Some experts estimate that 50 percent of women experience some form of hair loss by age 50, but you probably wouldn't know that. The reason: Most people aren't comfortable talking about their thinning hair, so it remains a silent, shameful secret.
That silence makes it hard for others struggling with the same issue to know what works—and what doesn't. Of course, just because a product or technique didn't help one woman regrow hair doesn't mean it won't do the trick for you. But when all you see are ads for "miracle" products, you know you're only getting half the story.
The women below decided to help us fill in the blanks by opening up about their own failed attempts to put a stop to their hair loss. (Lose up to 25 pounds in 2 months—and look more radiant than ever—with Prevention's new Younger In 8 Weeks plan!)
Volumizing products and natural remedies
"I first started noticing my hair thinning in 2011, when one day over the summer, I saw more hair than usual come out in the shower. Since then I've tried everything: extra conditioning, not brushing as often, trimming it more often, home remedies like avocado and oatmeal soaks, changing my shampoo. I even started using mousse and special shampoos that are supposed to add volume. Nothing worked.
I was ultimately diagnosed with Hashimoto's, a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid and leads to hypothyroidism. One of the many symptoms is thinning hair. After my doctor put me on thyroid medication my hair eventually grew back, but it took about a year." —Cindy Rodriguez, 33, New Jersey
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Minoxidil, diet changes, and supplements
"Just after turning 40, I started experiencing more hair loss than usual. My doctor did the standard tests for vitamin deficiencies and thyroid function, but everything came up normal. She sent me to a dermatologist, who suggested that I take zinc supplements and use a minoxidil-based topical treatment. At the same time, I started eating more fresh fruit and green vegetables.
I bought 2% minoxidil solution, but the smell was so penetrating that I could smell myself all day in meetings and it made me very self-conscious. It also made my hair greasy-looking. I already had very sparse fine hair, and I didn't want it to look like it was unwashed, so I stopped using it.
I also started the zinc tablets, but they were really hard on my stomach, and since my internist had said my zinc levels were normal I couldn't justify taking them anymore. Other combination supplements—I tried some with vitamin B12 and biotin—didn't work for me, either. I don't think any hair supplements really help unless you're deficient in those nutrients to begin with." —Maria Halasz, 51, Australia
Birth control, prescription meds, diet changes, special shampoos
"I've had alopecia since I was 19 and have gone to three different dermatologists in two different cities, one Chinese herbal doctor, one general practitioner, and a hair loss specialist. I've tried prescription meds, biotin supplements, vitamins, hair oil, changing my birth control, teas, cold laser treatments, an herbal regime, seven different shampoos, three different specialized diets, and an infinite amount of homemade remedies and hair masks. None of them worked.
I also tried spironolactone, an androgen blocker, which is often given to women with hair loss or polycystic ovarian syndrome. It worked for a little while but then stopped. The laser product recommended by the hair loss specialist in L.A. didn't really work at all. The shampoos/gels were the best I had tried, but at $17 per bottle for the shampoo and $60 for the conditioner, I couldn't afford to keep using them." —Eleni Cotsis, 23, Colombia
"My hair has always been thin, but it got worse when I became pregnant with my son. During the first half of the pregnancy I lost about 25% of my hair, and later I experienced the common postpartum shed. When I asked my doctors about it, they brushed it off. Because I was otherwise healthy—my blood work always came back normal—they treated it as a vanity issue. My endocrinologist eventually prescribed spironolactone, but it made me lose even more hair. I also applied Rogaine twice a day for about six months but didn't see any significant results.
Eventually my hair follicules 'miniaturized,' so the hair I do have left resembles cotton candy. Even if I could stop the loss, there's little I could do to thicken my hair back to its original state. I've since moved on to wearing toppers and wigs. I like the way I look when I have my faux hair on, but when I take it off at night, I deflate a bit. With my beautiful 'helper hair' I feel like me; without it, I look older, more tired, and even heavier than I am." —Lauren Nicole, 35, Texas
"I first started noticing hair loss in my mid 20s. I was working in a stressful job at a start-up and was in a relationship that fell apart. At first I was pretty oblivious to how it looked, but then I saw a picture that was taken when my hair was wet from swimming and I could really see my scalp.
I have tried a number of special shampoos, and I think they are good at volumizing, but nothing will re-grow hair. You can only try to keep the hair you have. I have been using Rogaine for almost two years now at the suggestion of my mom's doctor. It just helps you to keep the hair that you have, and I can honestly say that I have noticed that my hair has really maintained its level of thickness over those two years. I know I can never stop or more will fall out.
Meanwhile, stress is still a factor, and it's often unavoidable. In December my husband had a 95% artery blockage and three stents put in, so I'm afraid that when my hair goes through its next natural shedding phase in a few months a lot more than usual is going to fall out." —Tennille Boyer, 40, Virginia
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"I first started noticing my hair thinning when I was in my late 30s, and I was devastated. My doctor recommended Rogaine, but it made me dizzy and gave me heart palpitations. The formula has since improved, so I tried it again, but I started developing skin reactions to it.
I am now researching Acell + PRP injection therapy, a new but promising treatment that involves having a doctor inject your own blood into your scalp to stimulate hair growth. I recently met with a board-certified plastic surgeon who's experienced in it. Because I'm 66 now, he wasn't very hopeful that I would regrow new hair but felt strongly that it would prevent further hair loss. I plan on seeing two more specialists before deciding if I should try it—I'm really hoping to regrow new hair.
In the meantime, I follow three practices that have improved the texture of my hair and seem to prevent it from falling out as much as it used to: I wash it with warm water and rinse with cold water; when I color it, I only get the roots done; and I use Biolage hydrating shampoo and conditioner, which helps my hair look a little thicker." —Rose Hurley, 66, Virginia