Nioxin Shampoo for Hair Loss | Should You Use It?

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Nioxin shampoo has been said to reduce hair loss, but is there any truth to these claims?

In this article, I’m going to review the good and bad points of Nioxin (as scientifically as possible) so that you can make an informed decision. This will include an in-depth look at its claims, as well as the potential scientific research to back them up.

I’ll also offer the possible side effects of Nioxin shampoo use.

Let’s get started!

Why Nioxin?

The Nioxin Systems are a series of product kits designed to wash the hair and scalp, and are marketed for the potential to protect the hair by decreasing scalp sebum, inhibiting the production of DHT, and increasing blood circulation within the scalp.

A man washing his scalp using homemade shampoo

While there are many potentially negative aspects to the Nioxin products (which I’ll discuss later), some of the ingredients have shown to have positive effects on hair health and the underlying causes of pattern baldness.

Many of the natural extracts may be able to promote overall skin health, reduce skin irritation and inflammation, and improve circulation in the scalp.

However, due to the significant amount of chemicals like selenium sulfide and natural extracts the likelihood of allergic reactions or negative side effects can be significantly increased.

For individuals who are considering the use of the Nioxin products it is important to consult with their physician to determine the most appropriate method for treating their hair loss, thinning hair, or receding hairline.

What is Nioxin Shampoo?

Nioxin shampoo and the Nioxin line of products were developed to help address issues of thinning and receding hair by making the scalp healthier.

Over time, the product itself has been altered and adapted from its original formula and the line of products was ultimately sold to a larger manufacturer.

For people who are considering the use of Nioxin products, it is important to do the appropriate amount of research on the product and separate information that pertains to the original product from the current product.

Ingredients of Nioxin Cleanser System

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Benzoate, Salicylic Acid, Mentha Peperita (Peppermint) Oil, Menthol, Mentha Arvensis Leaf Oil, Tetrasodium Edta, Methylparaben, Propylene Glycol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Cystine BIS PG Propyl Silanetriol, Lecithin, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Serenoa Serrulata Fruit Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Extract, Saccharomyces, Magnesium Ferment, Biotin, Folic Acid, Cyanocobalamin, Niacinamide, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Yeast Polypeptides, Yeast Extract, Saccaromyces (Iron Ferment), Saccharomyces (Copper Ferment), Yellow 5, Phenoxyethanol, Blue 1, Red 33

What Are Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

A pair of hands filled with soap suds

Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are common detergents in a variety of personal care products, however they have come under some scrutiny due to some negative properties associated with them.

These chemicals have corrosive properties and are known as skin irritants (1). These products may leave skin dry and cause itchiness as well.

These substances are common allergens, and may be one of the leading causes of irritation caused by the use of Nioxin shampoos and cleansing products.

The Potential Benefits of Nioxin Shampoo Products

While I cannot personally back up any of these claims, these are the potential benefits of nioxin shampoo products as claimed by the manufacturer of the products and some of its promoters:

  • Reduced production of DHT, which is indicated in the negative impact of anagen production as it relates to the inability of the hair follicle to produce healthy hair (2).
  • Increased circulation and blood flow, helping the hair follicle receive the oxygen and nutrients necessary to effectively grow and maintain healthy hair
  • Reduced inflammation of the scalp and skin, which allows for appropriate blood flow and decreases the impact of poor skin health on the hair follicle
  • Reduced dandruff levels, which is a sign of unhealthy skin and over activity of the sebaceous glands
  • Anti bacterial and anti-fungal capacity promote overall scalp health and prevent instances of seborrheic dermatitis which is a common cause of hair loss
  • Reduced sensations of itching due to unhealthy skin, which prevents the likelihood that an individual will scratch and cause damage to the scalp and hair

That’s quite an impressive list, but does Nioxin really work?

Does Nioxin Shampoo Really Work?

Nioxin shampoo and the Nioxin systems do not claim to be a hair regrowth product, but are designed to manage a couple of the underlying causes of hair fall.

If an individual’s hair loss is directly caused by the lack of effective blood flow to the hair follicle or the white buildup of sebum caused by DHT, then it is possible for some hair to grow back if it is addressed early enough and significant damage has not been caused.

peppermint leaves and oil on a table

There is limited evidence to suggest that some of the ingredients of the Nioxin products may stimulate hair growth beyond the capacity for Nioxin to promote blood flow and reduce sebum levels on the scalp.

Ingredients such as peppermint oil have been shown to have properties that may promote healthier hair growth, however further research is required to confirm these findings and gain more sufficient understanding of the mechanism of action through which this operates (3).

How Does Nioxin Shampoo Work?

Nioxin shampoo products support the health of the scalp, which ultimately promotes the health of the hair follicle and leads to the growth of thicker, more healthful hair.

There are two ways in which the Nioxin products may promote scalp health: by interrupting the process of converting testosterone to DHT and by increasing the circulation of blood flow through the scalp and to the hair follicle (4).

Nioxin is marketed as containing numerous herbs and botanicals that promote skin health and increase the circulation of blood through the vessels that connect to the hair follicles.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the potential benefits of Nioxin shampoo and how its variety of ingredients may contribute.

Helping Reduce Scalp DHT Levels

While there are many factors involved in genetic alopecia, one of the ones that’s most often talked about is DHT, or dihydrotestosterone. This is an androgen hormone produced in both males and females and which plays a role in sexual development and maturation (5).

There are many factors that play a role in hair loss, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle. But DHT has long been suspected by researchers to significantly impact the health of the hair follicle and, as a result, disrupt healthy hair growth (6).

In fact, high levels of DHT have been found on the scalps of men and women with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), the most common form of hair loss in men (7). This is known to trigger a process known as miniaturization, but it can also impact the sebaceous glans and lead them to overproduce a substance known as sebum. When this accumulates in the follicles, it greatly reduces the ability for healthy hair to be produced.

A few of the ingredients used in Nioxin shampoo – namely, stinging nettle and saw palmetto – have been shown to reduce DHT levels in the body (8, 9). However, their effects on scalp DHT need to be further explored.

So, can Nioxin shampoo block DHT? The answer isn’t clear. But it may play a role in the shampoo’s efficacy when it comes to lessening hair fall and increasing hair density.

Increasing Blood Circulation In The Scalp

The scalp is full of blood vessels which supply the hair follicle with the oxygen and nutrients required to effectively grow hair. However, there are certain processes that can ‘cut off’ this blood flow, and leave your scalp in worse shape.

As mentioned above, DHT plays a major role in AGA-related loss of hair. The androgen connects to the receptors on the hair follicle and, in affected individuals, this leads to inflammation and irritation.

If left untreated, this eventually turns into a long-term process known as hair follicle miniaturization (10).

Essentially, the inflammation becomes permanent and the hair strands will thin and shorten as a direct result.

This directly impacts hair growth, and it can even lead to irreversible baldness.

So, what does all of this have to do with blood vessels?

As miniaturization sets in, the connection between the hair bulb (the ‘bottom’ of the follicle) and the vessels becomes strained. This results in the Dermal Papilla (DP) losing its connection with the hair follicle altogether (11).

With no connection to the DP, the hair follicle can now no longer receive any blood flow. This means no oxygen and nutrient delivery, and no removal of buildup (including DHT).

The hair then becomes even thinner and more brittle, which increases its risk of falling out and breaking off.

Can this process be reversed?

Yes, but only if it’s treated within a reasonable amount of time.

Once the blood supply is reconnected, proper cell division can again begin to take place in the DP. This is required for healthy hair regrowth, and it should be your main goal when dealing with thinning and balding.

One ingredient in Nioxin, sodium citrate, is an effective anti-coagulant which allows for increased blood flow (12).

The Journal of General Physiology discusses the properties of sodium citrate, and determine that this chemical is an effective method for inhibiting coagulation without reducing the presence of calcium in the blood stream.

Since the sodium citrate is being applied topically to the scalp, the uptake of it into the circulatory system that supports the hair follicles will be minimal.

Due to the minimal uptake and the minuscule size of the capillary system in the scalp, this may be enough to promote circulation to the hair follicle without any significant negative impact.

Helping Reduce Buildup On The Scalp

Beyond the need for sufficient blood flow, the scalp and hair follicles are also prone to negative impact from the buildup of sebum or the effects of DHT on the anagen stage of hair growth.

The inclusion of urtica dioica extract (stinging nettle) in Nioxin products increase the capacity of these products to reduce inflammation on the scalp, which can ultimately promote better circulation in the scalp.

In the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, the anti-inflammatory effects of urtica dioica are studied on animal models, and the researchers conclude that this plant has considerable capacity to reduce and prevent inflammation (13).

Furthermore, the inclusion of menthol provides the enjoyable tingling sensation as well as reduces the sensations of itching associated with inflammation (14).

With reduced inflammation and decreased sensations of itchiness, there is reduced likelihood that an individual will scratch their scalp which can lead to physical damage to the skin and may lead to hair loss.

Nioxin products may be able to promote skin and scalp elasticity and lead to healthier skin where applied.

The results of a 2013 research study indicate that humulus lupulus (common hop)extracts are useful in preventing the ageing of skin and can even treat skin that has become loose or begun to sag or stretch (15). Similarly, the ingredient citrus paradisi (grapefruit) peel extract has been shown to be effective in its capacity to tone skin and promote overall skin health by reducing levels of yeast and lessen the chance for oily skin or the buildup of sebum (16).

The hair follicles which exist in the dermal layer of the scalp depend on the overall health of the skin to function appropriately and are prone to the buildup of bacteria, yeast, and sebum.

Natural Oils Have Antimicrobial Properties

An article published through the US National Library of Medicine suggests that the oils that are ingredients in these products may have antimicrobial capabilities (17).

The mentha peperita (peppermint) oil and mentha arvensis (wild mint) leaf oil have been shown to reduce concentrations of bacteria and have minimal fungicidal properties (18, 19).

The prevention of bacteria from growing on the scalp and within the hair follicle will promote healthier skin and hair follicles, which lessens the potential for negative impact on overall hair growth.

In addition, mint family plants like peppermint and wild mint have DHT blocking properties

Another ingredient, camellia sinensis (tea plant) leaf extract, may have anti-bacterial actions that further the abilities of this product to promote positive skin and scalp health.

According to a study published by the Pharmacognosy Review, the camellia sinensis ingredient may be able to disrupt the proliferation of bacterium (20).

This conclusion is based on a variety of past studies, and has not been performed in any human trials to fully understand the capacity of it as it relates to skin or scalp health. In fact, the conclusion of this article determines that further study is required.

Salicylic Acid Helps Remove Sebum From The Scalp

A bottle of salicylic acid

Another ingredient in the Nioxin product, salicylic acid, is a common treatment for numerous skin conditions including acne, psoriasis, warts, dandruff, and seborrheic dermatitis (21, 22).

This ingredient is highly researched and widely available over the counter, and is included in a significant amount of skin treatment products.

The capacity to address dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are the most relevant mechanisms of action for Nioxin’s ability to reduce the chances for hair thinning and recession.

While the targeted impact of the products is to promote circulation and reduce DHT levels, there may be some benefit from the other ingredients included in the formula.

These benefits are particularly related to the oils and natural products.

It is important to note that there is limited research on the effects of these ingredients as they related to the growth of hair, and that further investigation is need to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Nioxin shampoo products.

Various Ingredients May Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

According the journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics, seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is highly common among the adult population (23).

Seborrheic dermatitis is also one of the most common causes of hair fall, due to the damage it causes to the scalp and the dandruff or scaling associated with this condition.

The mechanism of action for seborrheic dermatitis relates to the buildup of sebum on the scalp and within the pores, and is associated with the activity of the fungi Malassezia.

Nioxin shampoo addresses both the buildup of sebum on the scalp and within hair follicles, and reduces the proliferation of fungi such as Malassezia.

For these reasons, the regular use of this brand of shampoo may reduce the onset or recurrence of cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

Its Antifungal Properties Create a Healthier Scalp

As mentioned above, some of the ingredients in Nioxin products may have antifungal properties, which may promote the overall health of the scalp and reduce the likelihood of associated hair issues.

The colonization of yeast and fungus on the scalp can lead to skin irritation and even conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis (24). But beyond that, one of the most common causes of hair thinning (when AGA is not involved) is trichomycoses, a fungal infection of the hair shaft (25).

Some of Nioxin’s ingredients, such as peppermint and wild mint, can make the scalp inhospitable to bacterial and fungal spores. This means it may be useful in treating such infections.

Potential Side Effects & Reactions of Nioxin Shampoo

The significant amount of ingredients, particularly the use of extracts from a variety of herbs and botanicals, increases the likelihood of allergic reactions to Nioxin products.

The product also contains harsh detergents, sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulfate, which may lead to irritation of the scalp and hair follicle potentially causing damage to the hair.

If you begin to experience any of the side effects of Nioxin use, it is important to discontinue the utilization of this product and consult a medical professional if the reactions are severe.

The list of possible signs or symptoms of side effects caused by the use of Nioxin shampoo includes:

  1. Redness or inflammation
  2. Itching
  3. Swelling
  4. Flaking
  5. Tenderness
  6. Dry, brittle hair

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s recommended that you stop use of Nioxin products immediately.

Reviews of Nioxin Shampoo

The combination of an herbal scent and the peppermint oils create a pleasant shampoo for daily use, and users often report enjoying the tingling sensation associated with the peppermint oil extracts.

As a daily use shampoo, these products also tend to provide a clean head of hair that smells good and does not appear oily or unhealthy.

Typically, users are left with a feeling of cleanliness and freshness they associate with the pleasant scent and cooling sensations of the extracts and the menthol.

According to a variety of users, the changes made to the ingredients and production of Nioxin products has decreased its functionality and user satisfaction.

The production of Nioxin products has moved outside of the United States, where it was originally produced, and is now made in Mexico.

According to long time users of the Nioxin products, the changes that have been made have led to an inferior product that is not similar to the original formulation in contents and results.

What Is The Cost of Nioxin Shampoo?

In order to achieve the best results from the product, it is recommended that people use the full array of products in the Nioxin system.

A single month’s supply of the entire Nioxin system can cost upwards of $40 USD, which can become quite expensive as the manufacturer recommends daily use of the products for the best results.

It is possible to utilize just the daily cleansing product, which does contain the most effective active ingredients and may address the two most important components of reducing the production of DHT and promoting the circulation of blood flow to the hair follicles.

When compared to other products on the market that have similar effects and address the same issues, Nioxin products are one of the more expensive options available.

The products are also intended for more frequent use than comparable products, despite having similar reported outcomes when compared to products that are used less often. These factors will lead to a much higher annual expense than alternatives that are offered.

Conclusion

There are plenty of products on the market that claim to improve the health of the scalp and reduce hair fall as a result.

If you are considering the use of Nioxin products it is important to fully understand this product and its intended uses. This ensures you will have reasonable expectations.