Is Head & Shoulders Bad For Your Hair? (2024)

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Head & Shoulders has had amazing success since it was first created in the 1960s. However, there have been lingering concerns about whether the anti-dandruff shampoo is bad for hair. 

Specifically, does it cause thinning and ultimately hair loss? Can the chemicals used in the product otherwise damage your hair?

There are a lot of myths and misdconceptions, based on a few misunderstood facts. So is Head and Shoulders bad for your hair? And could it lead to you going bald? Or is it a whole load of panic over nothing? Let’s take a look.

Is Head & Shoulders bad for your hair?

There is no hard evidence that Head & Shoulders is bad for your hair. Some people have anecdotally claimed that it has caused their hair to thin. There are chemicals that can cause your hair to become more brittle and susceptible to damage, but it’s generally accepted that it does more good than harm.

You only need to be concerned about using Head & Shoulders if you were to use it without a suitable anti-dandruff conditioner. Otherwise, it can remove some of the natural oils that look after your hair.

Head & Shoulders works as a normal shampoo for cleaning your hair from dirt and debris. It also acts as an anti-dandruff agent, which tackles the problem on your scalp.

Does Head and Shoulders have harmful chemicals?

Head and Shoulders does include some chemicals which can be harmful to your hair. However, the quantities involved should render the shampoo safe to use, especially if you follow up with a conditioner that restores oils to your hair.

Let’s break it down by looking at the chemicals in a typical bottle of Head & Shoulders. Not every bottle is the same, but these are the recurring ingredients that you’ll find in most:

The active ingredient – AKA the one that’s doing the job that Head & Shoulders is designed to do – is zinc pyrithione. This is an antifungal and antimicrobial agent which helps to reduce the amount of fungus on your scape. Generally, this is a safe chemical although it has been found to cause dermatitis in a small number of users (source).

The inactive ingredients are those used to make up the rest of the shampoo, helping to clean the hair. These aren’t involved in the killing of the fungal bacteria which causes dandruff.

Two of the main ones are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These are detergents (the parts which help to clean your hair).

While SLS has been linked to hair loss in high concentrations, there’s no proof that the smaller concentration used in Head & Shoulders can cause balding directly.

However, they are very effective detergents – sometimes too effective. And that can mean they don’t just remove the unclean elements from your hair, but also the beneficial oils that can protect hair.

Without these oils, over time your hair can become brittle, which could be a contributing factor to hair thinning. That’s why it’s important to always use a conditioner after you’ve washed with Head & Shoulders, to replace those oils and keep your hair strong.

Does Head and Shoulders cause balding?

There’s no direct link between using Head & Shoulders and going bald. However, if you use it excessively and don’t follow up with a good conditioner, then it can be a contributing factor to hair loss, though cases seem to be very rare.

Want to know the easiest way to determine whether a product causes serious negative side effects? Look at whether the company has ever been the subject of a lawsuit.

It is very common to see companies sued because of the impact of their products. If Head & Shoulders caused men to go bald, you can bet that it would’ve been a massive scandal by now.

The fact that it hasn’t tells you that there’s nowhere near enough evidence proving it. Even if there was a lot of tenuous evidence, someone would’ve had a crack at a lawsuit.

And if you’re unsure whether that would happen, know that Johnson & Johnson have been sued for their shampoo products causing hair loss. It’s not without precedent.

So does Head and Shoulders cause hair loss? I think it’s safe to say no. So why does the rumor persist?

Why is Head & Shoulders linked to baldness?

The reality is that there are lots of different reasons why men and women can go bald. Head & Shoulders isn’t a product that directly accelerates any of them.

It is a robust chemical shampoo that does have some negative side effects on your hair with improper use. However, you can’t blame Head & Shoulders (or their parent company Procter & Gamble) for hair loss if you’ve not conditioned your hair after using it, for example.

While there are some people who may claim that Head & Shoulders causes hair loss, bear in mind that almost 10 million Americans use Head & Shoulders 8 times or more per week. If it caused balding, we’d know about it.

Plus, people who are linking Head & Shoulders with their hair loss were likely losing their hair anyway. This is a case of confusing correlation with cause and incorrectly blaming the shampoo.

Is Head and Shoulders shampoo good for your hair?

Head & Shoulders has been proven to be good for your hair but only if you are suffering from dandruff. It does not improve your hair otherwise. Head & Shoulders is a product designed to tackle dandruff only, and treating it can cause other improvements in your overall hair health.

Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 Anti-Dandruff Shampoo + Conditioner

  • Fights flakes and leaves your scalp clean
  • From the #1 dermatologist recommended brand
  • Keeps hair moisturized and protected from flakes

To properly answer this question, you need to understand what dandruff is. Because people often assume that any flaky skin on their scalp is dandruff – it’s not. Dandruff is a particular type of flaking skin caused by fungal bacteria.

This bacteria thrives in the warmth of your hair. As it grows, it causes new skin cells to flake off as they develop. Because they clump together, they form more visible skin flakes that get stuck in your hair, or that end up on your shoulders – hence the brand name.

How dandruff is linked to hair loss

A scalp that is infected with dandruff won’t grow hair as effectively. The hair fibers are weakened by reduced protein levels, which means the hair is more likely to thin and fall out.

Plus, one of the most annoying symptoms of dandruff is an itchy scalp. And you won’t be surprised to learn that scratching your head is not exactly the best way to keep your hair growing healthily.

Scratching a scalp can damage follicles, and also break weakened hair down.

So Head & Shoulders is good for your hair in that it stops dandruff from damaging it, and will ultimately prevent the itching sensation too. Because it is one of the most effective dandruff-tackling shampoo products, it will indirectly be good for your hair.

Is Head and Shoulders safe to use every day?

Head & Shoulders is a pH-balanced shampoo that is designed to be used daily when you have dandruff symptoms. But it should be paired with a restorative conditioner to make sure you aren’t weakening hair due to over-cleaning it.

If you are struggling with dandruff, you need to be using Head and Shoulders at least three times a week, but you should aim to use it daily for the first two weeks if you can – this will ensure that the zinc pyrithione is left in place to tackle the fungal infection.

After that, you can reduce the frequency of use, but if dandruff begins to grow back then you may need to switch to a stronger agent or speak to your physician to get to the root cause and try to address that.

You have to use Head & Shoulders exclusively – if you switch to another shampoo brand, you might wash away the zinc pyrithione and prevent it from properly reducing and killing the bacteria causing the fungal infection.

But to balance that, you also need to condition your hair to keep it strong, as Head & Shoulders can wash away the protective oils that are naturally occurring in your hair. 

The best thing to do is use an anti-dandruff conditioner like the one below. This won’t wash out the zinc pyrithione but it will help to strengthen your hair after it has been cleaned by the shampoo.

Luseta Tea Tree Oil Anti-Dandruff Conditioner

  • Hydrating, Smoothening, Soothing, Nourishing, Repairing
  • Antiseptic
  • Gluten-Free
  • 100% Money Back Guarantee

How long should you leave Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 in your hair?

Head & Shoulders recommends that you leave 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner in your hair for at least two minutes, although scientific studies into tackling dandruff suggest that slightly longer is better.

The University of Iowa’s Health Care department has issued guidance on anti-dandruff shampoos in particular. It’s suggested that you should massage the product into your hair for at least 5 minutes before you rinse it and that you can even apply the shampoo to your hair for 30 minutes if it is dry.

Another recommendation is that you can use a different shampoo on the rest of your hair, and only use Head & Shoulders or other anti-dandruff products on your scalp, since that’s where the fungal bacteria are developing.

This would help prevent removing natural oils from the rest of your hair if it’s long. Obviously, if you have short hair, you’re going to have a hard time washing just the scalp with Head & Shoulders.

You don’t need to worry about it being a harsh shampoo that you need to wash out quickly. Head & Shoulders is going to potentially wash out the good oils regardless of how long you leave it.

And the longer you leave the zinc pyrithione in place, the more effectively it can do its job. It will remain on your scalp after washing, but leaving the shampoo for 5 minutes will allow more of the chemical to penetrate into the infected areas.

Is Head and Shoulders good for thinning hair?

Head & Shoulders is only good for anyone suffering from dandruff. If your hair is thinning and this is completely unrelated to dandruff, then Head & Shoulders will not be effective in slowing or reversing the process.

Because Head & Shoulders is such a well-known brand of shampoo, people can sometimes put too much stock in it, and assume that it is a good shampoo overall. It’s not – it’s a specific treatment for a particular issue – dandruff.

Using Head & Shoulders on hair that isn’t affected by fungal bacteria isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s no better than using regular shampoo, and it certainly won’t stop your hair from thinning.

On the other hand, is Head and Shoulders bad for thinning hair? There’s no evidence that using an anti-dandruff shampoo will accelerate hair loss, but any vigorous rubbing of the scalp will obviously cause weakened follicles to shed hair more quickly.

Which products are good for thinning hair?

If your hair is thinning, there are two products recommended by the FDA to use. One of those is Propecia (finasteride) which prevents the conversion of testosterone to DHT, which can reduce the chances of hair loss. This product can only be used by men and has some risks, including an increase in suicidal behavior for users.

The other approved chemical is minoxidil, which helps to widen the blood vessels in the scalp. This gives your hair follicles increased oxygen and nutrients, and can support hair growth. This can sometimes reverse thinning hair.

Note: Some DHT blockers have side effects. Always consult your doctor before trying any products containing Finasteride or Minoxodil.

These are the only two products that can directly tackle thinning hair. But, if you suspect that your hair is thinning because you have dandruff, especially if you are frequently scratching your head, then Head & Shoulders could help.

If dandruff isn’t the issue and these products don’t help, then you might just want to shave your head. Especially if you’re a woman who can’t use finasteride. Women can shave their head once it starts thinning to embrace a new modern look.

But you should be aware that people with shaved heads still need shampoo, even if they don’t need Head & Shoulders to tackle dandruff.

If you’re looking for more products that are good for your hair, you might be interested in this article which looks at whether salt water is good for your hair.


If you’re concerned about using Head & Shoulders, you don’t need to be. 

It’s a safe product when used in conjunction with a suitable anti-dandruff conditioner. It can also be very effective at treating the fungal bacteria which causes dandruff to occur, although you may need to keep using it to prevent the bacteria from growing back.

You may have been on the fence about switching to Head & Shoulders. If you’re now reassured, here’s where you can buy it:

Head and Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo + Conditioner

  • Fights flakes and leaves your scalp clean
  • From the #1 dermatologist recommended brand
  • Keeps hair moisturized and protected from flakes

You won’t need to use it if you’re bald and suffering from dry, flaky skin. That won’t be dandruff, since the bacteria won’t grow under these cooler conditions. Instead just make sure you’re using any regular shampoo, and not soap which can dry out your skin.

And if you’re interested in more hair science, here’s the answer to the question ‘Does Hair Decompose?

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This post was written by Matt:

I've been shaving my head for nearly 20 years. I'm here to share that experience, good and bad, help you embrace your hair loss, and live your best bald life.

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