Can Shampoo Cause Hair Loss? - Uncovering the Truth

Noticing hair loss can be a bit unsettling, to say the least. You might feel a range of emotions, from surprise to concern, as you wonder what's causing it.

Here we'll focus on your daily routine, and whether the shampoo you use to wash your hair can really be the cause of hair loss, or if that's just another myth. It's a question that might have crossed your mind as you notice more strands in your hairbrush than usual.

We're here to clear up any confusion and provide answers to your questions.

The topic is whether shampoo can cause hair loss. The image shows a concerned woman with a comb full of excessively shed hair

Understanding the Causes of Hair Loss

The hair growth cycle consists of three main phases: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transitional phase), and telogen (resting phase). 

After the telogen phase, the hair falls out, and a new hair begins to grow, starting the cycle over again. 

Hair loss occurs when something interferes with the hair's natural growth cycle or damages the hair follicles, leading to a decrease in hair production or the production of thinner, weaker hairs that cannot survive. The medical term for this condition is anagen effluvium

Presentation of the hair follicle structure on the scalp and demonstration of the hair growth cycle

In most cases, follicles can still grow new hair in the early stages of hair loss.
There are many reasons for hair loss:

  • Genetics (androgenetic alopecia)
  • Hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause, thyroid disorders)
  • Medical conditions (infections, autoimmune diseases)
  • Medications (cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (iron, protein, vitamins)
  • Stress (physical or emotional)
  • Hairstyling practices (tight hairstyles, heat styling, chemical treatments)
  • Age

Practices That Influence Hair Loss

Tight hairstyles like ponytails and braids can also contribute to hair loss, a condition known as traction alopecia.

Another thing to consider is trichotillomania, a psychological condition where a person feels compelled to pull out their hair, leading to noticeable hair loss. This condition requires professional treatment to address the underlying behavioral issues.

Frequent use of harsh chemical treatments like hair dyes, bleach, and perms can weaken your hair, making it more prone to breakage. A common question is whether hair dyes cause hair loss, and the answer can be complex.

Similarly, heat styling tools such as flat irons and blow dryers can cause damage if used too often. To keep your hair healthy, try to minimize these treatments and use a heat protectant when styling.

Hair Loss vs. Shedding

Hair shedding is a normal, daily occurrence that should not be a cause for concern. On average, it's normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. This occurs during the telogen phase.

Shedding becomes a concern when you notice an excessive amount of hair falling out daily or if you observe thinning areas on your scalp. This could indicate a condition called telogen effluvium, where more hairs than usual enter the resting phase and subsequently shed.

Telogen effluvium can be triggered by stress, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, or certain medications​

Types of Hair Loss

If you're wondering why your hair is falling out so much, here some of the reasons.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body. A specific form of this condition, called ophiasis, involves a band-like pattern of hair loss around the sides and back of the scalp.

Alopecia barbae is another variation that specifically affects the beard area in men.

Androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, is a common type of hair loss that is influenced by genetics and hormones. It typically presents as a receding hairline in men and thinning hair on the crown of the scalp in women.

Cicatricial alopecia, or scarring alopecia, involves the destruction of hair follicles and the replacement of the follicular structure with scar tissue, leading to permanent hair loss.

Anagen effluvium is rapid hair loss that occurs during the anagen phase of the hair cycle, often as a result of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Telogen effluvium is another form of hair loss that occurs when a large number of hairs enter the telogen (resting) phase and subsequently fall out, often due to stress, illness, or hormonal changes.

Tinea capitis, commonly known as scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection that affects the scalp, leading to hair loss and inflammation.

Folliculitis decalvans is a rare inflammatory condition that leads to permanent hair loss.

Hair shaft abnormalities, such as trichorrhexis nodosa or trichorrhexis invaginata (Netherton syndrome), are conditions that involve structural defects in the hair shaft that lead to weakened hair and breakage.

Which Ingredients Should be Avoided in Shampoos

It often happens that cosmetic products contain substances that can be aggressive, irritate the scalp, or lead to an allergic reaction.

So, you might be asking, if they're harmful to hair, why are these ingredients in shampoos?

Each ingredient plays a specific role when added to a cosmetic product. It should also be mentioned that there are regulations regarding the allowed substances and their concentrations, but if you are sensitive and have an atopic constitution, there is a higher possibility that you will react.


Sulfates are common harmful ingredients in shampoos. You'll recognize them on labels as:

  • Coco-glucoside
  • Sodium coco-glucoside tartrate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

Sulfates are surfactants that attract both water and oils, effectively removing dirt and impurities from your hair. However, they can lead to scalp dryness and irritation, removing natural oils, making hair prone to further damage and dryness.

Recent research has shown that sulfates can be toxic and carcinogenic, contributing to hair loss.

People with dry hair or naturally curly hair should choose sulfate-free shampoos, as they help detangle and reduce frizz. Children, in particular, should use sulfate-free shampoos.

Our top recommendation for a sulfate-free shampoo against hair loss would definitely be the Root Activator Shampoo. Experts have crafted separate formulas for both men and women.

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Releasers

Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in shampoos to extend their shelf life. It's also a common ingredient in professional hair straightening products, particularly in Brazilian keratin treatments.

Both the U.S. government and the World Health Organization have classified formaldehyde as a proven carcinogen. The EU lists formaldehyde as a Category 1B carcinogen, meaning it's presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans.

Many cosmetic companies avoid using pure formaldehyde due to its harmful effects. Instead, they use "preservation systems" that include formaldehyde releasers - chemicals that gradually break down to form formaldehyde molecules.

When purchasing shampoo, pay close attention to the ingredients list and try to avoid those containing formaldehyde and its releasers. Common chemicals in this category include:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate

However, it's not banned in shampoos because it's used in extremely low concentrations and doesn't leave residues on the skin.

Still, people with sensitive skin should choose formaldehyde-free shampoo to avoid potential irritation and allergic reactions.


Silicones have sparked much debate regarding their effects on hair health. These ingredients offer benefits like softness, shine, and smoothness but also have downsides.

Silicones can weigh down hair, making it lifeless and blocking moisture, leading to dryness and brittleness over time. They can also attract dirt and buildup, leading to greasy, tangled hair.

It's advisable to use silicone-free shampoos or opt for water-soluble silicones for less impact on hair health.


Parabens in shampoos are a type of preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, ensuring the product's longevity. Commonly used parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. These ingredients are typically listed on product labels and are often used in combination with other preservatives to protect against a broad range of microorganisms.

While parabens are approved by regulatory bodies and regarded as safe in the concentrations used in cosmetics, there are concerns about their potential health effects.

Parabens can be absorbed through the skin, and some studies suggest they may interfere with hormone function due to their ability to mimic estrogen. This estrogenic activity has raised concerns about the potential link between parabens and breast cancer, although more research is needed to fully understand the risks.


Most shampoos contain perfumes, which are added to create a pleasant scent and to mask any unpleasant odors from other ingredients . While natural fragrances are generally considered safer, they can still cause allergies or sensitivities in some individuals.

Synthetic fragrances in shampoos are a cause for concern primarily because of the lack of transparency in their ingredients. Companies are not required to disclose the specific chemicals, which can include potentially harmful substances like petrochemicals that can interfere with hormone production and cause skin irritation, allergies, and other health issues. Certain substances can also be carcinogenic or toxic.

It's important to check the ingredients list for terms like "unscented," which may still contain masking fragrances, and "fragrance-free," which should not contain any fragrances at all .

Alcohol in Shampoo

You've probably heard that alcohols are ingredients in cosmetics that should be avoided, especially for dry and naturally curly hair. However, besides the harmful alcohols, there are also those that nourish the hair.

Whether alcohol is good or bad for hair care depends on the type of alcoholic ingredient used.

There are natural (plant-based), safe (non-toxic), and healthy (with positive health properties) ingredients, and there are those that should be avoided at all costs.

Generally, most fatty alcohols are naturally plant-derived and have positive effects, acting as emulsifiers, softeners, and contributing to the viscosity of shampoo. Here's how to distinguish them.

Bad alcohols include:

  • Alcohol Denat
  • Menthanol
  • Ethanol
  • Propanol
  • SD alcohol 40
  • Specially Denaturated Alcohol
  • Isopropyl Alcohol

This type of alcohol evaporates quickly due to its low molecular weight. It is used to shorten drying time. However, this property can lead to the hair becoming rough and dry, and water and oil quickly disappearing from the hair along with the alcohol. This usually happens during rinsing.

That's why alcohols are used in many lotions for oily skin to remove sebum.

These alcohols, especially ethanol, allow for even distribution and spreading of the product on the hair.

The good alcohols include:

  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Acetyl Alcohol
  • Sterol Alcohol
  • Stearyl Alcohol
  • Lauryl Alcohol
  • Lanolin Alcohol
  • Stearic Acid

Good alcohols, also known as fatty alcohols, are often derived from natural sources. They have emollient effects and provide a silky and soft feeling.

The other harmful ingredients you should avoid if you see them on the label are Polyethylene Glycols (PEG), Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA), Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Triclosan, Retinyl Palmitate.

FDA Regulations

In 2011, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started receiving reports of hair loss, hair breakage, and thinning hair associated with certain hair cleansing products.

By 2016, over 1,400 adverse event reports were received, prompting the FDA to investigate the connection between these products and hair loss.

A study conducted by Columbia University's Medical Center Department of Dermatology found that mice treated with certain cleansing conditioners displayed abnormal hair growth cycles, but a firm connection between these products and alopecia in humans could not be established​​.

Does Dandruff Cause Hair Loss

Dandruff itself does not directly cause hair loss, but certain underlying conditions that contribute to dandruff, such as seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis, can lead to hair loss if left untreated. Additionally, constant scratching of the scalp due to dandruff can damage hair follicles and lead to temporary hair loss.

There are proven products on the market that can effectively address both dandruff and hair loss concerns. These typically contain active ingredients that target the underlying causes of these issues, such as Zinc PCA. Zinc PCA is a compound that combines the essential mineral zinc with L-pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), a natural moisturizing factor.

Zinc PCA is known for its ability to regulate sebum production and reduce inflammation.

Hair Washing Tips

Proper technique can help prevent damage to your hair and scalp.

Choose the right shampoo for your hair type: clarifying for fine hair, moisturizing for thick or coarse hair, color-safe for color-treated hair, and clarifying for bleached hair.

  • Begin by thoroughly wetting your hair with warm water.
  • Apply a small amount of shampoo to your palm, then massage it into your scalp using your fingertips, not your nails.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water.
  • Apply conditioner, focusing on the ends, and leave it in for a few minutes.
  • Rinse your hair with cool water to seal the cuticle and add shine.
  • Pat your hair dry with a towel and avoid rubbing to prevent damage

Do Shampoo Against Hair Loss Really Help

Yes, shampoos formulated to combat hair loss can be effective, especially when used in combination with other treatments. These shampoos typically contain ingredients that help strengthen hair, promote circulation in the scalp, and reduce inflammation.

While shampoos alone may not be a cure-all for hair loss, they can be a valuable part of a comprehensive hair care routine that includes other treatments such as serums, conditioners and supplements.

Look for shampoos with ingredients like ketoconazole, biotin, caffeine, niacinamide or amino acid complex.

Let's touch on clinical trials

Capilia longa, derived from turmeric, is known for its ability to decrease hair loss by up to 89-90% and enhance hair density by 52%.

The magic lies in its rich composition, which nourishes and revitalizes the scalp and hair follicles. By fostering a healthier scalp environment, Capilia Longa helps to awaken dormant hair follicles. It's really worth trying out these products.

Amaranthus caudatus seed extract is known for its high protein content. This acts as a natural hair strengthener, helping to protect and restore strands from damage caused by heat, pollutants, and chemical treatments. Additionally, it's rich in lysine, an amino acid essential for strong hair, and squalene, a lipid that nourishes hair by locking in moisture, boosting shine, and protecting against breakage. Products like Bio-Veloxin® Activation Serum are designed to combat hair thinning and promote hair growth. Formulated with plant growth factors developed using stem cell technology, it nourishes hair follicles.

Hairstylist and beauty expert Sarah Johnson emphasizes, "Consistency is key. Stick to a hair care routine that works for you, and don't be afraid to experiment until you find the perfect products for your hair type and concerns."

What Should You Eat for Healthy Hear

What you eat can significantly impact the health of your hair. A diet that lacks essential nutrients can lead to hair loss, particularly due to deficiencies in vitamins B12, D, biotin, riboflavin, and iron.

Vegans and vegetarians may have deficiencies in vitamins B6, B12, and folate due to the limited presence of these nutrients in plant-based diets.

Accordingly, consider adding the following groceries to your shopping list: eggs, salmon, berries, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, nuts (like almonds and walnuts), seeds (like chia and flaxseeds), oysters, beans, and whole grains.

What Is Actually Hair Transplantation

Hair transplants have become increasingly popular in recent years as a long-term solution for hair loss. This surgical procedure involves moving hair follicles from one part of the body (usually the back or sides of the scalp) to the balding or thinning areas. While hair transplants can offer permanent results and restore a fuller head of hair, they are not suitable for everyone. Candidates must have sufficient donor hair and realistic expectations.

When Is Time to Visit the Doctor

If you notice any sudden changes in your hair, like patches missing or a receding hairline, or if your scalp feels itchy or irritated, it might be a good idea to check in with a doctor. Especially if you've recently had a baby and are experiencing a lot of hair shedding. Sometimes, hair loss can be a sign of underlying health issues like thyroid problems or autoimmune conditions.

Remember, you're not alone in this, and there are options to explore!