Can a shampoo like Pantene, that is used daily by millions of people worldwide, really be held responsible for burning and blistering a few people’s hair and scalps? It seems a far-fetched claim at the least, but there are thousands prepared to support the theory.

What are the claims?

It all began several years ago when a Miss Sophie Peppercorn decided to wash her hair with the widely advertised Pantene Pro-V. We know little to nothing about her life prior to the moment when she washed her hair and it then fell out in handfuls.

What we do know is that correlation does not mean causation. Just because Miss Peppercorn’s hair happened to fall out on the same day that she used a new shampoo for the very first time, does not mean that the shampoo caused the hair loss.

Furious hair stylist Patrik Alan Simpson from Maryland in the United States, was one of thousands of people who are willing to believe that Pantene’s products are to blame. With little to no real understanding of the chemistry involved, Simpson is convinced that Pantene is the cause of the terrifying hairdressing events that culminate in smoke billowing from people’s foils, and painful blisters to bubble up on their scalps.

What might really be happening?

Given the relatively harmless ingredients contained in any of Pantene’s products, doctors and cosmetic chemists alike have been scratching their heads to come up with a theory to support Simpson and Peppercorn’s claims (together with the thousands of others in response to Simpson’s Facebook post).

Miss Peppercorn’s doctor did suggest that, with her hectic young life, in which she is balancing busy social activity and demanding work expectations, a hair loss event was inevitable: alopecia can be triggered by stress and occurs more frequently in young people.

As for the event that Simpson described, hairstylist Paul Cucinello suggests that the combination of chemicals used in foil highlights can, occasionally, lead to an unwanted chemical reaction. Not knowing what other chemical products a client has used prior to their arrival at the salon is the most likely catalyst for such a reaction.

What does Pantene have to say?

Justifiably, Pantene has defended its product: “There is no connection between our products and the reaction [Simpson described]”. Whatever the cause, they are confident that their product is not responsible.