Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do anti-dandruff shampoos cause hair loss?"
I have bad dandruff unless I use the special shampoos, but I have heard that some of these shampoos (especially with the SLS) can cause hair loss. Is that true? I don't want to take any chances.
Dandruff is a frustrating medical condition caused by a combination of sensitive skin, exposure to drying and irritants of the scalp and, occasionally fungal organisms. Dandruff is often associated with some minor hair loss, and many people in fact think that dandruff causes the hair loss. This is, however, not the case. Instead, what happens is that dandruff causes itching of the scalp, and hair loss occurs when people scratch too vigorously. The shampoos that are used to treat dandruff (most contain either selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione as an active ingredient) are actually quite mild and are very unlikely to irritate the skin or to further contribute to hair loss. So you should feel safe to use which ever dandruff shampoo you prefer. Sometimes, dandruff is difficult to control with over the counter anti dandruff shampoos. Therefore if the dandruff is not getting better after a few weeks of using which ever product you choose, you may wish to set up an office visit with your primary care doctor. This is because prescription strength shampoos and creams are available and may be necessary in some cases.
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