Dear Dr Rassman,
I am a regular reader of your blog, so first of all let me congratulate you on the highly informative and useful resource you have created.
I am a 21 year old male with thinning at the crown and right-had side of the scalp. My question regards shampoo and hair loss.
I came across this article which describes the alleged effect of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) found in most commercial shampoos nowadays. Apparently due to the acidic nature of the chemical, it could be blamed for accelerated hair loss.
First of all, I’m not suggesting that MPB in men is caused by this chemical, otherwise we’d all be bald! The bit of the article that interests me is the part which suggests that it (SLS) can cause damage to hair follicles which have just shed their minaturized hair due to MPB, thus accelerating the balding process.
All in all, I’m simply seeking your medical opinion on this issue and asking if you think it’s worth trying an SLS-free shampoo.
Keep up the good work
Based on the article link you sent, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) does not look like a safe additive in shampoos, BUT by using the powers of the Internet (*cough* Google search), I have found that this is nothing more than an urban myth. Yes, it is true that SLS is used in de-greasers and yet is also found in shampoo (and toothpaste), but it is found in the personal hygiene products at much lower levels than the stuff used to clean your garage floor. If you have very weak and miniaturized hair, you can try using an SLS-free shampoo to see if that makes a difference. I don’t have an answer one way or another, and if you are concerned, using SLS-free shampoo shouldn’t be a problem. There are a number of shampoos that do not contain SLS, marketed perfectly for people that buy into hysteria. However, I think it is way overblown and wouldn’t concern myself with it.
You can find much more information about SLS at Snopes.com, a great site for debunking myths. Also, HairSite.com has a good point / counterpoint breakdown showing both sides of the argument. Even the American Cancer Society has spoken out on how the SLS rumor is completely false.