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Get Thick Hair By Eating Right and Washing It Less

Coconut oil is not the fix, if you can believe it

04.28.17
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Horses have it all: excellent morning breath, people petting them all the time, built-in highlighter when groomed properly. The number one thing they have that everyone wants, however, is thick hair. Grab a fistful of a horse’s mane or tail and you have in your palms the ultimate hirsute dream.

Because you are not a horse ( 🙁 ), thick hair may not be the given. In fact, you, like Alexa Chung, may literally only have three hairs on your head. But you have an advantage where horses do not, and please don’t tell them I said that: you have the ability to read. I asked a nutritionist, three hair stylists, one dermatologist and two product line co-founders how to get thicker hair without extensions (which horses sometimes wear, by the way). Their answers are below for you to peruse, ignore or follow. I also asked myself how I’ve arrived at this point in my life, stretching an equestrian metaphor well past its lifespan. Not all questions are meant to be answered, of course. And with that, I present the following:

Start With Your Diet

McKel Hill, Dietitian, Nutritionist and Founder of Nutrition Stripped, a website dedicated to help make healthy eating simple, said that it wasn’t until she changed her lifestyle and diet in college that her hair began to grow. “Like a weed,” she stressed.

Foods she recommends: “Quality proteins (from plant-based hemp seeds, nuts, tempeh and tofu to animal proteins like salmon, other fish, chicken, etc.), healthy fats (i.e. avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut oil), and micro-nutrients such as minerals (especially zinc and iron), phytonutrients and antioxidants. (We can easily obtain antioxidants from eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats throughout the day.) B vitamins are also important, but if you’re consuming a diet based in whole foods, you’re already getting plenty of Bs. If not, try adding a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast a day. It’s packed with B vitamins and protein.”

When I asked her about vitamins, she said “supplements are just that, something to supplement your diet and lifestyle that are already up to par.” Knowing that, in addition to the above healthy-living tips, boosters include omega-3s, protein powders and probiotics (“keeping our gut microbe is KEY to an overall healthy body including nutrient absorption, which, in the long run, means healthy hair”). She recommends New Chapter Perfect Hair, Skin and Nails. (Nutrition Stripped partnered with New Chapter this year but McKel endorses this product regardless. “We wouldn’t have them on our site otherwise,” she told me.)

Foods to avoid: “In the bigger picture of happier hormones, avoid refined sugars and trans fats, plus anything you know doesn’t jive with you (i.e. food allergies or intolerances). More importantly, eat enough food and calories! I see this a lot: As soon as clients increase their calories, their body becomes more nourished, which leads to happier hormones, which leads to healthier hair in the long run.

Marc R. Avram, MD is New York City-based doctor who specializes in hair loss and hair transplantation. “In the US, many of our foods our fortified so there are no foods or vitamins that we commonly recommend. Taking a multivitamin that contains biotin is adequate.”

Meanwhile, Yessenia Reyes, an independent Texture Specialist at Foster Glorioso, loves turmeric and Sun Potion’s He Shou Wu. “Both are great for promoting hair growth. The more your hair grows the thicker it will be.”

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Think About Your Actual Hair Cut

Matt Fugate, Kérastase Consulting Hairstylist, suggested asking your stylist for a crosshatching cut. “This is where you basically create shorter pieces of layers that push up on the top pieces of layers in the cut. You can’t get that done on the surface, though, as tiny hairs will pop up, but underneath this helps to give a full appearance.”

Roxie Darling, hair expert (and my go-to colorist), stressed diet first, then “working with what you’ve got.” She recommends bobs for those with finer hair. “A bob will make your hair look and feel thicker because the cleanliness of a chic bob makes fine hair look really supple.” If you have longer hair, trim it frequently to keep the ends from splitting. She also recommends that you brush your hair often (while dry) to distribute “the beautiful natural oils that your scalp makes.”

Yessenia Reyes recommends hair trims every two to three months. “This will help get rid of any sparse hair. Sparse ends make the hair appear thin.”

Consider the Product You Use and How You Style Your Hair 

Chase Kusero and Aaron Grenia, Co-Founders of IGK Hair, want you to stop over-washing your tresses. “Shampoo less and your hair will be more hydrated,” they said, which helps promote thickness. “Be sure to use sulfate-free products to preserve your hair’s natural oils. (Their whole line of products is sulfate-free, should you be in the market.)

If you blow dry your hair: Kusero and Grenia recommend their Trust Fund Thickening Foam on damp hair for great volume and texture.

“You can actually let the cuticle frizz up just a little bit,” says Kérastase’s Matt Fugate. “Blow dry the ‘not camera-ready sections’ a little rougher — i.e. the underneath sections, then keep the top polished. This helps create body and volume.”

If you prefer to air dry: The IGK co-founders say texture is your friend. “Apply Beach Club Texture Spray mid-shaft through ends and Jet Lag Dry Shampoo at the root, then massage the scalp to encourage lift.”

Yessenia Reyes endorses the dry-shampoo hack and likes a product that plumps. “To give the illusion of thicker hair, go for volumizing products. One of my favorites is Phyto’s Phytovolume Actif Intense Volume Spray. The product helps to plump up strands of hair by making them appear thicker and fuller. Dry shampoos are also great. They absorb oils which might weigh the hair down, making it appear thin and flat.”

If you have thinning hair: Matt Fugate recommends Kérastase’s Specifique Traitement Intensif Anti-Affinement. “They are these little ampules that you can either get in-salon or buy online and help with adding volume and shine so hair doesn’t have that thinning appearance. The shampoo in the collection stimulates fiber production and increases hair metabolism, so it too helps with thinning hair.”

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If We’re Talking Genetic Hair Loss, That’s Treatable

“There are many causes of thinning hair,” said Dr. Avram. “Genetic hair loss is the most common. Other causes of hair loss include medications, chronic medical conditions, poor nutrition and telogen effluvium, stress-related hair loss.”

Don’t go diagnosing yourself on WebMD just yet.

“When evaluating hair loss in women, it is important to obtain a complete medical history and perform a physical exam of the scalp,” he said. “If there are any doubts in the diagnosis, a scalp biopsy can be performed.”

If your hair loss is genetic, Dr. Avram says it’s treatable. “Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is the most significant new treatment option. PRP is done in the office by drawing blood from the patient and then centrifuging the blood for 10 minutes. The platelet rich clear part of the blood is then injected into the scalp at monthly intervals for three months, then roughly in nine to 12 months for maintenance. Approximately 50% of patients have had regrowth. Patients like it because it is not something done daily at home.”

The most recommended and clinically proven medication for hair loss is Minoxidil. (The brand-name version of Minoxidil is Rogaine). Minoxidil comes in both foam and solution forms and is applied daily. It’s used to hold on to your existing hair and in some cases, to regrow hair. Another medical treatment option for hair loss is low-level l laser light therapy (LLLT). LLLT is done at home 30 minutes every other day. All these treatments have variable results and take about six to nine months to judge.”

Another option is hair transplantation, which Dr. Avram says is, “a safe, effective surgical treatment option. It is done under local anesthesia in the office setting. We remove thousands of follicles from the posterior scalp and place them into thinning spaces in the frontal scalp individual hair grouping at a time. Hair transplantation is consistently natural.”

Things to Avoid When Trying to Make Your Hair More Thick

Over-washing: Roxie Darling, Chase Kusero and Aaron Grenia all said to wash thin hair less. Roxie specified that you wash it no more than three times a week. “This way your scalp has an opportunity to create the good oils that you need to brush through your hair.”

Too much moisture: “Anything super-moisturizing may weigh the hair down,” said Matt Fugate. “Be careful with anything in this vein, like coconut oil. They’re better for when you’re trying to slick hair down, or if you have super-thick hair.”

Making the problem worse: For anyone with thinning hair, Dr. Avram recommends avoiding extra tension on hair follicles, like tight braiding, Brazilian hair straightening and hot combs. “Thin hair breaks easily and can worsen the problem. Shampooing, coloring and blow drying on a regular basis is fine,” he said.

Stress: Man oh man does it always come back to stress. Kérastase’s Matt Fugate, IGK’s Chase Kusero and Aaron Grenia and McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped said to avoid stress, while Dr. Avram confirmed it contributes to hair loss. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s worth trying.

I wonder if low stress is the horse community’s secret. It totally is. I bet they meditate.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Pawaka sunglasses featured throughout.

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  • Babs

    but like, if you were a horse, what kind of horse would you be??

    • Amelia Diamond

      great question. I’m going to go ahead and say a chestnut dutch warmblood ( https://www.pinterest.com/pin/380835712212467452/ ) , hbu?

      • Babs

        nokota!! wild n freeee

        • Amelia Diamond

          !!!!!

      • Calla

        I used to own a chestnut dutch warmblood and she was BEAUTIFUL but kind of moody and a teeny bit insane. I loved her to bits, even after she broke my nose.

  • Gotta admit I was a little skeptical of this article after seeing Amelia, woman-with-the-unattainable-hair-of-a-grecian-goddess, wrote it, but this piece comes with some awesome advice.

    I’m always in some phase of experimentation for what the hell will make my thin hair thicker / longer. Lately I’ve been eating a lot better (tons of produce, seeds, nuts, legumes, blah blah blah). I’ve also been heat styling my hair less and taking a B vitamin with biotin because vegetarianism bordering on veganism and whatnot. I don’t know man, maybe it’s a placebo effect but my hair does seem to be healthier as a result.

    • Amelia Diamond

      god bless you jackie saffert. honestly it sounds like you’re doing what all of these experts say to do!

  • Katie Miller

    My science-y friends think I’m crazy but I’ve been cutting to the moon cycle for years and have no regrets *and no way of knowing if it’s actually effective tbh but my hair is very long and thick ¯_(ツ)_/¯
    http://farmersalmanac.com/calendar/best-days/health-beauty/cut-hair-to-increase-growth/

    • Amelia Diamond

      this comment is susan miller fan club approved

    • Alexandra Queiroz

      The same here! Whenever I want to get a haircut, I make the appointment for the last day before the full moon (or as close to that as possible.) So far, so good!

    • My mom insisted on cutting to the moon cycle when she have me haircuts as a child! I thought it was a Portuguese myth, but I guess not. It seemed she was just giving me excuses when I asked for a haircut when it wasn’t “the right time.” I may need to get back on track 🙂

  • Charlotte

    Great advice!

    I’ve always had very healthy, full hair. However, in December I stopped taking the pill (mine was very high in hormones). Before stopping I read a lot about the effects on the skin and hair. That is why I started to improve my water intake, diet and started taking more high-quality vitamins and supplements (highly dosed multivitamins for women, Skin Hair and Nails, GLA (borage oil linked to skin, hair and balancing hormones), Omega 369, D3, Biotin). I had my blood tested at the doctor before taking these in order to make sure that the levels were suitable for me. I also switched to a silk pillow case and Living Proof Full shampoo, because it doesn’t contain silicones or sulphates (which turns out, makes my hair too dry so I need to find an alternative).

    However, the last weeks I am noticing a big change in the short, fine baby hairs around my hairline. With the slightest touch they fall out or even without touching them. I’ve had them all my life and they are a very distinct, characteristic feature. But suddenly they are falling out in rapid speed – and as a result, I am freaking out! They shape my face and without them, I have a reduced hairline. It’s disheartening to see the shape changing over the course of only two/three weeks.

    If you have tips, please share. I would appreciate any piece of advice! I’m even trying the ‘ginger massage’ thing later today.

    • Hey Charlotte! Something similar happened to me – I switched to a lower hormone pill and suddenly my hair was falling out. It was really traumatic and I shed heavily for about 3 months. I remember visiting my in-laws during that time and was so embarrassed by the clumps of hair I was throwing out and shedding in their home, it was awful. I really hope it goes away for you. <3

      http://www.shessobright.com

      • Charlotte

        Hi Eva, thank you for sharing your experience – although I do not want anybody else to go through this it somehow helps if you are not the only one. Last week I was thinking: am I silly for being so upset about this? But it is indeed traumatic and hair is just very personal. I was wondering how your hair is now? Did the shedding stop and did you experience regrowth?

        PS. Also, I checked out your great blog! As a fellow Pride and Prejudice lover I strongly recommend watching North and South (BBC). It’s more than barely tolerable 😉 Great scene: Any with Thornton haha.

        • I know exactly what you mean – I searched around online quite a bit at the time and only found a few other people in forums that had hair loss from a birth control switch. It sort of just confirms that you’re not imagining it! I think for a few weeks I thought that maybe I was shedding normally but just hadn’t paid attention before, but it was really obvious when I was visiting family that one time! I think what made it also quite worrying for me was realizing how powerful hormones are. I now get quite a few hormone migraines from the 4-day dropoff, and have had to work with my doctors to avoid them. Would prefer to go off birth control all together, aside for that one side effect! Haha!

          Thanks so much for checking out my blog! 🙂 I can watch any English BBC drama at anytime, and I have a faint memory of watching North and South years ago. Lately I’ve been in need of a refresh though, of all those good ones! <3

        • Also – the shedding did stop, and my hair regrew after a few months. I never reached the point of seeing bald spots, at least I don’t think so, I may not have looked, but I definitely had bad thinning. Every shower I would loose a lot too. I assumed it was just the body readjusting the hormone levels, so hopefully that’s the case for you too and it will come back in balance. I would keep track of what you’re noticing and if it doesn’t go away after a few weeks to reach out for a doctor.

    • minnesnowtan

      Hi Charlotte! I don’t really have any advice for you, but wanted to share that a similar thing happened to me when I switched from an oral contraceptive to an IUD about two years ago. About eight weeks after I made the switch, I started losing LARGE amounts of hair in the shower and just, like, going about my day. It was horrifying. I figured it was my hormones adjusting, and waited about four months for it to stop, but eventually gave up and had the IUD taken out and went back on my oral birth control. I felt silly taking out the IUD for a solely cosmetic reason, but I am vain so whatever. The hair loss did stop after I went back on the pill, and as far as I can tell it all grew back, but I am pretty scared to try going off the pill again…

      • Charlotte

        First I felt silly for being this upset about my hair too but then I realised that hair is so personal, and I completely understand your reasons for taking the pill again! Going back is not an option for me – the hormones had a negative effect on my mental health and I feel better than I have in 10 years. Having that said, the stress this is causing is also terrible and feels like I am back to square one. By the way, I am so happy for you that the hair loss stopped and that it all grew back :).

    • ArtsDuMal

      I have a similar problem too. I have PCOS which causes head hair loss AND facial hair growth (FML). Used to take hormonal birth control which helped with symptoms, but now I have a hormonal IUD which gives a different dose of hormones, and my hair and skin have suffered. It’s very personal to me because my hair was always my “thing”- I got a lot of compliments on it and…I don’t anymore. Trying to work with my doctors to figure out a way to treat/ prevent it, but I can’t go back to “regular” hormonal birth control- it made me feel insane!

  • Marielle Castillo

    These are all great tips but if your hair is falling off go see a doctor because it could be a sign of something bigger. This is something I’ve been dealing with on and off for a few years now and it got really bad about two months, to the point that the cleaning lady at work said there was always an alarming amount of hair near my desk. I have a pretty stressful job so I always assumed it was related to stress and anxiety, but I decided to go the doctor to get my hormones checked and turns out I have a severe vitamin D deficiency. On top of a vitamin D supplement, I’ve made some adjustments to my diet (mostly adding more protein since I’m vegetarian) and my hair IS NOT FALLING OFF ANYMORE. This Davines product has also been key http://us.davines.com/energizing-superactive/d/1020 pricey but so worth it!

  • Thank you for these tips – need all the help I can get in this area! Interesting to hear that regular blow-drying is actually OK, as I thought it would exacerbate the problem. I’ve been trying to avoid styling my hair with any heat recently, as I’m going through an extremely stressful period of my life right now (all work, no play and all that jazz) so I can vouch 100% for stress being a factor in hair loss; I really do only have about 3 hairs on my head, and I’m only in my early 20s. It’s so sad/strange because my family members all have lovely, thick hair… ugh, I think I need to get my thyroid checked 🙁

  • I am currently in the not washing my hair stage! I have really fine hair that because of childhood/teenage/college athletics I basically washed everyday growing up. Also, I never had someone tell me to not put conditioner on my scalp, so yeah, that’s been happening for a long time. Now I’m basically washing 1-2 times a week (it’s been about 2 weeks since I started) and I already see a difference. My hair has started to adapt well, and is adjusting the oil production accordingly. I’ve also invested in some hair masks, which should add some shine. Very happy with this approach so far!

    http://www.shessobright.com

  • Basil

    I’m hoping if I follow all these guidelines I’ll get hair like Amelia’s because hers is GLORIOUS

  • Leslie

    Less hair washing sounds nice in theory, but anyone who actually has baby fine, straight hair knows that you wake up in the morning with a un-stylable oil slick on your head. (Being blond makes the grease even more visible.) It looks unhealthy and unprofessional. There’s nothing worse than having your boss and every sales clerk ask if you’re ok all day long.

    • Agreed – I can only get away with every other day. I’ve found that Oribe Dry Texturizing spray helps with giving it more texture than slickness, and then I put it in a bun with pieces hanging out so it looks intentionally messy.

    • Bo

      MATE I feel you. I have fine, straight hair, but a lot of it, if that makes sense, and I can’t get away with washing it less than every day. By 10am of the second day I always end up looking like an extra from one of the crack house scenes in Breaking Bad, which is an okay At Home aesthetic, but problematic when you work in a public hospital 😬😬😬

  • Kate

    Are those…snozzberries?? on your wallpaper??

  • I have very fine hair, and not a ton of it. However, shortly after my wedding, I chopped off about 12″ of it and was like OH MY WORD LOOK AT MY NICE THICK HAIR. It’s still thin and fine, but the shorter style makes it appear a lot thicker / fuller. I have pretty straight/wavy hair so my favorite things to do are:

    1. Use either Davines Curl Mousse OR DryBar Mai Tai Spritzer on it damp, combed through
    2. Blow dry upside down, but with the concentration nozzle on it so I don’t get a ton of frizz, and I don’t like wave around the dryer.
    3. Once it’s 75% dry, I flip it over, take the tiniest bit of Davines Oi Oil and rub it through my hair, and then section my hair into top and bottom with the DryBar clips
    4. Finish blowdrying it with the concentration nozzle pointed down and a boar bristle brush.

    I find this little routine takes like 10-15 mins max, my hair looks full without being frizzy, and I rarely need to use the flat iron afterwards for anything more than making a few stubborn pieces lay straight / flip under rather than flip out.

  • Linny Ganten

    Anyone have any suggestions on how to stop using shampoo?

    My hair is kind of on the thin side, though there is much of it, so it gets oily/dirty rather quickly and it’s very apparent. I’d like to stop using shampoo completely!

    Any tips on fighting past the grease??!

  • Caitlin

    full disclosure I use Quic Silver to keep my very highlighted hair on the ashier side of blonde. Much less expensive than standard purple shampoos +++ the added novelty of having horse beauty products in ya shower

  • Bo

    Tell me more about horse extensions

  • ilse

    Any advise on how to stop washing hair after going to the gym everyday and not looking dirty?

    • Vi Huynh

      something that i’ve found that helps is (if they’re available at your gym) towel then blow-drying hair immediately after a workout so sweat doesn’t sit on your scalp and strands for longer than necessary, then using living proof’s dry shampoo (the HOLY GRAIL of its class imo)

  • Amanda Page

    Please help. My hair has always been my pride and joy. I figured since it is pretty damn healthy, it could deal with some bleach damage. And I figured the master stylist who did all the color-corrections would know how much would be too much. I was wrong, and now I want to burst into tears every time I look at my hair or touch it. I just don’t know what to do. my hair has also NEVER been shorter than this and it breaks and falls out. What should i do to regrow hair?