Is Head & Shoulders Bad for Your Hair? An Ingredient Analysis

Is Head & Shoulders Bad for Your Hair? An Ingredient Analysis

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Head & Shoulders is arguably the most popular anti-dandruff shampoo in the US. Its manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, claims that the shampoo line contains "Minimal Ingredients" to provide "Dandruff Protection."

But what's actually in Head & Shoulders shampoo? Is it bad for hair? Does the brand use any questionable additive ingredients? And how do real customers rate and describe the effects of Head & Shoulders shampoo on their hair?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Head & Shoulders shampoo to give our take on whether or not it's bad for your hair.

We'll also feature unsponsored customer reviews of the brand.

Ingredient Analysis

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean ingredients

The ingredients in Head & Shoulders Classic Clean are shown above.

Pyrithione zinc is the only active ingredient, and is good for hair with dandruff.

This ingredient is clinically shown to reduce levels of harmful yeast in the scalp, as we documented in our does anti dandruff shampoo actually work article. 

There are three inactive ingredients we consider to be bad for your hair, by nature of being bad for human cells generally.

Fragrance is commonly used in shampoo, but a medical review published in the Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health journal concluded that fragranced consumer products can "impose serious risks to human health."

Blue 1 and Red 33 are synthetic dyes, and a 2012 medical review suggests that synthetic dyes may be harmful to human health.

Though the review focuses on oral ingestion of such dyes, previous research has shown that such dyes can be absorbed through the skin, which is why we recommend avoiding their use entirely.

Overall, we consider Head & Shoulders to be potentially bad for your hair due to the use of fragrance and two synthetic dyes.

A YouTube video from The Wall Street Journal provided analyzed the ingredients in Head & Shoulders:

Which Version is Best for Hair?

Head & Shoulders has a wide range of shampoo products.

We consider Head & Shoulders BARE Pure Clean to be the best version for your hair.

Its ingredients are shown below:

Head & Shoulders BARE Pure Clean ingredients

Pyrithione zinc is the active ingredient, so this shampoo should be effective against dandruff and yeast.

Polyquaternium-10 is clinically shown to soften and condition hair, as we documented in our article on is Suave good for your hair, and this ingredient doesn't exist in the Classic Clean formulation reviewed previously.

Most importantly, Head & Shoulders BARE is dye-free, so we consider it to be better for hair and better for the body than most other shampoo products sold by the brand.

This formulation does contain fragrance so we don't recommend it overall.

Can Dietary Changes Reduce Dandruff?

A YouTube creator named Alex Kouras has a video with over 500,000 views where he claims that dietary changes helped him eliminate dandruff:

Customers Rate Head & Shoulders

Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion.

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean is the brand's most-reviewed product on Amazon at the time of updating this article, with over 11,000 total reviews, and an average customer review rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.

A top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Sally" who gave the product a 5/5 rating, and claims it's effective for dry scalp:

"This product has truly helped my dry scalp. It has a great scent and leaves your hair feeling fresh and clean. Have had no issues and it was a great price for a double pack!"

A top negative review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named "Skid" who gave the product a 1/5 rating, and claims it has too strong of a scent:

"It is HEAVILY scented. It stays in your hair forever. It lingers throughout the bathroom and neighboring rooms for way too long. I had to plug in two spacers to burn the scent out. My head was pounding, my eyes hurting and my nose clogged from the smell which would not leave."

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean currently has an average review rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Google.

Our Clean Hair Care Picks

Ingreendients Daily Shampoo is our top shampoo pick, because it's formulated 100% from plants and contains research-backed active ingredients like acetic acid, derived from apple cider vinegar (ACV), which researchers suggest "can condition hair making it softer, silkier, shinier."

Happy Head Topical is our top premium hair growth solution.

This formulation uses FDA-approved hair loss ingredients like minoxidil which is clinically shown to increase hair count by 11%. 

Momentous Zinc is our top value hair growth solution.

A 2022 medical review on the use of zinc in dermatology concluded that "This review has found evidence to support the use of hair loss disorders."

All of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of ingredients we consider to be unhealthy.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


Head & Shoulders is likely to be effective against dandruff due to its research-backed active ingredient.

However, we consider this brand to be potentially bad for hair, and to be bad for human health, due to the use of fragrance and artificial dyes.

Head & Shoulders BARE Pure Clean is the shampoo product that's the best for hair in our opinion, because it's free of synthetic dyes.

This brand has highly favorable online customer reviews.

In this article, we featured a video from a YouTube influencer who claims that dietary changes significantly improved his scalp health, and the video includes before-and-after images.