4 of the Best Treatments for Thinning Hair

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While shedding some hair every day (typically between 50 and 100 strands per day) is normal, excessive hair loss can lead to thinning. About half of men experience hair loss by age 50, and 70% lose hair as they get older. Additionally, you may be surprised to learn that 40% of people with hair loss are women, so this isn’t an issue just for men.

Whether thinning hair is preventable or recoverable can depend on the cause. The most common type is age-related hair loss, which happens slowly and progressively as you age. This is called male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss. Here’s an overview of the four of the best treatments for this common type of hair loss.


Minoxidil is a medication that’s available over the counter as a topical treatment for hair loss. It is the first-line treatment for both male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss. Generally, it works best when applied to your scalp every day, for at least a year, to see the best results. If you stop using the treatment, you may find that your hair re-growth also stops.

Over-the-counter minoxidil comes in several forms, including foams, liquids, and shampoos, and they’re usually applied once or twice a day, per the product’s instructions. Typically, it takes a few months to start seeing progress, so patience is required. Additionally, some people do experience side effects, which can include dryness, itchiness, flaking, and burning.  If you notice any side effects, stop using the product and see your doctor.


Finasteride is a prescription treatment for male-pattern hair loss. In addition to minoxidil, finasteride is another first-line treatment for men. It’s an oral treatment that may slow hair thinning or even lead to some regrowth. Typically, those with a prescription take the pill once daily, though it’s critical to take it in accordance with a doctor’s instructions.

Finasteride takes a few months for any benefits to become noticeable, so it also requires patience. Additionally, any progress is only maintained if you continue taking the medication long-term. Stopping the medication typically causes any regrowth to be lost. As with all medications, side effects are possible, including sexual issues, depression, and allergic reactions.

Transplant Surgery

For permanent hair loss affecting the top of the head, hair transplant surgery is a potential treatment. This surgical procedure relocates hair from one part of the head to spots with noticeable thinning. Whether the process involves micro-grafts, mini-grafts, or larger strips of hair can vary. Some surgeons also use tissue-expansion procedures.

Any of these procedures can be uncomfortable and come with risks like bruising, bleeding, swelling, and infection. Some people need multiple treatments to achieve the desired amount of fullness. Even with surgery, hereditary hair loss can progress over time. You should speak with your doctor and a plastic surgeon about whether this option is right for you.

Laser Therapy

Low-level laser therapy is a procedure that aims to stimulate hair growth. While the research on its effectiveness is limited, some studies yielded positive results. It is a low-risk option that’s non-invasive.

Whether laser therapy provides long-term results is unclear. There also isn’t sufficient research to determine whether ongoing treatment is necessary to maintain any regrowth or whether underlying issues – such as a genetic predisposition to hair loss – would cause any new growth to fall out after time. However, there are several devices with FDA approval for use in this capacity. You can speak with your doctor and a dermatologist to learn more about whether this treatment would be a good choice for you.

Next Steps

While male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss are the most common types of hair loss, they are by no means the only cause. Some types of hair loss are due to nutrition deficiencies, altered hormone levels, and medication effects. If you’re concerned about hair loss, you should speak with your doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan.

Medical content reviewed by Brittany Stopa, MPH.

Further Reading:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Do you have hair loss or hair shedding?” Accessed 11 Apr 2023. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. “Why do men go bald? And is there anything you can really do about it?” Published 16 Feb 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-do-men-go-bald-and-is-there-anything-you-can-really-do-about-it/
  3. El Boghdady D. “Yes, women experience thinning hair, too. Here’s why, and possible treatments.” Published 10 Feb 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/yes-women-experience-thinning-hair-too-heres-why-and-possible-treatments/2020/02/07/1da3052a-47a5-11ea-bc78-8a18f7afcee7_story.html
  4. Al Aboud AM, Zito PM. Alopecia. [Updated 2023 Mar 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538178/
  5. Tamashunas NL, Bergfeld WF. “Male and female pattern hair loss: treatable and worth treating.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2021;88(3):173-182. doi: https://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.88a.20014
  6. Medline Plus. “Minoxidil topical.” Last revised 15 Nov 2017. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a689003.html
  7. Medline Plus. “Finasteride.” Last revised 15 Jun 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698016.html
  8. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Hair transplantation and restoration: Surgical hair replacement.” Accessed 11 Apr 2023. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/hair-transplantation-and-restoration/procedure 
  9. Avci P, Gupta GK, Clark J, Wikonkal N, Hamblin MR. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) for treatment of hair loss. Lasers Surg Med. 2014 Feb;46(2):144-51. doi: 10.1002/lsm.22170.