Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Humans?

You want to wash your hair but your shampoo has run out. Or, your scalp is very itchy and you’re thinking your dog’s pest-free shampoo can help with your lice infestation. None of these reasons should compel you to use dog shampoo.

Humans shouldn’t use dog shampoo because even though both shampoos may have surfactants, their ingredients are different and have different effects on the skin. Dog shampoo can cause allergies, will affect your hair’s pH balance, and could further dry out your hair.

Follow us into the discussion as we look into why you shouldn’t use dog shampoo and what you can use as an alternative for shampoo

Why You Should Not Use Dog Shampoo

From the surface, dog shampoo lathers and cleans just like any other type of shampoo. However, there are three reasons you shouldn’t reach for it.

Dog Shampoos
Shampoo for dogs

It Will Affect Your Hair’s pH Balance

Our hair needs an acidic shampoo to cleanse and balance the pH in your hair. Dog shampoos have a neutral pH meaning not only will they imbalance your hair, but they can also cause other effects such as excessively dry skin, susceptibility to bacterial infections, and allergies.

Unfortunately, this can occur even when you use the shampoo just once.

You Can Absorb Toxic Ingredients

Dog shampoos have numerous ingredients, as you shall read about further below. Most have pyrethrins to ward off ticks, fleas, and other pests, some have ingredients that encourage shedding to be used on those canines that shed hair, plus other ingredients.

These ingredients are often aggressive and unsuitable for our skin. Adverse effects could include psoriasis or excessive itching.

Dog Shampoo Can Dry Out Your Hair

Dog’s hair often harbors a lot of dirt, dust, hair, and general waste that needs to be cleaned. Using the same on human hair can result in excessive stripping of the hairs natural oils making the hair appear very dry and brittle, further leading to hair breakage.

Dry hair can also be your least concern if you repeat using the shampoo, as it can also cause your hair to lose its texture or pattern, and even its original hue.

Differences Between Dog and Human Shampoo

For the reasons above, let’s have a look at three distinct differences between dog and human shampoo.

The pH Difference

We’ve previously mentioned that there’s a pH difference between the two shampoos. The dog shampoo is neutral while for humans is acidic. Chemically, this means neither the dog nor humans can use the other’s shampoo interchangeably as it will affect the pH balance.

The human shampoo has acidic ingredients that offer cleansing abilities and also restore the protective cover on our skin after it is washed off when we take a bath or wash our hair. Hence, our natural pH is maintained. On the other hand, a dog’s skin has a neutral pH level, hence, its products will be more neutral or alkaline, meaning they have a higher pH balance than humans.

The chemical composition of the Potential Hydrogen (pH) for an average dog skin is 7.5 while that of humans is 5.5. The data concludes that most human shampoo can dry out dog hair and vice versa.

The Effect on Skin

In comparison to dogs, humans have thicker skin of about 10-15 cellular layers, while dog skin only has 3-5 cell layers. Dog skin will therefore be more sensitive than human skin. The shampoo will be lighter and much gentler for the dog but will contain stronger chemicals able to penetrate their skin and wade off any pests.

These strong chemicals can affect human skin on the surface and may cause the absorption of harmful toxins, especially with the extended use of dog shampoo.

Their Ingredients

Both shampoos will contain sulfates as it aids with lathering and cleaning. However, dog shampoo will have fewer sulfites and more pyrethrins to cater to the dog’s needs which is to keep pests away from their coat.

Pet shampoo is formulated using ingredients best suited for a dog’s coat. Ingredients such as insecticides for flea and tick shampoos that help eliminate pests. Other ingredients include salicylic acid, menthol, colloidal oatmeal, aloe, or hydrocortisone, mostly to soothe and relieve itching.

For special shampoos, they could contain glycerin or lactose acid to help with sensitive skin or oils for sheen. Some of these ingredients like salicylic acid and hydrocortisone can be irritating to human skin.

As for human shampoos, they contain zinc pyrithione which helps with itching and dandruff. Unfortunately, that ingredient as well as coal tar can irritate your dog’s skin.

That concludes that both shampoos contain different ingredients for different reasons and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Shampoo Alternative (DIY)

What should do if your hair shampoo has run out?

The most obvious step you can take is to simply buy a new shampoo but if you can’t, then you can make homemade shampoo. Here’s a basic recipe for homemade shampoo.


  • 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1/4 cup liquid Castile Soap
  • 1/2 teaspoon jojoba, grapeseed, or other light vegetable oil.
  • Flip Cap Bottles or Foaming Bottles to dispense the shampoo


  1. Mix all the ingredients.
  2. Store in a bottle.
  3. Shake before use.

From this basic recipe, you can transform it into whatever you want. For a stimulating shampoo, add peppermint or tea tree oil. For moisturizing, add in glycerin and aloe vera. For dandruff, add in about half a cup of apple cider vinegar. For shine, you can add lemon or oils such as coconut or sweet almond oil.

Some claim you can use cat shampoo as it’s much gentler than dog shampoo; however, the shampoo will still contain pyrethrins that are unsafe for human skin. Your only other alternative would be oatmeal shampoo. Read more about that in the last section.


Can Humans Use Dog Shampoo for Hair Lice?

No. Pet flea shampoo contains pyrethrins, a pesticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. The extract may be natural and appear safe for use, but it’s harmful to humans. It can cause itching, scalp sensitivity, and psoriasis.

Moreover, the shampoo can contain many more ingredients for eliminating ticks, besides pesticides, that can be absorbed into your scalp, causing issues such as itching, rashes, allergic reactions, and more serious scalp diseases.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

No. As mentioned earlier in the article, there are differences between dog and human shampoo that conclude that neither dog nor human can use each other’s shampoos interchangeably.

Nonetheless, the main reason why shampoos can’t be mixed is because of the acid mantle. Humans have a thin acidic layer of protective skin that warrants every product to be acidic to maintain the pH balance. That means shampoos and other beauty products have to have a pH of 5.5-5.6, while dogs have to have a pH of 6.2-7.4, which is more neutral.

If dogs were to use a human’s acid shampoo, it will disrupt their neutral acid mantle, leaving their skin susceptible to parasites, bacteria, and viruses. It will also lead to dry and flaky skin leading to skin abrasions.

The issue of ingredients also comes up since human shampoos often have a fragrance that’s harmful to pets and could have ingredients that have adverse effects on pets such as tea tree oil and eucalyptus.

Lastly, the issue of protective skin layers. Dogs only have about five layers compared to humans who have 12, making their skin much more sensitive than ours. Using human shampoo will be irritating and can have disastrous effects.

Is There Shampoo for both Humans and Dogs & Cats

Oatmeal shampoo is the only shampoo that can be used by pets and humans. The shampoo contains avenanthramide and phenols chemicals that are very good for skin health and aid with skin diseases and chronic itching.

In pets, oatmeal shampoo is used to cure skin problems and to relieve irritation caused by fleas and ticks, while for humans, it’s simply safe to use. You can opt to get a store-bought oatmeal shampoo or make your own using one part oatmeal and two tbsp of baking soda. Mix with water and wash your hair.

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