How Thickening Shampoos Work
If your hair is thinning or just limp and flat, you might be curious about the many shampoos promising to stimulate growth and build volume. These shampoos are often part of systems that treat both the scalp and hair before, during, and after shampooing. Some consumers have found these shampoos deliver on their promises. But how do they work, exactly?
In most cases, a combination of ingredients works together to deliver results. For that reason, you might need to try a few different shampooing systems to identify the one that’s best for your hair. Look for shampoos that contain one or more of the ingredients listed here.
The active ingredient in many over-the-counter hair growth products, minoxidil is most effective for men under 40 who are just beginning to lose hair. Minoxidil must be in contact with the scalp for an extended period, so it’s best used as a tonic or leave-in conditioner instead of a shampoo. Note that minoxidil may trigger side effects such as swelling and irritation.
Maybe your follicles are sleepy? Give them a jolt of caffeine and wake them up. The world’s favorite stimulant works to thicken hair by invigorating cells that have gotten lazy. There’s even some hard scientific proof that hair follicles doused in caffeine grow more quickly and exuberantly.
Also known as dimethyl sufone and DMS, this sulfur compound is extracted from apple peels and the flesh of other fruits. DMS is also commonly added to beer. However, its efficiency in hair growth is still unknown. So far, research only suggests it may work as an anti-inflammatory, but some hair chemists think it thickens hair, too.
Science hasn’t quite caught up with holistic enthusiasts who have explored the medicinal and therapeutic properties of plants like turmeric, ginseng, rosemary, and neem. Even without the research to support their effectiveness, botanicals are commonly touted as hair-thickening mechanisms. They also smell good.
The starchy agents known as polymers exist in many forms and usually have long chemical names. A polymer variety called cationic cellulose is often used in thickening shampoos because of its ability to cling to hair and give it more substance. Out of all ingredients that help thicken hair, polymers are probably the most effective.
When choosing your thickening shampoo, also look for traditional, time-tested ingredients that help plump up and nourish hair such as biotin, keratin, and vitamin E. Even after you’ve found a shampoo that works well, don’t rule out any new choices that come along. Scientists continue to work on creating even better shampoos, and the future of thicker hair looks bright.