treated with topicals, but permanent hair loss as a result of genetics can't be completely resolved.
Proven Treatments to Help With Hair Loss
If you search ingredients for hair regrowth, you'll get a mixed bag of answers. However, only two medical treatments are currently approved by the FDA. "For hair loss in men: topical minoxidil and oral finasteride," says Dr. Longsworth. For women, the only FDA-approved treatment is topical minoxidil, which is believed to slow hair loss and help with regrowth.
"Minoxidil does not require a prescription and can be purchased in most drugstores," says Dr. Nassif. It's most effective when used early on, but you'll only see its benefits while you're using the product. It won't cure hair loss."
Over-the-Counter Ingredients That Help With Hair Loss
Outside of the two FDA-approved treatments, there's a long list of ingredients that are believed to help with hair loss and promote healthy hair, like vitamin E, rosemary oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and castor oil. However, it's important to keep in mind that while some studies have found these ingredients can help with hair regrowth, they haven't been FDA-approved — so they're not a guarantee.
Vitamin E For Hair Loss
Vitamin E is said to help with hair loss resulting from alopecia, an inflammatory and autoimmune disease. This is because vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps lower oxidative stress. "Patients who suffer from hair loss generally have lower levels of antioxidants in their scalp area," Dr. Longsworth says.
Rosemary Oil For Hair Loss
Rosemary oil is one of the most common natural ingredients used to treat hair loss. "Rosemary oil improves blood circulation to the scalp and destroys bacteria that clog hair follicles," Dr. Longsworth says. "It also relaxes smooth muscles, which could improve blood flow in vessels in the scalp and hair follicles." (As can a good scalp massage.)
Coconut Oil For Hair Loss
Coconut oil is another natural ingredient for addressing hair loss. "[It] protects the hair follicle by filling the gap between the hair and the follicle wall and preventing the surfactant molecules from penetrating into the follicle," Dr. Longsworth says. This is believed to keep ingredients like sulfates from getting into your scalp and causing irritation, which may contribute to hair loss.
Jojoba Oil For Hair Loss
Jojoba oil works very much like coconut oil, except it has a molecular structure similar to sebum — a moisturizing oil that naturally occurs in our skin. "Jojoba oil can also penetrate the hair follicles and strengthen hair from the inside," Dr. Longsworth says.
Castor Oil For Hair Loss
Lastly, castor oil is praised for being rich in fatty acids, which helps reduce DHT formation. "DHT production is a major cause of androgenic alopecia (genetic hair loss)," Dr. Longsworth says.
In-Office Treatments For Hair Loss
In some cases, the only way to help with more severe cases of hair loss is with an in-office treatment or procedure. "I recommend in-office treatments, such as NeoGraft hair restoration, PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections, and health supplements, as they can be extremely beneficial for people with hair loss," Dr. Nassif says. "But they do not necessarily fix the cause of the hair loss."
What Is NeoGraft Hair Restoration?
NeoGraft hair restoration is a minimally invasive procedure. "NeoGraft involves removing a hair follicle from one area of the head (usually the back of the head), and one by one they're transplanted to fill in thinning or bald," Dr. Nassif says. It's the only hair-replacement treatment approved by the FDA.
What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment For Hair Loss?
PRP treatment is another low-risk in-office treatment. "The PRP treatment involves drawing blood from a person, processing the blood, and then injecting it back into their scalp," Dr. Nassif says. The initial treatment takes place every four weeks, for a total of three to four sessions. "This is a great option, because there is little risk to this procedure other than tenderness at the injection site," he says.