Is Head and Shoulders Bad for Your Hair?

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does head and shoulders make dandruff worse

We’ve all seen the commercials— Head and Shoulders is the haircare brand that promises to give you immunity from dandruff. But is this shampoo really as good as it claims to be? In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the ingredients in Head and Shoulders to determine whether or not it’s actually good for your hair— or if it can cause damage. Many of us have used Head & Shoulders at some point in our lives, but have you ever stopped to think about what’s actually in it? Is Head and Shoulders bad for your hair? Keep on reading to find out.

Is Head And Shoulders Bad For Your Hair?

The main reason why Head and Shoulders as well as many other types of anti-dandruff shampoos have raised so many red flags over the years when it comes to safety is the ingredients featured in their formulas.

These products use chemicals such as zinc pyrithione, sulfates, non-water soluble silicones, and artificial fragrances to produce their anti-dandruff, cleansing, and moisturizing effects. However, these very same ingredients can be harmful to your hair and scalp if you use them regularly.

To give you a better understanding of how Head and Shoulders shampoo can impact the health and condition of your hair, we’ll breakdown key ingredients in their products.

Related post: Is Herbal Essences Good For Your Hair?

Bad Ingredients In Head And Shoulders

is head and shoulders really bad for your hair

SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) and SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)

Sulfates are chemical compounds that get added to the vast majority of shampoos, not just Head and Shoulders. Up until a few years ago, you couldn’t find more than a handful of shampoo brands that didn’t feature a sulfate compound in their products.

The reason is simple. Sulfates are highly effective as detergents and foaming agents, which is necessary to provide a cleansing action.

In other words, sulfates are what help a shampoo get rid of dirt and debris from your hair and scalp.

These compounds are also responsible for making the shampoo lather. They reduce the friction between your hair strands and scalp, resulting in a suds-heavy wash.

In particular, Head and Shoulders shampoos use Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

Despite their surface cleaning benefits, sulfates can also be quite harsh on the hair and scalp. They strip the hair and scalp from the natural oils produced by the skin to keep your scalp and hair hydrated and resistant to damage.

By removing these natural oils, your hair and scalp are left dry and vulnerable to brittleness.

What’s more, your skin can become irritated due to excessive dryness or an underlying allergic reaction. In this case, your scalp may suffer from itching, blisters, bumps, and so on.

If you use Head and Shoulders shampoo from time to time, the contained sulfates will probably not hurt your hair or scalp. However, regular or everyday use significantly increases the chances of all the above-mentioned side effects in addition to hair loss due to breakage caused by chronic dryness.

Cocamide MEA (Monoethanolamine) and Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamide MEA and Cocamidopropyl Betaine are detergents and lather-building ingredients that are also present in Head and Shoulder shampoos. These compounds, as well as Cetyl Alcohol, are alcohol-based.

This means that they can cause hair to become dry and brittle, despite creating a creamy, rich foam and having a cleansing effect.


A ton of various hair care products contain silicone compounds. The purpose of silicones is to serve as conditioners, giving your hair a soft, smooth, and elastic feel with a shiny look.

Silicones also provide your hair strands with a protective layer that resists the negative actions of external elements such as pollutants, sunlight, winds, and so on.

Generally, silicones used in shampoos come in 2 types: those that dissolve in water and those that don’t.

Most, if not all, Head and Shoulders shampoos have Dimethicone in them. Dimethicone belongs to non-water-soluble silicones.

This type of silicone compound doesn’t wash out of the hair easily. As a result, they end up forming a film over the hair shaft, building up on your locks and weighing them down.

So while it may make your hair feel soft and smooth at the beginning, Dimethicone can eventually hinder the ability of your hair and scalp to receive and retain moisture, leading to drying out.

This suffocation can even cause hair loss over time.

Sodium Chloride

Head and Shoulders shampoos contain thickening and thinning ingredients, namely Sodium Chloride and Sodium Xylene Sulfonate. Mixed in during the last stage of production, these components work together to achieve proper texture for the shampoo.

SodiumXylenesulfonate makes the concoction thinner, while Sodium Chloride makes it thicker. Our concern here is the latter compound, also known as regular or table salt.

Using Sodium Chloride in food is generally safe as long as you don’t overdo it. But what about hair products?

Well, Sodium Chloride can be quite damaging to the scalp and hair because it can dry them out to an extreme level. You’re then left with crunchy, parched hair.

If you’re dealing with oily hair (people with straight or wavy hair are more likely to experience this), this issue won’t really bother you as your hair is already “too hydrated”. But if you have dry hair (folks rocking curls are more than familiar with this), you’re literally adding salt to injury!

Dry hair usually suffers from brittleness and lack of elasticity, so it doesn’t take much for it to break off.

What’s more, a dry scalp can’t provide adequate nourishment for the hair follicles as well as a hydrated scalp. This also compromises the health and condition of your mane.

Not to mention, a dry scalp means more itching. Granted, there may not be dandruff to worry about, but all the nail grazing can hurt your roots.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone

Next, we have two preservative compounds known as Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone. Once again, these ingredients are found in most, if not all, of Head and Shoulders shampoos.

While they demonstrate an excellent capacity for curbing bacterial growth over a long period, they can be bad for your particular case if you’re allergic to them. As strong allergens, these ingredients bind firmly to the skin, producing their effects for a considerable time after use.

Typically, you don’t have to worry about skin irritation caused by Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone if you’re not sensitive to such compounds. But if you’re a susceptible individual, then you may suffer from contact dermatitis upon exposure to either ingredient.

Besides harming your scalp, these preservatives may lead to hair thinning.

Artificial Fragrances

Last but not least, we’re talking about artificial fragrances. These are components added to the shampoo or conditioner to make it smell more appealing or give a certain scent for marketing purposes.

Most, if not all, Head and Shoulders products contain artificial fragrance compounds. Examples include Linalool, Amyl Cinnamal, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl alcohol, Limonene, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, and Menthol.

Since these are all alcohol-based chemicals, they can damage your hair and scalp with regular use. They can dehydrate your locks, leaving them dry and fragile.

Artificial fragrances can also irritate your skin, causing inflammation or a rash if not treated. This can even develop into hair loss in severe cases. 

Good Ingredients In Head & Shoulders

is head and shoulders good or bad for your hair

ZPT (Zinc Pyrithione) and Zinc Carbonate

Not all of the ingredients featured in Head and Shoulders shampoos are linked to adverse side effects with regular use. For example, let’s have a look at ZPT (Zinc Pyrithione) and Zinc Carbonate.

These are the main active ingredients in Head and Shoulders range of shampoos. They’re dandruff-fighting compounds that work in two different ways.

ZPT acts against Malassezia globosa, the microbe that causes dandruff. It stops the microbe from forming and depositing irritants on the scalp.

ZPT also helps clear the build-up of dead skin cells resulting from dandruff. It restricts the growth of yeast thanks to its antifungal properties, effectively reducing inflammation and itchiness of the scalp.

What’s more, ZPT has been associated with boosting hair health and promoting its growth. According to this 2003 study, shampoos containing 1% ZPT can produce steady improvement in hair growth with regular use.

Head & Shoulders Hair Loss Lawsuit

While there have been many drugstore haircare brands that have faced lawsuits over their products causing hair loss, there has been no lawsuit filed over Head and Shoulders causing hair loss.

Though there are many claims that it caused hair loss, there has been no scientific proof or proven evidence that Head & Shoulders actually caused any hair loss.

In fact, Zinc pyrithione, one of the primary ingredients in Head & Shoulders to treat and prevent dandruff, has actually been shown to promote hair growth.

Is Head & Shoulders Bad For Your Hair FAQ’s

is head and shoulders shampoo bad for your hair

Is Head and Shoulders damaging to your hair?

Head & Shoulders is a great, affordable option to keep the scalp and hair healthy by removing and preventing dandruff and it will not cause hair loss or damage your hair if used properly.

While some Head & Shoulders products contain harsh ingredients, they now offer sulfate-free and paraben-free lines, which are actually well-formulated and a great budget-friendly option for those looking for an anti-dandruff shampoo.

Is using Head and Shoulders everyday bad for your hair?

There is no limit to how often you can use Head & Shoulders safely. In fact, it’s pH balanced and well formulated so rest assured it will not damage your hair. It’s perfectly safe to use daily in order to keep dandruff under control.

Is Head and Shoulders good for your hair and scalp?

Head & Shoulders is good for your hair and scalp because it cleanses the hair and scalp, treats and prevents dandruff and prevents buildup of dead skin cells, all of which keep our hair and scalp healthy.

While some Head & Shoulders products do contain harsh ingredients, they now offer sulfate-free and paraben-free lines, which are actually well-formulated and a great budget-friendly option for those looking for an anti-dandruff shampoo.

Is Head and Shoulders shampoo safe?

Head & Shoulders is a safe and effective shampoo that has been used by millions of people around the world. While some Head & Shoulders products do contain harsh ingredients, they now offer sulfate-free and paraben-free lines, which are actually well-formulated and a great budget-friendly option for those looking for an anti-dandruff shampoo.

Does Head & Shoulders Make Dandruff Worse?

No, Head & Shoulders does not make dandruff worse. In fact, it’s one of the most effective dandruff-fighting shampoos on the market. If you find that your dandruff is getting worse after using Head & Shoulders, it’s likely due to other factors such as stress, diet, weather, etc. and not the shampoo itself.

Is Head & Shoulders Good Or Bad For Your Hair? Wrap Up

Overall, the ingredients in Head & Shoulders are not bad for your hair per se but some of them can be drying (particularly the sulfates) so it’s important to use a conditioner afterwards to avoid any potential damage and dryness. While some Head & Shoulders products do contain harsh ingredients, they now offer sulfate-free and paraben-free lines, which are great options for those worried about using sulfates and parabens in your haircare products. So, if you’re struggling with dandruff and are looking for an affordable and effective option, Head & Shoulders is a great choice!

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