Shampoos That Cause Hair Loss: Risks, Causes, Regrowth Tips

Your hair accumulates dirt, dust, pollen, and other pollutants throughout the day. The ultimate purpose of shampoo is to cleanse the hair, removing dirt and oil from the hair fibers and scalp.

Shampoos are also used to beautify the hair, enhancing shine and texture. But does shampoo itself cause hair loss? In 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 1,400 adverse reports about hair cleansing products, with complaints of hair loss, breakage, balding, itching, and rash from shampoos and conditioners. The FDA states that it cannot confirm the cause of these reported reactions because it lacks information and evidence.

This article looks at ingredients in shampoo, causes of hair loss, tips for hair growth, and when to see a healthcare provider.

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Shampoo Ingredients That May Cause Hair Loss

It is estimated that shampoo contains anywhere from 10 to 30 ingredients, such as cleansing agents (surfactants), conditioning agents, special care ingredients, and additives. Like sulfates and formaldehyde, specific components have been linked to hair loss. However, clinical research is scarce.

sulfates

Sulfates are chemicals with strong cleansing agents. The theory behind hair loss and sulfates is that ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate damage and irritate hair follicles. Damage to the hair follicle may result in breakage, which can resemble or appear as hair loss.

formaldehyde

At low levels, formaldehyde is considered safe. It is used in cosmetic products to kill bacteria and prolong shelf life. However, high levels of formaldehyde are classified as a group 1 human carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research. Cosmetics also contain several formaldehyde donors, which are chemical compounds that slowly release formaldehyde.

Shampooing your hair daily should not directly expose you to high levels of formaldehyde. But formaldehyde donors from hair products can be released into the air, which at certain levels may irritate your eyes, nose, and lungs and cause skin sensitivity or allergic dermatitis. This type of exposure is more likely to occur in people who work at hair salons or those using hair straightening or smoothing solutions.

Several class-action lawsuits have been started against brands that use DMDM ​​hydantoin, a known formaldehyde donor, even though the products were listed as formaldehyde-free. Claims suggest that these products cause scalp irritation and hair loss. While no clinical studies suggest this specific ingredient causes hair loss, it can cause scalp irritation. And an unhealthy scalp is associated with hair loss.

FDA Stance and Recommendations

If you start using a product and experience hair loss, the FDA recommends you stop using the product immediately, report it, and contact your healthcare provider.

Deciphering Shampoo Label Ingredients

To keep your hair healthy, it’s a good idea to read labels. Although the listed ingredients’ meanings can be confusing, look for harsh chemicals like sulfates, as well as the following ingredients:

  • formaldehyde
  • formalin
  • methylene glycol
  • DMDM hydantoin

Even if the product says “formaldehyde- or sulfate-free,” it’s always good to read the ingredients list.

Ruling Out Other Causes

External factors, such as the weather (too much sun and wind), behavioral factors (smoking), and dietary factors (insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids and vitamins), can cause damage to existing hair and impaired growth.

A person’s age, race, and whether they have inflammatory conditions can also factor into hair loss. Use of high heat (hair drying, curling, straightening), waving or relaxing of the hair, and wet brushing can also damage the hair.

Some people may be genetically predisposed to hair loss. This appears to be more common in people with autoimmune diseases such as:

Alopecia areata, another type of autoimmune disease, occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, leading to patches of hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body.

Medication side effects, menopause, and stress can also cause certain types of hair loss.

Shampoo and Care for Hair Growth

A good hair care routine depends on the type of hair you have and the results you are looking for. People who have oily hair may have to shampoo daily, but those with dry hair can wash their hair less frequently. Consult with your healthcare provider or dermatologist for the best types of shampoo to buy. To maintain healthy hair, dermatologists recommend:

  • Shampoo daily with a mild shampoo, which is less irritating to the shaft.
  • Apply shampoo to soaked hair with fingertips and rub gently.
  • Avoid frequent perming.
  • Avoid frequent application of permanent dyes.
  • Avoid frequent bleaching.
  • Comb hair root to tip when dry.
  • Use wide-toothed combs and brushes with rounded tips.
  • Avoid frequent use of hair dryers.

Nutrition and Hair Loss

Adequate nutrition is important for health and hair growth. Certain nutrients are essential, such as iron, zinc, biotin, niacin, fatty acids, selenium, vitamin D, and amino acids. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to hair loss.

Most of the time, eating a diet rich in whole foods will satisfy your nutrient needs. The whole foods include:

  • fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Protein (meat, legumes, poultry, fish)
  • Healthy fats (nuts, seeds, oils, avocado)
  • Whole grains (oats, quinoa, whole grain cereals)
  • Dairy products

If you cannot get enough nutrients through diet, you may benefit from testing for nutrient deficiencies and starting a supplementation regimen guided by a registered dietitian.

When to Contact a Healthcare Provider

Every day we lose hair—it’s part of the hair lifecycle. You lose some, and then it is replaced. But sudden or excessive hair loss is not normal. If you are concerned that your shampoo is causing you to lose your hair, you should stop using the product and see your healthcare provider. In addition, if you are not sure why you are losing your hair, a dermatologist specializing in hair loss can help you investigate the cause and tailor a plan to suit your needs.

Summary

Reports to the FDA suggest that certain ingredients in hair products may cause hair loss. The claims lack essential information for the FDA to investigate. It is known, however, that certain ingredients in hair products, such as formaldehyde and sulfates, may be harsh on the hair.

In addition, daily hair treatments, external factors, immune health, and nutrition are all components of hair health. If you recently started using a product and have noticed hair loss or scalp problems, you should see a healthcare provider and have it reported.

A Word From Verywell

Being a conscious consumer can be hard work; reading the fine lines and determining the best products may mean that you have to do your own investigating. It’s not clear if sulfates and formaldehyde cause hair loss specifically, but heavy exposure to either is probably not good for your hair.

Some daily hair loss is normal, but large amounts of hair loss are not. If you are not sure why you are losing your hair, get some assistance from a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. Most of the time, interventions can help with hair regrowth.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which shampoo brands may cause hair loss?

    Several products are under investigation for hair loss. You can find them on classaction.org.

  • What are the most natural shampoo ingredients?

    The most natural shampoo ingredients include vitamins and minerals, as well as ingredients derived from whole foods. Some shampoos have organic ingredients, too.

  • Do ingredients that cause hair loss affect all hair types?

    If you are sensitive to an ingredient that causes scalp irritation or hair loss, you probably will lose hair regardless of your hair type. Ask your dermatologist about the best product for you.

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