I'm a Beauty Editor With Alopecia, and I Rely on These 5 Non-Prescription Products to Make My Hair Look Fuller

After trying almost everything, I’ve finally found an effective hair care routine.

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Alopecia Hair Loss Products
Photo: Andrew Neel/Unsplashs

If you want to know the emotional and psychological toll that hair loss has on a person, just look through the 'hidden photos' album on my iPhone. No, really, the folder currently holds 887 photos of the top of my head from different angles. (Please don't judge the fact that I'm paying for extra iCloud storage for this reason alone.) I've been documenting my suspected hair loss for over a year — a year of embarrassment, insecurity, and constantly obsessing over my rapidly thinning hair.

I was in total denial when I first noticed the growing bald spot on the crown of my head a little over a year ago. I went to a dermatologist, who told me it was telogen effluvium — a stress-induced form of hair loss — and that it would grow back in three to six months. Spoiler alert: It didn't.

After more doctors appointments, blood tests, and dead ends, I finally found an answer through a wonderful dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. She did a thorough examination and concluded that it was, in fact, androgenetic alopecia.

In layman's terms, this form of alopecia is a condition "related to the sensitivity of hair follicles to our hormones, which is primarily genetically determined," New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, MD, told InStyle, adding that doctors will often start by prescribing hormonal prescription medications (like oral contraceptives and spironolactone), which can be effective in making the scalp hair thicker. Over-the-counter minoxidil is also effective for some women.

My dermatologist started me on a couple of prescription medications, but this was far from my first foray into the world of possible hair loss remedies. For over a year, I obsessed over finding a solution (even if temporary) and tried everything from laser caps to essential oils to scalp detoxifying treatments. After the heartbreak of watching my locks fall down the shower drain every day for far too long, through my experimentation, I've finally found a combination of non-prescription products that make my hair look fuller, thicker, and longer.

5 Alopecia Hair Loss Treatments a Beauty Editor Recommends

None of these treatments made my hair magically grow back overnight (I'm leaving the task of hair regrowth to my prescription medications). And while they certainly won't cure a genetic condition, these over-the-counter products have given me a little more confidence in my day-to-day routine. They've been my life raft throughout this journey, and if you're dealing with hair loss, I hope they can give you some better hair days, too.

Ouai Scalp Serum

SCALP SERUM
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Maybe it's just my Instagram algorithm, but I feel like the market is wildly oversaturated with scalp serums. By now, I've tried half a dozen, and the only one that's truly made a difference for me is Oaui's Scalp Serum. The brand doesn't give false hope that its serum will magically regrow hair, but I've noticed that since I started using it, I'm shedding significantly less. Plus, it's hydrating enough to alleviate scalp itchiness, which has in turn reduced the amount of dandruff I used to see regularly. I use it daily, applying a couple drops around my scalp and rubbing it in with my fingers, and it lifts my hair at the root — making it look particularly voluminous after I blow dry.

Shop now: $52; amazon.com and ulta.com

Nioxin Cleanser Shampoo

Nioxin System 2 Cleanser Shampoo
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There's a reason we've written about this beloved shampoo multiple times before — yes, it's that good. Alyssa Milano told fans it was one of three products that "helped tremendously" with post-COVID hair loss, and I can attest that it really works. Nioxin's Cleanser Shampoo is not only volumizing, but it's also clarifying — it removes any greasy residue or oil buildup on my scalp (and as anyone with thin strands knows, buildup can happen quickly). I usually do two thorough washes when I use it: the first to fully remove any buildup, and the second to actually cleanse my scalp. This may be the biggest game changer I've come across, and I don't know if I can ever use another shampoo again.

Pro tip: I add a couple of drops of rosemary oil (I like this $11 option) into my lather. Studies indicate the oil's vasodilating properties may have a similar effect to minoxidil. Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, explained that "rosemary oil can increase blood circulation to the scalp, improving nutrient and oxygen flow to the hair follicles." The shampoo works as a carrier so that I'm not applying the oil directly to my scalp, and since I've incorporated this duo into my routine, I've noticed my baby hairs nearly double.

Shop now: $27-$43; amazon.com and ulta.com

Fekkai Full Blown Volume Conditioner

Full Blown Volume Conditioner
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After trying plenty of moisturizing products, I begrudgingly accepted that these formulas just don't have the same effect on thinning hair; Dr. Nazarian confirmed my hunch. "When people use thicker moisturizers or oil-based products, it weighs down those thinner strands more than it does for people who do not have androgenetic alopecia and have a higher hair density and thickness," she said. But that doesn't mean you should give up on moisturizing entirely; it's just a matter of finding the best product for your hair type. Fekkai's Full Blown Volume Conditioner is one of the few conditioners I've used that's able to hydrate my hair without leaving a greasy residue; not to mention, it actually adds volume. The lightweight formula is safe for color-and keratin-treated hair, and it leaves behind a fresh, floral scent that isn't overpowering. (Just remember to only apply it on the hair shaft, rather than at your roots.) My ends feel smoother without looking greasy, which, as I've mentioned, is an impressive feat.

Shop now: $24; amazon.com and ulta.com

Goldie Locks Signature Serum

Signature Serum
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I hadn't heard of Goldie Locks before receiving its hair care system as a gift from the brand. I'm pretty thorough when it comes to researching hair serums since even a small pump of most anti-frizz serums weigh down my thinning hair — but Goldie Locks' Signature Serum is different. It's the only formula I'll use for a polished, glossy look that's not overly oily because it effectively sets baby hairs that are growing in (and it looks particularly sleek after I style with a hot tool). I recommend only using a half-pump of the product if you have fine hair, and a little goes a long way, making it all the more worth the $56 price tag.

Shop now: $56; goldielocks.com

Vegamour Gro Dry Shampoo

GRO Dry Shampoo
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Since overwashing your hair can disturb the natural oils on your scalp and lead to dry, easily breakable strands, I try to only wash my hair two or three times a week. And while I tell myself that it's going to pay off in the long run, my willpower is seriously tested every time my hair starts to look greasy. The go-to solution for many people with fine hair is dry shampoo, but it's always been hit or miss for me — the last thing I want is powdery splotches all over my head to call more attention to my thinning hair. Vegamour's Gro Dry Shampoo, however, gives me the matte, grease-free coverage I need, minus the chalky-looking finish. Plus, the plant-based formula gives my hair a subtle yet noticeable lift, making it look thicker while filling in the particularly patchy spots. The Nicole Kidman-approved brand has a handful of other winning picks (like its famous Gro Hair Serum and Biotin Gummies), but its dry shampoo has truly helped bring life back to my hair on those in-between wash days.

Shop now: $32; vegamour.com

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