Almost every shampoo and conditioner you see mentions how it will make your hair healthier, stronger and glossier. They promise to fight dandruff, boost hair growth and keep your hair well moisturised.
However, can shampoo and conditioner cause hair loss?
Yes, some of these products could actually be making things worse. Even thickening shampoos that are supposed to make your hair grow longer and thicker could be doing the opposite.
There was some panic a couple of years ago when WEN cleansing conditioners were reported to cause hair loss, breakage, balding, rashes and itching.
Granted, that was an extreme case. But it shows that you should be cautious about the kinds of shampoos and conditioners you buy. Watch out for ingredients that could weaken your hair and cause or aggravate hair loss.
Always check the ingredients before you buy a shampoo or conditioner. Even if it is a well trusted brand, there could still be an ingredient that affects you differently than it does other users. Here are some of the ingredients to be cautious about.
Note: Not all these ingredients are flat-out bad. Some are safe in low concentrations and others are only bad if you have fine or damaged hair. Just be more careful when buying a shampoo with any of them.
Many cleaning products contain ammonium lauryl sulphate (ALS) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). While research has shown no link between low levels of sulphates in beauty products with adverse effects like cancer, they can still cause several hair problems.
If you have a sensitive scalp, you may experience itching and irritation which can cause or worsen hair loss. If you are already vulnerable to hair loss either because of genetics, illness or damaged hair, you are better off staying away from shampoos and conditioners containing sulphates and choose a sulphate free shampoo.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogenic gas. If you get exposed to it you’ll experience burning eyes, throat irritation and breathing issues. If it gets into contact with your scalp, it can cause trauma to your hair follicles which leads to hair loss. The conditions will be worse if you already have damaged or fine hair.
Most companies won’t say their products have formaldehyde on the label. Technically, it’s true. However, it might be hidden in other ingredients such as preservatives. These ingredients can release the toxic gas over time or when they come into contact with heat.
Even when a product is labelled as formaldehyde-free, check for other formaldehyde-releasing ingredients such as quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.
3. Sodium chloride
Sodium chloride, better known as table salt, is often used as a thickener in shampoos and conditioners. But it can also cause scalp irritation, dryness and hair loss. If you are already experiencing hair thinning, a shampoo with sodium chloride can make it worse.
Most shampoos and conditioners contain some form of alcohol. If a product lists alcohol as one of the first 4 or 5 ingredients, which means it in a relatively high concentration, avoid it. Alcohol dehydrates your hair and scalp and can worsen hair loss.
Other ingredients to lookout for include propylene glycol (anti-freeze), mineral oil or lanolin (especially if you have thin hair), methylparaben and propylparaben (both are types of parabens), triethanolamine and diethanolamine.
Read also: Can Shampoo And Conditioner Cause Acne?
How to use shampoos and conditioners safely
No matter which shampoo and conditioner you buy, there will be at least one or two ingredients that have some undesired side effects. But there are a few ways you can protect your hair from breakage and thinning.
- The first step of course is to buy the right shampoo and conditioner. Avoid products with harsh ingredients. 2-in-1 shampoos are also not recommended especially if you have delicate hair. Wash and condition your hair separately. Natural, organic or medicated shampoos and conditioners are often the best at preventing hair loss.
- Secondly, follow the usage instructions. If the label says you should leave the conditioner for a specific amount of time, do not exceed. If it is not a regular shampoo, do not use it every day as it will dry out your hair and make it fall off more easily.
- Finally, avoid applying hair conditioner to your scalp. It should only be applied to the end half of your hair shafts. This prevents a build-up of product on your scalp which could cause dryness, irritation, itching and hair loss.