Q: What can I take to make my hair thicker and make it grow faster? I already take a lot of natural vitamins and eat a healthy diet.

A: A healthy diet, adequate rest, exercise, avoiding stress as much as possible, and having regular checkups with your doctor will help keep your body healthy and give your hair the best chance to grow.

Some medical conditions, including thyroid problems, can diminish hair growth. Scalp conditions can cause hair loss. Putting stress on your hair, such as by twisting or braiding it, can cause hair loss. Avoid this stress and treat any medical conditions that can cause hair loss to keep your hair growing well.

Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for females to make hair grow thicker and faster. Minoxidil (Rogaine, generics) applied to the scalp may cause some small hairs to grow in areas of thinning hair, but the effect ends once you stop using the minoxidil. Some shampoos can make hair feel thicker, although they do not change the diameter of the hairs.

Scientists are working to develop ingredients that will make hair thicker and grow faster, and they are making progress. Latisse is a prescription substance that appears to stimulate the growth of eyelash hair.

For now, the best chance for growing hair is to maintain a healthy scalp and body, and to treat any underlying condition.

Rebecca Campen, M.D., J.D. is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School. She divides her time between clinical practice of dermatology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and private practice in Savannah, Ga.

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