Do hair growth shampoos actually work?
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
Realising you’re losing your hair is a watershed moment for any man – just not one of those good watershed moments. You catch yourself in the mirror at a certain angle or you see the back of your head in a photo and it hits you. Your appearance is about to change forever.
But today you don’t have to accept hair loss gracefully. You can fight back. There are countless products out there that promise they can help, but can you trust them? What about hair growth shampoos? Can they really help you keep your head of hair?
Hair loss explained
You can lose your hair for a range of reasons. Illnesses, medications and treatments, a poor diet, and even stress can make your hair fall out. But these causes of hair loss are usually temporary. When we talk about hair loss in men, we’re usually talking about permanent baldness.
The most common cause of permanent baldness in men is male pattern baldness (MPB). It’s caused by a combination of ageing, genetics and hormones – especially a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). When you’re younger, DHT stimulates your hair follicles to grow hair. But as you age, DHT can have the opposite effect on some follicles on your head. It begins to make these follicles shrink over time, meaning they grow shorter and finer hairs until the follicle closes entirely and no hair is grown at all.
It’s called MPB as guys tend to lose hair in a particular pattern across their heads. Follicles at the hairline situated at the front and back of the head are usually more sensitive to DHT. This is why hair thins and recedes in these areas first.
What are hair loss shampoos?
Among the wide array of anti-hair loss products available, you may have noticed you can buy hair loss shampoos or hair growth shampoos. These shampoos claim to fight hair loss in different ways, including:
- Adding more vitamins to help improve the health and quality of your hair
- Stimulating circulation in your scalp to promote hair growth, usually through an ingredient the shampoos contain, like caffeine
- Thickening your hair to make hair loss less visible
- Reducing inflammation in your scalp that can reverse hair loss caused by inflammation
- Blocking DHT
Do hair growth shampoos really work?
The stated effects and wonder ingredients of hair loss shampoos can sound convincing and enticing, and plenty of people claim they’ve seen good results from using them. However, the truth is that independent scientific evidence is less convincing.
In 2018 researchers assessed the effectiveness of the top 50 hair loss products on Amazon.com, 18 of which were hair loss shampoos. They judged that none of the products were conclusively proven to fight hair loss, and none approached the effectiveness of verified medical hair loss treatments like finasteride (we’ll explain what finasteride is below).
It seems that hair loss shampoos are more hype than science, particularly the ones that contain magic ingredients like vitamins, minerals, plant-based botanicals, or caffeine. And whilst some shampoos can increase the volume of your hair, they don’t do so permanently. They temporarily boost volume by coating your hair in a short-lasting residue that makes the hair thicker.
What is the best shampoo for hair growth?
There does seem to be one exception to the general rule though, and this appears to be shampoos that contain an antifungal ingredient called ketoconazole. Ketoconazole shampoos are usually used to treat fungal infections of the scalp, but research has shown that ketoconazole may stop hair loss by reducing the amount of DHT and inflammation you have in your scalp. That said, more research needs to be conducted to judge whether ketoconazole shampoos really can be used to fight MPB.
What grows hair faster?
Although you can find plenty of wonder products and testimonials online that claim to help you grow hair faster or re-grow lost hair, the truth is these are rarely supported by scientific evidence.
Hair growth can be slowed by a bad diet or poor health – eating a broad diet and being as healthy as possible may in fact help your hair grow faster. However, if you want to recover lost hair, it’s all about the likes of hair transplants and prescription treatments.
Medically proven hair loss treatments
A good shampoo can help you maintain the health of your hair and scalp, but if you have MPB, shampoos alone likely won’t be enough to stop your hair loss.
If you’re serious about fighting MPB, you need to opt for a proven prescription hair loss medication, like finasteride. Finasteride, also sold under the brand name Propecia, is a MPB treatment you take as a tablet that should be swallowed daily. It works by lowering DHT levels in your scalp and has been scientifically proven to slow and stop hair loss. Finasteride can even return lost hair for some men.
Other effective hair loss treatments do exist, such as hair transplants. Transplants are usually more suitable for men with larger areas of hair loss. They can also be expensive and aren’t permanent. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has also shown promise for treating hair loss, but it’s a treatment that’s not widely available yet.
If you’re interested in trying finasteride or Propecia, you can request an online consultation with one of our medical consultants. They’ll ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. If your prescription is approved by our doctors, we’ll deliver your medication to you in discreet packaging the next business day.