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Salicylic Acid Shampoo to Prevent Hair Loss: How Does it Work?

Salicylic Acid Shampoo to Prevent Hair Loss

Used to treat everything from acne to dandruff, salicylic acid is an ingredient that’s commonly found in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products.

In fact, it’s one of several important anti-dandruff and anti-hair loss ingredients included in our DHT blocking shampoo.

Salicylic acid performs multiple functions at once on the skin and hair follicles. It can prevent sebum buildup, reducing the risk of acne developing on your face and scalp. It’s also proven to reduce the formation of dandruff, keeping your scalp free of dead, flaky skin.

In this guide, we’ll look at what salicylic acid does and how it works, complete with several scientific studies that look at how salicylic acid interacts with your skin and hair follicles.

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a widely used medicinal ingredient that’s used as a treatment for everything from warts and calluses to dandruff, acne, ringworm and a variety of other skin conditions.

Found naturally in certain foods such as walnuts, peanuts and blackberries, salicylic acid was originally sourced from salix alba, or white willow bark.

Salicylic acid works by safely and effectively stripping away the epidermis, or external layer of skin. By gently removing the outermost layer of skin, salicylic acid prevents skin irritations like pimples, fungal infections and dandruff from developing over time.

Extremely safe and widely used, salicylic acid is listed on the WHO List of Essential Medicines as one of the most important medicinal ingredients in the world.

What Does Salicylic Acid Do?

When used topically in a shampoo, salicylic acid naturally strips away the outermost layer of the epidermis, allowing dead skin to wash off your scalp when you shampoo and condition your hair.

From dandruff to uncomfortable, itchy hair, many of the most common scalp conditions worsen when dead skin is allowed to build up on your scalp. You can think of salicylic acid as a tool for loosening dead, irritated skin, making it easier to wash away when you shower.

The unique chemical structure of salicylic acid makes it one of the most effective ingredients for penetrating the scalp and cleansing your skin.

Unlike most shampoo ingredients, salicylic acid can enter into and cleanse pores, preventing oil buildup and helping to unclog your hair follicles. This can mean healthier hair growth and fewer skin issues such as seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff.

For example, a 1987 study found that people treated with shampoo containing a mix of salicylic acid and sulfur had a noticeable reduction in the amount of skin scaling (dry, flaky skin) on their scalps.

Simply put, if you’ve noticed dandruff or scalp itching caused by dry skin, salicylic acid is worth considering as an addition to you hair care protocol.

Salicylic Acid and Hair Loss

While salicylic acid isn’t directly linked to a reduction in hair loss (like minoxidil or finasteride), it can potentially play a role in helping you keep more of your hair.

This is because salicylic acid is vital for washing away excess sebum -- a waxy, oily substance that can contain dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, the key androgenic hormone responsible for hair loss in men.

Currently, there isn’t any conclusive scientific evidence showing that excess DHT contained in scalp sebum can contribute to male pattern baldness. However, washing away sebum is ideal for keeping your scalp healthy and free of acne, irritation of dandruff in the first place.

In short, should you view salicylic acid as a miracle cure for baldness? No. However, it offers a variety of proven benefits for scalp and hair health, as well as the potential to lower DHT levels on your scalp by keeping your skin fresh, clean and free of excess dandruff and sebum.

How Effective is Salicylic Acid?

Several studies have been conducted on salicylic acid’s potential as a hair treatment. One, from 2002, compared salicylic acid to Nizoral shampoo -- a popular anti-dandruff shampoo -- to work out which was the most effective treatment for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

The study found that both products significantly improved seborrheic dermatitis and reduced the amount of dandruff on the scalp. However, people treated with the salicylic acid shampoo had a larger improvement in itching symptoms caused by seborrheic dermatitis.

Another study from 2009 showed that salicylic acid produced significant improvements in skin redness, itching, discomfort and dryness caused by seborrheic dermatitis.

This study used two blends of salicylic acid -- one mix of salicylic acid with lipohydroxy acid, and one of salicylic acid with ciclopirox olamine and menthol. Both formulas produced a measurable, significant improvement, with only a small difference between each group.

In short, salicylic acid works very well for treating dandruff and the skin symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. This is verified by numerous scientific studies. While it may also help in treating hair loss, there isn’t any scientific data to prove this just yet.

Is Salicylic Acid Safe to Use?

Salicylic acid is overwhelmingly viewed as a safe and effective ingredient for treating dry skin and scalp conditions like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. The most frequently reported side effect is skin irritation, although this is extremely rare and usually very mild.

Most of the time, salicylic acid is used in relatively small quantities as part of a hair health and dandruff prevention shampoo. Use it as frequently as you would a normal shampoo to free up and wash away excess skin sebum to keep your hair and scalp in optimal condition.

Important Safety information


Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.

Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).

It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).

Finasteride is not for use by women and children.

Who should not take Finasteride?

Do not take Finasteride if you:

  • are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
    • Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
    • If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
  • are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.

    What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver

    Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

    Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

    How should I take Finasteride?

  • Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
  • You may take Finasteride with or without food.
  • If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.

    Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.

    What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?

  • decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.

    The most common side effects of Finasteride include:

  • decrease in sex drive
  • trouble getting or keeping an erection
  • a decrease in the amount of semen

    The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:

  • breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
  • depression;
  • decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
  • allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
  • problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
  • testicular pain;
  • difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
  • male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
  • in rare cases, male breast cancer.

    Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

    These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.

    How should I store Finasteride?

  • Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
  • Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).

    Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.

    General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.

    Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.