Best shampoo against dandruff

The weather outside this time of year can be seriously frightful for your scalp. Many people experience seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff — the medical names for a dry, flaky scalp — this time of year.

“The external air in the wintertime tends to be drier or less humid than in warmer months, which tends to have a drying effect on our skin, including the scalp,” explains Shari Hicks-Graham, MD, a dermatologist in Columbus, Ohio.

What’s more, indoor heating systems pump out dry air, so they have a similar effect on your scalp, while hot showers can also exacerbate dryness during the colder weather season, says Hicks-Graham. “Scalp dryness can turn into flakiness when we brush our hair or rub or scratch our head,” she adds.

Some people are prone to seborrheic dermatitis year-round, notes Lindsey Bordone, MD, dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center who specializes in hair disorders. That’s because this condition has a lot of different causes.

“Seborrheic dermatitis is often referred to as dandruff and can be the result of genetics, the environment, and your diet,” says Mona Mofid, MD, dermatologist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego. “In some cases, there is an overgrowth of a yeast — malassezia — that normally lives on the skin but may be in excess.”

Not shampooing your hair enough can also cause dandruff due to the build-up of oils and skin cells on the scalp. Bordone says stress can also contribute to seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff.

While seborrheic and dandruff are essentially the same, dandruff only affects the scalp, while seborrheic dermatitis can cause skin irritation and flaking on other areas, like your ears, eyebrows, beard region and upper chest.

Luckily, you have a variety of treatment options to soothe your scalp, starting with natural solutions.

“Coconut and olive oil are very good for the scalp,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, dermatologist in New York City and author of “Skin Rules” Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and extremely nourishing thanks to the vitamins and essential fatty acids it contains, while olive oil is full of antioxidants that help protect the skin when applied topically. “A good trick is to apply one of those oils to the scalp overnight once a week, or even once a month, to give your scalp a hydrating treatment,” says Mofid.

Another natural remedy you can try: apple cider vinegar, which is antibacterial and anti-fungal, says Jaliman. (Just make sure to dilute it with water before putting it near your scalp.)

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Beyond natural remedies, there are plenty of shampoos targeted to treat seborrheic dermatitis. “Some ingredients to look for which can help soothe a flaky scalp include ketoconazole, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, and 2% pyrithione zinc,” says Paul Cellura, MD, dermatologist at Tribeca Skin Center in New York City. “These ingredients are contained in many of the available over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos.” Glycolic acid, which is commonly used in facial chemical peels, can also be very effective on the scalp when used in modest amounts, says Hicks-Graham.


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As for what not to do: “Avoid hair products that may be drying, such as hair sprays and shampoos with a high alcohol content,” advises Paradi Mirmirani, MD, dermatologist and director of hair disorders for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “The higher up on the ingredient list, the more of the product it contains.” It’s also best to steer clear of shampoos formulated for oily scalps (these are often labeled as “cleansing” or “clarifying”) because they can contain harsh ingredients that can dry out your scalp, says Mirmirani.

The best shampoos for a dry, flaky scalp

Take care of your dandruff with one of these dermatologist-approved shampoos. But keep this in mind: “If over-the-counter products fail to fully control the scalp irritation, it may be wise to pay a visit to a board-certified dermatologist for further evaluation,” says Cerulla.

1. LivSo Moisturizing Shampoo

Hicks-Graham is a fan of this shampoo because it has a gentle sulfate-free formula that still lathers and feels great on your hair. Xlyitol in the formula fights yeast, while salicylic acid, glycolic acid and willow bark extract exfoliate and soothe.

2. Neutrogena T/Gel Extra Strength Therapeutic Shampoo

Coal isn’t just for those who made the naughty list this holiday season. Ths shampoo, which Cerulla likes, relies on 1 percent coal tar to ease flaking and scalp irritation associated with seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff and scalp psoriasis.

3. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Cerulla also likes this drugstore shampoo, which is formulated with 1 percent ketoconazole to help reduce the amount of pityrosporum yeast on the scalp and cut down on inflammation, redness and scaly patches.

4. DHS Zinc Shampoo

Powered by 2 percent pyrithione zinc to help control dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis symptoms, this shampoo is a favorite of Mohid’s because it’s both affordable and available OTC. “For people who experience seborrheic dermatitis on the face or chest it can also be used as a wash and comes in a body wash option as well,” she says.

5. Dermacare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

With 1 percent pyrithione zinc and coconut oil, this shampoo offers a one-two punch against dandruff at an inexpensive price point. “This shampoo helps to nourish dry itchy scalp and also helps to relieve it from irritation,” says Jaliman. “It’s pH balanced to gently cleanse scalp and hair.”

6. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo

For mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis, Bordone says an OTC dandruff shampoo like this one can be very effective. This classic formula’s star ingredient is 1 percent pyrithione zinc, which helps improve flakiness and itchiness.


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THERE are various reasons why you may find yourself with an itchy scalp.

But there’s no reason you should suffer, as the best shampoos for itchy scalps can help clear up dandruff and other skin conditions that are giving you hair hell.

10 The best shampoos for itchy scalp help to relieve any uncomfortable itchiness and soothe the scalp, while leaving hair fresh and clean

What causes itchy scalps?

Some people find their scalp gets itchy seasonally, when it starts to get colder, or perhaps you are suffering from an itchy scalp after colouring your hair.

Others have symptoms like flakes or irritated plaques on the skin that could mean their itchy scalp is the result of a skin condition like seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis.

The NHS has advice pages on dandruff and itchy skin which can give you a better idea of what’s causing your problem.

How can you treat an itchy scalp?

The best shampoos for an itchy scalp can help soothe any sensitivities, remove impurities and fight flakes – we’ve rounded up the top-rated ones online.

If you’re suffering from an itchy scalp, one of the best places to start when it comes to helping your hair is with the right shampoo.

Try to ditch any shampoos with ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can be irritating on the scalp and can dry out hair.

Instead, look out for tea tree oil, oatmeal and zinc pyrithione, an anti-dandruff ingredient.

If your itchy scalp is accompanied by other symptoms, like red and inflamed skin patches with whitish plaques, cracking dry skin and soreness, you may be suffering from psoriasis – and should consult a physician.

The temptation to pick off any scales or aggressively rub your scalp to scratch it can be high, but avoid this at all costs as it can exacerbate your condition – and your discomfort down the line.

Here’s our selection of the best shampoos for itchy scalps.

1. Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Eucalyptus

10 Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp CareCredit: Amazon UK

  • Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Eucalyptus, £3.33 from Amazon – buy here

This budget-buy contains zinc pyrithione (an effective anti-dandruff ingredient) and eucalyptus to soothe and relieve any itchiness.

The general consensus? It actually works.

As one reviewer wrote: “I have had an itchy head for a while and tried many things but only this has worked. And it smells good, too.”

2. The Body Shop Ginger Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

10 The Body Shop Ginger Anti-Dandruff ShampooCredit: The Body Shop

  • Ginger Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, £9.50 for 250ml from The Body Shop – buy here

This gorgeous shampoo can help soothe a dry, flaky scalp and relieve dandruff symptoms thanks to a combination of Sri Lankan ginger, birch bark, white willow extracts and Community Trade Honey.

This review sums up the general love for this product: “I bought two bottles on my first order and love it.

“It was after the second wash: NO MORE DRY, ITCHY AND FLAKY SCALP, NO MORE DANDRUFF. Absolutely love it.”

If you’re worried about committing, start with the 60ml travel size, which only costs £2 and see how you like it.

3. Wella Professionals Elements Renew Shampoo

10 Wella Professionals Elements Renew ShampooCredit: Look Fantastic

  • Wella Professionals Elements Renew Shampoo, £9.98 from Amazon – buy here

Shampoos with SLS ingredients can leave scalps feeling dry and exacerbate any itchy skin conditions.

Ensure you have a sulphate-free shampoo at home to gently cleanse your hair without overworking it.

Wella is the pros’ favourite brand and customers love it, too.

One user said: “Drugstore shampoos were leaving me with dried out hair and an itchy scalp… I tried Wella Professionals Elements Renew Shampoo…

“My scalp no longer itches like it does with other shampoos. This shampoo lathers well, no need for conditioner or detangler as my hair now combs out easier. The scent is light, so pleasant.”

4. Aveda pramāsana purifying scalp cleanser

10 Aveda pramāsana purifying scalp cleanserCredit: Aveda

  • Pramāsana purifying scalp cleanser, £24.50 from Aveda – buy here

Aveda products do have that gift of making you feel as though you’re having an experience that’s in between being in a salon and a spa – in your own shower.

This deep scalp cleanser is extremely gentle yet cleanses thoroughly and exfoliates.

It contains a mix of babassu extracts, wintergreen derived salicylic acid exfoliates, seaweed extract, lactobacillus, tamanu oil, grapefruit, neroli, cypress and other pure flower and plant essences.

Reviewers rave that it has relieved their itchiness. Apply before shampoo and then rinse off.

5. Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Shampoo

10 Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp ShampooCredit: Philip Kingsley

  • Flaky/Itchy Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, £20.83 from Lookfantastic – buy here

An editor favourite, this award-winning formula from the famed trichological clinic has a lovely apple scent and rave reviews, with people claiming it banishes a flaky, itchy scalp – even from the first use.

6. Australian Bodycare Tea Tree Oil Treatment Shampoo

10 Australian Bodycare Tea Tree Oil Treatment ShampooCredit: Feel Unique

  • Australian Bodycare Tea Tree Oil Treatment Shampoo, £7.99 for 250ml from Treat Your Skin – buy here

Tea tree oil is an antifungal agent that can be effective in relieving an itchy scalp and managing dandruff.

This shampoo is a favourite for those suffering from dermatitis, and those with dry, sensitive scalps.

It contains 2 per cent tea tree oil plus peppermint for a nice morning pick-me-up.

7. Aveeno Skin Relief Soothing Shampoo

10 Credit: Aveeno

  • Aveeno Skin Relief Soothing Shampoo, £9.99 from Superdrug – buy here

Nice and gentle, Aveeno’s shampoo has colloidal oatmeal to soothe irritated scalps and cleanse hair, plus it provides relief for itchiness.

8. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

10 Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

  • Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo, £6.99 from Amazon – buy here

This shampoo is an over-the-counter remedy for psoriasis sufferers, and contains coal tar, proven to reduce inflammation and help treat itchy, flaky scalp disorders.

People rave about this shampoo, with one ecstatic reviewer saying: “Miracle product! I tried everything to cure my psoriasis and this is the only thing that worked. Life changing!”

9. Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo

10 Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing ShampooCredit: Noughty

  • Noughty Care Taker Scalp Soothing Shampoo, £6.99 from Feel Unique – buy here

A sulphate and silicone-free formula (which translates to no SLS), Noughty’s Care Taker contains bisabolol and oatmeal to soothe irritated scalps. It hydrates without leaving hair greasy and helps alleviate dandruff.


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Enjoyed our roundup of the best shampoos for itchy scalps? Then head over to the beauty section for more amazing product selections.

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There are few beauty woes more annoying than an itchy scalp. Sure, it starts off innocent enough, but a slightly dry scalp quickly seems to turn into an itch you just can’t scratch enough.

If you’re hoping to kick that itch to the curb, finding the right shampoo to soothe your scalp can make a world of difference. To help you along the way, TODAY tapped some top dermatologists and hairstylists and asked them to share their top picks for combating an itchy scalp.

Now all you have to do is lather up!

  • 1. Rene Furterer Astera Fresh Soothing Freshness Shampoo

“The peppermint and eucalyptus oils in this shampoo relieve and soothe an itchy, flaky scalp, leaving hair soft, smooth and shiny,” said Stephanie Brown, NYC Master Colorist at the Eddie Arthur Salon. “Peppermint oil helps with dandruff because it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps strengthen hair roots, which will help with hair loss.”

  • 2. Ouai Repair Shampoo

“This shampoo is especially great in the dead of winter. It does exactly what the name says — repair — and dry scalps stand no chance thanks to its rich formula that includes tamarind seed extract and keratin,” said celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey.

  • 3. Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care

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“The main ingredient in this shampoo is pyrithione zinc 1 percent, and it has anti fungal and anti-inflammatory properties,” said dermatologist Dr. Marcelyn Coley, based in Lyons, New Jersey. “Even better, it’s affordable, effective for mild cases and comes in a variety of fragrances and formulas.”

  • 4. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

“The coal tar extract in this shampoo helps tackle a dry scalp and continues to work even hours after you have rinsed it off. It also helps those dealing with psoriasis and seborrheic Dermatitis of the scalp,” said Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York City dermatologist and author of the book “Skin Rules.”

  • 5. Dove Dermacare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Conditioner

“This is a great option for dry, flaky scalps as it contains pyrithione zinc that effectively tackles dandruff while gently restoring moisture to your scalp,” said Dr. Shereene Idriss, Cosmetic Dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology.

  • 6. By Gina Pure BioGen Complex Shampoo

“I love this shampoo for itchy scalps! Its formula contains Biotin, Collagen, Wheat Protein and Peptides – all of which are super nourishing and aid in balancing the scalp without stripping it,” Dorsey said.

  • 7. Pharmaceutical Specialties Free and Clear Shampoo

“In some cases, shampoo and other hair products may cause an itchy scalp in patients with sensitive skin. To treat this, I would recommend a hypoallergenic shampoo like Free & Clear,” said Dr. Coley. “It’s a gentle cleanser that is fragrance-, dye- and sulfate-free, in addition to being free of other ingredients that may be potential allergens for people with sensitive skin.”

  • 8. Honey Skin Organics Hair and Scalp Therapy

“This conditioner is made with natural and organic ingredients, like coconut oil, aloe, manuka honey and Australian cehami, that help soothe and/or prevent an itchy, dry, flaky scalp. I like it because it’s great for people with allergies or sensitive skin, and because it’s sulfate free,” said Brown, whose celebrity clients include Kate McKinnon and Melissa Villaseñor.

  • 9. Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

“This is a great alternative if you don’t have time to see your dermatologist. Formulated with 1 percent ketoconazole, it helps reduce the amount of yeast of your scalp which contributes to inflammation, redness and flaking,” said Dr. Idriss.

  • 10. Oway Soothing Hair Bath

“This soothing bath is perfect for a sensitized, red or irritated scalp. It contains Biodynamic Fennel which is cleansing and detoxifying. It also encourages micro-circulation of the skin, and has smoothing properties,” said Sal Salcedo of Nova Arts Salon.

For more skin and hair solutions, check out:

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For so long, itchy scalp treatments and products for dandruff were a one-to-one operation. See a flake? Pick up a cheap, clunky bottle of shampoo from the drugstore and breathe in the smell of dads everywhere. Tried and true formulas get the job done, and have been with us through thick and thin, but—make no bones about it—dandruff shampoo isn’t exactly the chicest product in the shower. We push it to the back of the caddy.

But no longer. With more info than ever about the importance of scalp health (and horror stories about dry shampoo’s dark side), scalp products are stepping up their game. And they’re doing so in hoards. Every time we open Instagram it seems like another luxury brand is releasing a new scrub, mask, or elixir promising to to de-flake, balance, and nourish your scalp.

It’s easy to be suckered into pretty packaging, but seriously, how many scalp products does one woman need? Should you be using a scalp-focused shampoo, let alone an entire collection, even if you don’t deal with dandruff? It turns out, yes, according to pros.

“Everyone, no matter their gender or age, can benefit from taking care of their scalp,” says Dr. Ariel Ostad, a NYC-based dermatologist. Your scalp is more prone to dryness than your hair, and a build-up of styling products and increased pollution can lead to irritation and flakiness. Hadley King, M.D., a dermatologist at Skinney Medspa in New York City, adds that excess dryness is something to keep your eye on, as it can eventually lead to hair loss.

While scalp care is definitely something you should be thinking about, most experts will agree you don’t need a full arsenal of products, and less is actually more because too many products can lead to irritation. “We are conditioned to think we need more products than we do, often leading to over washing, which actually irritates our skin by disrupting its natural barrier,” says Ostad.

A clarifying shampoo is something everyone can use once or twice a week to help get rid of build-up, and actually clean your scalp, not just your hair. If you need a deeper clean, King suggests scrubs for deeper exfoliation, but Ostad warns that they can be irritating, so ease in. He also recommends using a moisturizing oil weekly or a mask monthly to really hydrate and strengthen your skin barrier and protect your hair follicles. More targeted serums and treatments are best for those who are trying to prevent hair loss.

The one thing everyone should be using every day? Sunscreen. Just like your face, you should be using SPF daily in order to protect your delicate scalp skin. “I encourage my patients to wear hats whenever possible in the sun, since they protect our scalp as well as our face,” says Ostad.

So, in short: No, the influx of cool dandruff and itchy scalp treatments aren’t just a marketing ploy. But if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites below.

Kristin Ess Anytime Anywhere Scalp + Hair Milk Oil

It’s hard to find scalp products that clock in at under $20 that don’t look clinical, but as always, Kristin Ess delivers. This bi-phase milk has avocado, olive, jojoba, and castor oils to moisturize both your scalp and hair. Kristin Ess Anytime Anywhere Scalp + Hair Milk Oi $14 Buy Now

Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Who could say no to this pretty pink packaging? Plus, the shampoo’s inclusion of salicylic acid works to gently exfoliate and cleanse build up and irritation. Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo $46 Buy Now

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt

This gritty sea salt scrub has a cult following and 613 glowing Sephora reviews, but the derms we spoke to had mixed opinions on physical head scrubs as a whole. While Ostad is in favor of salicylic acid to tackle dandruff, King says that if that kind of chemical exfoliant isn’t your favorite, scrubs like Robin’s could do the trick instead by clearing out the buildup and dead skin that can cause inflammation. Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt $53 Buy Now

Amika Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil

If you have really sensitive skin, this cleansing oil will de-gunk your scalp with French pink clay and charcoal, but the Sunflower oil base won’t strip skin. Because the oil emulsifies into a light milk, all hair types can use it and will be left with soft and shiny hair. Amika Reset Pink Charcoal Scalp Cleansing Oil $25 Buy Now

Kérastase Resistance Length Strengthening Scalp Serum

If your number one concern is hair loss, choose a targeted serum. This one uses Creatine R Complex and ceramides to strengthen your scalp and hair follicles, plus smells like an expensive salon. Kérastase Resistance Length Strengthening Scalp Serum $51 Buy Now

Davines The Wake-Up Circle Mask

This yummy mask re-invigorates and moisturizes your scalp and hair with Rhodiola extract and purple clay. Davines The Wake-Up Circle Mask $10 Buy Now

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo,

This gentle scrub is perfect for keeping flakes at bay with minimal irritation. It draws on “vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators” to remove dead skin and buildup, and King says the addition of coconut oil will help you moisturize an itchy scalp and soften flakes. Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo, $42 Buy Now

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Chic and with all the dandruff-fighting properties of a traditional flake-targeting shampoo: Sachajuan’s formula includes salicylic acid, piroctone olamine, and climbazole to exfoliate skin and kick-start healthy cell turnover. King says the combo takes on yeast—if left alone, bacteria feeds off of it to create more inflammation and flakes Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo $28 Buy Now

Aveda Pramasana Protective Scalp Concentrate

Aveda’s little turquoise bottle homes in on the powers of lactobacillus, which the brand says preserves your scalp’s natural protective barrier; seaweed extract, to help control and balance sebum levels; and tamanu oil, which they say protects your scalp from pollution and other free radicals. Aveda Pramasana Protective Scalp Concentrate $46 Buy Now

Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment

This treatment is ideal to soothe and moisturize very dry scalps. Ostad loves it for it’s inclusion of Argan Oil, which is full of nourishing essential fatty acids to calm irritation. Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment $38 Buy Now

Over half the population experiences dandruff at some point.

If you’re looking to be rid of this annoying problem once and for all, a good dandruff shampoo can help – but it may take some shopping.

Dandruff has multiple causes – dry skin, product buildup, and fungal infection among them.

The best treatments have active ingredients that target symptoms while fighting several potential causes. If you’re not sure where to start, this guide can help you choose the best dandruff shampoo for you.

  1. Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
  2. Redken Dandruff Control Shampoo
  3. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula
  4. Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo
  5. Phyto Dandruff Treatment Shampoo
  6. Pete & Pedro CONTROL Dandruff Shampoo
  7. Dove Dermacare Scalp Soothing Moisture Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
  8. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean
  9. Head & Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo, Instant Relief
  10. Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

#1. Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Nizoral’s product contains the active ingredient ketoconazole, which treats fungal infection – the most common cause of severe and stubborn dandruff. If that’s the trouble, you’ll see a notable difference after just a couple uses. Even if your flakes have a different root cause, this formula will bring improvement.

It’s an alternative to prescription dandruff shampoos – much stronger than most over-the-counter products.

On the one hand, that means it’s probably the single most effective solution for dandruff that you can get without a trip to the doctor, and it works equally well for all hair types.

On the other hand, the scent has been described as “medicinal” and it can be very drying. But if you’ve tried other options and you’re ready to be rid of dandruff once and for all, this is guaranteed to get the job done, and for that it earns the top spot.

#2. Redken Dandruff Control Shampoo

Although slightly pricier, this shampoo, which contains the active ingredient zinc pyrithione, leaves hair soft and silky while improving scalp health. Reviewers often comment that it’s also one of the fastest-working products they’ve tried.

Among dandruff shampoos, this is one of the best for color-treated hair. While other treatments may strip or dull your color as they soak up the buildup that causes flakes, Redken’s whisks away oil while leaving color untouched.

#3. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula

T/Gel treats all kinds of scalp conditions that cause dandruff – from psoriasis to seborrheic dermatitis to eczema. It will even clear up acne around your scalp and hairline.

Formulated with balancing neutar and anti-fungal zinc pyrithione, it relieves itching immediately and will clear up most dandruff problems with just one wash per week.

One note: neutar can darken your hair color slightly, so you may want to look for a product with a different active ingredient if you have very fair hair.

#4. Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo

Selsun Blue is an old-standby brand that’s frequently recommended by doctors.

Its active ingredient is selenium sulfide, a topical medicine that can drastically reduce flaking. The formula also contains menthol, which soothes itchy skin on contact.

#5. Phyto Dandruff Treatment Shampoo

This is an intensive month-long regimen – the directions require, rather than simply swapping out your shampoo, 2-3 applications per week, with the product left in for four minutes each time. The advantage of frequent and slow treatment is that this product eliminates flakes and scalp itch with zero ill effects for even very dry or damaged hair.

If your dandruff issues are chronic, you can continue to wash weekly with the product after the initial month of treatment. Reviewers agree, however, that if you stick with the recommended application schedule for that month you will see an immediate and lasting difference.

#6. Pete & Pedro CONTROL Dandruff Shampoo

Pete & Pedro’s new CONTROL Dandruff Shampoo uses a secret formula, containing a whole slew of impressive stuff including two key active ingredients: 1.8% coal tar and 1.5% menthol. It’s an amazing anti-itch therapeutic cleansing moisturizing shampoo that is an effective treatment for dry hair, itchy scalp, redness, irritation, and scaling.

Control also does an incredible job simply cleansing, strengthening and moisturizing your hair and scalp via glycerin, tea tree oil and peppermint oil. At such a low price, it’s easily one of the best products on the market.

#7. Dove Dermacare Scalp Soothing Moisture Anti-dandruff Shampoo

If you have dry or sensitive skin, you’ve probably used some Dove product at some point. Like the rest of their line, this pH-balanced shampoo is gentle, won’t completely strip the oils out of your hair, and is relatively easy on the wallet.

But for most cases of dandruff, it’s also incredibly effective – clarifying the skin of the scalp and cutting through oil buildup to eliminate flaking in just a week or so of regular use.

#8. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean

This one of the best-known zinc pyrithione-based shampoos. Its power to fight fungus and bacteria on the scalp is well established.

Both dermatologists and customers recommend using this one daily at first to restore some normalcy on your head, then gradually re-introducing normal shampoo. Use after workouts and whenever you notice symptoms flaring up to keep dandruff completely at bay – forever – at a drugstore-brand price.

#9. Head & Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo, Instant Relief

This product has the same active ingredient as the rest of the Head & Shoulders line, but with the addition of tea tree essence and peppermint oil. These cool and soothe the scalp for – like the name says – instant relief from itching and burning.

It’s been noted for its gentle formula and for smelling better than most dandruff shampoos.

#10. Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Relieving flaking with a combination of salicylic and lactic acid (both of which work by clearing oil buildup from the scalp), reviewers have noted this product for its sense of luxury – it looks, smells, and feels more like a spa treatment than a medicine.

Although it’s not as effective against severe dandruff, it’s perfect if you need to nip a problem in the bud and don’t want to compromise on your overall hair care experience.

Now your hair’s looking clean and shiny, why not kick it up a notch by choosing one of the 10 most attractive men’s haircuts?

And if you’re wondering .

16 Luxury Dandruff Shampoos & Treatments That Work For All Textures — & Look Great In The Shower

No one ever said that dealing with an itchy scalp and flakes was glamorous, but thanks to the latest crop of luxury dandruff shampoos and treatments that really work (and look good in your shower, too) that’s all about to change.

Almost everyone experiences dandruff, the buildup that forms on your scalp and tends to fall to your shoulders, sprinkling your favorite black sweater with white flakes from time to time; and for a while, trusty Head & Shoulders shampoo was the only treatment option that was readily available. Not to knock the drugstore staple or anything (it really does work — more on that later), but the formula didn’t necessarily stack up to the OUAIs and Oribes of the world, at least from a #shelfie standpoint. Beauty enthusiasts were in desperate need of shampoos, conditioners, and stylers that both worked on dandruff and felt luxurious — and boy, did haircare brands heed the call.

But before you can find products that’ll work for you, it’s important to realize what causes dandruff, how to effectively treat it, and how to prevent it in the future. “Dandruff is also called seborrheic dermatitis, and it’s thought to be caused by yeast that lives on the skin normally,” Dr. Jennifer Vickers of Sanova Dermatology tells The Zoe Report. “That yeast feeds on the oils, or sebum, that our skin produces, leading to inflammation that manifests as redness, irritation, itching, and flaking.”

In other words, it’s not a dry scalp that’s causing flakes. “Dandruff is an oil problem,” Vickers says — and for some, it’s unavoidable. “Unfortunately, it’s caused by our genes,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner of Zeichner Dermatology tells us. “In some people, the body reacts more to yeast on the skin then other people.”

There are other factors that cause dandruff-like inflammation, though. Pollutants in the air can irritate the scalp, causing dryness and peeling; and product buildup can result in an itchy scalp, as well. “Bad news for all the dry shampoo addicts out there: If you don’t regularly wash your hair, oils and skin cells from your scalp can build up, causing dandruff,” Ed Valentine, the Managing Director of hair care brand NatureLab, tells TZR.

Since people tend to wash their hair less in the fall and winter (because who wants a cold, wet head of hair when it’s 40 degrees outside?), it can seem as if dandruff appears more often in the colder months — but that’s simply a function of behavior, and not the weather’s effect on our skin.

“To treat dandruff, dermatologists target both the yeast and the inflammation,” Dr. Vickers explains. “Dandruff shampoos that are purchased in a drugstore are definitely effective to treat inflammation, but some patients need prescription-strength shampoos or topical steroid creams for control.”

A key ingredient to look for in over-the-counter hair care products is zinc pyrithione, which has been shown to eliminate the symptoms of dandruff and prevent future outbreaks with regular use. Dr. Zeichner recommends Dove DermaCare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti Dandruff Shampoo. “Think of it as a scalp treatment,” he suggests. “Apply it with your fingertips, rub it into the scalp, and let it sit while you sing the alphabet, then rinse off. It needs enough contact time with the scalp to exert its effect.”

Once you’ve cleared up a case of dandruff, it’s time to shift your focus to prevention. “Seborrheic dermatitis can sometimes be prevented by increasing the frequency of shampooing,” Dr. Vickers tells us.

Of course, that’s not always a realistic option — especially for women with natural hair, who may only shampoo once or twice a week to preserve the health of their hair. In this case, add a pre-poo or scalp treatment to your wash day routine in order to target excess oil and product buildup. “Witch hazel as a pre-poo works wonders for my dry scalp, ” Michelle Thames, a natural hair blogger, explained to NaturallyCurly.com. “Simply massage witch hazel directly on your scalp before you shampoo.”

If it feels like dandruff is taking over your life, it may be time to book an appointment with a dermatologist for a prescription-level treatment. Otherwise, the latest luxury shampoos, conditioners, and stylers — like Oribe’sSerene Scalp Soothing Leave-on Treatment, made with biotin to boost the growth of your hair, too — should have you covered.

Ahead, 16 of the prettiest — and most effective — dandruff-fighting products on the market.

Before You Buy: The 12 Best Dandruff Shampoos, According to Consumer Reviews

While dandruff is extremely common, there’s nothing more embarrassing than itching your scalp only to discover that your hair looks like you’ve been frolicking out in the snow — yikes. And there’s nothing worse than having to go through your day with an itchy and burning scalp. Luckily, the quick solution for how to get rid of dandruff starts (and hopefully ends) in the shower.

What Exactly Is Dandruff?

A chronic scalp condition, dandruff is caused when skin on the scalp begins to flake off. (Gross, we know.) Its symptoms are pretty easy to spot since you’ll usually notice white, oily flakes of dead skin on your hair and shoulders. You’ll also have an itchy, scaly scalp. And dandruff may get worse in winter when you’re at the mercy of indoor heating. Believe it or not, you can also get dandruff from not shampooing enough since it allows oils and skin cells to build up.

What Shampoo Gets Rid of Dandruff?

The best anti-dandruff shampoos are the ones with the right active ingredient, like pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole. You also need to look out for shampoos designed to address your hair and scalp needs. If you color or chemically process your tresses, there’s a dandruff shampoo for that. Scalp super oily? Look for a formula that reduces excess sebum. If you still want to use a specialty shampoo for shine, extra moisture or repairing damaged strands, look for a dandruff shampoo that you only have to use a few times a week.

Can You Permanently Get Rid of Dandruff?

It’s not called a chronic condition for nothing. While anti-dandruff shampoos (often teamed with their conditioner counterparts) can successfully keep flakes at bay, if you stop using them, those pesky flakes may return. Certain lifestyle changes may help head off flakes too, requiring you to use anti-dandruff treatments less often. Learn to manage stress (key in managing a whole host of conditions) and get a little sun, as long as you wear SPF. And, as mentioned, shampoo regularly.

Derma Care Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

For those suffering from the annoyance that is dandruff, here’s your go-to list for the best dandruff shampoos:

  1. Leonor Greyl Paris
  2. Dove
  3. Philip Kingsley
  5. Christophe Robin
  6. Kenra
  7. Sachajuan
  8. Matrix
  9. Nioxin
  10. SheaMoisture
  11. Redken
  12. Head & Shoulders

Click through above to find out more about the best dandruff shampoos, according to customer reviews.

Neoteric Cosmetics

If you’ve suffered with dandruff in the past, then you’ve probably gotten familiar with ingredients like “zinc pyrithione,” “salicylic acid,” and other sciency words. Or maybe not? Let’s take a quick look at the active ingredients found in various dandruff shampoos on the market, and how they compare to each other.

Salicylic Acid

This is an active ingredient whose main function is to remove scales and scalp build up. It works as a keratolytic, which is a fancy way of saying that it loosens the proteins that form the structure of skin. Salicylic acid can also be helpful in treating scalp build up, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. It helps to relieve scalp irritation and itching. Products with this ingredient should be used 2-4 times per week, or as needed, on alternating days with another everyday product, such as a shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione. Salicylic acid is available in over-the-counter and prescription forms.

Coal Tar

Shampoos that use coal tar as an active ingredient are aimed at ‘thick crust’ problems, addressing dandruff as well as psoriasis and eczema. Coal tar works by slowing the production of skin cells, reducing redness, inflammation, and irritation. It is very effective, but make sure to rinse thoroughly; the treated scalp area can be sensitive to sunlight. Coal tar also helps to relieve itching. Products with this ingredient should be used 2-4 times per week, or as needed, on alternating days with another everyday product, such as a shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione. Coal tar is available in over-the-counter and prescription forms. Denorex has a product that combines coal tar and menthol that work together to soothe and solve serious scalp problems.

Zinc Pyrithione

This is an antifungal as well as an ingredient that targets dead skin cells. It is gentle enough for everyday use, but it needs to be used more often until the dandruff is under control. Zinc pyrithione does not decrease sebum emission like ketoconazole does, but it is an effective over-the-counter solution.


This is a fungicide aimed at treating yeast infections on the scalp. Ketoconazole is a strong active ingredient. Products with this ingredient should be used 1-2 times per week for up to 8 weeks, or as directed by a medical doctor, on alternating days with another everyday product, such as a shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione. Consulting a doctor is recommended before using it. Some studies show that it can slow hair loss, but it is typically not marketed as a hair growth product. For dandruff shampoos, ketoconazole is available in both over-the-counter and prescription form.

Selenium Sulfide

Shampoos with selenium sulfide target the yeast on scalps that can result in dandruff. This active ingredient can slow down cell turnover, but it can also discolor light-colored hair (or chemically treated hair). It is available in both prescription and over-the-counter strengths.

As you can see, there are a variety of different ingredients available to fight dandruff and other serious scalp issues.

Fight the flakes with Denorex Shampoo!

For more information, visit us online Here

It can be difficult to interpret shampoo ingredient labels, but each of the listed compounds has a specific role e.g. texture, stability, lather. However, the single most important ingredient in a dandruff shampoo is the active ingredient it contains. It is the active ingredient that has a direct biological effect on the scalp and, with a little luck, treats the underlying condition.

As you’d probably expect, there are a number of active ingredients that can help control and prevent dandruff. Each active ingredient has different properties and behaviors, designed to tackle different root causes of dandruff. Your response to these active ingredients can vary greatly. What works for one person may not work for another, even if the symptoms look identical.

It’s frustrating, to say the least.

To help ease the frustration, we’ve put together this guide on dandruff shampoo active ingredients. To help compile this guide we spoke to 4 dermatologists and asked them to share their expert advice on dandruff control and the role these active ingredients play. In addition, we’ve reviewed over 120 dandruff shampoos.

The end result is this, the ultimate guide to active ingredients in dandruff shampoos.

We hope you enjoy it.

What’s in this article:

Table of Contents

The underlying cause of dandruff in ‘seborrheic dermatitis’ isn’t well-understood, but the presence of Malassezia yeasts are thought to be critical .

Evidence for this theory is partly based on the efficacy of antifungal shampoos, which significantly improve dandruff and are particularly effective for long-term dandruff control.

Board certified dermatologist Brent Thomas Goedjen M.D., founder of Live Oak Dermatology in Roswell, GA explains further, “Part of the mechanism behind seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be an inflammatory immune reaction (resulting in redness, itching, flaking) to an otherwise resident yeast that becomes overly represented on the skin.

Antifungal shampoos such as ketoconazole are useful to regulate the yeast population and therefore reduce in part the trigger for the skin inflammation. Ketoconazole is helpful for this purpose and as a generic is well covered with most insurance plans.

Some people also think the antiandrogenic effects of ketoconazole might reduce sebum production also when applied topically.”.

Ketoconazole is consistently rated as the most effective antifungal ingredient added to shampoos and numerous studies demonstrate its efficacy in treating seb derm. Among them, a 2015 Cochrane Review identified 51 studies covering over 9000 participants and found those using a ketoconazole shampoo were 31% less likely to have recurrent symptoms within four weeks compared to placebo . The analysis also found that ketoconazole was more effective than ciclopirox olamine, and as effective as steroids – with significantly less adverse effects.

A very recent study published in 2018 showed a 2% ketoconazole shampoo to dramatically improve symptoms of seb derm over 30 days of use – when used once every 3 or 4 days.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it’s proven effectiveness, ketoconazole is a recommended first-line in seborrhoeic dermatitis by the ‘American Association of Family Physicians’ (AAFP) and UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) .


Climbazole is another antifungal agent providing an alternative to ketoconazole while being in the same pharmacological ‘class’. A recent Cochrane meta-analysis concluded that there was little difference in performance between the imidazoles , but it may be better tolerated if ketoconazole is too irritating

Ciclopirox Olamine

Ciclopirox Olamine is a ‘novel’ antifungal ingredient, first discovered in the 1980s .

Most antifungals work by inhibiting steroid metabolism in fungal cells, but ciclopirox olamine has a complex and poorly understood mechanism. Large-scale studies have shown ciclopirox olamine is as effective as ketoconazole with similar side-effects (redness, irritation, itching) .

In both the UK and the US, Ciclopirox Olamine is widely available from pharmacies as ‘Oilatum’ and ‘Loprox’ respectively, although as ‘off-patent’ other brands are available.

Dr. Ben Barankin, a Toronto based board-certified dermatologist at the Toronto Dermatology Centre, utilizes the ingredient with his patients, “For more severe or stubborn dandruff, a prescription steroid shampoo or leave in lotion, and/or prescription ciclopirox olamine shampoo are nice additions.”

Much like ciclopirox olamine, selenium sulfide is a novel antifungal with a poorly understood mechanism.

In the USA and UK, selenium sulfide shampoos are a first-line alternative to ketoconazole, used particularly if the side effects of ketoconazole are problematic. .

This recommendation is based on a pivotal systematic review published in 2010, which evaluated the efficacy of ketoconazole and selenium sulfide for seborrheic dermatitis. The study reviewed six high-quality trials, ranging from 20-350 participants, and found that both ingredients were associated with an improvement in scaling, itching, redness, and dandruff .

This is a follow up from an earlier study which found, “Both ketoconazole 2% shampoo and selenium sulfide 2.5% shampoo are effective in the treatment of moderate to severe dandruff; however, ketoconazole 2% shampoo appears to be better tolerated.”

While antifungals target the underlying cause of dandruff, ingredients like salicylic acid act as anti-inflammatory agents. Anti-inflammatory shampoos can be effective in treating both seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis.

Perhaps just as important, salicylic acid has ‘keratolytic’ properties, which removes excess flakey skin and can improve mild itching . These keratolytic properties of salicylic acid are one of the reasons you’ll often see it combined with other active ingredients – it increases the penetration of these other ingredients. This can be necessary for dermatological conditions, where plaques and thickened skin prevent steroids from being absorbed into tissue – reducing efficacy .

Indeed, NICE recommends a tar-based shampoo as first-line treatment for scalp psoriasis but also recommend a keratolytic, such as salicylic acid, if there is significant scaling, to allow other treatments to work . In the US, it is one of only two ingredients approved by the USFDA for over the counter treatment of dandruff and psoriasis .

As it’s such an effective combination ingredient, salicylic acid is added to many dandruff shampoos. In fact, 24% of the shampoos we’ve reviewed contain the ingredient as either a single active ingredient or in combination with another. Making it the single most widely used active ingredient we’ve encountered!

Coal tar is a polarizing ingredient due primarily to its smell and texture.

Coal tar shampoos contain up to 5% coal tar added in raw or solution form. It’s is a much loved, much-used treatment that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Despite its usage, there’s still an air of mystery with this ingredient. For example, it contains over 10,000 chemicals , of which only 50% have been identified .

Coal Tar is keratolytic that works by slowing the growth of skin cells to help your skin shed dead cells from its top layer – the keratoplastic. It’s effective removing thick scales that build up in both scalp psoriasis and seb derm.

It has proven anti-fungal properties, antiseptic properties, anti-inflammatory properties. It also appears to normalize keratin growth on the skin and reduce the formation of scales.

The ingredient is derived from coal production and so historically linked to cancer, although this has been firmly rebuked by the FDA with no evidence of increased risk .

That said, it’s such an important healthcare treatment that:

  • It’s included on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines .
  • It is one of only two ingredients approved by the USFDA for over the counter treatment of dandruff and psoriasis .
  • NICE recommend it as a first-line treatment for psoriasis in the UK .

Board certified dermatologist, Debra Jaliman MD, based in NYC is a fan. “Coal tar can give you relief from itching and dry scalp. Coal tar extract helps with the winter dry scalp and it continues to work even hours after you have rinsed it off. It also helps who trouble with psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. The coal tar causes the skin to shed dead cells from its top layer and slow down the growth of skin cells. This lessens the dryness of the scalp and helps with dandruff.”

Zinc Pyrithione is one of the most widely used anti-dandruff active ingredients on the market today. In fact, 20% of the shampoos we’ve reviewed contain the ingredient.

As well as being well being an effective keratolytic agent , Zinc Pyrithione is effective against Malassezia yeasts – important in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis .

Despite not being a prescription medication in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend zinc pyrithione as a second-line treatment in seborrheic dermatitis if ketoconazole or selenium sulfide are not effective or tolerated . This recommendation is backed by the British Association of Dermatologists, and based on several key clinical trials .

That said, it should be avoided in cases of scalp psoriasis due to a risk of contact dermatitis .

Piroctone Olamine

Piroctone Olamine is a relative newcomer to the world of dandruff control but accounts for 12% of the shampoos we’ve reviewed. It’s added because it’s well tolerated and is an effective antifungal agent .

A study in 2000 compared shampoos containing a combination of piroctone olamine and salicylic acid with coal tar shampoo. The piroctone olamine combination shampoo achieved the largest reduction in Malassezia over an eight-week period.

What is the best active ingredient?

Anecdotally, the most popular active ingredients on this site are ketoconazole, selenium sulfide and weirdly climbazole. Although coal tar users will go the ends of the earth to find it (as we saw when it disappeared from the shelves for a while).

However, from the 124 shampoos we’ve reviewed, Salicylic Acid has appeared in the most dandruff shampoos we’ve reviewed. Closely followed by Zinc Pyrithione.

You can see the full breakdown in the table below.

Ciclopirox Olamine 2%
Climbazole 5%
Coal Tar 7%
Ketoconazole 4%
Piroctone Olamine 12%
Salicylic Acid 24%
Selenium Sulfide 4%
Sulfur 2%
Zinc Pyrithione 20%
Capryloyl Salicylic Acid 1%
Benzalkonium Chloride 1%
Fumaric Acid 2%
Sodium Shale Oil Sulfonate 2%
Tea Tree Oil 12%

What active ingredient should I try first?

This is the million dollar question.

Dr. Matthew Zirwas, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bexley Dermatology in Bexley, Ohio, said, “Our experience has been that all of the OTC dandruff shampoos work about the same, on average, in terms of effectiveness. Obviously one or another works best for most individuals, but on average, they are all about the same. To improve your chances of finding a successful ingredient we’ve found that compounded shampoos that contain multiple active ingredients work much better than regular shampoos.“

This advice was mirrored by Dr. Ben Barankin who told us, “For mild-moderate dandruff, I recommend daily shampooing, and ideally alternating 3 shampoos, each with active anti-dandruff ingredients.”

His preferred over the counter dandruff ingredients include, “zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, tar and salicylic acid.”

And if it doesn’t work, board-certified dermatologist Adam J. Friedman, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology and director of dermatologic research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine explains via the AAD, “For most people, dandruff does not require medical attention. However, sometimes the flaking and itching that appears like dandruff is actually a medical condition, such as seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, fungal infections of the scalp, or eczema. If you continue to have symptoms after using a dandruff shampoo, consult a board-certified dermatologist.”

By visiting a board-certified dermatologist, you can be properly diagnosed and be prescribed stronger medication than you can pick up at the pharmacy. As Dr. Ben Barankin says, “for moderate to severe cases of dandruff, a steroid shampoo or leave-in lotion can be prescribed. A prescription ciclopirox olamine lotion is often a nice option.”

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). (2018). |Available from: cks.nice.org.uk

Subissi, A., Monti, D., Togni, G., & Mailland, F. (2010). Ciclopirox. Drugs, 70(16), 2133-2152.

Lodén, M. (2000). Keratolytics. In Dermatopharmacology of Topical Preparations, pp.255-280.

Paghdal, K. V., & Schwartz, R. A. (2009). Topical tar: back to the future. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 61(2), 294-302.

Chaijan MR1, Handjani F2, Zarshenas M3, Rahimabadi MS4, Tavakkoli A1. (2018) The myrtus communis L. solution versus ketoconazole shampoo in treatment of dandruff: A double blinded randomized clinical trial.

Naldi, L., & Rebora, A. (2009). Seborrheic dermatitis. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(4), 387-396.

Danby, Maddin, Margesson, Rosenthal D. (1993) A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of ketoconazole 2% shampoo versus selenium sulfide 2.5% shampoo in the treatment of moderate to severe dandruff.

Williams, A. C., & Barry, B. W. (2012). Penetration enhancers. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 64, 128-137.

N.J. Lowe J. Breeding M.S. Wortzman The pharmacological variability of crude coal tar (1982)

G. Maiganga et al. Physicochemical Characterization of Coal Tar Produced by Pyrolysis of Coal (2017) Journal of Minerals and Materials Characterization and Engineering

Roques, C., Brousse, S., & Panizzutti, C. (2006). In vitro antifungal efficacy of ciclopirox olamine alone and associated with zinc pyrithione compared to ketoconazole against Malassezia globosa and Malassezia restricta reference strains. Mycopathologia, 162(6), 395-400.

NICE CKS. (2013). Seborrhoeic Dermatitis. www.cks.nice.org.uk

British Association of Dermatologists. (2015). Seborrhoeic Dermatitis. www.bad.org.uk

CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Subpart H–Drug Products for the Control of Dandruff, Seborrheic Dermatitis, and Psoriasis www.accessdata.fda.gov

The Psoriatic Arthropathy Alliance (PAA) – Coal Tar www.papaa.org

20th WHO Essential Medicines List www.who.int

Author Profile

Master of Pharmacy

Ethan graduated a number of years ago after studying pharmacy in the UK, and is now a practicing pharmacist by day.

By night he writes the most stunning articles on a whole range of pharmaceutical subjects both here, and on our sister site at safehouseholdcleaning.com

The site owner. I founded, and have ran this site for too many years now.
I have extremely sensitive skin, have suffered from seb derm for all my adult life and this site is my way of doing something about it.

Check out my sister site at safehouseholdcleaning.com

If you’ve ever looked down at your black top to find “snowflakes” dusting your shoulders before (and beyond) winter, you know just how embarrassing and uncomfortable dandruff can be.

“A lot of people are ashamed of dandruff and think it’s a reflection of poor hygiene, but that doesn’t have anything to do with it,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City.

So, what exactly is dandruff? “Dandruff is essentially scalp flaking caused by inflammation,” explains board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital. “This inflammation is driven by our skin reacting to yeast on the scalp. Yeast lives on everyone’s scalp, but some people react to it, leading to inflammation, itching, and flaky skin.”

The good news is that using an anti-dandruff shampoo—and the right washing technique—can make all the difference, says Dr. Fusco.

How to choose (and use) the best dandruff shampoo

Scan for active ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and coal tar can all work to reduce dandruff, says Dr. Zeichner, but you may need to experiment a bit to find the one your scalp reacts to the best. As an added bonus, look for ingredients that will also moisturize your scalp and strands, like shea butter, glycerin, and aloe vera.

Wash effectively: For best results, rub your dandruff shampoo into your scalp with your fingertips, letting it sit for at least five minutes before rinsing, Dr. Zeichner says. Make sure you pick up an anti-dandruff conditioner, too. Once you rinse, some of the dandruff-fighting ingredients are left behind to continue working, so using a regular conditioner might actually buff those active ingredients away, he notes.

Mind your frequency: Start by washing at least twice a week, says Dr. Fusco. Take note of how your scalp and hair looks and feels. If you don’t see results, work up to three or four days if needed. You might even find that you get the best results by washing daily—it all depends on how your scalp reacts to the product.

Now, ready to banish those pesky flakes for good? One of these expert-approved anti-dandruff shampoos should do the trick.

Some of the ingredients in anti-dandruff shampoos can end up making your dandruff worse (!) A very real fact. On one hand, you will find anti-dandruff active ingredients in your anti-dandruff shampoo and on the other hand you will find known scalp irritants in your anti-dandruff shampoo.

Fact: irritants, allergens and sensitizers have high potential to aggravate your dandruff prone scalp.

Neither of these 3 words sounds descriptive of an ingredient you would expect to find in a dandruff shampoo – however surprising they’re more often than not included. Some companies use ingredients described as irritants because they’re cheap and can cleanse hair quickly. Other companies use ingredients described as irritants because they can make shampoo smell good.

Fact: Fragranced anti-dandruff shampoos are the worst offenders for containing known irritants, allergens and sensitizers.

An enormously common symptom of a dandruff prone scalp is reduced barrier function i.e. skin absorbs what it shouldn’t. A healthy scalp can effectively resist irritants, allergens and sensitizers acting as a shield against penetration. Dandruff caused by seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis or even dry skin affected scalps can be quickly flared.

Why you’ll find fragrance in 90% of anti-dandruff shampoos…

Because bottom line – its smells good.

Yes really.

In the medicated treatment of your dandruff prone scalp – fragrance is included because the company want to make your nose love their formula. Not your scalp. Your nose. And they’re not being silly about why – fragrance is emotive, fragrance can make you feel good, fragrance can trigger happy hormones. Fragrance can even make you believe an anti-dandruff shampoo will work.

In 2014 it was reported in the Dermatology Times that anti-dandruff shampoos with a medicinal menthol fragrance are perceived as significantly more likely to alleviate an itch.

Including fragrance in an anti-dandruff shampoo makes you subconsciously more likely to remember it, repurchase it and in certain cases – believe it can work.

There are 3 kinds of fragrances commonly found in anti-dandruff shampoos;

  1. Fragrance/parfum
  2. Essential oils
  3. Masking fragrance

The first kind – fragrance/parfum is found as 1 word on an anti-dandruff shampoo’s ingredients list. 1 word which covers a mixture of 10’s to 100’s of ingredients. If any of these ingredients are currently recognized by the EU as an allergen (in 2018 there are 26) they must be declared at the end of an ingredients list. Limonene and linalool are common.

Essential oils although natural are an extremely common source of irritants, allergens and sensitizers. Not all natural ingredients are good for skin. Natural anti-dandruff shampoos should be carefully screened for sensitive, hypersensitive and allergic-type scalps.

Masking fragrance is an interesting one. A masking fragrance is a fragrance which is used to neutralize a bad smell i.e. if an anti-dandruff active ingredient smells funky. Rather than adding scent, masking fragrance balances-out scent.

Shocking fact: Anti-dandruff shampoos containing masking fragrance can, therefore, be described as unscented.

Why fragrance in your anti-dandruff shampoo matters…

Fragrance is a known cause of contact dermatitis.

In fact, fragrance is the most common cause of contact dermatitis. A skin reaction which can present with the same side effects as dandruff. Due to the nature of allergens, you could be using a scented dandruff shampoo for years without issue – however, once a limit is reached – an allergy or sensitization will be permanently developed for life. The result – itchy, red, flaky, sore, sometimes oozing, sensitive and reactive skin.

It is also known scalps which are prone to dandruff, have reduced barrier function. This, therefore, increases the potential of irritants, allergens and sensitizers to firstly be absorbed, secondly be deeply absorbed and thirdly be absorbed in greater quantities. Using an anti-dandruff shampoo with fragrance could increase your chances of not only irritation but also life-long allergy.

What the law says…

In Europe, 1996 was the year which saw the regulation of fragrances in cosmetics begin.

A set of 26 fragrance allergens including ingredients like citral, linalool and limonene. All 26 ingredients were included because they are well-recognized as having the potential to cause allergy.

To date, any of these 26 ingredients must be declared on an ingredients label when in a concentration of over 0.001% in leave on cosmetics and 0.01% in rinse off cosmetics.

Thresholds which were set based on assumption rather than real life data.

However, these 26 EU declarable allergens are not the only ingredients having the potential to cause allergy and irritation. The Scientific Committee on Consumer Saftey have identified over 100 more – either being established contact allergens or likely contact allergens.

The SCCS is currently campaigning for the legal declaration of all 100+ ingredients.

The legally declarable limit of 0.01% is considered as tolerable to people with fragrance allergies – however in the same context, may also not be tolerable by people with especially sensitive skin.

Note: If an anti-dandruff shampoo ingredients label lists parfum but no separate allergens – it may include them but only below 0.01%.

Anti-dandruff products sold in the US abide by different rules. Similarly to the EU, a mixture of fragrance ingredients may be listed as fragrance or flavor. However, there is no legal necessity to include a list of allergens i.e. allergens contained in a fragrance can be used without notice to the consumer.

If you know your scalps sensitive, reactive, allergic or easily flared, A fragrance-free anti-dandruff shampoo is the best possible type of anti-dandruff shampoo you could use. And by fragrance-free, we mean n anti-dandruff shampoo without fragrance, parfum, flavor, essential oils or masking fragrance. no fragrance had been added.

There are many shampoos labeled fragrance free that contain essential oils and/or masking fragrances.

To save you from reading the small print, use this list of 20 best fragrance-free anti-dandruff shampoos to find your perfect fit.

Pharmaceutical Specialities Free & Clear Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dry Scalp and Psoriasis

Pharmaceutical Specialties formed in 1974 to “start a company to make better products than were commercially available for people with sensitive skin”. And boy, have they achieved it with this Free and Clear shampoo.

What is perhaps surprising on a website dedicated to dandruff treatments is that this isn’t a dandruff shampoo at all.

It’s rather a “a non-medicated, mild shampoo for sensitive skin and scalp.”

That said, we can’t use a medicated shampoo all the time, and this is my go to shampoo for those “between” washes.

BIOM8 Skin Conditioning Oil

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dry Scalp

BIOM8 Skin Conditioning Oil is now part of my daily skin care routine. It’s as simple as that. I have lost count of the number of products I’ve reviewed over the years and I can count on one hand the number of products that have impacted me on this level.

If you suffer from dry skin, facial seb derm or rosacea I simply can’t recommend this product highly enough.

It even makes a good beard oil!

Sebclair Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dry Scalp

Calling all sensitive scalp sufferers, if you haven’t yet found an anti-dandruff shampoo your scalp can tolerate, you haven’t yet found Sebclair shampoo. A piroctone olamine, Malassezia yeast quelling formula with extremely mild yet highly effective cleansers, accompanying scalp hydrators, flake fighters and natural anti-inflammatories. No fragrance, no essentials oils, no allergens. Sebclair shampoo really does stand out in our anti-dandruff crowd.

Bioderma ABCDerm Babysquam

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Cradle Cap

If your babe’s crusty cradle cap’s only getting worse, it’s time to try a leave on treatment – one which doesn’t leave your baby’s scalp looking like a grease ball. Enter Bioderma’s ABDderm Babysquam keratoregulating cream a 14 ingredient formula made from sensitive, hypoallergenic, moisturising, soothing and barrier building ingredients.

Useable 7 days a week with no fragrance or harsh preservatives Bioderma’s ABDderm Babysquam keratoregulating cream respects, repairs and conditions away crusty cradle cap.

DHS Fragrance Free Tar Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Psoriasis

DHS Coal Tar Shampoo is an expertly formulated shampoo containing 0.5% coal tar and is the gentlest coal tar shampoo we’ve yet reviewed

We can’t recommend this product or this company highly enough.

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Psoriasis

Quite simply the best pure Salicylic Acid shampoo we’ve yet reviewed. The shampoo contains 3% Salicylic Acid combined with a fragrance free, sulfate free and virtually every other nasty ingredient free formulation. It does this and still feels luxurious when washing.

Neutrogena should be exceptionally proud of this top top class shampoo.

DHS Sal Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Psoriasis

DHS Sal Shampoo is a 3% salicylic acid shampoo designed to treat Psoriasis and Seborrheic Dermatitis.

It’s an outstanding shampoo that washes well, contains relatively few ingredients, is gentle and won’t break the bank.

If you’re not sensitive to sulfates and are looking for a good salicylic acid shampoo, this is an excellent performer.

Yet again, DHS have produced a shampoo that we can’t recommend highly enough.

Cleure Volumizing Shampoo

Designed to treat Dry Scalp

Cleure Volumizing uses only a handful of skin conditioning agents and gentle cleansers to treat a dry scalp.

It contains only two potential irritants that should be considered low to moderate concerns, compared to other much harsher alternatives. This shampoo doesn’t use any sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances, dyes, alcohol, salicylates, formaldehyde, or SLS, making it a good option for those with sensitive scalps who typically react to less gentle, conventional shampoo and other personal care products.

Unless you have severely sensitive skin and are highly reactive to any potential irritants, we suggest trying this shampoo from Cleure and seeing if it calms your sensitive skin, and helps to clear up any dryness and itchiness on your scalp.

Free and Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Do you have an extremely sensitive scalp in need of anti-dandruff help? Do you suffer from mild to moderate seb derm? Meet your new best friend. Free & Clear’s Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo contains zero allergens, zero irritants, zero sensitizers formula based on 2% zinc pyrithione. An active ingredient able to improve the health of dandruff affected skin while also helping pacify dandruff causing overgrowths of the Malassezia yeast.

I simply can’t recommend this shampoo highly enough.

Dentinox Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Cradle Cap

Did you know using natural oils could be making your baby’s cradle cap last for longer? Instead, we recommend placing your trust in clinically trialed baby-friendly formulas able to effectively tackle the cause of your baby’s cradle cap – excess scalp oil. Case and point, ultra-mild Dentinox Cradle Cap Treatment Shampoo, an 8 ingredient formula proven safe and effective for everyday use.

Babe Laboratorios Paediatric Cradle Cap Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Cradle Cap

Tired of testing out cradle cap shampoos which just don’t budge your babe’s crusty dry scalp? Then you need a cradle cap shampoo with active ingredients proven to work. Enter Babe Laboratorios Paediatric Cradle Cap Shampoo a 4 active ingredient formula including 0.5% scalp softening salicylic acid plus a boosting active able to make your 0.5% dose work harder than its quantity would usually dictate. For use 2 to 3 times a week, the gentle shampoo formula cleanses carefully, treats sensitively and works simply.


Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Nizoral is probably the most effective shampoo on the market to control dandruff caused by seb derm. It’s technically a medicine and is one of few anti-dandruff shampoos approved to make healthcare claims i.e. to treat and prevent dandruff. With a 2% dose of anti-fungal ketoconazole mixed into an 11 ingredient fragrance-free formula, if you suffer from moderate to severe seb derm – it’s a must try. Studies show significant and dramatic improvements in 30 days.

E45 Dry Scalp Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dry Scalp

E45 is a brand synonymous with dry skin care.

If you frequently get dry scalps after washing then this shampoo could be an excellent choice.

Ketozolin 2% Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

If you have a moderate to severe case of dandruff caused by Seborrheic Dermatitis, purchasing the Ketozolin 2% shampoo is potentially a wise decision. It has the maximum EU allowed dose of anti-fungal ketoconazole – effective against the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast seen in cases of seb derm and dandruff. It can be used to clear dandruff within a week and it can be used to prevent dandruff recurrence when used once weekly.

However, it does contain one or two harsh ingredients, including SLS and a formaldehyde releaser. So use with caution if you have a sensitive scalp.

DHS Clear Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dry Scalp and Psoriasis

DHS Clear Shampoo is a decent shampoo to use between medicated shampoo washes, or if you are suffering from a dry scalp.

We say decent and not great because, although it has only a few ingredients, a significant portion are mild to medium contact allergens.

As such, we can’t help but be mildly disappointed given the company’s previous track record of producing the gentlest shampoos on the market.

Skinchanted Peek A Poo No Poo Dry Scalp Treatment

Designed to treat Dry Scalp

Almost world class and a very interesting concept – a commercial bottle of a No Poo treatment. Unfortunately there is a commercial grade preservative and anti-mold agent in there.

Skinchanted Peek a Poo really ought to be called “Nearly No Poo”.

Stiproxal Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Stiproxal in summary has a lot of promise, but with some of the harsher ingredients added it’s not the greatest shampoo in the world. Overall its very decent and I really like the combination of active ingredients. Ciclopirox Olamine is one of the best active ingredients out there for Seborheic Dermatitis. And although here are only a few shampoos out there that contain the ingredient, this is probably the pick of the bunch.

It’s certainly worth a try if your skin isn’t sensitive to the ingredients.

Exorex Hair and Body Shampoo

Designed to treat Dry Scalp

This is an admirable idea and one which I hope the other manufacturers take on board.

The shampoo’s formulation will help alleviate your dry scalp unless you react to one of the few contact allergens in there.

It’s such a shame there are any contact allergens at all though.

Katherine Botanicals Psoriasis Shampoo

Designed to treat Psoriasis

The 5 Best Dandruff Shampoos

Dandruff can be an embarrassing nuisance. Fortunately, with the right dandruff shampoo, you can quickly treat the problem without ever visiting a doctor. A wide range of issues, from dry weather to scalp sensitivity, can cause dandruff, so your best defense is to find an anti-dandruff shampoo that works for you.

What is dandruff shampoo?

Dandruff shampoo is a hair care product that is designed to help relieve dandruff and prevent reoccurrence. It can also treat the itching, flaking, dryness, redness, and scalp irritation commonly associated with dandruff. It can also help remove product buildup and improve the health of your hair and scalp.

For best results, use a dandruff shampoo twice per week. Dandruff shampoos can be drying, so you may want to use conditioner after each wash. You should also rotate a dandruff shampoo with your standard shampoo so that it isn’t as drying. Dandruff shampoo may be too strong or drying for your hair, so you may need to experiment before finding something that works for your hair and scalp. We’ve found some of the best shampoos available to get you started. (See also: The 5 Best Conditioners)

Top 5 dandruff shampoos

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo can help with dandruff outbreaks and other skin conditions that affect the scalp, like eczema and psoriasis. The active ingredient, ketoconazole, is an antifungal medication that controls flaking, scaling, itching, redness, and dryness. It can be used on all hair types, including color-treated, chemically processed, and gray hair, and has a thick, rich lather that rinses clean and leaves your hair smelling fresh and feeling thicker and stronger over time.

This has outstanding online reviews, including more than 2,500 five-star reviews on Amazon. Many reviewers agree that while it is nonprescription, it works as well as many prescription treatments and can work where other shampoos have failed. However, many reviewers do not like the medicinal smell and find that it can be drying on the hair. It is an Amazon’s Choice product and is recommended by Consumer Reports, Consumer Search, and AskMen.

Currently $14.49 on Amazon

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula can treat all types of scalp conditions: dandruff, scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and eczema. It can even help treat scalp acne while maintaining a healthy scalp and leaving hair clean and manageable. The rich formula works on contact to help remove dandruff and product buildup, and offers lasting relief from scalp itching and flaking.

It contains neutar (solubilized coal tar extract), which normalizes the scalp, slows the overproduction of skin cells on the scalp, and reduces potential inflammation. The salicylic acid clears scalp buildup and splits flakes into smaller, less visible pieces that can be washed away easily. The zinc pyrithione is an antifungal that helps diminish yeast on the scalp. It offers instant relief, is formulated for daily use, and is scientifically proven to work for hours. By using it just once a week, it can keep you dandruff-free for a whole week. The gentle scalp therapy solution is designed to eliminate flakes immediately, prevent new flakes from forming, and soothe scalp discomfort.

This comes from the #1 Dermatologist Recommended Medicated Shampoo Brand. It has outstanding online reviews, including more than 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Reviewers agree that it works even where other treatments have failed. However, there is a smell that many reviewers don’t like and some find it to be drying. It is recommended by Consumer Search, Total Beauty, WebMD, and AskMen.

Currently $12.29 on Amazon

Head & Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo

Head & Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo, Instant Relief, can work even where other dandruff shampoos have failed. It is formulated with tea tree essence and peppermint oil, so it can provide immediate cooling relief from uncomfortable itching and flaking. It can fight dry scalp, calm itchy scalp, relieve irritation, reduce redness, remove product buildup, and control dandruff. It is formulated to keep your hair clean and flake-free, while invigorating and soothing the scalp. It also lathers well and smells good (which is unusual for a dandruff shampoo) and is gentler than most dandruff shampoos. It can improve the health of your hair and scalp in just a few days, so your hair will look and feel great.

The gentle, pH balanced formula can be used every day on all hair types, including on color or chemically treated hair. This has outstanding online reviews and many reviewers like it so much that they use it even after their dandruff has been treated. It is recommended by Consumer Reports, Consumer Search, Total Beauty, and WebMD. For even faster relief, consider using this together with the Head & Shoulders Instant Relief Scalp Soother Treatment.

Currently $6.49 on Amazon

Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo

Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo is ideal for dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, eczema, and tinea versicolor. It is specially formulated to control the itching, flaking, and dryness associated with dandruff. The doctor recommended, medicated formula can produce noticeable results in just a couple of days, even for the toughest cases. The active ingredient, selenium sulfide, attacks dandruff at the root. It also contains menthol, which can help calm and cool a burning, itchy scalp. It can cleanse the hair and help improve the health of your hair and scalp in the process, leaving you with softer, more manageable hair.

This has outstanding online reviews, but some reviewers did not like the medicated smell. Some reviewers found immediate relief and agree that this nonprescription shampoo works just as well as prescription medications. It is recommended by Consumer Reports, Total Beauty, WebMD, and AskMen.

Currently $6.98 on Amazon

Redken Dandruff Control Shampoo

Redken Dandruff Control Shampoo is a specialized treatment to relieve dandruff symptoms, including the associated itchiness, dryness, and flaking. It can help improve the health of the hair and scalp by restoring the scalp’s natural moisture balance. It produces a rich lather and leaves your hair feeling soft and silky, and smelling great. The active ingredient, zinc pyrithione, can eliminate flakes quickly. This has over 300 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Currently $16.40 on Amazon

And those are our recommendations for the best dandruff shampoos. As always, be sure to check Wise Bread’s Buying Calendar to learn when and how to buy just about anything!


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