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What Ingredient In Shampoo Causes Hair Loss?

What Ingredient In Shampoo Causes Hair Loss?
June 2022

Hair loss is a complex – but very common – issue. According to the American Hair Loss Association, approximately 66% of men experience some level of hair loss by the age of 35, and that number jumps all the way up to 85% for men 50 and older. So if the hair up top doesn’t feel quite as thick and luxurious as it used to, know you’re not alone.

If you expect that you’re experiencing hair loss or that your once magnificent mane is starting to thin, the first thing you’re probably wondering is what could have caused it.

We’ve all heard the theories – hair loss has been chalked up to everything from your diet to your favorite baseball hat. But could part of the problem be right on the shelf in your shower?

Today we’re taking a critical look at shampoo and hair loss. Here’s what we have in store:

  • What does the research say about shampoo and hair loss?
  • What ingredient in shampoo causes hair loss or damage?
  • What are some green flag shampoo ingredients that are good for your hair?
man with hair loss
While a variety of factors from stress to weight loss can contribute to your receding hairline, a lot of your hair loss risk is probably genetic.

The Answer Isn’t That Straightforward

When it comes to hair loss, you’ve probably heard that any number of things are the culprit. Could shampoo be one of the factors causing your hairline to retreat?

Folk wisdom suggests that the genes for Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) comes from your mom’s side of the family, but in reality the genes that contribute to hair loss come from both sides of the family.

Up to 95% of guys who experience hair loss can blame it on their genes, but there might be other factors at play as well. In general, MPB involves gradual hair loss, starting as early as the teens and progressing as a man gets older. If you experience hair loss more suddenly, other factors might be at play as well:

  • Diseases like anemia or a thyroid problem
  • Certain treatments like radiation or chemotherapy
  • Certain medications and vitamins (Vitamin A and anabolic steroids can contribute)
  • Scalp infections and skin conditions affecting the scalp
  • Improperly balanced diet
  • Stress
  • Hair styles that put tension or stress on the scalp
  • And other factors

Noticeably absent from that list is the topic of article here: shampoo.

While shampoo probably isn’t the root cause of your hair loss, certain shampoo ingredients can certainly have a big impact on your overall hair health. So if you’re using a shampoo with lots of harsh ingredients that dry out and damage your hair, it’s probably going to make your hair look and feel lackluster. And if your hair is losing its thickness to begin with, throwing bad shampoo in the mix is definitely not what you want.

Luckily, the same way that we know some shampoo ingredients can be damaging to hair, there are other shampoo ingredients out there that can help you give your locks some love.

Keep reading to find out some common red flag ingredients, as well as green flag ingredients, you should know when you’re shopping for shampoo.

shampoo in hand
Shampoo might all look pretty similar, but it’s not all created equal. The ingredients in shampoo can have a big impact on the overall health of your hair.

Red Flags That Indicate Your Shampoo Is No Good For You

As of this writing, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) doesn’t list any shampoos or shampoo ingredients as common causes of hair loss. But like we said earlier, there are definitely ingredients out there that can work against your hair retention goals even if they aren’t the root cause of your hair loss.

These ingredients should raise alarms if you see them on the back of your shampoo bottle:

  • Sulfates
  • Parabens
  • Polyethylene glycols
  • Formaldehyde
  • Alcohols
  • Silicones
  • Diethanolamine and Triethanolamine
  • Synthetic Fragrances and Colors


These are a super common one. Sulfates – aka the chemical detergent that makes your shampoo suds up – can be found in more than 90% of hair products. Which means if you want an easy way to rule out shampoo that won’t be good for your ‘do, remember sulfates.

Why are they a problem? Sulfates remove the natural oils from your hair, which can leave your locks dry and damaged.

???? On the label: Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)


Also called xenoestrogens, you may have also heard of parabens because, like sulfates, they’re extremely common and can be found in a variety of name brand shampoos and conditioners. They are preservatives that increase the shelf life of hair products, but they can also disrupt your hormones and cause serious scalp irritation, along with other health concerns.

???? On the label: Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and other things that end in -paraben

Polyethylene Glycols

Does putting petroleum in your hair sound like a no-no? Good, it should. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)  is a thickening agent that is usually made from petroleum, which as you might imagine, can cause damage to your hair. Even worse, PEG and other ethoxylated ingredients have been named a developmental toxicant and been linked to numerous types of cancer. Yikes.

???? On the label: Polyethylene glycol, PPG, PEG, polysorbate and ingredients that end in –eth such as laureth, steareth, ceteareth


Yeah, the stuff that they use to preserve dead bodies (and interestingly/concerningly also shows up in a lot of building materials). It’s well-known as a dangerous, cancer-causing chemical, which means it has no business in your hair care routine. Even so, formaldehyde can be found in many shampoos and conditioners to this day. Formaldehyde can absorb through your scalp and cause serious damage to your hair and the rest of your body, too.

???? On the label: Quaternium-15


Shampoos typically contain compounds called carrying agents, which help the active ingredients in the product do what they need to do. Some shampoos use alcohol as a carrying agent, but certain alcohols can dry out and damage your hair.

Note that not all alcohols are bad for your hair. Ok ones usually start with “C” or “S” like Cetearyl or Stearyl alcohol, which can actually help lock in moisture. Bad alcohols in shampoo usually have “prop” somewhere in the name.

???? On the label: Propanol, ethanol, isopropyl, and propyl alcohol


Silicones are a type of polymer that can help your hair get silky and smooth… in the short term. Some silicones can build up over time, keeping moisture from reaching your hair and ultimately making it dry and brittle.

Like alcohols, some silicones aren’t as bad for your hair as others. Cyclomethicone, for example, is a lightweight, water-soluble silicone, which means it easily rinses out of your hair and is less likely to build up and cause damage.

???? On the label: Dimethicone, and other things that end in -cone

Diethanolamine + Triethanolamine

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) are concerning to see on your shampoo label for a couple of reasons. They’re usually included as emulsifying agents or fragrances, but they are bad news for your hair and body alike. DEA and TEA have been known to destroy keratin, one of the key proteins that makes up hair, as well as causing liver tumors and various kinds of cancer.

???? On the label: Triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate

Fragrance + Colors

Okay sure, we all want to step out of the shower smelling fresh, but not at the cost of your hair. Fragrance and color are unnecessary add-ins to your shampoo and conditioner, and the scary part is they can be used to mask any number of chemicals used to make the smell or color without actually slapping that chemical on the label. Sound sketchy? It kinda is.

Chemicals used to create synthetic fragrances or colors can cause scalp irritation, hair breakage, and a range of serious health issues from infertility to asthma to cancer.

???? On the label: Fragrance, FD&C or D&C combined with an number

man with long hair
Choosing a shampoo with ingredients designed to keep your hair healthy can help you hang onto it for longer.

Green Flags That Show Your Shampoo Is Good For Your ‘Do

Now that you know what to avoid, we can also talk about ingredients that are known for keeping your hair healthy and strong. These are some ingredients known to promote general hair health, but you can also find plenty of shampoos for hair loss treatment and hair regrowth on the market as well.

✅ Natural Oils

Things like coconut oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, and grape seed oil can help moisturize your hair to keep it healthy and strong.

✅ Herbal Extracts

That includes extracts like nettle, dandelion, horsetail, sage, peppermint, green tea, rosemary, chamomile, and more. I know, it sounds like your wife’s tea collection, but they can provide a powerful nutrient boost to your hair too.

✅ Vitamins

If you’re looking for ways to keep your hair healthy and strong, you’ve probably come across recommendations for taking daily biotin or collagen supplements. You can also find these in a good shampoo. Keratin is another good one, too.

Other vitamins – like zinc and niacin (a B3 vitamin) – can even aid in hair growth.

✅ Ketoconazole

This is an antifungal medication that’s used to prevent dandruff. Sounds gross, but research suggests it can also be helpful in hair growth, probably because it keeps the scalp healthy.

✅ Minoxidil

In other words, Rogaine. If you’re really trying to fight back against hair loss, you can find a shampoo that includes a dose of minoxidil to help thicken your hair and prevent hair loss.

man at the barber taking care of his hair
Paying attention to the products you put in your hair is an easy way to help it stay as healthy and strong as it can, not to mention limit your exposure to a bunch of concerning chemicals that are common ingredients in shampoo.

Our Specialists Can Help You Restore And Retain Your Hair

Shampoo is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to treating and preventing hair loss. At Medical Man Cave, our specialists provide a variety of treatments to address hair loss concerns at any stage. From ARTAS IX hair restoration, to platelet therapy, to Rogaine, to Propecia, and more, we can help find the right solution for you so that you can feel confident with a full head of natural-looking hair no matter what else life throws at you.

Want to learn more? Check out our hair loss treatment and services here.

man with full hair on a beach
Hair loss can have a big impact on a man’s self esteem and self image. With specialized treatment, you can get back your confidence and like the guy you see in the mirror.

There you have it – everything you need to know about shampoo ingredients and hair loss. Even though no shampoos or shampoo ingredients are currently considered risk factors for hair loss, not all shampoos are created equal and the ‘poo you choose can have a big impact on your hair health. Keep an eye out for the red flag and green flag shampoo ingredients above, and you’re sure to find a shampoo that works with you in your hair retention goals instead of against you.

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