Head & Shoulders – Does it Cause or Help Hair Loss?

So you’re wondering if your Head & Shoulders shampoo could be a cause of your hair loss?

The thing with hair loss is, it’s always incredibly difficult to tell what helps, and what hurts your hair.

But, having spent over 3 years researching hair loss, and finally managing to stop my own, I can very confidently tell you one thing right now…

I would NEVER EVER use Head & Shoulders shampoo on my own hair.

And I highly recommend that you don’t either if you want strong, healthy hair

The reason?

CHEMICALS!!

Yes, Head & Shoulders is absolutely chock full of chemicals.A flake of dandruff

And this goes against one of my big rules for healthy hair.

NEVER put on your hair and head what you wouldn’t put in your body.

(I know this sounds very strange the first time you hear it, but let me explain)

This is why I make my own shampoo, and it’s made from all natural ingredients, that I can (and do) eat.

My question to you is, why would you put harsh chemicals on your head, when you wouldn’t put them on inside your body.

I don’t think there’s any chance you’d swallow your Head and Shoulders shampoo would you?

The thing is, the skin and hair are part of the body. The skin isn’t an impermeable layer. Things can move through the skin from the inside to the outside (sweating for example) and from the outside in.

For example, if you crush a garlic clove and use a war water soaked towel to hold the garlic against your skin, other people will eventually be able to smell the garlic on your breath.

The point is, I would personally never use Head and Shoulders. The harsh chemicals will strip the natural oils from your hair leaving it incredibly dry, brittle and weak.

You may help your dandruff in the short term – but in the long term you’ll only make it worse since all chemicals tend to dry and irritate the skin causing flakiness.

BONUS: Try the quiz at the bottom of this page to see if it’s possible for you to re-grow your hair naturally.

A much better solution is to read the blog here at Hair Loss Revolution and discover the right foods that will keep your scalp naturally healthy.

Later on in this article I’m going to show you the home made shampoo recipe I use instead of shop-bought shampoos.

And yes, this is so good you could eat it – but it also leave your hair clean, whilst retaining its healthy, protective natural oils and removing the dirt, dust, sebum and hormones that could potentially cause hair loss.

The biggest problem with shampoos like Head and Shoulders is what’s called ‘marketing priorities.’

Marketing priorities mean that Procter and Gamble, the company that owns Head & Shoulders won’t make the long term health of your hair their priority.

Firstly if the shampoo worked so well for dandruff then they would quickly reduce their own sales and basically go out of business. But secondly, most of us buy shampoos based on how they smell, the texture, how they foam, and how they make our hair smell afterwards.

Unfortunately this all means chemicals, chemicals and more chemicals. Getting the perfect shampoo foam means chemicals. Getting the perfect texture, feel and consistency means chemicals. Getting the ‘just washed my hair’ smell means MORE CHEMICALS.

The problem is, chemicals will damage your hair and your scalp.

Procter and Gamble realise that if they did what was truly best for your hair in the long term they’d quickly go out of business. The recipe that I’ll show you at the end of this article involves simple, inexpensive household ingredients.

No, they don’t smell, feel and foam amazingly, but they point is, they won’t destroy your hair follicles either. They are 100% natural.

If you have issues with your scalp, and hair loss I would highly recommend reading my article on how to naturally remove DHT from your scalp.

An Overview of Head & Shoulders Shampoo

The Head & Shoulders brand has long been marketed as the solution to many maladies of the scalp and hair.

The many products carrying the Head & Shoulders brand have a variety of different ingredients, however many of them contain a few similar chemicals and other ingredients, like selenium sulfide which I investigate here.

There has been significant controversy over the effectiveness of Head & Shoulders products, and there have also been public accusations that Head & Shoulders products have caused hair loss and thinning hair for people.

When used in a limited capacity, Head & Shoulders products may have the potential to help address issues of hair loss related to dandruff and irritated scalp.

However, due to the potentially damaging side effects of the ingredients in many Head & Shoulders products it may be better to address issues of dandruff through other means.

Ingredients of Head & Shoulders

While there are numerous ingredients, which vary depending on the exact product with the Head & Shoulders brand, there are two ingredients that are commonly identified as the most significant active ingredients.

These two ingredients are methylisothiazolinone and zinc pyrithione. These two ingredients are commonly identified as the most significant and active ingredients in Head & Shoulders products, and are also commonly the subjects of public discourse and scientific research.

Methylisothiazolinone is an active ingredient in a variety of household products typically advertised as having antimicrobial capabilities.

This potentially hazardous chemical can be found in many personal care products, hand soap, dish soap, and even products marketed towards children.

According to the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, methylisothiazolinone has been linked to issues of nerve damage. There remains limited research on the severity of any side effects related to methylisothiazolinone, and it continues to be utilized as an active ingredient in hundreds of household and personal care products.

Another significant active ingredient in many Head & Shoulders products is zinc pyrithione, which is also included in many other personal care products.

According to the National Institutes of Health zinc pyrithione has properties that may help control issues of skin dryness and scalp dandruff. In another study available from the US National Library of Medicine, zinc pyrithione has been studied for its potential to also serve as an antimicrobial that provides the added benefit of skin hygiene.

As there is a correlation between bacterial levels and associated dandruff, the potentially antimicrobrial action of Head & Shoulders may help address that aspect of the condition.

These two active ingredients have been the subject of numerous studies and scientific research, with a wide range of conclusions and claims being made.

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While individually, or in products that contain only one of them, they may provide beneficial solutions to issues of dandruff and related hair loss, together these ingredients have the potential to counteract any benefit and in fact may lead to negative side effects

How Head & Shoulders Effects Hair Loss

A bottle of head and shoulders shampoo

Beware!

The Head & Shoulders brand has not been marketed as a treatment for hair loss, but has been advertised as the ideal solution for scalp dryness and dandruff.

There has been significant controversy over the effectiveness of Head & Shoulders products as effective treatments for dandruff, and the products have even been identified as potentially causing harm and leading to further issues including hair loss.

While these accusations may have some foundation in truth, there is also research that suggests Head & Shoulders may effectively treat scalp dryness and issues of dandruff.

Dry, irritated skin, has long been associated with issues of hair loss and thinning hair. One of the active ingredients in many Head & Shoulders products is zinc pyrithione, which has been the subject of much research for its capacity to treat dandruff and potentially act as an antimicrobial.

In the British Journal of Dermatology researchers published findings that compared differences in epidermal thickness and dandruff levels between groups of individuals who used a shampoo containing zinc pyrithione and individuals who washed with the same shampoo minus the addition of zinc pyrithione.

The results of the study showed that there was statistical significance in the reduction of dandruff in the group that washed with shampoo containing zinc pyrithione, as compared to the group that did not. Participants were instructed to shampoo twice a week, and statistically significant results were evident after only three washes.

A more recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology studied the potential for zinc pyrithione to effect hair density.

The study found that individuals that utilized the shampoo containing zinc pyrithione shows significant net increases in hair density and total visible hair counts when compared to the groups that were treated with the placebo shampoo.

The hair count results showed a mediocre and sustained improvement in hair growth for individuals that used zinc pyrithione on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it is not recommended that any Head & Shoulders products be used on a daily basis which may reduce the effectiveness of the zinc pyrithione to increase hair density and maintain sustainable hair growth.

While the results of these studies are promising, the potential effectiveness of Head & Shoulders to help address underlying causes of hair loss only suggests that the brand can help individuals suffering from a specific type of hair loss.

Beyond people who experience hair loss and thinning hair due to various skin conditions of the scalp Head & Shoulders does not offer a blanket treatment for issues of hair loss. Furthermore, questions remain about the potential damaging effects of other ingredients commonly found in Head & Shoulders products.

Despite the promising results from various studies of the active ingredients in Head & Shoulders, there is not enough research to fully understand the overall impact of these products on issues related to hair loss.

Due to the potentially damaging side effects of the active ingredients, and the availability of other treatments, it may be best to avoid daily use of Head & Shoulders.

What is Dandruff?

An entire chapter in the book written by Dr. Thomas Dawson and his team is dedicated to the topic of dandruff and the more severe condition known as seborrheic dermatitis (See Fig. 1). The most commonly recognized sign of these conditions is the presence of white, flaky skin particles seen on the scalp or on clothing.

The largest difference between dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis is the noticeable and visible irritation of the scalp associated with seborrheic dermatitis.

A close up of scalp with and without flakes

Fig 1. (Source)

The commonly recognized sign of flakes is actually dead epidermal, or skin cells, which develop due to inflammation of the scalp and significant alterations to the epidermal layer of the scalp which are noticeable even in places that are not actively showing signs of dandruff. This significant level of irritation to the scalp is commonly associated with the loss of hair and hair thinning due to the effects on the hair follicle (See Fig. 2).

The scalp with and without dandruff

Fig 2.

Dandruff symptoms are also commonly associated with the presence of a bacterium species known as Malassezia, a microbial cause of dandruff. For this reason, the multifaceted action of products such as Head & Shoulders that contain antimicrobial agents as well as those ingredients that address dandruff and the level of the epidermis.

Recommendations If You Have Dandruff

Although Head & Shoulders has been used for a significant amount of time in the treatment of scalp dandruff, there are many other options available that may not have the same potential for harmful effects and increased hair loss.

According to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, a prescription-strength product may be necessary to effectively treat various conditions including scaling and in order to prevent hair loss related to dandruff or scalp psoriasis.

An article published by the National Institutes of Health criticizes the exploitation of dandruff and scalp dryness by the many commercially available products claiming to address these issues. Dandruff is in fact a normally occurring human condition, and typically only requires low level interventions, as long as it has not progressed beyond minor scalp flakes and is not actually seborrheic dermatitis.

The Mayo Clinic also suggests the use of all natural tea tree oil as an additive to shampoo which can help reduce dandruff caused by fungal infections. They also recommend taking steps to reduce your daily amount of stress, as stress can be an underlying cause of dandruff as well as hair loss.

The Mayo Clinic also suggests that people who have issues of dandruff related hair loss eat a diet high in B-Vitamins, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Foods Recommended to Address Dandruff Related Hair Loss

  • Spinach
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts

Best Recipe to Address Dandruff

Oysters are one of the foods with the highest amount of zinc, and they are also significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin b. Spinach is also a significant source of zinc, as well as vitamin b and a small amount of omega-3. This Oysters Rockefeller recipe is not only delicious, but can also help address issues of dandruff.

Oysters Rockefeller

  • 24 oysters, that are fresh and shucked (save shells and set aside)
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of watercress, trim off stems
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, dry
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 pound rock salt
  • 2 tbsp anise liqueur

Preparation: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place rack on top shelf. In a food processor combine garlic, spinach, watercress, and green onions (learn more about onion juice for hair loss here). Pulse the food processor until the mixture is finely chopped.

Remove mixture and do the same process for the breadcrumbs, butter, anise liqueur, fennel, and hot sauce. Return spinach mixture to processor and pulse until the two mixtures are fully combined. Season with salt and pepper. On a large baking sheet, create a ½ inch layer of the rock salt.

Place the oysters atop the rock salt layer and top each oyster with the spinach mixture. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of each. Place in the oven and cook until the spinach mixture has browned, approximately 8 minutes. Clean the shell and serve the oysters presented on the shell.

My Natural Shampoo Recipe

Like I said in the introduction, I like to only use natural ingredients on my scalp and my hair. That’s why the only shampoo I use is baking soda + apple cider vinegar. See my shampoo recipes for hair growth here.

Take a teaspoon of baking soda and mix with 1/8 of a cup of apple cider vinegar. Let it foam, and then add more water to the top of the glass.

You can then put this mixture in an empty shampoo bottle or a bottle that allows you to easily apply it to your hair in the shower.

Squeeze the mixture into your hair and massage it down into the scalp so that it can gently remove any sebum.

Thoroughly rinse the mixture out with fresh water. And make sure the shower water isn’t too hot. Overly hot water and damage the hair follicles and cause dry scalp by removing the natural oils from the scalp.

In fact, the colder the water you can comfortably use the better. This invigorates that scalp, improves blood circulation which brings more nutrients to the scalp and helps with hair growth whilst stopping hair loss.

The cold water also gets the keratin molecules (the molecules the hair is made of) to line up which gives your hair a nice glossy shine.

Now on to step 2 for extra bonus points.

If you really want to protect your hair, and you are worried about hair loss and pattern baldness then this second step is for you.

Take a teaspoon of pure bentonite clay and mix it into a glass of water until there is no sediment left. A a large pinch of himalayan rock salt and stir until dissolved.

Pour the mixture over your hair, after washing in step 1, rub into the scalp for approximately 1 minute and then thoroughly rinse out.

The bentonite clay is a great way to detoxify the scalp and reduce the levels of DHT, which is the hormone mostly responsible for male pattern baldness.

Conclusion

My conclusion is, although there is no hard scientific evidence that Head and Shoulders shampoo causes hair loss I would personally never use it on my hair and I highly recommend that you immediately stop using it.

The next steps I would urge you to take if you’re still worried about hair loss are these:

  1. Read more article on Hair Loss Revolution about the perfect hair growing/strengthening diet to boost hair follicle growth and help cleanse and heal your scalp
  2. Stop using anything that contains chemicals on your hair and scalp including waxes and gels
  3. Make your own shampoo (it’s much cheaper as well)
  4. Use the bentonite clay scalp detox method to promote a very healthy scalp

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Leave a Comment:

3 comments
Craig says April 6, 2017

Outside of making your own shampoo, are there any shampoo brands that you would recommend?

Reply
    Will Hartfield says April 7, 2017

    Hi Craig, I honestly wouldn’t recommend any kind of commercial shampoo. The best option is to simply use apple cider vinegar instead. Why would you want all the chemicals going on to your scalp?

    Reply
samuel.A says December 22, 2016

I now started to use head & shoulders recently, can’t recognize its use & effect …can realy hair loss be stop by natural ingridents …I will try …thank you Will

Reply
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