Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/9/2019
Hair loss can be stressful, especially when your hair seems to magically appear on your brush or in your shower drain each and every day.
If you’ve searched for information about the causes of hair loss in women, you may have come across resources that attribute hair loss to certain ingredients in shampoo.
Right now, there aren’t any studies that show a direct link between shampoo use and female hair loss.
However, there are rare situations in which shampoo can irritate your scalp and affect your hair’s strength, thickness and appearance.
Read on to learn more about the science on shampoo to see how it affects your hair and whether it can potentially cause shedding or damage.
You’ll also find information on how you can use shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products to keep your hair in optimal condition while limiting damage.
Healthy hair is the goal — and on your head and not the brush.
Shampoo is one of several vital products for caring for your hair. Research shows that shampoo not only helps to keep your scalp and hair clean, but it also plays a key role in shielding the hair shaft (the part of your hair that’s visible above your scalp) from damage.
Although some websites may try to link hair loss with certain types of shampoo, right now there isn’t any research that shows that shampoo plays a major role in any type of hair loss.
That said, certain ingredients used in shampoo and other hair care products over the years have been linked to other hair and scalp issues.
Formaldehyde isn’t commonly used in shampoo, but it is occasionally used in keratin treatments designed to improve the hair’s smoothness, texture and volume.
Some sulfates used in shampoo have also been linked to scalp issues, including skin that feels overly dry.
Sulfates are ingredients used to clean away dirt and oil. While they’re effective, they can cause scalp irritation in people with certain skin conditions, such as rosacea.
Although it’s relatively uncommon, some people also experience allergic reactions to ingredients used in many shampoos.
For example, research shows that the ingredient propylene glycol, which is used to absorb extra water and keep your scalp and hair moist, can cause allergic skin reactions in some people.
These reactions are uncommon, but they may cause certain shampoos to make your skin itchy, red and irritated if you’re sensitive to this ingredient.
In general, reports of shampoo-related hair loss aren’t very common. While shampoo can cause issues when it’s used too frequently (for example, washing your hair multiple times every day), it generally isn’t linked to hair loss.
While shampoo isn’t likely to cause hair loss, other things can. Common causes of hair loss for women include:
Female pattern hair loss. This type of hair loss is caused by the same factors as male pattern baldness, primarily hormonal damage to your hair follicles. Hair follicle damage can lead to thinning or total hair loss around your part line.
Telogen effluvium. Also referred to as stress hair loss, this type of hair loss can occur due to stressful events, infections, illnesses that cause fever, nutritional deficiencies or rapid weight loss. It may cause temporary thinning that affects your entire scalp.Many women experience telogen effluvium while pregnant or shortly after giving birth — a phenomenon referred to as pregnancy or postpartum hair loss.
Traction alopecia. This type of hair loss occurs as a result of physical damage to your hair follicles caused by tight hairstyles such as ponytails, braids, dreadlocks or other styling techniques. It’s sometimes referred to as ponytail hair loss.
Certain skin conditions can also cause you to lose hair. (You can read more about these in our guide on causes of sudden hair loss.)
Hair damage from shampoo is rare. However, if you’re concerned about harming your hair with shampoo, there are several steps you can take to prevent damage and get the best results from your hair care routine.
When it comes to washing your hair, you’ll get the best results from a shampoo that’s a good match for your hair type.
Many shampoos are formulated to treat certain aspects of hair health such as dryness, excess oil production or thinning.
Others are designed especially to support chemically straightened or color-treated hair.
This Hair Loss Shampoo for Women is formulated specifically to control shedding and facilitate healthy hair growth.
Although we often associate shampoo with smooth, silky hair, shampoo is largely formulated to clean away the oil, dirt and other substances that can build up on your scalp and at the base of your hair strands.
To get the best results from your shampoo, make sure to focus on cleaning your scalp instead of the tips of your hair.
Carefully massage the shampoo into your scalp, then thoroughly rinse your hair and scalp before applying conditioner.
Since everyone is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all number of days to wait in between washing and conditioning your hair.
Instead, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your hair based on the amount of oil your scalp produces.
If you have an oily scalp (and oily hair), you may need to wash it on a daily basis. On the other hand, if your hair is naturally dry (or if you use hair treatments that dry it out), it’s usually better to wait a few days between washes.
Conditioner improves your hair’s texture, feel, appearance and fullness. It also increases your hair’s strength and provides protection from UV damage, making it important to use after every wash.
Like with shampoo, there’s a technique to using conditioner correctly. Try to apply conditioner to the ends of your hair rather than the whole length.
This helps improve your hair’s appearance without making it look thin and lifeless.
Although damage from shampoo is uncommon, research shows a clear link between exposure to heat and damage to your hair’s structure.
After you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, it’s best to let it dry naturally. If you need to use a blow dryer, try to use the lowest heat setting and hold the dryer at least six inches away from your hair to minimize heat-related damage.
It’s important to limit your hair’s exposure to excessive heat even when it’s dry. Try to limit your use of curling wands, flat irons and other devices that directly apply heat to your hair to once a week, or just before special occasions.
Washing your hair with shampoo and conditioner is an essential part of keeping it clean, strong and free of damage.
Although some shampoo ingredients can cause skin and scalp irritation, there’s currently no research that shows that shampoo causes permanent hair loss. In fact, it’s typically a staple for maintaining healthy hair.
You’ll get the best results and the strongest, smoothest and healthiest hair by washing regularly with a shampoo that’s designed for your hair type.
For more information, check out this guide to the best shampoo for women’s hair loss, and learn more about the ingredients to look for in a shampoo to support healthy, sustainable hair growth.