11 Ways to Strengthen Hair for Thicker, Fuller Lengths

<p>Getty Images: <a href="https://www.gettyimages.com/search/photographer?photographer=Westend61">Westend61</a></p>

Getty Images: Westend61

Whether hair has become weak due to an overload of heat damage, one too many balayage sessions, or the lingering effects of COVID, reinstating its strength is the secret to getting it shiny, smooth, and voluminous. Rest assured that even though our hair is constantly under a barrage of damaging elements, plenty of expert-recommended tips, tricks, products, and treatments can help strengthen it.

So, how can you tell if your hair is weak or just needs a little pick-me-up? According to certified trichologist William Gaunitz, FWTS, and the founder of Advanced Trichology, you can scope it out by examining hair's overall density close to the scalp. If it's weak, it will appear fragmented and stringy. Helen Reavey, a celebrity hairstylist, trichologist, and the founder of Act + Acre, says an elasticity strand test is also an easy way to validate the hair's strength. On wet hair, gently pull a single strand until it reaches its resistance point. Then, release it. "Hair that bounces back is strong and elastic, but if it stays stretched out, it is likely weak and damaged," she says.

Related: How to Fix Dry Hair, According to Stylists

On average, it can take a few weeks to three months to see a noticeable difference in the hair's strength, but once the difference is seen and felt, you'll never want to resort backward. Ahead, everything you'll want to take note of to regain strong, resilient hair.

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<p>Getty Images: Klaus Vedfelt</p>

Getty Images: Klaus Vedfelt

1. Load Up on Supercharged Hair Treatments

Hair that lacks moisture is likely to become brittle, break, and split. While using conditioner after every shampoo is a given, Reavey says incorporating deep hydrating treatments with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin will increase moisture retention throughout the hair and scalp, plus boost elasticity within the hair follicles. "Glycerin is a humectant, so it draws moisture from the atmosphere to hydrate the hair," she explains. "It's perfect to use when the scalp feels dry."

Bond builders such as K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask ($75), Epres Bond Repair Treatment Starter Kit ($48), and Verb Bonding Mask ($20) also mend and fortify weak hair. Bond builders work differently than conditioners and hair masks because they rebuild damaged bonds between keratin fibers, enhancing the hair shaft. However, Reavey warns not to overuse them, which can deliver too much protein and result in flat, lifeless hair.

2. Try Hair Slugging

For persistently dry hair that lacks strength, hair slugging, which consists of coating hair in lightweight oil and then wrapping it in a microfiber towel or bonnet overnight, is a great way to ensure it stays moisturized. "The hair slugging trend takes after hair oiling, an Ayurvedic practice used to restore moisture and hydration to the hair and scalp," says Reavey. "You can even extend the practice to the scalp to ensure the scalp microbiome is hydrated and balanced."

Related: Should You Try Slugging With Oily Skin? Here's Everything You Need to Know

3. Re-Evaluate Your Diet

A nutrient-, iron- and vitamin-dense diet strengthens hair at the root to reduce shedding while keeping split ends at bay. Some nutrients and vitamins hold more hair-strengthening powers than others. Dermatologist Jeffrey A. Rapaport says vitamins A, C, E, and D, as well as zinc, iron, and marine collagen, are essential to incorporate into the diet to help improve weak hair, fortify the hair shaft, and promote scalp health. An easy way to get more hair-helping nutrients and vitamins is to eat more carrots, spinach, citrus-based fruits, seeds and nuts, sweet potatoes, and avocados.

You'll also want to get a daily dose of vitamin K, which aids in the moisture department and protects the follicles so they are strong. Omega-3s, found in proteins and good fats like olive oil, nuts, and salmon, and biotin (when a true deficiency exists), can help strengthen the hair to grow stronger. Beyond what you eat, Reavey recommends drinking enough water so the body can efficiently transport oxygen and nutrients to the scalp, which is necessary for healthy hair.

4. Don't Neglect Your Scalp

Good hair days start at the scalp. When the scalp microbiome is optimal, it creates a breeding ground for healthy hair. "The scalp is essential in assuring nutrients are appropriately distributed to the hair follicle and utilized to produce a proper hair shaft," explains Dr. Rappaport. "Inflammatory processes and microbiome changes such as psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and bacteria can stimulate the production of cytokines that lead to a loss of stem cells and a less robust hair shaft." To counteract inflammatory effects that can influence the hair's strength, he recommends WeThrivv Revivv ($160), which has botanical ingredients that enhance proper scalp functions to stimulate the hair.

5. Massage Scalp Regularly

Frequent scalp massages are a cheap, quick, and effective way to stimulate blood flow. "Scalp massages can be a powerful technique to support scalp and hair health, leading to stronger hair," says Gaunitz. To perform a scalp massage, apply rosemary, tea tree, or coconut oil to the scalp. Dr. Rapaport says these oils can improve the hair shaft and balance the scalp. Then, using the fingertips or a scalp massaging device, apply light pressure and massage the scalp in a circular motion for 10 minutes. Finally, shampoo the scalp and continue with your hair care routine.

6. Don't Skip Shampoo Too Often

There's a lot of misinformation surrounding how often to shampoo the hair. "It's a myth that you shouldn't wash it often," says Reavey. "No evidence shows shampooing to be damaging to the hair." Using a shampoo for damaged hair can, in fact, help prevent further damage. Instead, she says perception studies show the opposite and that heat tools, not shampooing, cause damage and dryness.

Related: The 12 Best Clarifying Shampoos of 2023

Shampooing is essential for clean hair and a fresh-feeling scalp, and while how often one should do so varies from person to person, Gaunitz recommends avoiding shampoos and conditioners with harsh chemicals, such as sulfates, PEGs, propylene glycol, and other petroleum-based by-products which can inflame the scalp. He also recommends a lightweight, nourishing conditioner like HairSTEM Conditioner, which soothes the scalp yet doesn't leave behind excessive residue.

<p>Getty Images: Kathrin Ziegler</p>

Getty Images: Kathrin Ziegler

7. Brush Frequently, But Don't Overdo It

Routinely brushing the hair distributes the scalp's natural oils to maintain shine and hydration. "Excessively brushing the hair and using too much pressure puts tension on the hair shaft, causing it to weaken over time," says Reavey. Instead, treat the hair with TLC and use a gentle brush like Act + Acre's Detangling Brush ($34). Reavy shares that the brush features double-length bristles that gently work through tangles without causing damage. Boar-bristle hairbrushes are also beneficial since they do a good job of distributing oil from the scalp down. To keep the hair healthy and resilient, Dr. Rapaport says to brush dry hair once or twice a day maximum and never brush wet hair.

8. Try a Supplement

When delicate hair becomes a problem, oftentimes, a supplement can be helpful. To reap the benefits, Dr. Rapaport says a hair supplement must include multiple vitamins, such as A, C, D, and E, and zinc to improve hair strength. Gaunitz adds that vitamin D3 is also essential to incorporate since it supports liver and immune system functionality to decrease inflammation for thicker hair and healthier sebaceous glands.

"I also like iron, which improves ferritin levels so that the hair grows thick and full," he explains. "When ferritin levels are low, the body automatically withdraws nutrients from the hair, decreasing its strength and density." Finally, Reavey says plant extract and amino acids, which support common nutrient deficits of the modern diet, should also be contained in a daily vitamin or supplement routine to support scalp and hair health at a cellular level.


Keep in mind that consistency counts, and the results from a supplement take about three to six months to surface.

9. Use Less Heat

Heat may be the secret to achieving a flawless style, but it is also the ultimate hair offender, especially in excessive amounts. "Heat removes moisture from the hair strand and weakens its keratin bonds, thereby breaking the hair cuticle and causing split ends," Reavey says. Since going heatless isn't always an option, Dr. Rapaport encourages using lower heat settings when styling the hair. He explains that exposing hair to heat at temperatures over 300 degrees transforms the hair's alpha-keratin to beta-keratin, which has less elasticity and strength, making hair more prone to future damage.

Of course, when using heat, applying a heat protectant first is a must to shield the hair. Heatless curling kits, like the one from Mermade Hair ($33), are also helpful, as are hot plate-free styling tools, such as the Dyson Airstrait Straightener ($499), which straightens wet hair with air for zero damage.

10. Cut Your Hair Regularly

While the jury is still out on whether routine haircuts can make your hair grow faster, they can help strengthen it. When the ends of the hair are damaged, they're likely to split, compromising the hair's health and length. Gaunitz says cutting off the split end completely and keeping a clean cut may prevent additional breakage from happening quickly. And remember: A major chop isn't always necessary. Cutting off one centimeter every six to eight weeks should do the job.

11. Sleep on Satin or Silk Pillowcases

Sleeping on cotton pillowcases increases the risk of damage to delicate strands since moving the head around creates friction within the hair. Instead, swap your standard pillowcase for a silk or satin one. "Silk pillowcases reduce friction to decrease micro breakage and minimize tugging on hair strands, which could damage the cuticle," says Gaunitz.

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