When it comes to buying a hair loss shampoo for men, there's a huge variety of products on the market, and most of them make some pretty bold claims. Unfortunately, much like the spot creams, you tried as an acne-scarred teenager, these promises don't always match the reality.
That said, the best hair loss shampoos are still worth a try. Confused? Let us explain.
The truth about male hair loss
First, the bad news. Sadly, beyond a hair transplant, there's no such thing as a guaranteed cure for male-pattern baldness. If and when one is invented, we'll be the first to let you know, unless the spontaneous parade of joyful men marching down the street alerts you sooner.
Now, though, comes the good news. There are currently two clinically approved methods of treating hair loss, in the form of Minoxidil and Finasteride.
Minoxidil is used in topical medications such as Regaine (known in the US as Rogaine), while Finasteride is available in tablets such as Propecia. These treatments have seen some success in clinical trials; in one, 39 per cent of men reported moderate to dense hair growth. However, as that figure suggests, they're by no means a silver bullet. And so, for example, when the FDA approved Rogaine in 1988, it made it clear that "the product will not work for everyone".
Hair loss shampoos have even less research behind them, and are generally believed to be less effective than medicated foams or pills; most obviously because a shampoo only maintains contact with the scalp for a short time.
However, just because they don't work for everyone, doesn't mean they don't work for anyone. Indeed, where used in combination with medicated products, a hair loss shampoo may well be effective in slowing or stopping hair loss in men.
That's because, while it can do nothing to prevent male pattern baldness itself (that's genetically determined), where the hair loss is caused by other factors, such as nutritional deficiencies or poor scalp maintenance, the right shampoo can potentially make a difference. (And hey, as you're going to shampoo your hair anyway, you've got nothing to lose either way!)
How hair growth shampoos work
There are five main ways that shampoos attempt to slow or stop hair loss.
The first is by increasing blood flow to the scalp using ingredients like cayenne or gingko biloba. The second is by preventing inflammation of the scalp through soothing ingredients like aloe vera. The third is by using caffeine to stimulate the growth of hair follicles.
The fourth is by preventing nutritional deficiencies through the inclusion of vitamins such as B7 and zinc, which are thought to be important in hair growth. And the fifth is by blocking DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a hormone which causes hair loss, primarily through the inclusion of ketoconazole, but also (more controversially) through natural ingredients such as pumpkin seed, saw palmetto and green tea.
And that's not all. Hair grown shampoos are also designed to be volumizing, by providing protein that helps fortify individual hairs, and vitamin B2 which attracts moisture, giving each hair a fuller appearance. So even if they don't stop or slow the hair loss itself, by thickening your existing hair strands they will give you the appearance of a fuller head of hair. Do note, though, that this effect will be more marked in men with fine hair, and less so in men who already have thick hair.
It's generally recommended that you start using a hair loss shampoo as soon as you start noticing a problem. With all that in mind read on, as we bring you our picks for the best hair growth shampoo products on the market, and explain which one is likely to be right for you.
As we mentioned earlier, while claims for hair loss shampoos are high, they're rarely backed by any kind of convincing research. US company DS Laboratories, however, does provide some data to support its Revita Hair Growth Stimulating Shampoo.
In one study of 500 men and women between the ages of 18 and 55, 90 per of users reported a decrease in hair loss and 85 per cent an improvement in overall appearance. And while this research is by no means definitive (it was carried out by the company itself, after all), anecdotal evidence supports the idea that this product works for many men.
There are also some clear facts to back this up, notably that it contains a lot of high-quality ingredients, and is free of cheaper ones such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent widely used in shampoo products that can often cause dry skin, irritation and allergic reactions.
Key ingredients include malic acid to moisturise, caffeine to stimulate, and aloe to soothe. Revita's shampoo also contains biotin, a form of B7; ketoconazole to block DHT; emu oil as an anti-inflammatory; and vitamin B2 as an antioxidant.
Revita also boasts a proprietary nanotechnology system that, it claims, ensures ingredients are delivered in a more effective way. We also like that the bottles are made of 100 per cent oxo-biodegradable plastic. Overall, this is our favourite hair loss shampoo on the market today.
Money no object? Made in the USA, Ultrax Labs Hair Surge shampoo comes with a super-high price tag, but a lot of men seem to have found success with it. Its key ingredients are caffeine to stimulate hair growth, ketokanazole to block DHT production, plus — uniquely — a proprietary compound of the two.
The shampoo also features saw palmetto, which clinical trials have suggested may block an enzyme that facilitates the change of testosterone into DHT; peppermint oil to treat inflammation; and menthol to stimulate blood flow to the scalp. Less impressively (indeed, shockingly in such an expensive shampoo), it also contains SLS, a cheap ingredient known to cause irritation in some people.
On the whole, though this feels like a suitably luxury shampoo, with a nice minty smell and a cooling tinge, not to mention a cool-looking bottle design. None of that by itself is enough to justify the price, but if this product makes a significant difference to your hair loss problems, it's probably going to be worth the money. And the good news is that you can get quite a lot of washes out of one bottle, so at least you should know by the end whether it's working for you or not.
Founded in 1905, German brand Alpecin has been aiming to alleviate hair loss for some time now, and it remains one of the most popular hair loss shampoo brands on the market today. That's partly due to its wide availability (it's sold in high street stores such as Superdrug and Boots), but also because generations of users have seen positive results from its use.
As the name suggests, this product is firmly focused on the idea that caffeine can help prevent hair loss. The manufacturers point to a study they carried out in 2007, which showed that caffeine stimulated hair follicles to regrow in a laboratory dish.
That's not the same as working on a human head, though, and in 2018, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against their claim that the product "can actually help to reduce hair loss" on the grounds that this was not scientifically proven.
With all that said, though, Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo remains popular across the world, and if you trust in the wisdom of crowds, it's worth giving a go, particularly given the affordable price.
From German skincare brand Sebamed, this hair loss shampoo is aimed squarely at those with a sensitive scalp, and aims to reduce hair loss by improving blood circulation to the hair follicles.
One hundred per cent soap and alkali free, this anti-dandruff shampoo contains moisturising and conditioning ingredients to promote circulation and tackle the causes of scalp irritation. Key amongst these is an NHE complex derived from the vitamin B-like substance Niacin, caffeine and gingko biloba leaf.
This shampoo does not contain ketokanazole, so there's no direct attempt to block DHT production. But if you suspect your loss of hair is primarily due to poor scalp maintenance, or you find that other hair loss shampoos irritate your scalp, then this is certainly worth giving a go.
Founded in 2014 by a British husband and wife, who had both suffered from hair loss themselves, Waterman's has grown to become an international name in the beauty industry, so they're clearly doing something right.
Their Grow Me shampoo uses a trademarked formula based on biotin and caffeine, as well as argan oil, rosemary extract, allantoin and hydrolyzed lupin protein, and is free of SLS and other sulphates.
The aim is to help to create the perfect scalp conditions to allow the hair generation cycle to function at its optimum. "Results may vary from person to person: it’s not going to work for everyone, but when it does the results are awesome," they say. It's a refreshingly honest approach in a field full of wild claims and snake oil salesman. They've also made a point of salon-testing the product on European, African, Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern hair.
Overall, this hair loss shampoo isn't revolutionary, but in providing a cheaper alternative to similar products that are much more expensive, it's a great success.
Looking for a hair loss shampoo that's totally free of artificial chemicals? This mild organic shampoo from American brand Lipogaine is enriched with 17 totally natural ingredients, including biotin, caffeine, argan oil and castor oil, to encourage healthy and strong hair growth.
That means, of course, that there's no ketokanazole, although the shampoo does contain saw palmetto, which is believed to be a natural DHT blocker.
Suitable for coloured hair, this product can be used by both men and women. And while, like all the shampoos on this list, it doesn't work for everyone, it certainly seems to be the most effective all-natural hair loss shampoo on the market today.