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Shampoo for Hair Loss: What to Look for and What to Avoid

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on March 03, 2021
Shopping for the best shampoo for hair loss? Focus on exfoliation, and avoid sulfur.

Noticing more hair than usual on your pillow or in the shower drain? You’re not alone.

Hair loss affects tens of millions of women and men across the United States. If your hair loss worries you, talk to a dermatologist. They can pinpoint the cause and recommend the right treatment for you. They can also let you know if certain shampoos might help.

“It's important to think about most shampoos like a car wash,” William Yates, MD, FACS, a surgeon and hair restoration expert in Chicago, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “You're only treating the exterior—the scalp. The root cause of the hair loss happens under the hood, under the scalp. So if you're suffering from genetic hair loss, shampoos are not the magic bullet.” At the same time, hair loss is often associated with scalp health so ensuring a healthy scalp will only help and will not hurt.

Which Hair Loss Shampoos Work?

For thinning hair, Amy Forman Taub, MD, FAAD, founder of Advanced Dermatology in Chicago, recommends KeraFactor shampoo and conditioner. Other shampoos that might help are ones that exfoliate the scalp with salicylic acid and promote scalp circulation.

“Scalp circulation is probably the single, one thing that you can do at home to help,” Taub says. “For example, take a hot shower and give your scalp a good scrub with shampoo.”

Taub also says that hair loss shampoos containing hydrocortisone 1% or ketoconazole 1% could be worth a try. Yates also recommends shampoos made with pumpkin seed, yucca root, and biotin. 

Which Shampoos Should You Avoid? 

Sulfur. It’s important to avoid shampoos that contain sulfur, which could worsen your hair loss. “While sulfur allows shampoos to lather well, it also strips the oils from your scalp, causing your hair to dry out and break," Taub says. "This can actually lead to the appearance of thinning hair.”

"Thickening" shampoos. You may also want to use thickening shampoos and conditioners with caution. “Overuse can clog pores, which in turn restricts the scalp from oxygen, leading to increased inflammation,” Taub says.

Caffeine and herbs. Avoid shampoos that contain caffeine and other herbs. “They are common in the marketplace but lack a clear scientific basis,” Taub says. Caffeine causes vasoconstriction and limits blood flow. When supporting hair growth, you want to support healthy blood flow to the root of the hair to deliver oxygen and nutrients.

Get Help Now

If you’re experiencing hair loss, don’t wait to seek help. The sooner you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to prevent irreversible damage. Speak to a medical professional today to begin your journey to a fuller head of hair.