Do Hair-Thickening Shampoos and Conditioners Really Work? We Found Out


(Image credit: @chadkenyon)

Before you invest in a shampoo (or conditioner for that matter) that claims to give you the full, luscious locks of your dreams, there are a few things you should consider beforehand. Although the actual density within your strands (determined by genetics) can't really be altered with a shampoo or conditioner alone, there are products out there that can help your strands look and feel thicker with the right ingredients

So first, what can you actually do to help your strands grow and look their absolute best? It starts at the root. Take it from R+Co co-founder and Creative Director Howard McLaren. "Healthy hair really starts with a healthy scalp environment," he says. "Genetics, environmental issues, medical issues, and stress can all play a role in the thickness and density of your hair. However, some thickening products can increase the feeling of thickness to your hair as well as create that healthy scalp environment to help your hair be in its best condition."


(Image credit: @ariel_hauck)

Aside from keeping your scalp in tip-top shape, your next question might be, How do thickening shampoos and conditioners really work, then? According to McLaren, they perform a bit of a magician's trick. They use powerful conditioning and growth-promoting ingredients like biotin that plump the hair follicle and increase strand strength over time. "The more moisture a strand of hair has, the more it swells and plumps, giving the appearance of thicker hair. Biotin improves the keratin infrastructure of hair and increases strength and vitality for thicker, more abundant locks," he says.

Basically, if you're looking for a way to help your hair appear less flat and lifeless, investing in one of these sets just might be worth it. It's important to know beforehand that the ingredients usually used in these types of products don't change the actual genetic structure of your hair; they just help each strand be the best version of itself. With that in mind, I've rounded up a few of the best thickening shampoos and conditioners below for you to shop if you'd like to go that route. 

1. R+Co Dallas Biotin Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner

McLaren gave us the lowdown on one of R+Co's most popular sets. It's packed with nutrient-rich ingredients that help locks stay extra strong. "Provitamin B5 provides intense hydration while artichoke leaf extract (a powerful antioxidant) protects the scalp from free radicals and UV rays. It's also packed with minerals that revitalize dry, damaged hair. Hydrolyzed rice protein locks in moisture and helps prevent breakage and improves strength. Basil-root extract optimizes the scalp environment and promotes hair density. Saw palmetto berry extract adds body to hair, helping it to appear thicker. Lastly, the loquat fruit extract in it is packed with vital nutrients and minerals that help maintain a full mane," he says.

2. OGX Thick & Full + Biotin & Collagen Volumizing Shampoo & Conditioner

The combination of biotin and collagen in this thickening shampoo-and-conditioner set is everything. Both ingredients work together to promote stronger hair without weighing it down or making it feel greasy.

3. Living Proof Full Shampoo & Conditioner

This is another set that focuses on building a clean, nourished, and healthy scalp to help strands look their thickest. It contains Living Proof's Healthy Hair Molecule, which removes excess buildup and helps repel future dirt and oil to keep hair cleaner longer.

4. Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo & Conditioner

Ouai's Fine Hair Shampoo and Conditioner set is safe to use on color-treated strands and utilizes ingredients like chia-seed oil, keratin, and biotin to really strengthen the hair shaft.

5. Josh Rosebrook Nourish Shampoo & Conditioner

Containing highly nutrient-dense ingredients like aloe-leaf juice, coconut oil, burdock-root extract, and hempseed oil, this set encourages hair strength and growth—two factors that are a must for full-looking locks.

6. Bondi Boost Thickening Therapy Shampoo & Conditioner

Bondi Boost is known for its incredible hair-growth products, but this thickening set is equally as good. Hyaluronic acid, ginseng, and sea kelp in this formula all strengthen and plump each strand of hair to really pump up the volume.��

7. Innersense Organic Beauty Pure Harmony Hairbath & Hydrating Cream Hairbath

The Pure Harmony set from Innersense really helps build body for finer hair textures. It provides long-term strength with ingredients like quinoa, rice extracts, shea butter, coconut, and avocado oil. It also leaves hair balanced, healthy, and full of volume.

8. Tea Tree Lemon Sage Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner

This set contains thickening agents and another ingredient called panthenol (a form of vitamin B5) that helps promote extra hair growth. Add in the invigorating scents of lemon, sage, and peppermint, and you have yourself the perfect strand-boosting cocktail.

9. Evolvh InstaVolume Cleansing Treatment & Volumizing Elixir

If you'd just like to give your hair a bit more lift, Evolvh's InstaVolume Cleansing Treatment gets the job done. It's a powerful in-shower treatment that doesn't even need a conditioner afterward—so you're saving precious time and money while also volumizing your hair. The Volumizing Elixir, on the other hand, is a leave-in conditioning spray you can use on wet hair afterward to further increase fullness and balance the pH of your scalp.

10. Avalon Organics Therapy Thickening Biotin-B Complex Shampoo & Conditioner

Avalon Organics' Therapy Thickening set helps build volume and thickness over time with a special biotin-rich complex. The formula is pH balanced and deeply conditions strands with other ingredients like saw palmetto, quinoa protein, and vitamin E. Your hair will be stronger and more luscious than ever after long-term use.

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated. 

Up Next: I Never Go to Bed Without Doing These 5 Things for My Long Hair

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.