Head and Shoulders is a popular shampoo brand that aims to help keep dandruff symptoms and flakes under control.
This shampoo has been around since the early 1960s, so has definitely seen its fair share of long-term use cases. However, instead of helping to improve hair issues, some users may be wondering if there are any potential hair downsides (like increased hair loss) to using head and shoulders long-term or too much.
In this article, we will look into the active ingredients in head and shoulders to help identify any evidence-based downsides, evaluate if you should expect hair changes or improvements from use, explain why the most common causes of hair loss may also be occurring at the same time, and then give our final thoughts on the matter.
Depending on your exact head and shoulders product, your shampoo may contain zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide as the active ingredient.
One study claims that the fungi associated with dandruff (Malassezia) itself plays a role in oxidative stress of the hair follicle and related premature hair fall. And, that anti-Malassezia treatments like zinc pyrithione may actually help reduce premature hair fall.
Another study wanted to see if there was actually a hair growth benefit in using a zinc pyrithione shampoo. They had patients apply either the zinc pyrithione shampoo once daily, minoxidil twice daily, a placebo, or a combination of zinc pyrithione and minoxidil. At the end of the 26-week treatment, there was a small but significant increase in hair density in hair count in the zinc pyrithione group, although it was a little under half of the increase of the minoxidil group.
One more study also showed that while dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis can increase hair shedding, using zinc pyrithione 2-3 times a week for 6 months showed a clearing of dandruff along with decreased hair shedding and increased anagen hair percentage as compared to the start.
A study done using selenium sulfide as one of the dandruff treatment groups reported that 18.2% of users had decreased hair loss after 4 weeks of use.
From the studies mentioned above, most trials point to no association between the active ingredients in head and shoulders and hair loss. In fact, these studies suggest there may actually be decreased hair loss and a hair growth benefit from using these.
So, currently, there is not proof that hair loss can be caused by using head and shoulders shampoos or other products with these active ingredients.
It is possible that people may be dealing with other forms of hair loss at the same time that they are treating their dandruff.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss that occurs in both men and women. You may be more familiar with it being called male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss. This is a genetic and hormonally-driven form of hair loss that could just happen to occur around the same time as you treating your dandruff. Additionally, dandruff itself can cause increased hair shedding and may be part of the issue.
There is not strong evidence that Head and Shoulders products can cause hair loss when used as intended. And, on the flip side, some studies even suggest that it may help reduce hair loss stemming from dandruff.
Always use products as instructed on the product or by your doctor for the best results and to prevent adverse effects.
If you are experiencing hair loss and want to know what the cause is, speak with a doctor knowledgeable about hair loss to get some guidance as to why you may be losing hair and what you can do about it.
Here at Strut, we offer a range of hair loss treatments that mainly help target the most common reason for hair loss -- androgenetic alopecia.
We offer FDA-approved hair loss medications like Finasteride tablets, as well as off-label combination therapies like Finasteride, Dutasteride, and Spironolactone topical solutions.
If you are interested in seeing what a prescription hair loss treatment can do to help you, simply select a base product, and complete a free online questionnaire and image-based consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors in under 15 minutes. They will review your information and develop a treatment plan for you, if appropriate. Then, a U.S. compounding pharmacy will put your medication together and ship it to your front door with our free shipping.