Using the right treatment shampoo is essential for people experiencing hair loss. What are the ingredients to look for in hair loss and volumizing shampoos?
What is DHT?
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen created when an enzyme converts testosterone (the male sex hormone) into a byproduct. DHT can bind to hair follicle receptors, causing those follicles to shrink – a process called 'miniaturization.' These affected hair follicles end up producing thinner, weaker hair before eventually ceasing to grow new hair altogether.
Both men and women produce DHT, but only some people are genetically susceptible to hair loss caused by this binding action. This type of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia – AKA female pattern or male pattern hair loss. Since men have more testosterone than women, they are more likely to experience complete baldness from androgenetic alopecia.
What are DHT blocking ingredients?
A few different ingredients have been shown to help block DHT – and as a result, prevent hair loss caused by it. If you decide to invest in a DHT blocking shampoo, you'll want to ensure that at least one of these ingredients is in the formula.
Ketoconazole is one of the more effective DHT blocking ingredients. While it is traditionally used as an antifungal medication, studies have shown that it can prevent DHT from attaching to follicles.
Pumpkin seed oil is a natural hair-health-boosting ingredient that may benefit those experiencing hair loss. Studies have shown that it can prevent testosterone from producing DHT. Another natural ingredient that can work as a DHT blocker is saw palmetto, an herb. Research shows that it may prevent the enzyme from producing DHT.
How do you know if a DHT blocking shampoo is right for you?
Shampoos containing DHT blockers are – as you've probably guessed – best suited for those with hair loss conditions related to DHT. While this hormone-related hair loss is prevalent, other factors can lead to hair loss, including stress, diet, regularly wearing tight updos, and certain medications. People dealing with hair loss caused by these triggers won't succeed using a DHT blocking shampoo since it won't actually address the root problem.
Not sure exactly what's causing your thinning hair? Talk to your dermatologist to see if you can get to the root cause and discuss treatment options. Even if a DHT blocking shampoo isn't suitable for you, you may benefit from a shampoo containing other ingredients that boost hair growth (more on that below).
If your hair loss is related to DHT, keep in mind that shampoos and other hair products that block DHT won't reverse your hair loss. Instead, these blockers will prevent further hair thinning and loss. Once a hair follicle has miniaturized, it won't be able to grow any more hair. This means you'll get the best results from a DHT blocking shampoo if you start using it early in your hair loss journey.
What to look for when buying a DHT blocking shampoo
If you've decided to try a shampoo with DHT blocking ingredients, there are a few things you should look out for before making the purchase.
Most importantly: read the ingredient label! Even if a product is marketed as a DHT blocking shampoo, it may not contain active ingredients that have been shown to block DHT. Keep an eye out for the key ingredients mentioned above to ensure you're buying one of the best shampoos for thinning hair.
Additionally, take your time and do some research! If there are any claims about ingredients on the bottle that seem too good to be true, make sure you look into the research to see if those ingredients can actually deliver the claimed results. Ultimately, you want a product with tried and true ingredients – not lofty (but empty) claims.
How do you use a DHT blocking shampoo?
Washing your hair with this kind of shampoo isn't too different from the hair care routine you're used to. Simply lather your hair up to cleanse and get rid of buildup, but rather than rinsing immediately, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes. This allows the DHT blocking ingredients to work their magic. You can follow up with a nourishing and hydrating conditioner to further promote healthy hair.
It's also important to keep in mind that you need to continue using your DHT blocking shampoo of choice to keep blocking DHT and preventing hair loss. If you stop using the product, your hair will return to its baseline. Consistency is key!
How frequently should you use your shampoo to prevent more hair loss?
Cleaning your scalp and hair is essential for healthy hair regrowth. That said, over washing overstate your scalp. The number of times you should shampoo your hair per week depends on your hair type. Thicker, coarser hair types can get away without washing their hair for a few days, while thinner hair types may find their hair feels greasy even after one day. For most people, washing the hair 2-3 times a week will be optimal.
Other ingredients to look for in hair loss shampoos
In addition to the DHT blockers mentioned above, other ingredients have been shown to help promote hair growth, strengthen the hair, and prevent thinning hair. These ingredients can be beneficial additions to DHT blocking shampoos and can also be found in more general thickening shampoos (for those not affected by DHT-related hair loss).
Peptides and Amino Acids: Amino acids and peptides (chains of amino acids) are the building blocks of our hair. Research has indicated that when applied topically, amino acids can strengthen the hair and fight against damage. Alanine, phenylalanine, and arginine are a few of the amino acids you'll typically see in hair products.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is commonly used in hair growth products, as it has been found to support the hair follicles, promoting hair growth and stronger, fuller hair.
- Essential Oils: Certain essential oils have been found to promote hair growth naturally. Two of the most studied essential oils are peppermint and rosemary. Tea tree oil can also support a healthy scalp and may help with hair loss.
- Biotin: Biotin shampoos are very popular in the hair growth shampoo world. This B vitamin may help strengthen the hair to reduce breakage and promote hair growth.
Keratin: Keratin is a protective protein that is naturally present in your hair, as well as your skin and nails. Research has shown that keratin helps promote stronger hair, making it less likely to experience breakage. It can also make your hair smoother, reduce frizz, and minimize split ends. Regularly using a conditioner with keratin can help you maintain strong and healthy hair.
- Vitamin E: This antioxidant-rich and moisturizing vitamin can help improve scalp health and promote growth. Argan oil is also rich in vitamin E and is an ingredient commonly found in strengthening shampoos.
What are the 5 shampoo ingredients that you should avoid?
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Laureth Sulfate, aka sulfates, are synthetic foaming agents commonly found in mass-market drugstore shampoos. The role of these compounds is to lower the surface tension between the shampoo and your hair and form a bubbly, foamy lather associated with old-style shampoos. As hair is made out of 91% protein, when protein gets damaged or stripped, it leads to weaker hair. When used in large amounts, these SLS and Laureth Sulfate could overly strip your scalp and hair of their natural proteins and oils and irritate the scalp. The damage to the protein coating of your hair strands weakens the hair and frequently causes an increase of split ends and hair breakage. In one study done by the scientific journal Colloids and Surfaces, researchers found that when hair is immersed in a sulfate solution, it loses twice as much protein as when hair is submerged in water.
Parabens and formaldehyde are common ingredients in low-cost mass-market shampoos. In one study conducted by the Journal of Applied Toxicology, it was found that parabens can cause scalp irritation, scalp allergies, itchiness, and excessive flaking. These effects can all lead to an increase in hair loss. Another study suggested that parabens can also affect hormonal balance, promoting androgenetic hair loss in women.
3. "Bad" Alcohols
There are good and bad alcohols. Good alcohol is what you want in your hair products. The "good" alcohols are an excellent addition to your shampoos. They help soften your hair and help it retain more moisture. Examples of "good" alcohols that you would like to see in your shampoos are cetyl, cetearyl, and stearyl. The bad alcohols that will dry your hair and make you more prone to breakage are ethyl alcohol, propanol, isopropanol, and ethanol.
4. Synthetic shampoo fragrances
Shampoos and hair and scalp care serums with "fragrance" or "parfum" on their label can contain thousands of hidden ingredients. Some of the ingredients in fragranced hair care products can cause skin allergies, respiratory allergies, asthma, or affect the reproductive system in rare cases. Synthetic fragrances can also irritate the skin and scalp, leading to increased hair loss.
5. Synthetic shampoo colors
Most mass-market simple shampoos and conditioners use synthetic color to "look" nice. These colors are usually made from petroleum or coal tar and can be associated with undesired health effects. The synthetic color will usually appear on labels as FD&C or D&C combined with a number.
- Promotive Effect of Topical Ketoconazole, Minoxidil, and Minoxidil with Tretinoin on Hair Growth in Male Mice
- Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
- Tissue effects of saw palmetto and finasteride: use of biopsy cores for in situ quantification of prostatic androgens
- Assessment of the usefulness of dihydrotestosterone in the diagnostics of patients with androgenetic alopecia