A beauty consultant and former hairdresser by profession, Jayne has been helping men and women improve their appearance for almost 20 years.
Not quite ready to embrace baldness? Learn how to use hair loss concealers (like DermMatch and Couvre) and hair building fibers (like Toppik and HSR) to make thinning hair look fuller and more abundant.
What Are Hair Loss Concealer and Hair-Building Fibers?
Before purchasing a product to help combat or conceal hair loss, it's important to familiarize yourself with the available product categories on the market. Hair loss concealer and hair-building fibers are two of the most common.
Hair Loss Concealer
There are two types of hair loss concealers. Both are rich in moisturizers, and both are safe for sufferers of alopecia, including androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness).
- Products like DermMatch are colored, water-activated powders that mask bald patches, leaving a matte finish and an impression of depth and fullness, even under bright lights or strong sunshine.
- Products like Couvre do the same job, but come as a lotion. Although these tend to be available at lower prices than water-activated powder products, they don’t ususally last as long.
Hair-building fibers are microfibers that bond to the hair with static electricity, making it look fuller and more abundant. Fibers are usually packaged in shaker containers for easy application.
There are two types of product: fibers made of natural keratin (the primary component of human hair), and synthetic fibers. Results are the same whichever you choose. The only noticeable difference is price. A natural keratin product like Toppik retails for a great deal more than its synthetic counterpart, Hair So Real (HSR).
Which Product Do You Need?
Now that you're familiar with the two main product types, how do you decide which one is right for you?
When to Use Concealer
If you don’t intend to go bald, and you don’t want others to notice you’re balding, start using hair loss concealer the moment your scalp becomes visible through your hair. Hair-building fibers can be used instead of concealer at this stage, but concealer is less expensive in the long term and works equally well.
When to Use Hair Building Fibers
Hair building fibers make existing hair look denser. Apply fibers when your hair is too thin for hair loss concealer alone to be effective.
Which Color to Choose
Color choices are somewhat limited, so select a shade close to your own, and think in terms of lightness and darkness instead of trying to get a perfect match.
Because hair loss concealer is intended to create an impression of depth, make sure it's either the exact same degree of darkness as your hair or a tad darker. A shade too light would appear powdery and unnatural.
Hair-building fibers must be of exactly the same degree of darkness as your hair. As with hair loss concealer, if the fibers are too light, the effect will be powdery. If they are too dark, the color will seem patchy and too saturated to be natural.
What if Your Hair Is Highlighted?
If your hair is streaked or highlighted, use concealer and fibers of the same degree of darkness as your darkest hair.
For Gray and White Hair
Concealer and fibers are available in gray and white. If your hair is a combination of both, choose according to your dominant color.
How to Use Hair Loss Concealer
Apply hair loss concealer only where hair exists, whether it’s thinning hair or a comb-over. A "comb-over" in our sense isn’t the contrived-looking type that sweeps from one ear to the other. If you’re balding at the crown, comb your hair back. If your hairline and temples are thinning, get your barber or hairdresser to cut your hair so that it can be combed forward. With clever styling, you can also pull hair up from the sides to inconspicuously cover the temples.
You’ll obviously have to dampen the supplied sponge applicator before applying a water-activated product, but you'll get a better finish if you do the same when using a lotion. Don’t literally wet the sponge; it should only be slightly moist.
Concealer is more easily applied to wet hair, but this can result in a dull, chalky appearance. If you find this to be the case, apply to dry hair.
For a Thinning Hairline and Temples
To disguise thinning hair at the front of your head and at the temples, apply concealer from behind your hairline where you still have plenty of hair and blend with quick, short strokes in all directions. Blending at the front should fade out where your hairline begins. You can go a little over the hairline at the temples, but only if there’s enough hair to comb over.
If You're Thinning at the Crown
If you're thinning on top and/or toward the back, blend from the center of the balding area in all directions toward and into the thicker surrounding hair. You’ll need an extra hand mirror to see what you’re doing.
How to Use Hair-Building Fibers
It's recommended that you use hair-building fibers in conjunction with hair loss concealer. In so doing, you'll be able to apply fewer fibers, which gives more natural-looking results. Also, you might find that some fibers slip through your thinning hair and land on your scalp; this cannot be prevented, but it's not noticeable if you're wearing concealer.
Only apply fibers to freshly washed and completely dry hair. In order to ensure that the fibers bind to your hair, shake the container before use to generate static electricity. Instead of just sprinkling, hold the container upside down over your head and tap the bottom very lightly. This way you’ll have more control over how much product you apply—too much will make your hair look matted and unnatural.
Direct the product firstly where your hair is at its thinnest, then add a lesser amount to the surrounding hair. Wipe away fibers that land on your forehead with a cotton pad.
In spite of static electricity, the fibers still need fixing with hairspray or a spray-on gel. Spray from a fair distance or you’ll blast the fibers away. Direct from where your hair is at its thinnest towards the thicker, surrounding hair to improve blending. If your style needs adjusting after spraying, do it before the spray sets using your fingers.
A Step-by-Step Guide
For a better idea of how it works, here is a step by step guide to applying hair loss concealer in conjunction with hair-building fibers. It may seem complicated, but you'll soon have it down to a routine.
- Wash and towel dry your hair.
- If using, apply hair regrowth medications like minoxidil (e.g. Rogaine) and finasteride (e.g. Propecia).
- Apply mousse and other styling products.
- Comb your hair forward.
- Apply concealer.
- Dry your hair thoroughly.
- Comb or brush your hair into shape.
- Apply hair-building fibers.
- Fix fibers with hairspray or spray-on gel.
If you prefer to apply concealer after drying your hair in step six, go over your hair again with a hairdryer to get rid of any moisture retained in the concealer.
Do You Need Special Hair-Care Products?
Expensive keratin shampoos and conditioners designed to complement concealers and fibers won’t noticeably "fatten" your hair as manufacturers claim. Stick to regular hair care products formulated for your hair type.
Sprays marketed specifically to fix fibers don’t do the job any better than any other hairspray or spray-on gel.
Be Warned: Concealer and Fibers Can Restrict Your Lifestyle
Consider your lifestyle before investing in hair loss concealer and/or hair building fibers. They can prove restrictive.
- You won’t be able to wear any kind of headgear like caps, hats, hoods, and helmets, which might present a problem if you’re a motorcyclist or work on a construction site.
- Concealer and fibers are sweat-proof, but no matter what manufacturers claim, you won’t be able to get your hair too wet. That means you’ll have to carry an umbrella at all times, and a visit to the pool could prove awkward.
- If you don’t wash your hair before going to bed, your pillow will be a confounded mess in the morning. Even worse, you might not have time to apply your "hair" if you oversleep.
- You’ll have to guard your hair with your life if you don’t want people ruffling it or running their fingers through it.
How Long Can You Use Concealer and Fibers?
Unfortunately, male pattern baldness is ongoing, and concealers and fibers will only work for as long as you still have at least some hair—in other words, you probably won't be able to use them forever.
Consider concealer and fibers a temporary measure while undergoing a hair regrowth treatment with minoxidil or finasteride, or while waiting until a hair transplant or hair replacement system becomes justifiable.
If you don’t intend to take a more permanent measure, perhaps it’s better to let nature take its course and embrace and accept inevitable baldness sooner rather than later.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Jayne Lancer
Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on January 01, 2020:
@Makhosi: If you can find a way of sleeping while wearing the concealer without it looking a mess in the morning.
Makhosi on December 24, 2019:
If my treatment requires me to shampoo after every 2-3 days, will I be able to use concealers with that treatment?