Can you really make your hair thicker, naturally?
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we showed you how to thicken your hair by increasing your strand diameter with natural ingredients.
But there's another aspect to hair thickness which you can also change - naturally. It's called hair density.
Here are nine 100% natural, science-based ways to increase your hair's density and growth to get thicker hair for the long-term.
Understanding what makes hair thicker
What's your idea of "thick hair"?
A head full of lots and lots of individual hairs, or just heavy, coarse strands. Or both?
Hair thickness can refer to strand diameter or hair density. Image by Caio Cardenas.
When most hair scientists talk about hair thickness, they mean thick strands or a large strand diameter.
But when regular folk talk about hair thickness, there's another thing they're talking about, too. The technical term is "hair density", or how many individual strands you have on your head. When we talk about thinning hair, this is usually what people mean; a change in the number of strands.
At least from a distance, high hair density or large strand diameter usually give the same impression - tons of volume. So it's not a surprise that the terms are used interchangeably.
Increasing strand diameter vs increasing hair density
If you have neither large strands nor high strand density, you can still play on either one to get thicker-looking hair, naturally.
In our previous articles on making hair thicker, we gave you natural ways to make your hair look thicker instantly. These all temporarily increase the size of your strands, using ingredients from nature which either swell the hair shaft, or place a coating on it that makes it look thicker.
Since we've covered how to get fuller strands, this time we're going to look at natural ways to increase the density of your hair, too.
The same methods that increase strand density also boost hair growth. Image by Caio Cardenas.
The main difference between our previous strand-thickening methods and increasing hair density is that hair density takes time.
You're actually helping and waiting for hair to grow out from your scalp, so it won't give you instant results like applying bentonite clay to your existing strands. But the good news is it lasts longer, too.
And if you're looking to speed up hair growth, to get longer hair faster, the same processes that help increase hair density will help too, because they're all about enhancing growth.
We've combed through the scientific literature and found 9 ways to get thicker hair with some very convincing evidence to back them up. Will all of them work for everyone? No - no hair growth solution does.
But hopefully one of them will work for you if you've been struggling to get your hair's thickness back, or just feel like your hair has never hit its natural fullness potential.
Your diet could be making your hair thin
Hair thickness is affected by multiple factors, but we'd be remiss if we didn't touch on the biggest one first. It's pretty much impossible to overstate the importance of nutrition when it comes to hair health. What you eat and drink affects both the quality and the quantity of hair you have.
A healthy diet provides the necessary nutrients for thick, healthy hair. Image by Anh Nguyen.
The hair follicle is an area of high biosynthetic activity: it's basically a hair factory that runs day and night. if that factory doesn't get the right raw materials, or enough of them, it's not going to be able to produce the hair expected.
That's why deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, proteins and overall caloric intake have all already been linked to hair loss or structural abnormalities in the hair shaft.
Do supplements increase your hair's thickness?
If you're low on essential nutrients and are experiencing thinning hair, then increasing intake through your diet or supplements seems like a pretty obvious route. But what about if your hair is thin, but your diet is fine?
"Unless the hair is impaired due to nutritional deficiency, there is only so much that nutrients can do to increase the size of individual hairs because hair thickness is largely genetic, " states Dr Trüeb, a dermatologist based at Center for Dermatology and Hair Diseases, Zürich, Switzerland.
But Dr Trüeb adds a caveat: since external factors can influence hair health, increasing your intake of micronutrients might still be able to help your hair if the lack of thickness is due to a hair disorder.
The 9 Natural Hair Thickeners (and Growth Boosters!)
Our first 3 natural hair thickeners are all micronutrients you should look into if your hair is thinning and you want it thicker. If you're low on any of them, this could be just what it takes to give you thick hair.
Always remember, it's a good idea to get the OK from your doctor before you begin any supplementation programme.
Taking Vitamin E internally or topically boosts hair growth and thickness. Image by Michele Blackwell.
Celebrated for its antioxidant power, we're used to seeing this vitamin in almost every skincare product, but did you know it could give you thicker hair, too? Well, vitamin E can do exactly that - whether taken internally or massaged into the scalp.
In one study, vitamin E rubbed into the skin actually triggered the development of hair follicles where there were none, and sent those hairs right into growth mode.
In another study, this time with the vitamin E taken internally, the numbers of hairs on the scalp increased by an amazing 34.5% percent after 8 months. This has to be one of the most intense volume boosters around - and it's completely natural.
If you're a woman experiencing hair thinning, and are unsure about your iron intake, having your blood iron levels checked is a good place to start. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and women are the most affected.
Having low iron doesn't always mean obvious symptoms, but it is frequently linked to a host of hair problems such as thin hair, slow hair growth and hair loss.
Iron deficiency often affects hair growth and thickness. Image by Min An.
When your zinc levels run too low, both your hair density and your strand structure can be affected. One of the telltale signs of zinc deficiency is rough, brittle, inexplicably dry hair. Another is lower hair density. Inadequate zinc has been linked to common hair disorders that cause thinning, like alopecia areata, androgenic alopecia and telogen effluvium.
Luckily, getting your zinc intake up to the right levels doesn't take long and the results for your hair can come pretty quickly, too. In one study, taking oral zinc supplements brought complete regrowth in 60% of patients with alopecia areata in just 3 months.
Ever heard of this fruit? Zizyphus Jujuba, more commonly known as jujube, is an edible bush and fruit that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for generations. Recently, it's been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and even anti-insomnia powers.
The reason we love it, is because it's really good for making your hair look thicker, too. A 1% concentration of the essential oil, used directly on the skin, was shown to increase both growth and strand thickness.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Get this: eating pumpkin seed oil might be able to increase the number of hairs on your head by 40%. This is what it did for a group of men with androgenetic alopecia at the top of their heads. The men took 400mg of pumpkin seed oil - two capsules before breakfast and two more before dinner - every day for 24 weeks.
Pumpkin seed oil could help increase the number of strands on your head. Image by Markus Spiske.
These early results look really good but the method still needs to be tested out to see if it helps thinning from other hair loss conditions.
Oh, and the pumpkin seed oil supplement used in the study also included other plant extracts (which could have had some impact on the results), so maybe pumpkin seed oil shouldn't get all the credit just yet.
By now you've probably seen some anecdotal evidence on the efficacy of this stuff as a hair rinse for hair shedding or thinning. But the hard science on growing thicker hair with green tea comes courtesy of 30 female mice who had developed spontaneous hair loss.
Green tea can boost hair growth by stimulating inactive follicles. Image by Phuong Nguyen.
After dried green tea extract was added to their drinking water over six months, one third of the mice had significant hair regrowth. The increased thickness came from regrowing hair from inactive follicles, which the green tea seems to stimulate back into action.
Standardised Scalp Massage
Scalp massage has long been linked to boosting hair growth and thickness, but the results from this specific type of scalp massage are really impressive. Standardised Scalp Massage (SSM) is a massage process which involves a series of scalp pinches, presses and stretches and can be done with a scalp massager or by hand.
In one study, just 4 minutes of massage per day over 24 weeks (using a special massage device) was enough to increase hair thickness.
Standardised Scalp Massage is so powerful it has even been shown to stop active hair loss and increase growth on people suffering from androgenic alopecia. In that study, a more intense 20- minute, twice-daily, by hand massage technique was used.
Standardised Scalp Massage thickens hair, boosts growth and stops hair loss. Image by Gundula Vogel.
Now here's the coolest thing: we've all heard by now that, certain health conditions aside, your hair's natural thickness is determined by your genes. Well, that's still true. But scientists found that the stretching forces produced by Standardised Scalp Massage actually changed the gene expression of skin cells.
Genes related to the hair cycle got more active, while hair-loss related genes were down-regulated. Which just goes to show that not everything that is genetically determined is genetically fixed, too.
Another cool thing about Standardised Scalp Massage is that it also worked on people who were not experiencing hair loss or thinning. These people were able to increase their natural thickness even further by using the massage techniques.
This really offers hope for anyone who has always wanted to boost their naturally thin or fine hair, but saw no changes from good diet or haircare.
Inspired by the beautifully healthy skin and hair of the Inuit peoples - whose traditional diet is heavily fish and protein-based - marine proteins are a popular natural hair growth enhancer and thickener.
Marine proteins can increase hair root cells, thicken strands, and reduce shedding. Image by Croisy.
Made from mollusk and shark derivatives, marine peptide complexes are supposed to work by increasing hair root cells and enhancing conditions for anagen - the growth phase of your hair cycle.
We've saved the best for last: Onion juice - that same stuff that burns your eye when you're slicing them up for dinner - can thicken your hair. It works by kickstarting inactive follicles into growth, which increases your hair density.
When it was used in a study to treat people with alopecia areata, a good 87% of patients treated with onion juice saw full hair regrowth. To use this method at home, just apply fresh onion juice to your scalp twice a day, for two months.
Onion juice increases hair growth and thickness within weeks. Image by Ulrike Leone.
Study subjects saw the first signs of results from as early as two weeks into the regimen. So if you can stand the strong sulphurous smell - and everyone around you can too - this is could be the ideal hair thickening method for a quick win.