When you’re looking for remedies for thinning hair, thickening shampoo seems like a no-brainer. After all, you’re going to be washing your hair either way, so you might as well use something that’ll help it look thicker and cleaner.

Of course, not all shampoos are created equal—and not all of them can deliver on their big promises. So we wrote this guide to help you avoid wasting your money on stuff that won’t get the job done.

What does thickening shampoo do?

Shampooing already helps give your hair some volume because grease and dirt can weigh down your locks. (Shampoo also helps protect your hair from future damage.) By including ingredients that keep hair follicles clean and nourished, thickening shampoo (also called “volumizing shampoo”) aims to make thin or thinning hair look thicker and fuller.

Many of them, especially thickening shampoos, also say they can stop hair loss on their own, but you should be skeptical of such claims.

Here’s why…

How is thickening shampoo different from “hair loss” shampoo?

According to hair loss expert and Keeps medical advisor Dr. Jerry Shapiro, hair loss shampoo works best “if you have a scalp condition,” such as dandruff or psoriasis. Both conditions can cause or exacerbate hair loss.

There are studies that show that shampoos that contain the antifungal medication ketoconazole or natural DHT blockers may slow down hair loss by relieving dandruff and psoriasis. However, there’s no evidence yet that either type of shampoo is effective enough to be the only treatment you’re using.

So, does thickening shampoo actually work to make your hair look better?

Yup! Thickening shampoo can’t treat hair loss on its own, but it really can give your hair a fuller, healthier-looking appearance over time. How? Every day, sweat, dirt, and styling products gather on your scalp and clog up your hair follicles. Left unaddressed, these common pollutants can damage or even kill the follicles.

Thickening shampoo keeps your follicles clean and healthy, which helps your hair look as thick and full as possible.

What’s the difference between thickening and volumizing shampoo?

“Thickening” and “volumizing” might sound like they mean the same thing, but on a shampoo bottle these similar words can actually refer to very different ingredients and effects. Volumizing shampoos aim to make your mane look fuller, so they typically use lightweight ingredients that won’t weigh your hair down at the roots. To see a big difference in the quality of your hair from a volumizing shampoo, you would’ve had to be using a relatively heavy shampoo before trying it.

On the other hand, thickening shampoo targets individual strands of hair rather than just the roots. This shampoo works by using ingredients like protein and collagen to strengthen and thicken each strand. Unlike volumizing shampoo, thickening shampoo typically also includes ingredients intended to boost hair health in the long term, like biotin or saw palmetto.

What ingredients can help my hair look thicker?

If you want to know if a hair product actually works, you usually don’t have to look further than the ingredient list on the back of the bottle. Of course, that only helps if you know what you’re looking for.

Studies say these ingredients can help hair look thicker:

On the other hand, you’ll want to avoid these ingredients, which may damage hair:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl
  • parabens
  • phthalates
  • triethanolamine

How often should I use it?

We’re guessing you don’t need a refresher on how to wash your hair, but you might be surprised to learn how often you should be washing it. Yes, cleaner hair does look fuller, but it’s always possible to get too much of a good thing.

Be sure to shampoo your hair no more than two to three times a week for about two to five minutes. (Unless it’s medicated shampoo and your doctor says otherwise.) If you wash it too often, you’ll strip your scalp of natural oils it needs to stay healthy.


To recap, thickening shampoo can’t stop hair loss on its own, but it can help you maximize the hair you have. That said, it’ll only work if it includes ingredients that boost hair health and excludes ones that weigh hair down or damage it. Once you know what to look for, you’ll get the most out of every shower.

And once you’ve got that down? It’s on to conditioner!


The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Finasteride is an oral medication used to treat male pattern baldness in men only. It is not for use by women. When used by men, finasteride is generally safe but it can also cause serious side effects, including but not limited to allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, and high-grade prostate cancer. Most patients find that problems with sexual function resolve when they stop taking the medicine. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.

Ketoconazole is an antifungal medicine used to treat certain kinds of fungal or yeast infections. When used as prescribed, ketoconazole is generally safe, but it also can cause side effects. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, pain, tingling or numbness. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.

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