There are several shampoos that have shown evidence for helping hair to grow, especially when added to other hair loss therapies. 2% Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal shampoo that is effective for unknown reasons. It is used 2-3 times per week to reduce the levels of a common skin fungus (one that even babies have on their scalps) and is available by prescription only. The OTC version is the 1% formulation (known as Nizoral) and can be used daily. You can also use zinc shampoos (e.g. Head and Shoulders), selenium shampoo (e.g. Selsun Blue), or coal tar shampoo (e.g. T-Gel).
No one is really certain what the mechanism of action is for these shampoos to help with hair growth, but the key to using these shampoos is to:
- Lather and leave on the scalp for 5 minutes before rinsing off
- Combine with other therapies (like minoxidil or LLLT) for optimal efficacy
Admittedly, these often are not the most luxurious shampoos, so frequently patients will abandon treatment before the efficacy become apparent. To help with this, patients may use a regular shampoo or conditioner after if they do not like the texture a medicated shampoos creates. It also helps to think of them as medicine, not shampoo!
Even though these four shampoos are the ones that help with hair loss, shampoos that tout their hair improving benefits abound. On every store shelf patients can find shampoos that claim to be “hair thickening,” “volumizing” or that they are “for thinning/fine hair.” Often these shampoos can provide a transient improvement in the texture of the hair. This is because they contain oils, waxes and other ingredients that coat the hair shaft, leading to a transient feeling of thicker hair. These can be effective, but temporary improvements with most results lasting about 2-3 days, and they do not accelerate the hair loss process.