Shampoo is a hair care product that is used to cleanse the scalp and hair. It is typically made from a mixture of water, surfactants (such as sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS), emulsifiers (such as glycerin), and sometimes includes conditioners and fragrances. Shampoo is applied to wet hair, massaged into the scalp, and then rinsed out.
Most shampoos contain chemicals that can be harsh on our hair and scalp. Some of these chemicals can cause dryness, brittle hair, and even hair loss.
What Causes Hair Loss?
The average person loses 50–100 hairs a day. The fact that new hair grows simultaneously usually makes this unnoticeable. When newly grown hair does not replenish the lost hair, hair loss results.
Usually, several of these factors contribute to hair loss:
- Genetics (Androgenetic Alopecia): The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary, referred to as androgenetic alopecia or male/female pattern baldness. A person’s genes influence it, often resulting in a gradual, predictable hair thinning.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations can lead to hair loss. For instance, an excess of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone, can contribute to hair thinning in men. In women, hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause, or the use of birth control pills can also trigger hair loss.
- Stress: Emotional or physical stress can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to telogen effluvium. That typically results in excessive shedding and thinning of hair.
- Supplements and medications: Drugs used to treat arthritis, cancer, depression, heart issues, gout, and high blood pressure can have side effects, including hair loss.
- Hairstyling and Treatments: Tight hairstyles like cornrows or braids, frequent use of strong hair treatments, and excessive heat styling can harm hair and lead to hair loss.
It’s important to note that the specific cause of hair loss can vary from person to person. Suppose you are experiencing significant hair loss or have concerns about your hair. In that case, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional or a dermatologist who can diagnose and recommend appropriate treatments or lifestyle changes to address the underlying cause.
Does shampoo contain something that may damage your hair?
It’s conceivable. The amount will vary depending on the shampoo you use. Shampoos provide several vital tasks in addition to cleaning your hair and scalp, such as:
- Offer cosmetic benefits (pleasant feel and smell)
- Remove any prior hair products.
- Avoid skin irritation
- Address issues with the hair or scalp (such as dandruff or greasy or oily hair).
Some shampoos contain up to 30 different substances to do all of this, including diverse chemicals that aid in the stability and presentability of a shampoo.
Every one of these factors has a unique purpose. However, some of these may result in other health concerns. Certain components may be taken out of cosmetic items if further research exposes their negative effects on health.
Now, let’s go through some common shampoo ingredients, followed by those that might be related to hair loss.
Common Shampoo Ingredients
You can discover the following common ingredients in your shampoo:
- Detergents: These are the main cleansers that aid in removing oil and dirt; they are typically surfactants. Typical examples are various sulfates, such as sodium laureth and sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Conditioners: They lessen static and help make hair glossy and manageable. Dimethicone and propylene glycol are two examples found in shampoo.
- Thickeners and opacifiers: It does not affect cleansing; instead, it gives the shampoo a richer, more enticing feel. Sodium chloride and glycol distearate are two examples.
- Sequestering agents: These help in preventing the formation of soap scum. One such is ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid.
- Preservatives: These prevent germ growth and extend the life of the shampoo. Common examples are formaldehyde releasers and parabens such as quaternium-15, 5-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, and 1,3-dimethylol-5.
- Special additives: These consist of items like vitamins and chemical sunscreens.
What Types of Hair Loss Are Associated with Shampoo?
Hair loss can be a distressing concern for many individuals, and various factors can contribute to it. While shampoo is generally used for cleansing the hair and scalp, certain types of hair loss can be associated with the use of shampoo.
It’s important to note that these instances are relatively rare and may depend on individual sensitivity or specific shampoo ingredients.
Here are some types of hair loss that can be linked to shampoo:
- Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic to certain ingredients found in shampoos, such as fragrances, preservatives, or sulfates. In severe cases, allergic contact dermatitis can lead to scalp irritation, redness, itching, and hair loss due to continuous scratching and inflammation.
- Chemical Damage: Overusing shampoos that contain harsh chemicals or frequent use of hair products like dyes and relaxers can weaken the hair shaft, making it prone to breakage. That can result in hair thinning and eventual loss.
- Scalp Conditions: Shampoos that do not effectively address specific scalp conditions, such as dandruff or psoriasis, can exacerbate these issues. Chronic scalp conditions can lead to hair loss if left untreated.
- Overuse of Styling Products: Shampoo alone may not cause hair loss, but when combined with excessive use of styling products like gels, sprays, or heat styling tools, it can lead to hair damage and loss over time.
If you suspect your shampoo is causing hair-related issues, consider switching to a milder, sulfate-free formula or consulting a dermatologist for a proper evaluation and personalized advice.
Shampoo Ingredients That May Cause Hair Loss
Shampoo is thought to contain anywhere between ten and thirty different ingredients, including additives, special care ingredients, conditioning agents, and cleansing agents (surfactants). Hair loss has been linked to a few of these components. Clinical research is, however, rare.
Chemicals called sulfates have strong cleansing properties. The idea underlying sulfates and hair loss is that some substances, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, irritate and damage hair follicles. Breakage due to damage to a hair follicle can mimic or look like hair loss.
Low levels of formaldehyde are regarded as safe. It is used to destroy bacteria and extend the shelf life of cosmetic products. However, the International Agency for Cancer Research has classified excessive levels of formaldehyde as a group 1 human carcinogen. Numerous formaldehyde donors—chemical compounds that gradually release formaldehyde—are also included in cosmetics.
When shampooing your hair daily, you shouldn’t be directly exposed to high formaldehyde levels. However, hair products may leak formaldehyde into the air, which at certain concentrations may irritate your nose, eyes, and lungs, in addition to causing allergic dermatitis or skin sensitivity. Those who use hair straightening or smoothing solutions or work in hair salons are more likely to be exposed to this material.
Despite the goods’ claims to be formaldehyde-free, several class-action lawsuits were filed against companies that utilize DMDM hydantoin, a well-known formaldehyde source. There are claims that these products irritate the scalp and lead to hair loss. Although no clinical studies link this ingredient to hair loss, it may irritate the scalp. Additionally, hair loss is linked to an unhealthy scalp.
Given that keratin makes up most of the hair, it makes it reasonable that treatments frequently contain it. These treatments aim to make your hair stronger and shiny while lowering frizz.
However, there are issues with this fantastic cosmetic product. First, formaldehyde, known to be bad for hair and health, is frequently used in keratin treatments.
Secondly, hair that has had keratin treatments may become brittle because of the intense heat, leading to fallout and breaks.
One kind of silicon product found in hair products is dimethicone. Although silicon protects your hair, it can accumulate over time. This buildup may block your scalp’s pores, depriving your hair of moisture and nutrients and causing hair loss. But there’s no study to support this theory. Using dimethicone and all silicon products cautiously and stopping them if you see buildup or hair loss may be the best action.
Which shampoos and treatments are connected to hair loss?
Many complaints have been made stating that specific products or ingredients cause hair loss, yet there isn’t enough evidence to support these claims. The main concerns with these products and treatments are listed here.
Unilever TRESemmé Keratin Conditioners and Shampoo
There have been numerous reports of severe burns to the scalp and hair loss following the use of TRESemmé keratin products containing DMDM hydantoin. Several states have seen the filing of class-action lawsuits against Unilever over these products. In addition, Unilever (the company that recalled their product in question) resolved a previous, similar complaint.
Johnson & Johnson OGX shampoo
Johnson & Johnson is the target of a class-action lawsuit regarding its OGX shampoo and several other hair products. Many people using OGX products with DMDM hydantoin have complained of hair loss and scalp irritation.
Straight Arrow Mane ‘n Tail Conditioners and Shampoo
DMDM hydantoin-containing Mane’ n Tail products have been linked to bald patches and scalp irritation for some people. Because Straight Arrow products use formaldehyde releasers in multiple of its products, a class-action complaint has been launched against the company.
WEN hair products
After using specific WEN hair products, many people complained of hair loss. WEN’s manufacturers were the target of class-action lawsuits, which ended in a settlement. These goods were the subject of an earlier inquiry by the FDA. The ingredients that may have caused these reactions are unknown, and the investigation remains underway.
DevaCurl hair products
Some cases claimed that specific DevaCurl products caused breakage, irritation, and hair loss on the scalp. Following the consolidation of these lawsuits, mediation has begun.
Reading about other people’s experiences using specific products might be informative, but remember that different people may react differently to various chemicals. Furthermore, remember that a settlement doesn’t mean the product manufacturer acknowledges liability.
How Much Shampoo Should Be Used Each Time We Wash Our Hair
The amount of shampoo that should be used each time we wash our hair depends on the length and thickness of our hair. For short or thin hair, a small amount of shampoo (about the size of a quarter) may be sufficient. For long or thick hair, a larger amount (about the size of a golf ball) may be necessary.
How Often Should We Wash Our Hair
The frequency with which we wash our hair is also important. If we wash our hair too often, we can strip it of its natural oils, leading to dryness and breakage. On the other hand, if we don’t wash our hair often enough, dirt and oil can build up, leading to scalp irritation and possible hair loss.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that people with healthy hair wash it every two to three days. People with oily hair may need to wash their hair daily.
How to Tell if You’re Using Too Much Shampoo
If you’re using too much shampoo, you’ll notice that your hair feels stripped of its natural oils. It may look dry, brittle, and frizzy. It may also tangle more easily.
If you think you might be using too much shampoo, try washing your hair less often. You may also want to switch to a gentler, sulfate-free formula.
How to Prevent Hair Loss Caused by Shampoo
The tips listed below help you avoid excessive hair loss when shampooing.
- Determining your hair type and scalp is the first and most important step in stopping hair loss.
- Create a hair care routine for your hair type, scalp, and concerns.
- Before every hair wash, massage the scalp using hot oil, like coconut, jojoba, argan, or almond oil.
- Use a mild, gentle, sulfate-free shampoo whenever possible, especially for your scalp.
- Refrain from brushing your hair while wet or in the shower. When your hair is wet, the strands are the weakest. You will only experience increased hair loss if you brush in that condition.
- After washing your hair, always use a hair conditioner. In addition to sealing in moisture, an excellent hydrating conditioner lowers the chance of damage, dryness, and hair loss. Additionally, look through the ingredients of the hair conditioner. It must include hydrolyzed keratin, butter (such as mango or shea butter), natural oils, and other ingredients that strengthen your hair.
- Use vitamin B5 and vitamin E-containing hair care products.
- After your hair has dried, gently comb through it with a gentle brush.
- Limit your time using heat-styling items and products on your hair, such as a dryer or curling rod.
- Steer clear of tight accessories and hairstyles that could pull or bind the hair uncomfortably or unpleasantly. Your hair roots will be harmed if you do this frequently or for extended periods, accelerating hair loss.
Alternative Ways to Clean Our Hair Without Using Shampoo
There are a few alternative ways to clean your hair without using shampoo.
One method is to use a conditioner only. This is also known as the “no poo” method.
Another way is to use a baking soda and water mixture to clean your hair. You can also use diluted vinegar to rinse your hair after washing it with baking soda.
Washing your hair with just water is another alternative. This method is called co-washing.
Finally, you could try using dry shampoo if you don’t want to wash your hair with water at all.
While shampoo is necessary for keeping our hair clean and healthy, some people worry that it may also cause hair loss. There is no evidence that shampoo itself can cause hair loss. However, if we shampoo our hair too often or use a harsh shampoo, it can strip our hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness and breakage. This can make our hair appear thinner and weaker, and may eventually lead to hair loss.
To avoid this, the AAD recommends using a mild shampoo and only washing our hair
If you’re experiencing hair loss, you may want to consider a hair transplant in Orange County CA. This is a surgical procedure that involves taking hair from one area of the scalp and transplanting it to another.
Orange County Hair transplants are usually only recommended for people with severe hair loss. They’re also very expensive, so it’s important to weigh all your options before deciding on this treatment.
Dr. George Brennan is a hair transplant surgeon in Newport Beach CA with over 40 years of expertise. He is certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.