A bathroom covered with loose strands or an ever-scrawnier ponytail can be startling but doesn't necessarily mean anything's wrong.
By age 50, half of women will complain of hair loss. "As we age, overall hair density changes and individual strands become finer," says dermatologist Doris J. Day.
But just because thinning is natural doesn't mean you have to accept it.
|Rethink your meals|
Now, this is easy.
Hair thrives on protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Get them from lean meats, leafy greens, nuts, beans, and fish. (These seven speedy fish dinners will put you on the right track.)
|Massage your scalp|
You're halfway there every time you shampoo.
Massaging your head in the shower improves blood flow to the scalp. This means a better environment for hair growth, but it also aids the penetration of any treatment shampoos you use.
|Cut down on styling|
The easiest fix you never considered.
Hair dryers and irons, especially if you already color, can cause breakage and thinning. Reduce your use.
Still the only FDA-approved, proven ingredient.
The drug has years of research to back it up, and about 50 percent of women using it see improvement.
"Minoxidil can enhance the size of the follicle so that it produces a bigger strand of hair," says Wilma Bergfeld, a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist.
Try Pantene Expert Minoxidil Topical Solution Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women ($24; pantene.com).
Sometimes a supplement is all you need.
"The combination of fish protein, vitamin C, zinc, biotin, and niacin in Viviscal supplements encourages the body to produce healthier, thicker strands," says New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. ($50; viviscal.com)
|Check for deficiencies|
You're probably overdue for a checkup anyway.
Routine blood work can test your ferritin (iron stored in the blood) and vitamin D. Low levels can lead to hair loss, and the fix may be as simple as adding an iron or vitamin supplement.
Get a pro treatment at home.
Laser treatments reduce the inflammation in follicles that inhibits them from regenerating.
In a recent study, researchers saw significant increases in density after 26 weeks of twice-weekly treatments with a take-home device that looks like a flatiron with embedded lights: the HairMax LaserComb ($295; hairmax.com).
Just breathe--seriously, it could help.
Both sudden and chronic stress can halt hair growth. If you've been through a challenging experience (divorce, job change), hair should grow back. If you're under constant pressure, master meditation--easier said than done, but your hair will thank you.
|Get a checkup|
Every once in a while, hair loss is a symptom of something else that's going on with your body.
If your hair loss is sudden and excessive or simple solutions aren't working, talk with your doctor about other possibilities. Find out more here.
|Drug options in the pipeline|
The very same drug that thickens lashes could someday help your scalp. In fact, a few doctors prescribe Latisse off-label to regrow hair.
Hair cloning, in which new hair is produced from the DNA of existing strands, may soon be possible. Researchers discovered a new molecular pathway that, when activated, could grow hair in dormant follicles.
In a promising new treatment, platelet-rich plasma is injected into the scalp to help stimulate healing and hair growth. In one recent study, people who received PRP had significantly more regrowth and higher levels of a marker for cell proliferation.
|Talk to your doc about hormone therapy|
If it's serious, consider an Rx.
Some women are genetically predisposed to female-pattern hair loss, and birth control pills can suppress overproduction of male hormones. At menopause, thinning increases; if you're on hormone therapy, it may minimize hair loss.
|Consider cortisone shots|
They hurt, but they work.
lnjecting cortisone directly into the scalp blocks the hormonal activity that induces hair thinning. This works especially well in patients with inflammatory scalp disease, says Bergfeld.
|Pump up the volume|
Wash only every other day with a shampoo for flakes, like Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo ($8; drugstore.com). The key ingredient, zinc, may promote hair growth, says Bergfeld.
A volumizing gel like Julien Farel Inflate Styling Balm ($23; amazon.com) helps bulk up strands.
Powders that contain keratin fibers, like Toppik Hair Building Fibers ($25; toppik.com), intertwine around your existing hair to give the illusion of fullness.
According to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, hair health is tied to two things: kidney energy and the blood, which nourish the hair.
The solution: acupuncture and Chinese herbs. While there isn't a lot of hard science to back this up, Maureen Conant, a TCM practitioner at Full Bloom Acupuncture in Seattle, says that she's seen women's hair stop falling out and then gradually regenerate after a few months of weekly treatments. (Here are six more reasons to give acupuncture a try.)