Information and Solutions for Men and Women

Best Hair Product Ingredients for Thinning Hair

Learn which ingredients to look for in hair products that promote hair growth and healthy hair.

Typically shampoos are composed of a cleansing agent called a surfactant. These are synthetic detergents that lather the hair well. They are good at getting rid of dirt and oil, but often-times they are very harsh on the keratin in hair strands, especially if the hair is already thinning. Keratin, a protein, is the primary component of hair, and is composed of many different amino acids. Many styling practices like blow drying, perming, coloring, and hot-curling reduce these essential amino acids in hair. 287

However, some hair products include ingredients that help boost thinning hair:

Amino acids. Recent research shows that shampoos and conditioners that have the added peptide amino acids histidine, tyrosine, and lysine restore keratin in the hair. 287 Research shows that lysine may even inhibit the enzyme that helps make DHT—an important hormone that contributes to thinning hair. 5

Biotin and biotinylated peptides. Biotin is an essential nutrient for hair and clinical studies also show that when applied topically it can promote hair growth. In addition, products that contain biotinylated peptides to strengthen hair bond better to hair keratin proteins than those with peptides coupled with palmitic acid. 288

Ceramides. Research has shown that these lipid-based compounds are integral components of the hair cuticle. 288 One study has suggested that shampoo containing ceramide lipids can cause them to bind to hair and help prevent breakage, especially in African-American women. 290

Chamaecyparis obtusa. Essential oils from this conifer cypress tree are used in shampoos and reportedly promote hair growth. Lab and animal studies suggest that the C. obtusa oils stimulate production of growth factors (e.g., vascular endothelial growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor) that promote hair growth. 291

Licorice. Look for shampoos with added licorice, an herb that aids in stopping the conversion of testosterone into DHT, the hormone that primarily contributes to androgenetic hair loss. Or try adding some to your favorite product. 292

Moisturizers. Ingredients like shea butter and dimethicone to moisturizing hair. 281

Polymers. Another ingredient used in conditioners (the leave-in type) fills in hair defects while coating the hair with a film that makes it appear thicker. 74

Proteins. Proteins from eggs, caviar, and even beer are used in deep conditioners and hair grooming products to help strengthen hair by temporarily repairing split ends and other damage. They also make hair shinier and more manageable. Collagen, a tough fibrous protein used in some hair-thickening products, can give the appearance of thicker hair. The size of the protein molecule must be small enough to enter the hair shaft, and the longer it is left on the more protein is deposited. 50, 74

Quaternaries. Also called cationic detergents, these ingredients are common in instant, rinse-off conditioners. They are positively charged ammonium compounds that bond to negatively charged hair, improving manageability and shine. 74

Retinoids. Lab, animal, and human studies suggests that topical application of certain retinoids (such as tretinoin) have the ability to block hair loss and promote hair growth by shortening the resting phase, increasing the anagen phase of the hair cycle, and inhibiting hair follicle death. 293 At least one randomized clinical trial indicates these vitamin A derivatives enhance the hair growth promoting effects of minoxidil—possibly by increasing absorption rates of minoxidil. 131

Salvia.Two types of the herb salvia, sage and danshen, reportedly may prevent hair loss; try adding some tinctures of these herbs to your regular shampoo. 292

Silicone. Not only do silicones add softness and moisture to the hair, they may also promote hair repair. New silicone compounds such as dimethicone and amodimethicone can moisten hair, smooth the cuticle, and temporarily mend breakage and split ends. 287

Some herbal products that may help with preventing or treating thinning hair include:

Table 83: Commercial Herbal Grooming Products for Thinning Hair

Amino Acids



Saw palmetto

Vitamin B

Nioxin® shampoo, conditioner, and hair-growth promoter—all of which list biotin as an active ingredient—have been recommended to keep hair loss at a minimum during cancer treatment. 35

Biotin (vitamin B7) and many forms of vitamin B are crucial for healthy hair and skin. 37

Saw palmetto blocks DHT as a natural 5α-reductase inhibitor. 96


Animal studies show that administration of oral sodium thiocyanate increased hair density up to 38%. 294

In one reported placebo-controlled clinical study, 80% of men and women with androgenetic hair loss regrew hair, with most of these maintaining the new growth a year later. 134 However, others note that this study cannot seem to be located. 10

Interestingly, thiocyanate is considered to be an anti-thyroid goitrogen and is readily metabolized when vegetables such as cassava, kale, broccoli, turnips, kohlrabi, and cabbage are consumed. 295


Ginkgo biloba


Clinical studies show that biotin (both oral and topical) and topical melatonin can help regrow hair. 10



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