Nioxin is a hair care brand that sells products for thinning or balding hair. The brand claims that their products are “developed specifically for thinning and fine hair.” They manufacture and sell a wide range of products, from standard personal care products like shampoo and conditioners, to hair regrowth treatments.
In this article we’ll review some of Nioxin’s most popular products based on a review of medical research to give our take on whether they’re likely to improve hair quality and potentially halt or reverse balding.
Failure to Publish Ingredients
At the time of writing this article, Nioxin doesn’t appear to publish an ingredient list on either their website or their Amazon product pages for a number of products, including their shampoos and conditioners. We consider this to be entirely unacceptable and a risk to consumer safety.
Consumers need to be able to verify the ingredients in a shampoo product before purchase, in case of allergy or sensitivity to the ingredients.
We consider it to be a sign of a low-quality personal care product brand when the brand doesn’t publish ingredient lists.
Nioxin Shampoo Effective Ingredients
The above ingredients list comes from Ulta, a third-party retailer. It’s for Nioxin “Cleanser Shampoo System 2” which is one of the shampoos sold by the brand for thinning hair.
One effective ingredient in this formulation is peppermint oil. A clinical trial published in the Toxicological Research journal found that peppermint oil caused hair growth when applied topically, with no side effects.
This was an animal study, so the results are weaker than if it was conducted on humans. However, the results are still impressive. After 4 weeks, the animals receiving the topical peppermint oil treatment had 740% more hair follicles than the control group, and the treatment was found to be equally effective to minoxidil, which is the drug ingredient in hair growth products like Rogaine.
Camellia sinensis leaf extract is another botanical ingredient we could consider effective for a hair thinning shampoo. Camellia sinensis is the botanical name for the tea plant, and this plant has been shown in medical research to be effective for reducing the severity of balding when applied topically.
A medical review published in 2019 stated the following: “Cosmetic preparations containing tea extracts are recommended for patients with androgenetic alopecia and hair loss, regardless of gender.” The study authors cited research showing that topical applications of tea extracts decreased dihydrotestosterone (DHT) formation, and this hormone can cause balding by shifting hair growth cycles unfavorably.
Serenoa serrulata fruit extract has demonstrated efficacy for hair growth. This is the botanical name for saw palmetto. A clinical trial examined whether topical application of saw palmetto extract could increase hair count in men with male pattern baldness.
The researchers found that average hair count increased significantly by week 12. The impressive thing is that the trial participants stopped using the product after four weeks, but results were sustained through 24 weeks. This suggests that consumers on a budget may not need to use this product every single day to experience benefit.
Clearly there are a number of effective ingredients in Nioxin Shampoo 2 for hair thinning. In regard to efficacy alone, this is one of the more impressive formulations we’ve reviewed.
Nioxin Shampoo Questionable Ingredients
While Nioxin shampoo performs well in regard to efficacy, the formulation also contains a number of ingredients we would recommend avoiding for health reasons.
This product contains three separate artificial dyes: Yellow 5, Blue 1 and Red. There is typically a number associated with an artificial dye, so we’ll assume that the lack of number for the red dye is just an error by Ulta.
Medical research suggests that topical use of artificial dyes may be harmful to human health. As we documented in our review of skincare brand Maelys Cosmetics, artificial dyes are in some cases contaminated with carcinogens, and there is mixed research on their overall toxicity.
Methylparaben is another ingredient in this formulation that we recommend avoiding. Parabens are classified in medical research as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which means they can negatively impact human and environmental health when absorbed, and according to the linked research study they are easily absorbed by the human body. When cosmetics and personal care products brands advertise that their products are “paraben free,” they’re referencing a lack of this type of ingredient.
This formulation also contains preservatives sodium benzoate and phenoxyethanol. While some botanical formulations require preservatives for safety reasons, we prefer the preservative ethylhexylglycerin which is relatively weak. We also don’t typically recommend products with two different preservatives.
Overall we would not recommend this shampoo due to the inclusion of the ingredients highlighted in this section.
Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment Review
One of Nioxin’s most popular products is called Hair Regrowth Treatment. The brand sells a different version of this product to men and women, but the active ingredient is the same in both: minoxidil.
Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment for men contains a concentration of 5% minoxidil, while Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment for women contains a concentration of 2% minoxidil.
Minoxidil is one of the most well-studied chemical compounds for delaying balding and aiding hair regrowth in both men and women when applied topically to the scalp. It’s the active ingredient in the hair treatments sold by many popular brands, such as Rogaine and Keeps.
An extensive medical review of minoxidil for hair regrowth concluded that the compound provides “remarkable benefits.” It can improve both hair growth and hair density when applied daily over a long enough duration.
We don’t understand why Nioxin’s hair regrowth treatment for women has a lower concentration of minoxidil. As we detailed in our review of Rogaine for Women, medical research has shown a 5% concentration of minoxidil to be as safe and more effective as the lower concentration for female pattern hair loss.
While we do consider Nioxin’s hair regrowth treatments likely to be effective, we wouldn’t recommend them for cost reasons.
At the time of writing this article, a one-month supply of Nioxin Hair Regrowth Treatment for men (5% minoxidil concentration) costs $34.18 on Amazon.
A product sold by Equate contains the exact same concentration of minoxidil and the exact same inactive ingredients, and is currently retailing for $19.52 for a three-month supply on Walmart.
This means that the price-per-day of Nioxin’s product is $1.14, while the price-per-day of Equate’s equivalent product is $0.22.
Nioxin Scalp Treatment Review
Nioxin has a “Scalp Relief System Kit” on their website, and the brand claims the three included products will relieve scalp irritation and thicken hair. The ingredients list above is from the Scalp Relief Cleanser, and again comes from Ulta’s website rather than Nioxin’s.
Topical aloe barbadensis leaf juice, more commonly referred to as aloe vera, does have relieving properties. A medical review published in the Italian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology found that aloe vera was effective for treating a number of skin conditions, including inflammation.
Glycerin is another good choice for a scalp relief product, as this compound is proven to have a number of positive effects on skin, such as optimized skin hydration and skin barrier function. The linked research paper details how glycerin also has an antimicrobial effect, which is relevant given that many scalp conditions are bacterial or fungal in nature.
Boswellia serrata gum is sourced from a plant native to Africa, and its active chemical constituents may be effective topical anti-inflammatory agents. A clinical trial found that boswellic acids, which are chemical compounds in boswellia serrata, confer anti-inflammatory properties to skin, and may reduce visible signs of skin aging.
While this product contains a number of effective ingredients, it also contains some additives that we recommend avoiding. First, this formulation contains three separate preservatives: phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, and ethylhexylglycerin.
Fragrance is another ingredient that we always recommend consumers avoid in personal care products. It’s a broad descriptor that doesn’t detail what fragrance chemicals are actually used, and some fragrance chemicals are harmful to human health.
A medical review on fragranced consumer products found that they are a risk to consumer health, and found that there is a lack of safety testing data on some of the compounds used to make the fragrances.
We would not recommend this product due to the inclusion of the preservatives and fragrance.
Nioxin Dermatologist Review
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Nioxin is published by a dermatologist with a YouTube page called “Dr Dray.” Their video has achieved over 100,000 views at the time of writing this article, and appears to be unsponsored:
Questionable Clinical Efficacy Claims
Nioxin, like many skin and hair care brands, claims that many of their products are “clinically proven” to work.
On their System 2 Shampoo Amazon product page, for example, the brand claims that “The kit is clinically proven to reduce by up to 91% hair fall, due to breakage**” and the asterisks are cited by the fact that this information is “based on a survey among 230 US panelists concerned about thinning hair conducted by SIRS, 2016”.
We do not know how the brand gets such a specific percentage of 91% reduction of hair fall from a user survey. Are the users tracking how many hair follicles they lose throughout the day?
The more important point is that we disagree with the practice of claiming user surveys to be clinical research. In our opinion, clinical research is published in legitimate medical journals, and is unbiased. There is a significant standard of data quality required for inclusion into one of the journals we’ve cited throughout this article, and brands simply giving users a survey to rate their products should not be considered clinical research.
We find it unfortunate that brands use this term so frequently for marketing, and we find it to be unethical, because most consumers can’t differentiate between user surveys and legitimate clinical trials published in medical journals.
Nioxin Real User Reviews
Nioxin’s most-reviewed product on Amazon is currently their “System 2 Cleanser Shampoo” which has over 7,000 reviews. It has an average rating of 4.7/5, which is relatively impressive.
The top positive review from a verified purchaser claims comes from a user named “Nimari” who claims that the product solved their balding issues:
“This is the best ever for us a little up in age who find they start shedding like a persian cat...My hair now actually stays on my head instead of on my clothes, my hairbrush is no longer full of hair every time I brush and I love the fresh smell and light tingle in the scalp when this is used with the conditioner.”
The top negative review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named “G. Brown” who claims that the product is poorly-formulated:
“This is so thin and runny that I can't even put it in my hand. It just runs off and I end up wasting a good amount of it. It's like water.”
Nioxin Pros and Cons
Here’s our take on the pros and cons of this brand overall:
- Effective ingredients
- Good user reviews
- Questionable additive ingredients
- Failure to publish ingredients on website
- Questionable claims of clinical efficacy