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Ketoconazole Shampoo For Hair Loss: Uses, Effectiveness and More

Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication that’s approved by the FDA to treat several fungal infections that can affect the skin. 

It’s also a common active ingredient in hair loss shampoos and a medication you’ll often see recommended, typically in the form of Nizoral® shampoo, as part of an at-home protocol used to prevent hair loss.

Ketoconazole is scientifically linked to improvements in hair growth, making it worth using as a hair loss treatment option. It’s also easy to apply, since all that’s required is a quick wash in the shower a few times a week. 

Here, we explain how ketoconazole shampoo works as a hair loss treatment, as well as how you can use it for hair loss and other conditions that may affect your scalp. 

We’ve also listed other treatments for hair loss to be aware of if you’re starting to develop a receding hairline or other signs of male pattern baldness.

What is Ketoconazole Shampoo Used For?

Ketoconazole is a popular over-the-counter product that’s used to treat several conditions that can affect your scalp.

Common uses for ketoconazole shampoo include treating fungal infections, reducing dandruff and providing relief from skin conditions such as psoriasis.

How to Use Ketoconazole Shampoo

Using ketoconazole shampoo is simple. Most over-the-counter ketoconazole shampoos can be used every three to four days for up to eight weeks, then used as needed to control dandruff or other skin conditions.

You can use over-the-counter ketoconazole shampoo by following these steps:

  1. Check that your skin isn’t irritated, cut or broken. If your skin is okay, wet your hair before applying the shampoo.

  2. Apply the ketoconazole shampoo to wet hair. Gently rub the shampoo into your hair to form a lather.

  3. Rinse the shampoo out of your hair, making sure to remove all of the shampoo. Once the water runs clear, repeat the above steps and carefully rinse all of the shampoo out of your hair before finishing. 

If you’re prescribed a ketoconazole shampoo to treat a fungal infection, it’s important to closely follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. 

Although you may only need to apply this medication once, it may take several months for your skin to improve and for all symptoms of your infection to disappear. You may need to reuse this type of shampoo if you develop a recurring infection.

You can use prescription ketoconazole shampoo by following these steps:

  1. Wet the affected area of your scalp, then carefully apply the shampoo to this area and the surrounding skin.

  2. Using your fingers, gently rub the shampoo into your skin to form a lather. Make sure to leave the shampoo on your scalp for five minutes.

  3. Rinse the shampoo out of your hair, making sure to completely wash the shampoo off from your skin.

If you use other hair products, such as conditioner, be sure to fully rinse the ketoconazole shampoo from your hair before applying anything else.

Ketoconazole Shampoo Side Effects

Most people don’t develop problematic side effects from ketoconazole shampoo. However, as with other medications, ketoconazole can occasionally cause side effects. These include:

  • Itchy and/or dry skin
  • Blisters that form on your scalp
  • Changes to your hair texture
  • Overly dry or oily scalp and/or hair
  • Itching, stinging and/or skin irritation

Allergic reactions to ketoconazole are uncommon. If you develop any of the following signs, you should seek emergency medical advice and assistance:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Difficulty swallowing and/or breathing
  • Tenderness, swelling, pain or redness on your scalp

Should You Use a Ketoconazole Shampoo Like Nizoral®?

Much like minoxidil and finasteride, ketoconazole shampoo is often promoted online as one of the “big three” hair loss treatments. 

Yet while there isn’t as much scientific research to support ketoconazole as a treatment for hair loss as there is for minoxidil and finasteride, the studies available look promising. 

Ketoconazole appears to have real benefits, although we don’t yet know how effective it is over the long term. It’s worth noting that the studies which reviewed ketoconazole as a hair loss treatment used the stronger ketoconazole 2% solution, which requires a prescription. 

In the United States, the less powerful 1% version of ketoconazole shampoo is widely available over the counter. 

However, you’ll need to talk to your healthcare provider if you’d like to use the stronger ketoconazole 2% shampoo as part of your hair loss prevention regimen.

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Losing Hair? Here Are Your Options

While the science behind ketoconazole shampoo is promising, it isn’t the most effective option available for treating hair loss.

Currently, the most effective treatments for hair loss include minoxidil and finasteride.

Minoxidil is a topical medication that works by encouraging hair to enter into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle. It also increases blood flow to your scalp to provide hair follicles with needed nutrients for efficient growth.

We offer minoxidil online. You can also learn more about how to use this medication in our guide to applying minoxidil for hair growth.

Finasteride is an oral medication that works by stopping your body from converting testosterone into DHT. Numerous studies have found that it can prevent hair loss and, for many men, help to regrow hair in areas of the scalp with noticeable thinning.

We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Learn more about the factors that cause baldness, common early signs of hair loss and the steps you can take to protect your hair in our detailed guide to male pattern baldness.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.