What's in Nioxin's formula?

The active ingredients in Nioxin


Join me in the shower…

Steady on, now! I simply mean, take a peek inside to see what shampoo I use for hair loss. Or to read the bottle containing all those lovely Nioxin ingredients… which combine to create a product I love.

Yep, I’m a Nioxin fan. And I’m not the only one.

If you’ve read up on the company and you’ve seen what other people say about it, you’re probably interested in checking it out.

Who knows, maybe you’ve started using it already. Or you’ve been there, done that and decided to stop using Nioxin entirely. In any case, it might help to know what you’re actually slathering (or used to slather!) on your scalp.

I have a tendency to be a little naïve, especially when it comes to hair loss treatments. I’ll trust they’ll magically regrow hair and I’ll blindly buy into them without knowing what’s in them. So I thought I’d share with you what goes into each system – to help you make an informed decision before you buy.

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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.

Nioxin Shampoo Ingredients and Technologies

Me showing off my bottle of Nioxin. I seem to be rather excited about it.

Obviously, the list of Nioxin ingredients varies slightly depending on what product you go for. But whether you’re using Nioxin system 2 or the one I started with, System 6, the active ingredients are the same. And each system, or kit, uses at least 3 of these patented technologies… 


With cystine amino acids and other conditioning ingredients, this technology works to thicken each hair follicle, strengthening it against breakage. Yay!

Transactive Delivery System

Featuring all the lovely healthy stuff like botanicals, vitamins and antioxidants to remove unwanted excess sebum and unclog those follicles. Sounds gross. But is effective.


The refreshing combination of peppermint oil and white tea extract cleans and cools down the scalp while giving your mane a lovely shine. (Psst…for another of my favorite scalp oils, read this!)


Moisturising humectants (say that 3 times fast!), plus a bunch of other conditioning ingredients protect and balance colour-treated hair.


More amino acids, more conditioning agents and kuki nut oil – yep, it’s a thing – leave your strands soft, shiny and silky. Harder to tie headscarves, maybe. Oh well.

Scalp Access Delivery System

This technology has it all. Nourishing botanicals, vitamins and a good dose of SPF 15 to protect your noggin. So you never have to feel like a boiled egg again.

So, that’s the various technologies.

And each system has a different mix of them, depending on whether that kit is for natural or colour-treated hair, or for those with progressed thinning hair.

mixing ingredients
What I imagine a Nioxin science-man looks like. Nice hair net Barry!

The list of the main Nioxin ingredients.


Also known by its – only slightly – less catchy name of phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid, this baby makes up 4% of the total product. It’s normally used as a sunscreen and absorbs those harmful UV rays. Allowing the treatment to protect the scalp, for a healthier foundation. Good stuff.


The products’ second active ingredient, which accounts for 1.6% and is also used as a sunscreen. Double the protection!


Each treatment has a particular focus on Vitamin B (as people with thinning hair are often vitamin B-deficient). So each Nioxin product includes:
two science people mixing ingredients
A generic photo of chemicals I found online somewhere.

Basically, if you use these products regularly, you’re pretty much covered in the B vitamin stakes. So don’t worry. B Happy.

Any Chemicals Involved?

Well, yes – Nioxin also contains lots of chemicals. Although maybe not as many as Keranique, which also contains minoxidil. These are: ubiquinone (aka coenzyme Q10), coenzyme A, glycoproteins, chlorphenesin and melanin.

Some of them are immune-boosting antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation, aid in cell growth and division and promote a healthier scalp environment. (Woohoo!)

Others have antibacterial properties, while melanin produces colour. Great news if your hair starts to regrow in a white or grey shade – and you don’t fancy rocking the Rogue from X-Men look.

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So Does Nioxin Contain Harmful Ingredients?

Unfortunately, yes. Since P&G took over in 2008, the company is said to have changed its formula. Even now, it’s hard to find a comprehensive list of what’s exactly in there.

But my research has shown me that the new formula contains selenium sulfide, which is a chemical compound found in dandruff-fighting shampoos, and which can actually increase hair loss.

It also contains sodium lauryl sulfates and both methylparaben and propylparaben. (FYI: Sulfates and parabens are great for creating a lather, but not so great for your hair! Check out my top sulfate-free options in this post.)

Each product contains plenty of natural ingredients – like peppermint, biotin, aloe vera and amino acids. These herbs and botanicals deliver essential nutrients to the scalp. (They’re pretty generous like that.) They are missing out on some other great natural ingredients though, like neem – see this post for benefits of neem oil.

In doing so, they block DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is said to be a key factor in causing alopecia (and the main androgen responsible for androgenetic alopecia in particular.)

However, the products also contain synthetic active ingredients, like the sulfates and parabens I mentioned above. Some of them include minoxidil too, which is the active ingredient in Rogaine and a pretty potent formula.

Final Thoughts: Always read the label!

Whether or not you’re ok with going down the chemical route is your call. I tried it for a while, and it worked for me – but my hair started to shed again when I stopped using Nioxin.

Maybe I made the right decision to discontinue use. Or maybe I should’ve kept going. In any case, I’ll probably give it a try again in the future!

My recommendation is to read the label of whatever product you’re considering. Research its potential side effects and, if you do start using it, stop if these side effects become severe. Redness and irritation of the scalp is ok, as is a little shedding at first, but stop using Nioxin if you start experiencing more serious loss.

We’re all different, and we’ll all react differently. So give Nioxin a go (if you like) and see if it helps you! 

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Lady Alopecia

Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!

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32 responses

  1. Hi I’d just like to mention that Nioxin has changed there ingredients since this article. There is no selenium sulfide in their products, at least not in any of the products I have gotten from Ulta.

    1. Hi Roc, thanks so much for letting me know! I haven’t used Nioxin in some time (nowadays, I prefer Revita) so I haven’t seen Nioxin bottles recently. Anyone else bought Nioxin recently with selenium sulfide? Just curious, as sometimes the formula might differ between distributers or countries. Otherwise, I’ll update this post so it doesn’t include selenium sulfide as an ingredient anymore.

      Thanks so much again, and take care!


  2. I purchased the step 2 shampoo and conditioner kit but ingredients that you listed above aren’t listed on the back of my bottles, especially the active ingredients. Maybe this is why Nioxin does nothing except cause a lot of hair breakage 🤷‍♀️

    1. Hi Terri, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had an unpleasant experience with the product you bought. I can only wonder that maybe you didn’t buy it from a trusted retailer? (See this post on where to buy it, as there are a lot of scam artists out there!) These are definitely the right ingredients – even though sulfates are now included in the formula took over in 2008, the active ingredients are the same. And I only started using it in 2012/2013 so I’ve reviewed the products with the new formula since that changeover anyway! But I’m so sorry you’ve had a nasty experience. I’d recommend buying Nioxin from somewhere else or, if you’re looking for a shampoo that’s really kind on your scalp (minimum breakage) I’d recommned Revita. Take care!

  3. Good morning!
    I just purchased Nioxin 4 from my hair stylist. Does it contain minoxidil? I can’t take it because it gave me heart palpitations on first use. I have had hair thinning since 2018 and have tried many products. I’m not interested in losing more hair initially. I looked at the label, but of course, it has names of things I have no idea what they are. Can you please tell me why you stopped using Nioxin? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Val, thanks for your question! No, Nioxin 4 doesn’t contain minoxidil – unless you get the product that specifically says ‘with 2% (or 5%) minoxidil’ on the front. The regular shampoo, conditioner and scalp treatment are free from minoxidil.

      However, if you’re getting heart palpitations, I’d say that’s a pretty severe side effect. Although I haven’t heard that particular reaction about Nioxin (see my post on that for more), I have heard it about certain other treatments and my advise would be to discontinue use. It’s odd that you’re getting that response from something that’s pretty natural but even botanical ingredients can cause negative side effects in rare cases. So I’d consider a different shampoo in your case…Revita is really good and you can read about that here. Or if you’d be interested in a good supplement, I’ve heard amazing things about Folexin.

      In my case, I simply stopped using Nioxin because my hair grew back and I didn’t need to keep going! Maybe I should’ve had though because I ended up losing my hair again…I just found it hard to source Nioxin again when I moved to Vietnam. Honestly, I have tried different products on and off and although some things help temporarily (Nioxin and Revita being the best for me, also Vegamour), nothing has helped in the long-term. That’s why I’m careful to remind people, there are no miracle cures here! You can try and alleviate the amount of hair fall with these treatments but overall, it’s also useful to reduce inflammation and the autoimmune response with stress-reducting activities or by eliminating inflammatory foods (see my nutrition tips for more).

      I hope that helps, and take care!

      Emma / Lady Alopecia x

  4. I did use Nioxin for a period of time. Not convinced it helped. After further investigating this product, why on earth would people use a product with harmful chemicals on their hair when they are trying to stop hair shedding, thinning or baldness.
    I will not continue to use anything with chemicals on my hair or body including Nioxin.

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing your experience. And I’m really sorry to hear Nioxin didn’t work for you! I can say, from my own use of it, it really helped me…but like you, I had my reservations about using something chemical-heavy for a long period of time so I stopped. (Unfortunately, my regrowth stopped too but that’s ok!) I guess it’s down to people’s individual choices and many, many people would do whatever it takes to stop their hair falling out…and even though I don’t personally use Nioxin anymore, I felt it was my duty to present all the options. Wishing you all the very, very best with your own treatment journey – and feel free to check out my post on natural remedies, if that helps!

      Love Lady Alopecia x

    1. Hi Jade, thanks for your question! Nope, the shampoo and conditioner and scalp therapy treatment in System 3 don’t contain minoxidil (which you’re right to avoid, I bloody hate it!). In fact, most Nioxin products don’t include it, other than the specialised intensive therapy one for men and women, but they’ll state it on the label. The regular System 3 ones are far more natural!

      Hope that helps 🙂

    1. Aw that’s so lovely, Maria! Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback and I’m so glad you enjoyed my post! 🙂

      Take care,

      Emma / Lady Alopecia x

  5. I just started using nioxin and I love it, but have questioned the chemicals….😥 Are you familiar with Bondi Boost? Appears to be a cleaner product, but wonder if it works?

    1. Hi Maggie, thanks so much for your message – and I’m really glad you’re liking Nioxin so far! I also felt the same, didn’t love using something with chemicals (even though it did help me regrow hair) so for a more long-term solution I like to use Revita shampoo (I’m using the one with CBD oil right now). I had never heard of Bondi Boost until I saw your comment but thanks so much for bringing it to my attention! You’re right, it does seem like a cleaner product and it’s got some great natural hair growth ingredients in there, like peppermint oil and saw palmetto. I’ll see if I can get some here in Vietnam and once I’ve had a chance to test some of their products, will write up a full review!!

      Thanks again for your input, and stay tuned! Emma / Lady Alopecia 🙂

      1. I am using this now I am panicking lol I have a lot of thinning what other shampoo do you suggest in it’s place

        1. Dear Lori, I’m so so sorry for my very late reply. I had a baby a couple of months ago and took a little break from computers for a while so I haven’t been checking in on comments! So please forgive my delayed response to what sounds like a very frustrating situation for you.

          I’m so sorry you didn’t find Nioxin effective. A little excess shedding is totally normal in the first couple of weeks but beyond that, I would recommend trying something else. My 2 favourites are Revita shampoo (I absolutely loved this when I started using it last year and really did see a difference in growth!)…plus Vegamour (Great because they have a whole range of hair growth products; I’ve been using the eyebrow serum and would highly recommend it!) You can read my full Revita post here and my Vegamour one here…or check out my top 9 shampoos for thinning hair here.

          I hope that helps and again, I’m very sorry for any delay.

          Take good care!


  6. I’ve bought system 1 products and now i noticed this atricle. I wonder does the conditioner also include this selenium sulfide. I also looked for the ingredients for this selenium sulfide but i cant find it there. Does it go by other name in their products or something ? 🙂

    1. Hi Mac,

      Thanks for your question! No, from my research it seems that Nioxin doesn’t contain selenium sulfide. I wondered if it was perhaps in its specific anti-dandruff products (as this is a popular ingredient in shampoos of this type) but nope, that doesn’t contain it either. So you should be fine to use it!

      All the best,

      Emma / Lady Alopecia 🙂

        1. Hi Lori, I’m so sorry – you’re right! It is confusing as it seems to depend where you buy it from. Some online sellers supply the version without selenium sulfide (the older formula) while others sell the new stuff (which does contain it). Nioxin have also changed their website now so it doesn’t contain the full list of ingredients, like it did before. Hmmmm. My advice is to either buy it from your local salon, and ask to look at the back of the product first, or from an Amazon seller that clearly states the ingredients list on the product page.

          Again, sorry for the oversight and thank you for bringing it to my attention! 😉

  7. I have just finished chemo for breast cancer. Is this product recommended (Nioxin System 2) to use on a bald head to grow hair back?

    1. Hi Kathy, thank you for your question. I would check with your doctor whether Nioxin is safe to use for you right now as it’s not a completely all-natural solution. The shampoo, conditioner and leave-in treatment should be fine (again, I’d advise checking though) but the products with minoxidil would be best avoided, in my opinion. Also, Nioxin does not claim to ‘regrow hair’; rather, it provides the optimal condition for regrowth. I myself have experienced regrowth after using Nioxin System 2 but we’re all different so what worked for me may not for you! If you like, take a look at my full review about Nioxin products here. If you do decide to use it, I’d recommend sticking with it for at least 3 months, 6 for maximum results…although some people report shedding happening again once they stop using it. You’ll probably experience redness, tingling, maybe even a little itching in the first week…especially if your scalp is quite sensitive now…but that’s normal, it’s just the scalp adjusting to the new formula. This should calm down after 2 weeks though and you could also calm any redness or itching with fresh aloe vera from the plant, if you can source it. More about aloe in this post.

      I hope that helps, Kathy! Wishing you all the very best in your recovery. xxx

    2. Does the Nioxin Pro thick have either product that I am allergic to in it. 4-aminophenel, or cocamidopropyl betaine in it

  8. I have a set of nioxin shampoo and conditioner but i just got a keratin treatment. Is nioxin sulfate and salt free?

    1. Hi Frida, thanks for your question. So unfortunately Nioxin does contain sulfates nowadays (it changed its formula back in 2008 when P&G took over). I’ve been reading some further research into sulfates and parabens (which may not actually be as damaging to hair like we’ve been led to believe!) but reports are conflicting. If you just got a keratin treatment, it’s probably best to check with your hairdresser/stylist and see what they recommend. Regarding the salt, yes it contains sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. Again, check with your hairdresser to see what they’d advise.

      Thanks again!


    1. Hi Janice, thanks for your question! I personally have seen good results with Nioxin, it would take a couple of months to see real results but I would recommend it. Please tell her though, that she’ll probably experience redness and itching (maybe even a little more shedding) for the first 2 weeks as her scalp gets used to the formula, but that should clear. She should probably check with her doctor too, if she’s on other medications. I would also recommend applying a mask of coconut or castor oil with a few drops of peppermint essential oil in it once or twice a week to stimulate regrowth in a natural way.

      Hope that helps!

  9. I have extreme hair loss due to lupus flare up..currently on steroids and immunosuppresants.will this be helpful for me?

    1. Hi Dr Minal, I’m so sorry to hear about your hair loss, and your Lupus also. As you are already taking considerable amounts of chemicals I would perhaps suggest a more natural alternative for the time being – things like fresh onion, rubbed on your patches, are very effective, also both rosemary and peppermint essential oils (mixed with a carrier like neem, coconut or castor) are brilliant for boosting circulation. You might see faster results with Nioxin but I’d be wary of using it if you’re already on those steroids and immunosuppressants. If you like, here’s a post I wrote about natural remedies and another one about the best oils for hair loss. Also, Pura D’Or offer a great range of natural products, too. I hope that helps you!

      Take good care,

      Emma (Lady Alopecia)

  10. I’d like like to try these products for my 20 yr old daughter but she’s been taking methotrexate for almost a year. We’re you on any type of alopecia medication when you used this product before? I have to send this to her in Japan where she’s currently stationed but I should probably ask her first if they sell this product there. Also following you on Facebook and thinking of doing the AIP diet with my other daughter who started seeing bald patches on her head. Thanks for posting all these helpful information on your website and FB page.

    1. Hi Jessica, thank you for your question. No, I wasn’t on any alopecia medication at the time of using Nioxin – however, I had had corticosteroid injections (also immune suppressants) previously. I had tried topical Minoxidil too, as well as other treatments that I didn’t find effective in the long-term, and that (for me) had pretty awful side effects. That’s why I liked Nioxin so much! You can get Nioxin on Amazon, and I’m sure they’ll ship to Japan? Although I’ve been struggling to get my supply where I’m currently based (in Vietnam) due to covid but I’ve ordered a few products to my home in Ireland, and am getting family to post my parcel from there. 🙂

      Thank you for following my journey on FB too, I’m so glad it’s providing you with some info! I couldn’t recommend the AIP diet more, actually…I know I’ve been taking supplements too but 3 weeks in and I started getting white fuzz in patches that had been “barren” for years…it feels amazing! I’ll stick with it, and keep people posted through my main channels with my progress. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, you can do so here! I hope it helps your other daughter and that perhaps she can slow down/prevent any further hair loss.

      Wishing you and your family all the very best,

      Emma 🙂

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