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How to Stimulate Follicles for Hair Growth

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 12/24/2021

Updated 02/22/2024

So, your hair isn’t growing quite as well as it did in years past. Perhaps you’re seeing the early signs of balding, such as a receding hairline. Or maybe you’ve noticed your hair thinning all over your scalp.

Hair loss can be undoubtedly distressing. But depending on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing, it might be possible to stimulate hair regrowth.

Most forms of hair loss start when hair follicles become damaged or inactive. This means new hair grows slowly or stops growing altogether. The result? Hair that looks thinner, patchy or less healthy than usual.

Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can try to prevent this from happening. You might even be able to reactivate dormant hair follicles to reduce further hair loss and potentially promote hair regrowth.

Let’s talk about how hair grows, what causes hair loss and how to stimulate hair follicles for hair growth.

What Are the Stages of Hair Growth?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to reopen hair follicles, you’ll need to understand the different stages of hair growth each hair follicle passes through during the hair growth cycle.

Most healthy people have between 80,000 to 120,000 hairs on their scalp at any given time. You typically lose (or shed) about 50 to 100 hairs every day — and this shedding is a normal part of the hair growth cycle.

Each hair follicle grows its strand on a different schedule, following a cyclic pattern with three distinct stages of hair growth: the anagen phase, the catagen phase and the telogen phase.

The Anagen Phase

The anagen stage — also known as the growth stage — can last anywhere from two to six years. At any given time, 85 to 90 percent of hair follicles are in this stage.

During the anagen stage, hair cells grow from the hair follicle, which is fed by the blood vessels in the scalp.

The Catagen Phase

Once the hair strand is finished growing, it’ll enter the catagen phase. A fully formed hair strand that’s stopped growing is called a club hair.

During this stage, cell division stops, and the hair stops growing for several weeks. This allows each hair to transition from the anagen phase of active growth to a dormant phase.

The Telogen Phase

The telogen phase is a resting phase during which your hair doesn’t actively grow. Club hairs remain attached to the scalp but stay dormant.

During the telogen phase, hairs typically remain in a resting state for 100 days before falling out. The shedding process is sometimes viewed as its own distinct phase of the hair growth cycle: the exogen phase.

After the hair strand falls out, the hair growth cycle begins again: A new hair will start growing from the follicle to replace the recently shed strand of hair.

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What Are the Main Forms of Hair Loss?

Not all hair loss is the same. In fact, there are numerous types of hair loss, each with its own causes and unique characteristics. Some are temporary, while others are permanent.

Different treatments work for different types of hair loss. And certain forms are harder to treat than others.

Let’s cover the most common types of hair loss and their causes.

Androgenetic Alopecia

The most common type of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia. It’s also called male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness.

If you have androgenetic alopecia, you might experience:

  • Thinning hair on the top of your head

  • A bald patch at the crown of your head

  • A receding hairline near your forehead and temples

Androgenetic alopecia is caused by a combination of genetic factors and sensitivity to the male hormone DHT (short for dihydrotestosterone). DHT can damage hair follicles, leading to pattern baldness.

Telogen Effluvium

If you’ve noticed extra hairs building up in your comb or stuck in your shower drain, you might be experiencing telogen effluvium.

This type of hair loss occurs when more hair follicles than normal enter into the telogen phase. As a result, you’ll shed more hair than usual, resulting in diffuse thinning. This means your hair will get thinner all over your scalp — that is, not in a specific pattern.

Many issues can cause telogen effluvium, including:

  • Severe emotional stress and trauma

  • Certain medications

  • Physical stress (like surgery, high fever, chronic illnesses or major blood loss)

  • Thyroid issues

  • Hormonal imbalances

If a chronic medical issue is contributing to telogen effluvium, treating the condition is the first step.

The good news is that this type of hair loss is usually temporary — and typically, it resolves on its own once the underlying issue goes away.

Anagen Effluvium

Sometimes, medication disrupts your hair cycle. If medication interferes with your hair’s natural growth cycle during the anagen phase, you might experience anagen effluvium. This is a condition where inflammation damages the hair shaft and increases hair breakage.

Chemotherapy, for example, can cause anagen effluvium. While this may be temporary, it can also become permanent if it damages the hair follicle.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is a hair loss condition caused by an autoimmune disease. 

With alopecia areata, your immune system attacks and damages your hair follicles, causing hair on your scalp, face or body to fall out in patches.

This form of hair loss can vary in severity. Mild alopecia areata typically causes small patches of hair loss on the scalp, while more severe forms, such as alopecia universalis, can result in large areas of near-complete hair loss.

Traumatic Alopecia

Traumatic alopecia occurs when your hair follicles are physically damaged.

This type of hair loss can be caused by:

  • Bleaching your hair

  • Using harsh chemicals on your scalp

  • Deliberately pulling your hair out

  • Wearing overly tight hairstyles (traction alopecia)

Traumatic alopecia can be permanent if it goes untreated. But if you treat it quickly, it’s possible to reverse the damage and regrow healthy new hair from your follicles.

Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis is a type of fungal infection on the scalp that can cause hair loss. The fungus affects the follicles, making it harder to grow new hair.

Severe tinea capitis can scar your scalp, which could damage your hair follicles and lead to permanent hair loss.

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Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss

Now that we’ve covered the types of hair loss, let’s go over the difference between hair loss and hair shedding. Although people use the terms interchangeably, they describe two distinct situations.

Hair shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle. It’s normal — and healthy – for some hair to fall out of your scalp from time to time. But as noted, significant hair shedding may be caused by telogen effluvium.

Hair loss, on the other hand, is when your hair stops growing naturally.

If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing hair loss or hair shedding, it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or trichologist (a medical professional specializing in hair and scalp issues).

How to Stimulate Hair Follicles With Medication

Depending on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing, you might be able to stimulate hair regrowth using medications.

At the moment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two drugs for treating hair loss, as well as some additional methods for stimulating hair regrowth.

Finasteride

Also available under the brand name Propecia®, finasteride is a prescription medication for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. It works by preventing the production of DHT.

And it’s pretty effective. Long-term placebo-controlled clinical trials looked at the effects of daily finasteride use on hair growth in men with hair loss. Around 90 percent of participants found that the medication either prevented further hair loss or actually increased hair growth.

Topical finasteride seems effective too. A 2021 clinical trial looked at 458 patients with male pattern baldness and concluded that topical finasteride significantly improved hair count.

Minoxidil

Another clinically proven hair loss treatment is minoxidil. This topical medication works by moving hair follicles into the anagen phase. Minoxidil also stimulates blood flow to the scalp, which may boost hair growth by increasing the supply of nutrients to hair follicles.

Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Rogaine®, a brand-name topical hair loss treatment. But you can purchase generic minoxidil too.

Both minoxidil and finasteride are effective at treating male hair loss on their own, but they work better together. A 2020 review of clinical trials found that combining oral finasteride and topical minoxidil is more effective than using just one of the treatments.

We offer oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in our Hair Power Pack, as well as a combination topical finasteride & minoxidil spray for treating hair loss.

How to Stimulate Hair Follicles Naturally

If medication isn’t an option, or if you’d like to supplement minoxidil or finasteride with some natural hair treatments, there are a variety of strategies you can use.

Supplements for Hair Follicle Regrowth

Nutritional deficiencies can harm your overall health in numerous ways. Certain vitamins are essential for healthy hair growth, and if you have low levels of those nutrients, it can cause hair loss.

A healthcare provider can order blood tests to identify potential deficiencies. To increase your nutrient levels, they might suggest using a supplement — which could have the effect of supporting healthy hair growth.

Popular supplements for hair growth include:

  • Biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin your body uses to produce keratin, the building block of healthy hair and nails. A biotin deficiency can cause hair thinning. You can try our biotin gummy vitamins to boost your levels.

  • Vitamin D. According to research, a vitamin D deficiency may cause hair loss. Moderate sun exposure, vitamin D-rich foods and a high-quality supplement can improve low vitamin D levels.

  • Fatty acids. A 2017 review found that a lack of omega fatty acids could result in poor hair health. However, the review says it’s unclear whether supplements will support healthy hair growth. It might be worth discussing a fatty acid supplement with your healthcare provider.

  • Iron. An iron deficiency can cause a range of health issues, including hair loss.

Alongside supplements, a balanced diet is essential for healthy hair. Make sure you eat food rich in hair-loving vitamins — think fruits, vegetables and whole grains — to keep your body and scalp nourished.

Massaging Your Scalp

Massaging your scalp is another way to potentially stimulate hair growth and keep your follicles active.

In a 2019 study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy, researchers found that scalp massages produced hair regrowth in many men with pattern hair loss. This may be because it improves blood circulation to the dermal papilla cells (located at the base of the hair follicles), which play a role in the formation of new hair.

Other research has found that regular scalp massages can increase hair thickness and the expression of genes related to the hair growth cycle.

You can massage your scalp by gently moving your fingertips in small circles in areas with hair loss. Using light to moderate pressure, try massaging for a few minutes each day in the morning for optimal results.

Essential Oils

Some research suggests certain essential oils can stimulate hair regrowth.

In one study, regular scalp massages with rosemary essential oil worked as well as minoxidil at improving hair count. Rosemary oil, however, was less likely to cause an itchy scalp, a common side effect of minoxidil.

A 2014 study found that peppermint essential oil increased follicle count and hair growth in mice. But there haven’t been any clinical trials that tested whether peppermint oil improves human hair growth.

Though there’s a lack of research on the benefits of essential oils for stimulating human hair growth, it could be worth a try — especially if you’re pairing them with regular scalp massages.

Essential oils are super strong and can irritate your scalp if you don’t dilute them. You can mix a few drops into a carrier oil (like jojoba oil or coconut oil) before applying them to your scalp. Alternatively, add essential oils to your shampoo or other hair products.

Hair Products for Hair Regrowth

Finally, many hair products contain ingredients that could stimulate hair follicles and promote hair growth.

For example, our hair thickening shampoo is formulated with saw palmetto. Research suggests that saw palmetto could block DHT, thus protecting hair follicles from damage.

Many hair products also contain caffeine. One study found that a caffeine-based topical hair product worked about as well as minoxidil 5% solution to improve hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia. Our volumizing shampoo contains caffeine extract.

Because poor scalp health can cause hair loss, it’s crucial to look out for the overall health of your scalp. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should wash your hair frequently and use a shampoo and conditioner appropriate for your hair type. Dandruff should also be treated with the right shampoo or topical product.

Other Options for Treating Hair Loss

Beyond hair loss medication, certain procedures and therapies can be used to reactivate hair follicles and stimulate new hair growth.

Hair Transplant Surgery

Hair transplant surgery involves taking hair follicles from an area of your scalp with normal hair growth and transplanting them to an area with significant hair loss (for example, on the crown or hairline).

While effective, this procedure can be costly. The price will depend on how many hair follicles you need to transplant.

Microneedling

If you’re not afraid of needles, microneedling with a dermaroller could be an option for stimulating hair regrowth.

In a 2013 study, 100 men with male pattern baldness were given a treatment that included either minoxidil or minoxidil used with a dermaroller. While both groups experienced hair regrowth, those who used a dermaroller with minoxidil experienced a statistically significant increase in growth.

More recently, a 2017 review concluded that microneedling for hair loss is “promising” and has few side effects when done correctly.

Corticosteroid Injections

If your hair loss is caused by alopecia areata — an autoimmune condition — anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary.

Corticosteroids, a type of anti-inflammatory drug, can be injected directly into the scalp to reduce scalp inflammation. This prevents further damage to the hair follicles.

A recent study showed that corticosteroid injections are generally effective at stimulating hair growth in people with alopecia areata. However, your hair loss might resume after you stop using the injections.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy

Platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, involves drawing your blood and placing it into a machine that separates it into parts, one being platelet-rich plasma. The platelet-rich plasma is then injected into your scalp.

While PRP for hair loss is a fairly new treatment, it’s become quite popular over the past few years. Research has found that PRP treatments prolong the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle.

That said, this type of hair growth treatment needs to be repeated on a regular basis, so it can become pretty costly.

Laser Therapy

Laser hair growth treatment (also called low-level light therapy or LTTT) uses laser light to stimulate follicular growth. Like PRP and corticosteroid injections, it requires repeated sessions.

Laser therapy may improve hair growth by stimulating hair follicles and moving them into the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. It can be helpful for treating hair loss caused by alopecia areata or chemotherapy.

A 2020 review published in the journal Skin Appendage Disorders concluded that laser hair therapy appears to be effective for the treatment of hair loss. Most side effects are minor. But the study also noted that some of the available research was funded by the laser hair device industry.

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The Bottom Line on Reactivating Hair Follicles

There are many methods available for the regrowth of hair follicles, from medication to surgery to scalp massage.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Your treatment will depend on the cause of your hair loss. For example, while finasteride is proven to be effective for treating androgenetic alopecia, corticosteroids are more suitable for those with alopecia areata.

  • Medication is generally the most effective way to reactivate hair follicles. Finasteride and minoxidil — which can be combined — are FDA-approved medications scientifically proven to treat hair loss.

  • You can also take some natural approaches to reduce hair loss. Massage might stimulate hair follicles, while supplements can ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to create new hair cells.

Want to empower yourself with more knowledge? Read our blogs for science-backed tips for hair growth and the best treatments for thinning hair.

We offer a number of men’s hair loss treatments, including minoxidil and finasteride, as well as various supplements and products to support healthy hair growth.

If you’ve noticed hair loss or hair shedding, it’s best to act sooner rather than later. Take the first step today and book an appointment to speak with an online healthcare provider about your options for stimulating hair growth.

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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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