One of the most frustrating things about alopecia is the feeling that you can’t do anything about it. And this stress might lead to more hair falling out. It’s a cruel circle that can cause alopecia sufferers to feel pretty helpless.
That’s why I believe it’s important to take whatever measures you can to regain control. Because even if it’s just for the placebo effect, the sheer act of doing something about your alopecia can have a positive result.
Now, don’t get me wrong: this can get tiring. Expensive. And messy.
I’ve tried all kinds of remedies. Stocking up on whatever pills and powders, lotions and potions I could get my hands on. Until my bathroom resembled a very hair-centric pharmacy!
But one treatment really made a difference – hence the reason for this Nioxin shampoo review.
Psst… If you want to read up on the full collection of Nioxin’s products, and learn a little bit more about the brand, check out this post instead.
Update: While Nioxin still delivers all the benefits I mention in this post, it’s changed up its systems slightly. It’s actually much easier to figure out which one is a better fit than it once was! So even though I talk about System 6 here, the one I’d use now – for natural hair with progressed thinning – is System 2.
Emma’s ‘not a doctor’ disclaimer
Hi there, I’m an alopecian, I’m not a doctor! Any advice I give is based on my own research and personal experiences. This site is however reader-supported. When you buy through external links, I may earn a tiny affiliate commission. Learn more here.
If you haven’t heard of it before, Nioxin is a scalp treatment and hair care system launched in the ’80s. Its founder, Eva Graham, developed it after experiencing hair loss while pregnant. 10 years later, Proctor and Gamble bought the company and the shampoo is still used in salons around the world as a hair-thickening solution.
You’ll find more detailed information about the system’s history, its ingredients and its reputation in my other posts but I’m here to tell you about my personal experience in this Nioxin shampoo review.
I first used this brand 5 years ago. I had just returned from a trip to Bali and was rocking a hard-boiled egg look. During my travels, I’d visited a traditional healer and acquired a homemade concoction of snail eggs and coconut, which I continued to rub on my noggin for the first 2 weeks after landing home. (Despite the eggs turning rotten. I must’ve smelled great.)
A week or so later, I visited a hairdresser friend of mine for further advice and she introduced me to Nioxin’s 3D Care System. She gave me system number 6; although it’s normally reserved for chemically treated hair and I’d never touched a dye in my life, it’s also for those with the most progressed thinning.
And I definitely fell into that category.
Remember: Since I first started using Nioxin, they switched up their formula. So System 2 ended up being the one best for my hair type. This post goes into the new systems in more detail.
As I mentioned, there are different kits available. And each shampoo works in a different way, depending on your hair type. But basically, the cleanser removes dirt and debris that normally block hair follicles. It also actively removes follicle-clogging sebum, which often contains a hormone called DHT (seen as a major factor in alopecia). Acting as a DHT blocker, therefore, means that Nioxin cleanser can promote hair growth. Yay!
Note: I do include some other products in this review, purely because I supplemented my shampoo with a conditioner and a scalp and hair treatment. Plus some more items within the Nioxin 3D Intensive Care range. (I went all out!)
But you could start with just the shampoo, if you like, and see how you go. Or try a trial-sized kit instead.
‘System 6 delivers thicker, fuller hair with smooth control by removing follicle-clogging sebum, fatty acids and environmental residues, while restoring the moisture level and providing color protection.’
Salesy, right? Definitely. But it actually delivers on these points. Even though I felt a little silly using something ‘designed to strengthen, nourish and repair thinning hair from its foundation’ when I had no hair at all, I soldiered on.
I used the shampoo, conditioner and scalp & hair treatment every day for 3 months and can report that sprouting did indeed occur! The ‘after’ results showed thicker, healthier-looking locks than the ‘before’.
Like most things in life, there are pros and cons. And this cleanser ticks many boxes for me. Such as the following…
Unlike many other treatments for alopecia, Nioxin shampoo never actually claims to promote growth. Instead, it talks about boosting the scalp’s health and improving the condition of the hair that’s already present.
After all, an ayurvedic doctor once told me: ‘The hair is like grass. If the soil is all dried up or flooded, how can we expect it to grow?’ So anything that focuses on the scalp sounds like a good idea to me.
With the moisture control and sebum-removing qualities that Nioxin products offer, the scalp becomes neither too dry nor too oily. For instance, the scalp and hair treatment that comes with the 3D kit (and is also available as a standalone product) contains sunscreen – so I was free to bare my patches without fear of burning or flaking.
(I’m talking about the hair shaft, of course. Shame on you.) The thing is, when you do have some hair to bare, Nioxin treats each follicle in a kinder way. For instance, the lightweight conditioner contains vital amino acids for moisture balance. This protects all hair strands against the damages of environmental stresses and reduces breakage.
Meanwhile, the cleanser itself focuses on what Nioxin calls “the 3Ds of haircare” – Denisty, Derma and Diameter. Basically meaning that each strand expands to look bigger than it actually is. Fake it ’til you make it, right?!
Plus, having thicker-looking hair is a major confidence-booster. You might find yourself less anxious about your barnet and losing less of it as a result. Sweet!
When my natural hair started to fill in after a few weeks of using Nioxin, I noticed that it was stronger than before my alopecia.
Back then, I had a head full of red curls. But its condition was dry, brittle and prone to snapping. Maybe because I used shampoos and conditioners that were full of chemicals and doing serious damage to my already dry locks. Plus, because I never cut my hair, it was basically one giant split end!
That all changed when I started using this shampoo. I had a second chance and a clean, bald slate. My scalp tingled at first, as if waking back up from years of a steroid-induced coma, and then it got to work. The fuzz took root within just a couple of weeks and, somewhat miraculously, I had a full head of it for the first time in 3 years.
It wasn’t thin hair anymore. Nope, the stuff that grew back looked and felt nourished and moisturised. I used the cleanser daily for 3 months to keep it that way. The brand promises a real difference in 30 days, and I can report that it tells no lie.
A few months later, the first sneaky patch appeared on the back of my head. Then it got bigger. Then another patch appeared. And, well… it was back to being an egghead.
But maybe if I’d continued using Nioxin, I could’ve prevented the spread? Hindsight, you’re so damn easy.
Still, while I used it, Nioxin cleanser gave me fuller, stronger hair. Most importantly, it gave me hair! So, of course, there’s plenty to like about it. And that’s why my Nioxin shampoo review is, for the most part, pretty positive.
In saying that, I can’t give you my full honest review without including some cons. Here we go!
With my advanced state of hair loss, the shampoo alone probably wouldn’t have been enough – so I had to get the full shebang of Nioxin products. (Apparently, more peace of mind, brought on by more pieces of hair, doesn’t come cheap.)
However, those with less extensive hair thinning might see great results by using just a few of the hair products from system 1, 3 or 5. They last for a long time, too.
Second of all, it’s a bit like buying Apple products – once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. You don’t want to keep using it forever but what happens if you stop?
And the company always seems to have a new, better version that you simply must test out. it’s hard to keep up with the changes. Nioxin System 1 suddenly becomes Nioxin System 3. Which might become Nioxin System 4 a few months later. I used System 6 for a while before the products for color treated hair and progressive thinning split into different systems.
Aside from being confusing, these turnarounds can be costly. And quite time-consuming – there’s no such thing as falling into bed without first rubbing an assortment of smelly products into your scalp. (So there goes your social life!)
You have to remember to apply most products daily (sometimes twice a day). And since the times they need to be applied vary – some are in the morning, some before bed – it’s easy to lose track. I’m not the most organised person in the world and the sheer scheduling of Nioxin stressed me out a bit at first.
But I did get used to it. And actually sticking to a treatment plan for a decent length of time, instead of looking to the next cure, made a difference. Who knew hair care monogamy could be so rewarding?!
A word of warning: You might notice that things get worse before they get better. In fact, some Nioxin customers reported actually shedding more during the first few weeks of use. But this is supposed to be a good thing – as the scalp is ridding itself of unwanted, dead strands, leaving stronger hair free to take its place. This shedding should peter out after 3 weeks or so (if not, consider seeing your doctor).
To be honest, reviews for this cleanser vary dramatically. Many people find that it’s really effective after just a couple of weeks’ use (like I did). Thin-looking locks are suddenly volumised. Male and female-pattern baldness patches fill in. Shedding stops and self-esteem soars.
Whereas others, particularly those with fine hair, report that Nioxin causes breakages and increased hair fall. Which (understandably) means they give up on it before regrowth can occur.
The credibility of the hair loss treatment has also been called into question, with customers complaining that Nioxin changed its formula since P&G took over. (It now contains sodium laureth sulfate).
However, from my own research and my own use, I found this hair loss shampoo to be pretty effective. I used Nioxin hair care products long after the takeover in 2008 and they worked for me!
The cleanser has also won the Stylist Choice Awards (in the Favourite Fine/Thinning Hair Product category) for over 15 years. If it’s good enough for professional salons and stylists, it’s good enough for Lady Alopecia.
The Lady recommends...
And is it bad for your hair? These questions pop up again and again in hair loss forums and in Nioxin reviews. Because after all, the shampoo does contain sulfates nowadays, which some people deem harmful.
In my experience, it is perfectly safe. However, if you do have a very sensitive scalp, I’d avoid using the shampoo daily and alternate with more natural products instead.
The immediate side effects are a tingling scalp, a little redness and irritation, and in some cases, flaking of the scalp. When you start using it you might start to notice more hair falling out. But don’t be alarmed. As I mentioned earlier, this is simply ‘dead’ hair making way for a new life.
To get the full benefits, the company recommends sticking to a treatment system for 6 months. However, this is longer than I ever committed so I’m afraid that I can’t give you an honest opinion! I used it daily for 3 months though, and it was really effective.
Remember, those with a sensitive scalp might want to stick to using it 3-4 times a week instead.
In terms of usage, it depends on what product you’re trying out. Some you’ll rinse out, others you’ll leave in. For the cleanser, rub it into your scalp until it creates a lather (for about a minute or two), before rinsing. For the conditioner, leave it to soak in a little longer.
Full disclosure? I had already started to notice a tiny white fuzz in my patches prior to using Nioxin. Whether this was a result of my Bali trip, the effects of that snail/coconut potion or the healthier, more mindful lifestyle I adopted when I got home, I can’t say. All I know is that during the 3 months that I used Nioxin, my hair grew back. Stronger and thicker than ever before.
It took me a while to realise this – possibly because I’d shunned chemicals after years of those harmful injections and wanted a more holistic approach. But when I did go back to Nioxin in the summer of 2018, it proved effective once again.
But it did make my existing hair a lot stronger. In fact, I only noticed how much I’d come to depend on Nioxin when my little travel bottles of the shampoo and conditioner ran out and I had to use normal shampoo again. The almost instantaneous result was dry, brittle hair, increased hair fall and bigger patches.
One Nioxin shampoo review might tell you it’s the best thing ever. Another might tell you it’s a waste of time and money. And I don’t want to tell people suffering from alopecia that this is a guaranteed cure – I’ve been let down too many times myself!
In other words, it puts you in control. So you can stop feeling helpless as alopecia takes over your head. (And your life.)
So whether the cleanser works or not, I think it’s worth a try. If you can afford the cost and the commitment, try it for 6 months. And let me know how you get on!
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