Does Head and Shoulders Cause Hair Loss?

does head and shoulders cause hair loss

Head & Shoulders is a significant advance in hair care. Since it was launched in the early 1960s up to this day, it remains one of the world’s most recognizable anti-dandruff shampoos.

But despite being formulated for hair improvement, there are still claims that the Head & Shoulders may lead to hair loss. You’re probably wondering, “Does Head and Shoulders cause hair loss?”

To know whether there’s a link between Head & Shoulders products and hair loss, our team examined the key ingredients of the products to give you a concrete answer. Here are what we found out:

Ingredients of Head & Shoulders

The two active ingredients in Head & Shoulders are pyrithione zinc and selenium sulfide.

Zinc Pyrithione

The first main active ingredient – zinc pyrithione – is a substance common in personal care products. It lowers the level of Malassezia (a genus of fungi) in the scalp. This antifungal ingredient also brings dandruff under control and relieves the flaking.

The same ingredient has a wide microbial action too, which is why it is used in other skin hygiene products, according to a review that appeared in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.

Selenium Sulfide

As for the second active ingredient in Head & Shoulders, selenium sulfide is another antifungal chemical that stops fungi from growing on the skin and has been used to treat certain scalp infections. No wonder its anti-dandruff shampoo is a big hit within the dandruff community.

Other ingredients found in the head and shoulders shampoo and conditioner are:

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – These two surfactants (cleaners) are common ingredients in facial cleansers, shampoos, and body washes. These two trap oil and dirt on the hair and the water washes these away, leaving the hair and scalp clean.

Because of their chemical properties as surfactants, manufacturers use SLES and SLS not just in personal health care product lines, but even in household cleaning products.

  • Methylisothiazolinone – is a chemical compound used in numerous personal care products because of its antimicrobial properties.  You can also find this chemical in dish soap, hand soap, and products marketed towards children. Still, researchers have cautioned its long-term use, especially in pregnant women and in younger people.

You probably get the idea now why Head & Shoulders is primarily used to treat dandruff.

So, Does Head and Shoulders Cause Hair Loss?

Probably not. First off, the active ingredients in Head & Shoulders are selenium sulfide and zinc pyrithione, both are effective in treating dandruff and itchy scalp.

On the benefits of 1% pyrithione zinc shampoo, a  study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that those who used 1% ZPT sustained improvement in hair growth after 26 weeks of treatment.

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Potential for hair growth

While Head & Shoulders do not claim that their products can directly promote hair growth, they still have the potential for hair growth. The reason is, dandruff (or the severe form: seborrheic dermatitis) can lead to thinning hair.

Protecting your hair follicles against further damage

As you used to scratch your scalp, it may damage the individual strands of hair, causing hair fall and hair breakage in some. So, by treating dandruff, you can calm an itchy scalp and in turn, keep your hair looking thick and full. An improvement in scalp hygiene will likewise provide a better growth environment for the hair follicles.

You can even check out this Head & Shoulders Scalp X Anti Dandruff Shampoo that is formulated to reduce hair loss due to breakage and is infused with vitamin E. 

Different Types of Hair Loss 

Whether it’s a reduced hairline, bald patches, or thinning hair, hair loss can be a worrying condition. 

When the hair growth cycle is disrupted or a hair follicle gets damaged, it can affect the normal hair growth pattern and lead to hair loss. Some factors linked to hair loss include hormonal changes and medical conditions, family history (heredity), supplements and medications, radiation therapy to the head, a stressful event, and hairstyles and treatments. 

Below are the different types of hair loss:

  • Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic Alopecia affects more than 50 million men and 30 million women in the US alone. It is also commonly called the male or female pattern hair loss, which is hereditary but can be managed with surgery or medication. 

  • Anagen Effluvium

Anagen Effluvium is the rapid loss of hairs that are in the anagen or growing phase because of an event that impairs the metabolic activity or the mitosis of the hair follicle.

  • Telogen Effluvium

This type of hair loss happens when a large number of hair follicles on the scalp enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle but the next phase doesn’t begin.

  • Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks a part of the body. For Alopecia Areata, immune system cells mistakenly surround and attack the hair follicles.

  • Cicatricial Alopecia

Cicatricial Alopecia or scarring alopecia is a rare type of hair loss. It is an inflammatory condition that destroys the hair follicles and causes scar tissue to form in place. 

  • Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis, also known as the ringworm of the scalp, is a rash caused by a fungal infection and is the common cause of hair loss in children. In this condition, the hair falls out in patches or circular, leading to bald spots.

  • Hair Shaft Abnormalities

Hair shaft abnormalities can lead to hair loss. These conditions could cause the strands to weaken or grow thin, making them more vulnerable to breaking. Making simple changes in the way you treat and style your hair may improve the hair density and reverse hair shaft abnormalities.

Other types of hair shaft abnormalities include traction alopecia, loose anagen syndrome, and trichotillomania.

  • Hypotrichosis

It is a rare genetic condition in which very little hair grows on the body and the scalp. Babies born with hypotrichosis may typically have hair growth at first, but their hair falls out a few months later and is replaced with sparse hair. Those with this condition go bald by age 25.

Natural Remedies for Hair Thinning and Hair Loss

If you’re struggling with hair thinning or hair loss, there are some steps you can take to improve your hair health.

  • Better hair care (reducing the use of hot styling tools, sleeping in a satin cap, decreasing washing your hair to 3 times a week,  use of a cleansing shampoo, etc.)
  • Vitamins and supplements (iron, vitamin D, zinc, or selenium)
  • Treatment of the underlying condition

If all of these fail, visiting the doctor may be the next best step. For those with stubborn dandruff cases, they may also see a doctor for an anti-dandruff treatment.

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The Bottom Line

Choosing a shampoo and/or conditioner brand is a personal choice. That being said, Head & Shoulders might become your next favorite shampoo. It contains Argan oil, smells delightful, and fights dandruff without ruining your hair.

As to the question: “Does head and shoulders cause hair loss?” The answer is not black and white as there is no evidence that it causes hair loss. But since it contains a long list of ingredients (some are potential irritants for long-term use and at high doses), you may want to alternate with a clarifying shampoo or swap out for a season.

Did learning about Head and Shoulders shampoos and conditioners interest you? You might want to check out our other articles at

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