Unfortunately, there’s no real ‘miracle shampoo’ for hair loss. Trust me, I’ve tried a lot of these so-called cures, each claiming to be the best shampoo for alopecia.
Some of them work for a while. Others don’t work at all. But none of them can guarantee, 100%, that they’ll solve shedding.
And now manufacturers have to be careful about what they promise.
Because after a lawsuit filed against General Nutrition Corp (GNC) in 2015, all those advertisers with their false claims of weight loss and hair gain suddenly had to shut their mouths.
But this crackdown on the beauty industry is a good thing. Really. Because it means that we alopecians will be less swayed by what we so desperately want to be true.
It’s a good question. If it can’t miraculously reverse shedding, why bother?
Well, sometimes it’s a case of prevention trumping the need for a cure. That’s why so many of these products are for people with thinning hair, focusing on retention and the condition of the scalp rather than regrowth.
The thing is, according to Sally Ann-Tarver, Consultant Trichologist at The Cotswold Trichology Centre, hair loss shampoos cannot promote growth, no matter what they contain. The contact time during your lather, rinse and repeat is simply too short for active ingredients to have any real benefit on the follicle. Dammit anyway, says you.
But luckily, there is good news: shampoos for alopecia areata, and all forms of the condition, can work in other wondrous ways. Phew!
Because these products are designed to bring follicles out of the dormant phase – known as the ‘telogen phase’ – and into the ‘anagen phase’, which basically makes them stop being so lazy and start growing. Kind of like when we leave a dreary, rainy climate behind us to flourish in some summer sun.
And alopecia shampoos create a better environment for hair restoration, allowing your tresses to thrive. Yay!
Topical treatments also plump up the hair you already have (if any). They add volume and shine to brittle, straw-like strands.
Plus, they offer better coverage and thicker, fuller locks to hide those pesky bald patches. And they also encourage any new fuzz to grow further, rather than die on the spot.
Because unlike the harsh chemicals used in most cleansers, these babies won’t damage your mop; rather they’ll nurture it, giving it the care and respect it deserves.
I’ll give you 3. 😉
So even if you mightn’t see miraculous results right away, the benefits of using a cleanser for alopecia are definitely there.
Full disclosure: I’ve only used one of the products in the following list. But I did have some success with it, so I saw no reason to switch!
Still, the rest of them have pretty great reviews and contain many of the key ingredients for growth. Maybe it’s time for me to try them out, too!
And now, without further ado…
This is the one that’s worked for me in the past – and that’s why it’s top of my list. Nioxin noticeably thickens your tresses after just one use, so it’s great for people with thinning hair as well as those with alopecia areata.
It also strips both the hair and scalp of that pore-clogging sebum I mentioned earlier, plus any other environmental residue you may have picked up throughout your day.
On the flipside, Nioxin smells exactly like you’d imagine any hair loss product would: quite strong. The stuff is full of chemicals. Meaning your strands will smell of sulphates rather than lovely things like coconut or jojoba oil.
And you may experience some redness and tingling, particularly if you have a sensitive scalp. But hey, if it works…
The various cleansers in the Nioxin range get 4.5 stars or more on Amazon, and customers seem pretty happy with it as a regrowth solution. However, some express concerns that it’s a very different product since Proctor & Gamble took over the brand in 2008, especially since the new Nioxin doesn’t contain DHT removers.
All I can say is that I started using it in 2014, and again in 2017, and it encouraged hair growth – albeit quite slowly – both times. But that’s not to say that the other products on this list aren’t more effective… I just haven’t tried them! (Yet.)
This shampoo was apparently created by a team of dermatologists. That’s one plus point. Another is that it is a pretty effective DHT blocker. And since DHT is basically known as the testosterone that causes hair loss, anything that stops it in its tracks has gotta be a good thing.
Plus, the Shapiro MD shampoo contains 3 superstar ingredients:
In general, feedback seems pretty positive. In fact, the only side effect that the reviews mention is thicker and fuller tresses! People do complain that the product is quite expensive, especially considering you need to buy the conditioner along with the shampoo. But it still seems like a pretty good bet if you suffer from thinning hair.
This one feels like a more natural cleanser for alopecia. It contains both argan oil (which moisturises dry locks and stimulates growth at the root) plus biotin, which nourishes and strengthens each strand. Bonus: if you get it all over your hands, it might just help out with brittle fingernails, too!
The natural ingredients like aloe vera, rosemary and tea tree oil work to detoxify the scalp and encourage a healthy mane. Like when you vow to turn over a new leaf after a particularly heavy weekend. Think of it as a salad, for your head.
Oh, and I just LOVE the bottle. Yes marketers, I’m your biggest dream! Total sucker for packaging. 😉
Some feel it’s a marketing gimmick (but aren’t all hair regrowth shampoos?!) And the majority are really happy with the results. They say it leaves locks soft and shiny. They mention that it smells great, that it reduces the speed of hair fall and that it doesn’t irritate or dry out the scalp (unlike some other topical treatments).
Plus, it’s great value! A gold star for this golden god.
Green-conscious people, you’re onto a winner! This certified organic shampoo is made with 75% certified organic ingredients and 25% naturally derived ingredients. Plus it’s free from harmful chemicals like parabens and sulfates.
Instead, it makes use of Mother Nature’s gifts – with ingredients like ginger, palmarosa and cedarwood to foster a healthy head.
Oh, and the product description on Amazon says that it ‘balances and supports the 2nd chakra’, too. If that’s what you look for in a shampoo.
“It’s far out, man.” Well, that’s the gist of it anyway. People love the fact that it’s organic, that it comes in recyclable BPA-free plastic bottles and that it isn’t tested on animals. (Because frankly, who wouldn’t?!)
And even though it might smell a bit earthy for some people’s taste, this one definitely gets the ethical vote in customer reviews.
In terms of whether or not it stops hair fall, one customer had to give the name of the product to her hairdresser, who ran out and bought it for her own thinning tresses. That says it all to me!
If science and nature were shampoos and if they decided to have a baby, well, this baby would be that baby. If you get me.
It contains really great natural ingredients – jojoba, avocado and almond oil, to name a few – but it also contains DHT blockers. And, as we’ve learned, we don’t want DHT getting in the way of our ‘do.
I love the pampering side of this ‘liquid gold’ product, of its manufacturers telling us to ‘lather in luxury every day’. Emmm, ok then!
It appears that science and nature are a pretty deadly combination. And at first, this combination might be too much to handle. Some Amazon reviewers reported their hair feeling like straw for the first few uses; others said that it increased shedding so they discontinued use.
But for the people who stuck with it, the shampoo left their mane feeling thick and soft, with a noticeable change in 2 weeks. So Art Naturals might be a bit of a risk but hey, I’m willing to try anything!
This bad boy pops up again and again in hair forums. And with good reason. Caffeine is one of its key ingredients, which acts as a DHT blocker and stimulates the follicles. It also contains 0.2% ketoconazole, which fights against the fungus that can lead to baldness. Gross.
Saw palmetto fights dandruff to keep the scalp healthy, while cocamidopropyl betaine (an ingredient found in coconut oil) is used to strengthen the follicles at the root.
Sounds great, right? But could this shampoo be too good to be true?
It’s more a case of what they show. Because lots of the reviews for Hair Surge include before and after pictures… and the results speak for themselves. People are shocked. And amazed. And very, very happy with their hair growth.
But there’s a dark side to Hair Surge. Hair loss forums claim that all of these glowing reviews are fake, and that using the product actually causes more hair to fall out. Other customers (who appear genuine) say that perhaps for the first few uses, the change in pH might cause initial shedding but that after continued use, it does result in regrowth.
So I’m on the fence about this one. It is pretty expensive and if it does result in more thinning, well, the risk is more than monetary. I’d be inclined to try the other ones on this list first and then maybe give it a go down the road. Watch this space…
Great. That’s 6 of the supposedly best shampoos for alopecia. But which one should you go for?!
I get it. With so many alopecia products to choose from, it can be hard to find the one that’s right for you.
But it sure helps if you know what to look out for. So before you embark on a shampoo shopping spree, consider the following factors:
Let’s start with the things you should avoid. You don’t want silicones, conditioning agents or pearlising agents (which are found in many sulphate-free shampoos on the market). These things can clog the follicles and interfere with new growth. Instead, you want a shampoo that gently cleans each strand without leaving any residue.
There are some ingredients that you do want to see on the label. But more on those in a sec.
Some products, like Nioxin Cleanser or Ultrax Labs Hair Surge, can result in redness or irritation of the scalp. A little tingling is ok but if the irritation persists, you might want to cut down to 2 or 3 applications a week.
So alopecians or hairlossers with sensitive scalps might prefer a more gentle option, like Pura D’Or or Laritelle, that they can use daily.
I used to be a sucker for reviews. Whether it was finding a restaurant, booking a hotel or searching for my latest hair cure, I tended to believe everything I read. Now I take it all with a hefty side of salt.
I know that many of these reviews are fake and that even if the product is genuinely amazing for one person, it might not be for me. Still, reviews from forums like this one are always worth checking out. In those threads, people tell it like it is.
Or check out the comments that people have kindly left under this post! 😉
This isn’t that high on my list of priorities. After all, if the product helps my alopecia, I don’t mind my head smelling a bit weird!
Still, it would be nice to smell like natural ingredients as opposed to chemicals. And the natural approach probably leaves your mop feeling nicer to the touch, too.
Personally, the price of the product doesn’t make a huge difference to me. I never have to worry about hairdresser fees or styling products, so I can splash out on a shampoo now and then!
But if you’re spending a small fortune on products and haven’t seen any difference after say, 2 or 3 months… well, it might be time for a change.
It’s one of the main factors to consider before buying an alopecia shampoo, so do what all those ads tell you to do… ‘Always read the label!’
The top ingredients you should look out for are:
Normally a prescription shampoo, but also found in small doses in over-the-counter options (like Hair Surge), ketoconazole is an anti-androgenetic formula. This means that it blocks testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (or DHT, as you’ll know by now), both of which are associated with alopecia.
It’s used orally to treat fungal infections, but the topical stuff can also be effective if you suffer from androgenetic alopecia. It’s also in a popular anti-dandruff shampoo called Nizoral; which, FYI, is meant to be pretty good for reducing shedding by improving the quality of the scalp.
But as with all alopecia-related products, there are mixed reviews as to its effectiveness.
Hang on. Caffeine is an immunosuppressant, right? So how is it meant to help with hair growth?
Well, aside from giving us a good ol’ jolt of energy when we need it, research shows that caffeine is also an effective DHT blocker. Meaning that it counteracts testosterone’s suppression of hair follicle production.
Instead, it nourishes the follicle, which promotes growth of the shaft (yes, I went there!), plus it lengthens that anagen ‘holiday’ phase that I mentioned earlier. And don’t we all love long holidays?!
Unfortunately, enjoying more cups of coffee a day isn’t going to make your locks grow – you’d need to drink 40 or 50 for that to work, which obviously wouldn’t be ideal for your health. But applied topically, you only need a little; and your follicles won’t build up a resistance to it either (like they might do with other drugs).
For many people, shedding strands can be a result of a deficiency in minerals or vitamins – such as zinc or biotin (also known as Vitamin B7). Biotin is important for a number of reasons, like producing fatty acids and glucose, but it also strengthens hair and nails.
I actually used biotin tablets years ago and although they didn’t seem to noticeably improve my hair, they did work wonders on my brittle nails! If I saw it in a shampoo now, I’d still think that was a good sign.
This berry-laden plant has been used as a medicine and a sex drive enhancer for centuries, among a range of other applications. Nowadays, thanks to its reported ability to stabilise testosterone levels, it is also used to treat hair loss.
In fact, one study showed that nearly half of the men who were treated with saw palmetto saw an increase in hair count of 11.9%. Which is why lots of the top alopecia shampoos, like Shapiro MD and Ultrax Labs Hair Surge, include this natural ingredient. Smart move!
This green gift just keeps on giving. It looks pretty, it tastes great, and it’s got a heap of health benefits – whether it’s for aiding digestion, soothing sunburn or giving you fabulous skin and hair!
Aloe Vera contains proteolytic enzymes, which repair dead skin cells on the scalp. It also keeps your locks in better condition to prevent breakages and promote growth. Plus, it increases blood circulation, allowing nutrients to flock to the places that need them.
The plant brings lots of benefits for your hair. You can use the gel straight from the leaves, rubbing it into the scalp and leaving for 15 minutes before rinsing with a mild shampoo. Or look out for the gel as an active ingredient in hair loss shampoos. (Psst… check out my thoughts on the green stuff here!)
You can buy medicated shampoos and prescription formulas for alopecia, which contain stronger doses of ingredients like minoxidil and ketoconazole.
Psst… Minoxidil is also known as Rogaine, and although it has been shown to regrow hair in many cases, there are side effects of which people should be aware. Personally, I stopped using it because I felt it was giving me headaches, thinning the skin on my scalp, and anyway, my patches were too extensive to use the small recommended dose.
So even though you can often buy these things over the counter, I’d advise consulting a professional first.
These options normally contain amino acids and antioxidants to help rebuild hair while reducing damage and inflammation. Because basically, a healthy scalp and healthy hair are the building blocks for a full mane.
Try formulas that include antioxidants like green tea, ginseng, Vitamin E and amino acids, plus B vitamins to reduce environmental damage. Steer clear of parabens, sulfates and fragrances, which can irritate the hair and dry it out.
Now, I didn’t realise before researching this piece that Nioxin actually does contain sulfates. More fool me. But some research indicates that sulfates don’t deserve their bad rep!
Sometimes you just want a shampoo that’s gentle on your scalp. Maybe you’re too overwhelmed by all the choices to pick a specific shampoo for alopecia, or maybe you’re travelling and can’t access the above products that easily.
In such cases, I turn to JĀSÖN for its range of sulfate-free, biotin and vitamin-enriched shampoos and conditioners. (All of which smell AMAZING; but the set with Biotin is my favourite.)
Or I go back to basics and use Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. This is particularly useful when I travel; I can buy it pretty much anywhere, it’s gentle on my scalp and it comes in handy, travel-sized bottles.
It may not leave my hair as silky smooth as the others on this list and it probably doesn’t encourage hair growth… but it’s a better alternative to using whatever random soap I bought in the local market!
Yes, most of them are for daily use. The only ones that might be better with a day’s rest in between are Hair Surge and possibly Nioxin, for those with a sensitive scalp.
I do have quite thin skin on my scalp though, from too many corticosteroid injections, and I’ve never had a problem with using Nioxin daily.
In most cases, yes. In fact, this can actually help you to get the most out of the different ingredients. I’d recommend using a more gentle shampoo like Laritelle or Pura D’Or most days, alternating with more chemical-heavy ones like Nioxin, Shapiro MD or Hair Surge on the other days.
That way you’d get your caffeine and ketoconazole DHT-blocking fix, plus all the benefits of the natural stuff to keep your hair nourished.
This differs from person to person, depending on where they are in the hair growth cycle. I started noticing softer, fuller-looking hair pretty much immediately with Nioxin. For a reduction in hair fall, you’re looking at at least a month. But for actual regrowth, it could be anything from 3 to 6 months.
I’d recommend trying a product for a minimum of 3 months before choosing whether or not to stick to it.
We’ve looked at the top alopecia shampoos on the market, plus gone over some things to consider when looking for your new shower companion. (In the cleanest sense, of course.)
Now you’ll know to bear in mind factors like ingredients, use and reviews – plus you’ll know exactly what ingredients to look out for (and what to avoid). Finally, you’ll know where to get your shampoo – via prescription or in-store – and you have a few gentle options for when it’s time to go back to a ‘normal’ shampoo.
Phew! We’ve covered quite a lot. So congratulations on making it to the end!
Your hair isn’t going to regrow overnight. It may take weeks, or months, or even years to improve. And this improvement might not be the result of a shampoo at all; it could be changes to your diet, your environment or your hormones.
But I wanted this article to shed a little light on just some of the hundreds of hair loss products out there, and to present the ones I have tried, or would like to try, myself.
I hope you find the information helpful and if you do choose to start any of the above treatments, please let me know how you get on!
Psst… Check out a few other hair loss treatments in these posts!
1. Nioxin Shampoo Review – Read about my personal experience with the shampoo.
2. Keranique Hair Care – One of Nioxin’s main competitors.
3. A Natural Solution – Why I love aloe vera.
4. The Mindful Approach – Using meditation to help with hair loss.
5. Alopecia Diet – Nutritional advice to reduce inflammation.