One of the most embarrassing and self-esteem destroying things I’ve ever experienced was the thinning of my hair due to over-processing. At some point during my repeated dye jobs and heat styling, my hair just gave up and began rapidly thinning to the point of being able to see my scalp. Since my hair is already fine to begin with, the added thinning of it was absolutely mortifying and made me completely and totally desperate to try and reverse the damage I had done. While it’s a known fact that you can’t make your hair grow faster or repair split ends, you most certainly can try to prevent further damage and create a healthy environment for new growth – that’s where Nioxin comes in.
Nioxin is a hair line made specifically for those who struggle with thinning hair, and is designed to clear the scalp of all sorts of nasty stuff like sebum and buildup to promote healthier and thicker hair growth. I actually vaguely remember using Nioxin as a kid, probably because my mom used it, but I never really paid attention to it or the effects it had on my hair, and particularly my scalp. Fast forward 10 years later to last March, and my mom and I are at Ulta looking at the various Nioxin systems to try and determine which would be best for my hair. In all honesty, I was very ticked off at her for even suggesting the concept of me using Nioxin – at that time I was in the thick of experimenting with the likes of Bumble and Bumble, Ojon, and Pureology, so I had literally no interest in using this line that I truly thought was meant only for people who’s hair is falling out in clumps. While my hair wasn’t at that stage, it was pretty close, so ultimately I caved and chose Nioxin System 3 after carefully analyzing the following system chart:
- System 1: System 1 is specially designed for normal to thin-looking, fine, natural hair. It amplifies hair texture while refreshing the scalp and delivering a healthy shine.
- System 2: System 2 is specially designed for noticeably thinning, fine, natural hair. It delivers denser-looking hair and a healthy shine while protecting the scalp.
- System 3: System 3 is specially designed for normal to thin-looking, fine, chemically treated hair. It amplifies hair texture while refreshing the scalp and providing moisture balance to colored hair.
- System 4: System 4 is specially designed for noticeably thinning, fine, chemically-treated hair. It delivers denser-looking hair while protecting the scalp and providing moisture balance to colored hair.
- System 5: System 5 is specially designed for normal to thin-looking, medium to coarse, natural or chemically-treated hair. It delivers smoothing control to hair while refreshing the scalp and restoring moisture balance.
- System 6: System 6 is specially designed for noticeably thinning, medium to coarse, natural or chemically-treated hair. It delivers smoothing control to hair while protecting the scalp and restoring moisture balance.
Obviously it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed with all the options you can choose from, but ultimately I chose System 3 because it mentions three core concepts for my hair type – fine, chemically treated, and in need of moisture. At this point in the game my hair itself was looking like cotton candy, and was desperately in need of moisture; my scalp felt tight and burned from all the peroxide of repeated dyeing, so it needed moisture almost more than my hair. There are three items included in each kit (though you can buy them separately): cleanser, scalp therapy, and scalp treatment. After using all three exclusively for almost 4 months, I’m ready to weigh in on whether Nioxin actually delivers its claims, piece by piece:
- Cleanser: When I first used this stuff, I seriously thought it was a clarifying shampoo. It removed everything, and I do mean everything, from my scalp, including my color! This is probably the most stripping shampoo I have ever used, which can be either a gift or a curse depending on how you look at it – the good being that it clears away all the sebum and buildup so the follicles are clear to promote growth, and the bad being that the natural oils and color are also stripped, which means lots of dryness if you don’t follow up with a conditioner. It is of a green, gel-like consistency, and falling in line with my previous experiences with gel-like shampoos, this is more stripping than a cream-based cleanser. This cleanser is loaded with menthol (which is known to be a natural cleansing ingredient), to the point where it feels like you’ve dumped a vat of pure peppermint on your scalp, but ultimately I like the feeling of menthol so this didn’t bother me. I was uncomfortable using this on a daily basis due to how stripping it is, but I sacrificed my color and made sure to use a heavy-duty conditioner because I was determined to get my hair back to health. That said, if you have even a remote sensitivity to menthol and/or your hair is extremely dry, you need to steer clear of Nioxin as a brand because all of their cleansers perform the same way as this one.
- Scalp Therapy: This is just a fancy name for conditioner, but quite frankly it performs no better than your standard run-of-the-mill drugstore conditioner, with the exception of the tingle of menthol. It’s the industry standard medium consistency cream that you find in all conditioners. Out of all three steps, this is probably the one you can afford to skip because, aside from Nioxin’s claims that it restores moisture balance, it’s pretty nondescript and doesn’t contain any life-altering ingredients. I used this for the first two weeks and, feeling dried out and underwhelmed, ultimately switched to a heavier conditioner because this stuff just doesn’t cut it in the moisture department, especially when compared to how incredibly drying the accompanying cleanser is.
- Scalp Treatment: In my opinion, the scalp treatment is the standout product in the Nioxin range. It is to be used after cleansing and conditioning with the cleanser and therapy, kind of like a leave-in conditioner. That said, it feels absolutely terrible when you put it on your scalp and hair. For some reason, probably to cover a wider area, Nioxin decided to make this stuff foam, which is an absolute mess and kind of a pain to apply to the scalp. You truly are only supposed to apply it to your scalp, but that’s near impossible so it’s inevitable that you end up with some on your hair, which dries it out beyond comprehension. If you plan on using this, it’s imperative that you have a leave-in conditioner on hand to combat the dryness of this treatment. However, despite all of that, this product actually did manage to help my hair come in thicker!
It’s been almost a year since I finished using Nioxin System 3, and for quite some time I had mixed feelings about the results. Looking back at it now, though, I actually can say with complete confidence that it actually did make a difference. Compared to where my hair was before I started using it, my hair at the end of my run with Nioxin was noticeably thicker, stronger, and my scalp was in way better shape than it was before I started.
Does it work? Yes. Is it an enjoyable experience? Absolutely not. This is one of those things where you have to put your personal health over your vanity and just deal, because the results really are worth it.
Oh, and a note on cost: every kit costs approximately $44 at Ulta, and luckily Nioxin as a brand in its entirety is not barred from coupons. For that $44, you get a 10oz. cleanser, 5oz. conditioner, and 3.4oz treatment. You can also buy each product separately, but if you go that route each product is upwards of $15, so it’s definitely a better deal to just get the kit.
As much of a pain as it was to use Nioxin, the results speak for themselves, and for that I would highly recommend the brand as a whole to anyone who struggles with hair growth, thinning, or scalp issues.