There’s not baldy-headed chap alive who doesn’t vividly remember the moment he looked in the mirror and realised for the first time that his beloved hair was retreating from battle. It’s a harrowing moment in which a man learns two unsettling things simultaneously. Firstly, his looks are about to change forever. And secondly, he’s not invincible after all.
This dawning realisation can put guys under considerable mental strain. The type of mental strain that makes them highly susceptible to spurious claims made by so-called “hair-loss shampoos” promising to restore their lustrous locks back to their former glory.
All that existential angst and dread resolved for less than a tenner from Boots? Surely it can’t be that simple…Or can it?
What Hair Loss Shampoos Claim
For as long as men have been bothered about losing their hair, others have been claiming to be able to fix it. But how do we know who is telling the truth?
In 2018, well-known haircare brand Alpecin found itself on the naughty step at advertising standards. Commercials for the company’s thickening shampoos and serums have long promised the products will “provide caffeine to your hair”, which can “actually help to reduce hair loss”. However, the watchdog found that the claims were unsubstantiated and banned Alpecin from making them. Case closed, right? Wrong.
In light of the complaints, Alpecin hit back claiming that it had conducted countless internal studies to determine the effectiveness of the formula. Not only that, but the endless consumer reviews should speak for themselves.
And it’s not just Alpecin. There are countless hair loss shampoos on the market, many of them aimed at balding men and the vast majority of which making similar claims. Some promise to roadblock the hormones responsible for your thinning thatch, others are based on suppling your scalp with increased circulation or your body in general with the vitamins and amino acids that your hair needs.
So, who are we supposed to believe?
What the Experts Say
To help shed some light on the facts, we spoke to Dr Raghu Reddy, a hair transplant practitioner at The Private Clinic of Harley Street and one of the world’s leading authorities on male pattern baldness. He told us that despite that enticing nature of the claims, there is no such thing as a miracle cure.
“Currently, there are only two clinically approved methods to treat male pattern baldness (MPB),” says Dr Reddy. “These are Finasteride 1mg (oral – tablet form) and Minoxidil 5% (topical). Both of these have gone through large-scale clinical trials and have shown to halt, and to some extent, regrow hair.”
This much is fact: a hair transplant, along with a lifelong course of Minoxidil or Finasteride really can give you your hair back, albeit at a significant financial cost. Over the counter lotions and potions on the other hand, well, let’s just say the science is a little foggier.
“All shampoos and conditioners on the market have not been subjected to such clinical trials, and therefore cannot be marketed as a treatment for hair loss,” Dr Reddy explains.
However, it’s not a simple matter of pseudoscience – most hair-loss shampoos’ claims do actually have at least some grounding in reality for certain hair types. “The main four categories these products fall into are to increase blood flow, function as anti-inflammatories, caffeine based, and DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) blockers,” says Dr Reddy.
“In theory, these products should be able to help with hair loss, considering that you are able to increase blood flow by using ingredients like cayenne or ginkgo topically. Meanwhile, anti-inflammatories such as ketoconazole shampoos suggest in the preliminary research they may be beneficial for MPB.”
Still, when these ingredients are diluted, their effectiveness is even less certain. “In practice, dilution of these products with water to very low concentrations would suggest a minimal effect, if any, and more research is required. The time duration and frequency of application required for any benefit is also lacking research.
Put simply, until there are clear-cut clinical trials, it’s impossible to say whether or not these so-called anti-hair-loss shampoos actually work.
It’s pretty much nailed on that there is no miracle shampoo out there capable of reversing or even slowing your hair loss down. So what can they do? Well, they may not be able to regrow hair, but volumising shampoos can make it appear thicker and fuller.
Hair is almost 90% keratin, a fibrous protein that gives your locks their structure. Because of this, most effective thickening shampoos are protein-based. The protein in the shampoo fortifies the outer layer of each strand and Panthenol – a form of vitamin B2 – penetrates the scalp, creating and attracting moisture. The more moisture a strand of hair has the fuller it looks.
“That said, hair can only swell to a limited amount so will be different for someone with fine hair as compared to someone with already thick hair,” adds Dr Reddy. “Damaged hair and hairs of different textures will experience different degrees of swelling.”
What all of this means is while there aren’t any shampoos that can stop or reverse your receding hairline, there are a few that may help to boost the fullness of thin hair. If you’re in the market for something like that, here’s what you should be buying.
The Products To Consider
Every man secretly dreams of owning a flowing mane of luxuriously thick hair. However, the reality of it is that not all of us can. However, in order to give yourself the best possible chance, these are the thickening shampoos worth spending your money on.
Philip Kingsley Body Building Shampoo
Granted, Philip Kingsley may not sound like a hairdresser’s name and that’s because it isn’t. In fact, the late Kingsley was a highly-respected trichologist and one of the world’s leading experts on scalp and hair care. He was also the first to introduce the hair industry to the concept of textures, making his Body Building Shampoo a solid choice when it comes to adding some to your own.
Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo
Alpecin’s hair-restoring claims may have been rubbished by the Advertising Standards Authority, but thousands of men still swear blind it has made their hair healthier, thicker and fuller. Does it actually work, or could it simply be nothing more than a placebo? Well, there’s only one surefire way to find out, and at around seven quid a bottle you can probably afford to give it a try.
Sachajuan Thickening Shampoo
Ok, twenty big ones may seem like a stretch for a bottle of shampoo. And that’s because it is. However, what Sachajuan’s thickening shampoo lacks in thrifty pricing it more than compensates for in sheer opulence and luxury. Work a small amount into wet hair and its ingredients will soak into your hairs and make them feel and look thicker.
Korres Men Magnesium & Wheat Anti Hair Loss Shampoo
Sadly, the experts will tell you that it’s highly unlikely that Korres’ Anti Hair Loss Shampoo won’t stop your hair from falling out altogether. However, what it will do is strengthen your existing locks to make them stronger and less likely to break off. At the same time, the carefully selected ingredients work to fortify the scalp and thicken individual strands.
Molton Brown Thickening Shampoo
It doesn’t matter what it is, if you got it from Molton Brown you can rest assured it’s going to smell incredible. And this hair product is no exception. Containing a nostril-pleasing blend of ginger extract and other nice smelling things, the shampoo works to puff up fine hair, giving it a thick and healthy appearance.
Jack Black True Volume Shampoo
Out of touch with your feminine side and hate the thought of anyone who visits your bathroom thinking you use girl’s shampoo? Men-only grooming brand Jack Black can help. While entirely unrelated to the School of Rock and Tenacious D star of the same name, this miracle thickening shampoo will allow you to give the man himself a run for his money in the barnet department.