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Pump Up the Volume: 5 Tricks Men Can Use to Get Thicker Looking Hair

Thicker Looking Hair

Is the comb-over really a good look?  Sure, Donald Trump made it part of his signature, but how many other guys do you know who can or want to make that style work?  If your hair is thinning due to male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, or other reasons don’t stress. Whether you’re 25 or 75, there are ways to increase your hair’s volume, so your hair seems thicker and more attractive.

More Volume Equals Less Scalp

What does it mean to increase your hair’s volume?  Simply put, volume is the amount of hair that covers your  scalp.  Your hair’s thickness is determined by the number of follicles that grow per square inch and the density of those follicles.  If you can’t see your scalp through your hair, you’re in good shape.  If you can, your hair’s volume may be thinning due to genetic or lifestyle factors. 

Men Get Their Hair from their Moms

Not surprising, the main reason why most men start to lose volume is due to male pattern baldness.  Androgenic alopecia is so common it affects 30 to 50 percent of all men by the time they’re 50 years old. (01)  You can blame your Mom.  Male pattern baldness is a genetically inherited condition that stems from the X chromosome. 

Men’s Hair Typically Loses Volume Gradually

With male pattern baldness, you may not notice a loss in volume right away.  Instead, the condition tends to develop slowly starting with a slightly receding hairline or a very small bald spot on the crown of your head.  The progression is gradual because your hair follicles shrink over time, leaving shorter and finer hair.  Eventually, the miniaturization of the follicles prevents new hair from growing.  Fortunately, the follicles remain alive, suggesting that new hair growth is possible.

Your Hair’s Thickness is Also Affected by Your Lifestyle

Are you under a lot of pressure at work?  Are you trying to drop a few pounds, or have you recently started a new medication?  If so, remember that stress, changes in your diet, illnesses, and some medicines can affect your hair’s growth cycle.  If your hair is feeling thin or lacking body, changes in your lifestyle may be the culprit.  The good news is that thinning hair due to these factors can easily be reversed with minimal treatment.  Many cases will resolve on their own without any intervention. 

It’s Easier to Make Your Hair Look Thicker Than Most Men Realize

If dealing with your hair doesn’t top your list of ways you want to spend your time, don’t worry.  Improving your hair’s appearance and quality doesn’t have to take a lot of effort.  Here are five tricks that Dr. Ben Behnam, a leading dermatologist, hair specialist, and co-owner of Dermatology & Skin Restoration Specialists located in Los Angeles, California, recommends to his male patients:

Use the Right Hair Products, the Right Way

Strengthen with Collagen and Keratin Enriched Shampoo 

“When it comes to building volume, not just any shampoo will do,” said Dr. Behnam.  “Choose one that contains both collagen and keratin.”  Collagen, the most abundant protein in your body, helps make up your tendons, ligaments, and skin.  Collagen also contains amino acids that your body uses to make keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. 

Keratin goes deep into the hair follicle, making the hair follicle firmer to smooth frizzy hair and make dull hair shinier.  According to Behnam, “a combination of collagen and keratin will make your hair stronger and healthier to give it a more lustrous appearance.”  

Moisturize with Conditioner 

“If you’re like most men and don’t use a conditioner, it’s time to change your ways,” says Behnam.   He recommends that his male patients use high-quality conditioners to moisturize their hair and provide a protective coating to the outer layers of the hair shaft.  Conditioner gives your hair a nice sheen and a thicker appearance.  For the best result, select a conditioner that doesn’t contain sulfates.  Sulfates inhibit the conditioner’s ability to moisturize by stripping away essential oils that allow the conditioner to work.  Apply conditioner after each time you shampoo.  Remember only to use conditioner on the ends of your hair, and not your scalp.  Too much moisture at the root will weigh your hair down and leave it limp.  

Use Hair Gel Sparingly

Do you use gel or creams to style your hair?  If so, be careful not to overdo it.  Too much gel clumps your hair, making it easier to see your scalp and inadvertently making your hair look more sparse.  In the case of gel, lighter and less give you more.

Consider Using Hair Growth Treatments

Minoxidil 

Minoxodil, sold under the trade name Rogaine, was the first hair regrowth treatment to receive FDA  approval.  The medication is available over-the-counter for men in a five percent foam or liquid.  Prescription Minoxidil is available in higher concentrations as a pill or topical formula.

Minoxidil works by enlarging the size of your hair follicles and extending your hair’s growth cycle.  Numerous research studies have proven that Minoxodil increases growth among men with male pattern baldness. (02)   

Minoxidil is an easy way to add volume if your hair is thinning.  Rogaine is sold at many retail locations and is simple to use.  However, you’ll need to be patient because it takes about three or four months to see signs of growth.  Once you start using Minoxidil, you’ll need to keep using it.  If you stop using the product, you’ll lose any new growth. (03)

Finasteride

Finasteride, the other FDA approved medication for male pattern baldness, is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor medication that is often used to treat an enlarged prostate.  Because Finasteride decreases production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), it has been proven to stop hair loss and promote new growth.  

Men typically do not experience severe adverse effects from FInasteride, but some do have side effects from the oral medication.  If side effects are a concern, topical Finasteride is available and is a good substitute.  Many men actually prefer the topical solution since it works similarly to the pill without systemic effects.  

All-in-one Treatments for Men

New products that combine Minoxidil and Finasteride and other active ingredients into one formula have been proven to be more effective than Minoxidil alone. (04)  Many men prefer the simplicity, convenience, and potency of all-in-one formulas.

If you’re testing a treatment that includes both Minoxidil and Finasteride, make sure that the formula contains retonic acid.  Retonic acid, a compound derived from Vitamin A, significantly improved hair growth among 43 percent of people who did not respond to Minoxidil alone. (05)  It is believed that retinoids work synergistically with Minoxidil to prolong the hair cycle’s anagen phase, increasing the growth rate. (06)

Combination formulas including more than five percent of Minoxidil and Finasteride are often customized and are only available by prescription.  Be sure to work with a board-certified dermatologist to get the compounded formula that best meets your needs. (07)

Avoid Anything that Pulls on Your Hair

“Wearing a tight ponytail, or anything else that pulls on your hair, is a recipe for disaster,” says Dr. Behnam.  Tight hairstyles can cause traction alopecia which is often seen around the temple area.  Early on, traction alopecia will reverse itself if you stop pulling on your hair.  However, longer term pulling can bring scarring and bigger problems.  If you want to avoid traction alopecia, stay away from buns, hats, cornrows, dreadlocks, and braids.

Feed Your Hair

Dr. Behnam often reminds his patients that strong, healthy-looking hair requires a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein.  After all, your hair is made up of a fibrous protein called keratin.  The protein-rich foods we eat feed our hair.  

Good sources of protein include:

  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Organic, grass-fed chicken
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna)
  • Eggs

Adding collagen to your diet is also a good idea.  Collagen, the protein known for your skin’s elasticity, also plays a crucial role in growing strong, healthy hair.  Your body produces collagen, but over time, your production capability diminishes.  So, when your collagen levels begin to drop, your hair may get thinner.  Bone broth, gelatin, and chicken are all good sources of collagen that can help prevent a decrease in volume.

Get the Right Cut

Men with thinning hair often grow their hair long, thinking that the extra length will cover sparse areas.  Quite the opposite is true.  When your hair is shorter, it looks thicker. With short hair, layers camouflage the sparse areas.  Not having the dead ends weighing your hair down makes it look healthier too.

Find a barber or hairstylist who knows how to properly proportion your cut.  According to Parker Plotkin, Master Stylist and Artistic Director at Lotus Hair Studio located in Palm Beach, Florida, and season two Shear Genius stylist, the trick is to balance out thinning areas. “Many stylists tend to give round cuts that are short on top and longer on the sides,” said Plotkin.  “The problem is that the round cut makes the reduced volume on top more prominent.  Most men will look better with a square haircut with close cut sides.”

Consult with a Board-Certified Dermatologist and Hair Specialist

A trip to the dermatologist doesn’t top most guys’ lists of favorite things to do, but if you’re concerned about your thinning hair, you should consult with a professional.  A number of men who are concerned about their loss of volume are self-treating to avoid the embarrassment of a doctor’s visit. (08)  If that’s you, you may want to reconsider.  Board-certified dermatologists and hair specialists are highly experienced with treatments designed to prevent further hair loss and stimulate growth.  The sooner you begin treatment, the faster and better results you’ll get. 

Resources:

(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/
(02) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3900155/
(03) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9777765/
(04) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23193746/
(05) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30974011/
(06) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3063367/
(07) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32166351/
(08) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19514838/