Do you know what you are putting on your head??


Have you ever had a “bad hair day”? Do you run away from the mirror? If so, maybe you need to know more about hair care, in particular shampoos. This article is going to provide some basic information about types of shampoos, their general disadvantages and a few important questions about using shampoos will be answered by Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Galadari from the Internal Medicine Department-FMHS.

Shampoos are used as cleaning agents for cosmetic purposes, antidandruff agents, antiseborrhoeic agents and keratolytic agents.

As cleaning agents: these shampoos should be mild, effective, without causing irritation and should be used daily or on alternate days as needed. They remove dust and excess oil from the hair. For example, herbal shampoos and basic shampoos.

As antidandruff agents: these treat dandruff due to fungi like pityriasis versicolor, pityriasis capitis and pityrosporum. For example Nizoral shampoo (active ingredient: ketoconazole 2%): rapidly relieves scaling and pruritis which are associated with fungal infections.

As antiseborrhoeic agents: they have cytostatic effect on cells of the epidermis and follicular epithelium, thus reducing corneocyte production. For example, Exsel shampoo (active ingredient sulphide 2.5%) Sebaren shampoo and Zinc shampoo.

As keratolytic agents: they remove ointment, pastes, which are used in the treatment of psoriasis. They also remove hard scales from the scalp. For example, Polytar shampoo (active ingredient: polytar 1%)

So check the labels before getting your shampoo as they are different in their usage and consider your personal needs as well. However shampoos have disadvantages and commonly these cause:

  1. Dryness of the scalp and hair.
  2. Oiliness of the scalp and hair.
  3. Irritation of the scalp, skin and mucous membrane of the eyes.
  4. Discoloration of hair.
  5. Loss of hair.
  6. Irritation of the scalp leading to dandruff.
  7. Variation in the individual response due to the natural differences and due to chemicals used in different preparations.


We raised a number of questions about hair care and shampoos. Dr. Ibrahim Galadari, a dermatologist in the department of Internal Medicine, FMHS, was glad to clarify our doubts and he provided the following answers at the beginning of this academic semester.

Q1. What is the difference between commercial and medicated shampoos?

A. The purpose of shampoo is to cleanse hair and is intended to remove sebum, sweat components, desquamated keratin and environmental dirt. In addition, consumers want a shampoo that beautifies. So, basic shampoos may be selected from several formulation depending on the amount of scalp sebum production, hair shaft diameter and hair shaft condition. Most of the basic shampoos use lauryl sulfate detergents. In medicated shampoos for basic normal hair there are additives such as tar, salicylic acid, sulfur, selenium disulfide or zinc pyrithione. Medicated shampoos have several functions: to remove sebum efficiently, to remove scale production and to act as antibacterial and anti-fungal.

Q2. On what basis should shampoos be selected?

A. Shampoos have been formulated in liquid, gels, creams, aerosols and powders! The liquid varieties are the most popular. A number of different types of shampoos are also available: basic shampoos, baby shampoos, conditioning shampoos and medicated shampoos. So the label usually defines the intended consumer by stating normal hair, oily hair, dry hair. We should first know the condition of our hair, which type (normal, dry, oily) and the health of the scalp. Then we select a proper shampoo for it.

Q3. Is the choice of shampoo a contributing factor in hair loss?

A. Indirectly, yes!

Shampoos work well if we use them in a proper way. For example normal hair shampoos are good cleaners for one with moderate sebum production and coarse hair; however, they do not work well for a person with fine, unmanageable hair. So one should use them depending on the condition of the hair. It’s the chemicals that are different:

  1. Lauryl sulfate: good cleaning but is hard on the hair.
  2. Laureth sulfate: good cleansing and leave good condition.
  3. Sarcosine: poor cleansers but are excellent conditioners.

All previously mentioned ingredients could chemically damage the hair shaft if not used in a proper way.

Q4. Is it fine to change the types of shampoos being used?

A. No..

If a person is happy with her shampoos, she wouldn’t change her shampoo! However, the hair or scalp if it is changed due to many reasons such as health condition, environmental and the use of hair colouring or straightening, then one should change her shampoo to fit with her hair.

Q5. How useful are baby shampoos for adult use?

A. Baby shampoos are non-irritating to the eyes and designed to be mild cleansing agents since babies produce limited sebum. These shampoos use detergents from the amphoteric group. Baby shampoos are also appropriate for mature hair and for individual wishing to shampoo daily.


In conclusion, we sincerely thank Dr. Ibrahim Galadari for this helpful and beneficial piece of information. So shampoos can work in either way, and it’s up to the consumer to make the best of them as they are one of the basic necessities in our lives. Well, now you can smile when you see your self in the mirror!