How to choose the best shampoo for hair loss?

Everyone suffers from some hair loss. A range of 100 – 150 lost hairs a day is normal, and should not be a reason for concern. If you shed much more than that, it starts being a problem, and you may be looking for some solutions. Often thinning is the first apparent sign of hair loss. In severe hair loss cases, balding is the result. Because of the complex biology of hair loss and hair growth most of the current solutions to the problem are only partial. With hair thinning, sometimes just increasing hair volume is enough to hide the problem. Slowing down or even reversing balding is only sometimes possible, depending on the underlying causes of balding. You may need to experiment with several products, knowing that your specific case is probably unique and may be difficult to solve.

Spotty_baldingBecause many different conditions may cause hair loss, it is important to be aware of your own personal situation and what causes hair loss in your own body. Some causes of hair loss are easier to treat than others. For example, if your hair loss is only caused by iron deficiency, it is fairly easy to add iron to your nutrition, and probably your hair loss will slow down, or even stop. In this case, you would, of course, want to find out the reason of your iron deficiency and treat that as well, but that is beside the scope of this article.

With that said, what are the possible causes of hair loss?

Reasons for hair loss

There are numerous reasons for balding, hair thinning and hair loss. The process of hair growth is complex and affected by many biological and environmental factors. These include:

  1. Genetics – some people are more prone to hair loss than others. This is true in Men and Women. Genetic hair loss is called androgenetic alopecia and is the main reason for hair loss in men and women. This is however a general name, and can be further divided based on the genes involved and the specific effects that eventually lead to hair loss. It is associated with hormonal imbalances and increased DHT production (see below). These hormonal changes also correlate with age, thus, more balding is normally apparent with aging.
  2. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the hormone that regulates follicle miniaturization, which is the main route of genetic hair loss. It is the product of conversion of the hormone testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. DHT production or removal from the scalp is a main target of hair loss treatment.
  3. Other temporary hormonal imbalances and changes in certain periods of life, such as post-partum or post-menopausal, may cause increased hair loss in some women. This type of hair loss is often temporary.
  4. Some other rare diseases manifest as hair loss – here is a rare example.
  5. Autoimmune, thyroid, or scalp disease may also cause hair loss, in addition they may also cause other scalp problems such as psoriasis.
  6. Some research shows that insufficient blood circulation in scalp is related to hair loss, however, the evidence is still not conclusive. It makes sense that optimal blood flow will enhance nutrient delivery and waste removal from hair follicle, for optimal hair growth, but more evidence is needed to show that this is the case.
  7. Iron deficiency may be a cause for hair loss. The evidence is controversial, but often, treating iron deficiency helps with reducing hair loss. However, make sure you really have iron deficiency before taking an iron supplement, because excessive iron may be dangerous. Good nutritional sources of iron are tofu, lentils, beans, oysters, spinach, prunes, raisins, and, lean beef.
  8. Zinc deficiency is also associated with hair loss, maybe through regulation of hormone levels in the bloodstream. Nutritional sources of zinc include oysters, red meats, poultry, liver, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, mussels, shrimps, egg yolks, nuts and various soy products.
  9. Poor liver function resulting from alcohol consumption, viral infection (such as hepatitis) and other liver diseases often causes hair loss.

Choosing shampoo for hair loss

With so many different reasons for hair loss, your shampoo should be only one part of hair loss treatment. You should probably take care of the underlying reasons for hair loss when possible. This may be done by lifestyle and nutritional changes, if the problem is nutrition, or by medical treatment to medical issues such as liver, thyroid, autoimmune and other problems.

Keep in mind that hair loss is often the symptom of a significantly deeper medical problem, and treating only the symptom, without solving the problem would probably give only a temporary and partial solution.

Having said that, different shampoos and hair styling products may still be useful. These products may be used to slow down hair loss, or to add some volume to the hair making hair thinning less apparent.

Shampoo properties to look for

DHT blockers

Some shampoo ingredients prevent the production of DHT, that is a major inhibitor of hair growth. DHT blockers inhibit the enzyme (5-alpha reductase) that is responsible for conversion of testosterone to DHT. These include

  • Ketocoanazole (also called Nizoral) – anti-fungal that is also used for treatment of dandruff.
  • Natural ingredients such as – Saw Palmetto, Nettles, Caffeine, Emu oil  and Green Tea

Ingredients that improve blood circulation

  • Ginkgo biloba is a plant that is used in traditional medicine to improve circulation, and there is some evidence for its usefulness in treating hair loss.
  • Caffeine in addition to being a DHT blocker also improves blood microcirculation.

Increased hair volume

Generally, shampoos that contain some proteins increase hair volume and by that disguise hair thinning. Many volumaising shampoos contain protein extracts from wheat of barley.

Ingredients to avoid

  • Harsh detergents are always a good idea to avoid in shampoo. These include sulfate based detergents, but also other mostly anionic detergents.
  • Too much moisturizers, for example, glycerol, may weigh the hair down.
  • Some resources suggest that silicones (used as hair conditioners) may increase hair loss. I have not been able to find evidence for this statement.

What is the best shampoo for hair loss?

Among the popular hair loss shampoo products on the market, I’ve reviewed 3 sulfate free options. Because I’ve been looking only for sulfate-free shampoos, I’ve also looked at the alternative cleaning agents in these hair products. All three products contain Cocamidopropyl betaine as one of the main surfactants. This ingredient, although gentler than sulfate-based detergents, is sometimes irritant, and has the risk of contaminating by-products that are unsafe.

These three shampoos can be rated according to this order –

  1. Pura d’or Hair Loss is the best shampoo I’ve reviewed. Except of the surfactants that are synthetic, all other ingredients in this shampoo are from natural sources, some of them organic. In addition to aragan oil and tea tree oil, this shampoo contains several ingredients that have been used in Asian traditions to treat hair loss. These are Black seed (kanoji) oil, Amla oil, He shou wu (fo-ti) and Hibiscus oil. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of these plant oils in treating hair loss, but their long history of use suggests that they may work in an unknown mechanism, to delay hair loss, and promote growth. Among the proven DHT blockers included and impressive list of Amla oil, Nettle extract, Saw palmetto, Sage extract, Pygeum extract, Pumpkin seed oil, Green tea extract, Soy isoflavones, and Beta sitosterols. It is important to note, however, that some of the scientific evidence for the functionality of these ingredients is by oral consumption, and not necessarily by absorption through the skin. Ingredients that improve blood circulation include Cedarwood oil, Rosemary oil, Niacin, B-vitamin complex, and Lactic acid. See complete list of ingredients and their functions.
  2. DS Laboratories Revita is an excellent hair loss shampoo, although it contains several synthetic ingredients, some with irritation concern. Caffeine, Ketoconazole, and Emu oil are the main DHT blockers in this shampoo. The Apple polyphenol, procyanidin B-2, fund in this shampoo, has been shown to promote hair growth in animal models and cultured cells, but its effect on human hair has not been tested. Copper peptides are believed to increase cell proliferation and are certainly anti-oxidants, but again, there is no direct study that has tested the effect on human hair growth. Click here to read more.
  3. Another popular shampoo that is marketed for hair loss is Regenepure DR that is also used to treat dandruff. Although this shampoo is sulfate free, it contains a fairly harsh surfactant, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, with similar properties to sulfate based detergents. Similar to the Revita shampoo, above, the DHT blockers in this shampoo are Ketoconazole,  Serenoa serrulata (Saw palmetto) extract,  Emu oil,  and Caffeine, but it seems like the concentration of these active ingredients is lower in this hair product. Niacin has been shown to increase blood circulation, and the large quantity of Aloe vera leaf extract is used as a natural safe moisturizer. Read more here.  

Image credit:By Macgyver30 at en.wikipedia

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