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Whether you’re dealing with an itchy scalp, dryness and/or white flakes, dandruff can be a total nuisance. Luckily, we’ve found a simple solution: dandruff shampoo, which just might relieve some of the irritation you’re experiencing, while exfoliating and deeply cleansing your scalp. Are you ready to finally get rid of buildup? We compiled a list of the best dandruff shampoos, from budget-friendly finds like Selsun Blue ($9; $7) and Neutrogena ($10; $7) to derm-approved treatments like Nizoral ($15) and Oribe ($52).
The Best Dandruff Shampoos at a Glance
Meet the Experts
How We Chose the Best Dandruff Shampoos
We tapped five dermatologists, trichologists and scalp experts to recommend their top picks for the best dandruff shampoos. From there, analyzed each product’s ingredients, scents and benefits. We also scanned through the reviews at tried-and-true retailers like Amazon, Ulta, Sephora and Walmart to finalize this extensive list of the best dandruff shampoos.
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This best-seller deserves the top spot on our list. With more than 66,800 5-star reviews, this shampoo promises to control flakes, scaling and itching caused by dandruff. The key ingredient, ketoconazole, has been clinically proven to kill the fungus that causes all of those aforementioned hair woes. Buyers also note that it adds softness to their locks and smells delicious.
Dr. Logerfo swears by this purifying shampoo from Aveda and we definitely see its appeal. The shampoo works to clarify and cleanse the scalp, especially on oily hair. It’s formulated with micelles to gently remove buildup and white vinegar to purify the scalp. Plus, the blend of rosemary, peppermint and spearmint offers a refreshing scent in the shower.
Another Dr. Logerfo go-to is this Bondi Boost shampoo, which has more than 1,200 5-star reviews and counting. Shoppers say the gentle formula helps soothe itchy scalps and combats dandruff. Core ingredients include aloe vera and betaine, a combo that helps to retain moisture and calm any irritation. You’ll also find hints of peppermint oil, which provides a nice cooling sensation on the scalp.
It doesn’t get more efficient (and effective) than this two-in-one. The main ingredient, salicylic acid, helps to remove flakes and offers some scalp relief. Meanwhile, the provitamin B5 in the formula improves shine and conditions strands. Equally loved by the derms we interviewed for this story and 2,500 reviewers, who appreciates how it alleviates itchiness and controls flakes after every wash.
Here’s proof that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a high-quality product. Getting a stamp of approval by Dr. Logerfo, this anti-dandruff shampoo from Selsun Blue both prevents and eliminates dandruff. The formula contains one percent selenium sulfide and cooling menthol to soothe your itchy scalp. Reviewers say it provides a nice lather and cleanses the scalp without stripping away your natural oils.
A great ingredient to tackle dandruff is zinc pyrithione and this Head & Shoulders pick is full of it. Also infused with coconut oil and apple cider vinegar, the formula works to balance the scalp, control dandruff and deeply nourish locks. Dr. Kilgour recommends this drugstore shampoo for curly and coily locks, as it’s known to be gentle and creamy.
For a luxurious salon-experience, Dr. Kilgour suggests using this Oribe shampoo to eliminate flakes. The blend of salicylic acid and caffeine works to exfoliate, relieve and refresh the scalp. Reviewers praise the gentle formula, which helps reduce itchiness and provide a boost of hydration to their dry scalps. Plus, the brand’s signature scent of jasmine, sandalwood and bergamot smells like summer vacay in a bottle.
This shampoo is loved by our beauty editor as it cleanses the scalp and leaves a tingly sensation behind. Formulated with olive and tea tree oil, the gentle formula reduces any signs of dandruff—whether you’re dealing with flakes, irritation, dryness or all of the above. It’s also very moisturizing and soothing, with the right amount of lather to make detangling easier.
This hybrid sets the bar for exfoliating and cleansing the scalp. Formulated with binchotan charcoal, the key ingredient is known to draw out any buildup, which we notice immediately after using it. The formula also contains coconut oil to nourish your strands. But our favorite part has to be the peppermint, spearmint and tea tree oil blend that offers an immediate cooling sensation to soothe an itchy scalp, while helping to clear up those pesky flakes.
Philip B recommends his very own shampoo to treat dandruff, so of course, we had to take a closer look at the ingredients list. Key players such as coal tar and zinc promise to balance the scalp and fight against flakes. You’ll also find botanical extracts (like aloe vera, tea tree oil, sage, chamomile and juniper berry) which helps to calm the scalp and prevent future irritation. As one reviewer notes, they started to see improvement after two weeks. “I had to try this after all the glowing reviews and I wasn't disappointed. I've tried literally everything in the past few years since developing extremely dry scalp, dandruff, etc. Nothing worked. This stuff works. It's been about 2 weeks since I've last used it and none of the symptoms have returned. Definitely worth the $$$, and I will purchase again when I run out,” they share.
11. DHS Tar Shampoo
Mandy B chose this shampoo for its main ingredient, coal tar, which has been proven to treat itchiness, flakes and even skin conditions like scalp psoriasis. Shoppers say they’ve noticed a difference after a week or two, with some stating it completely reduces any discomfort on their scalp. While the scent isn’t everyone’s favorite (it’s been described as a very strong tar fragrance), it doesn’t linger too long in the hair.
If you have color-treated hair, this balancing shampoo works to combat dandruff and prevent your color from fading. It’s formulated with zinc pyrithione to minimize flakes and irritation, along with coconut oil to nourish strands, decylene glycol to control oil production and algae extract to boost hydration. Plus, the mint, vanilla, rosemary, sage, tangerine and lavender fragrance adds a level of luxury to our wash day.
This anti-dandruff shampoo is ready to refresh your locks. The gentle formula includes pyrithione zinc, which helps fight flakes and irritation, as well as coconut oil to tackle dryness on the scalp and hair. Shoppers point out that the shampoo also offers a nice lather and the coconut scent is delightful.
This solid shampoo is formulated with tea tree oil, rosemary oil and Brazilian Joaxeiro extract to soothe and balance the scalp. It also contains bond builders to strengthen and repair strands, along with shea butter to add softness and shine. FYI: This cleansing bar is equivalent to two bottles of shampoo, so you’re set for at least a few months.
Salicylic acid is known to help eliminate dandruff and this Neutrogena shampoo has you covered. The active ingredient works to relieve itching and minimize flakes, while being a gentle option for dry or oily scalps. Note: Reviewers say you should let it sit on the scalp for a few minutes before rinsing to get the most out of the shampoo.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Dandruff?
Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is caused by scaling, itching, flaking and redness of the scalp. As Dr. Logerfo explains, “It’s an extremely common condition thought to be caused by a common skin yeast called Malassezia. The yeast is thought to thrive in high fat environments, so the oil from the scalp is a perfect place to enhance its growth. This causes an inflammatory reaction, making the cells rapidly divide, white causes the scaling and white flakes.” According to our experts, dandruff can also be caused by hormone imbalance, harsh weather, infrequent hair washing, scalp microbiome imbalance, allergic reactions, stress and diet.
What’s the Difference Between Dandruff and a Dry Scalp?
While having a dry scalp can cause dandruff, the experts say we should treat them as two separate scalp conditions. “A dry scalp is like dry skin, whereas dandruff is more like a rash. While a dry scalp may be mildly itchy and can flake, dandruff tends to be more inflammatory, and therefore the itch is worse and there’s much more flakiness and redness,” says Dr. Kilgour.
How Do You Get Rid of Dandruff?
All of our dermatologists agree that any anti-dandruff shampoo (over-the-counter or prescribed) is a great start. That said, it’s important to stay consistent when it comes to washing your hair with the product. As Dr. Logero notes, “Patients often think it is better to wash their hair less because of the visible flaking and scaling (which they attribute to dryness), but it’s actually important to wash your hair more when using an anti-dandruff shampoo.”
What Should You Look for in a Dandruff Shampoo?
How to Use Dandruff Shampoo
After wetting your hair, massage a quarter-sized amount of shampoo into the scalp with your fingertips. The experts suggest letting it sit on your scalp for five minutes before rinsing and continuing with an anti-dandruff conditioner.
When it comes to how often you should use dandruff shampoo, Philip B shares some valuable insight. “The frequency depends on the severity of the condition. In general, I’d recommend using it at least twice a week or as directed on the product label. Once symptoms improve, you can gradually reduce the frequency. If unsure, consult with a dermatologist, who can provide personalized guidance based on your scalp's needs,” he says.
How Long Does It Take for a Dandruff Shampoo to Work?
In most cases, a dandruff shampoo should start working immediately after using it. However, Dr. Han shares it may take more time for some people, depending on the severity of the dandruff. “It can take several applications to see the benefits, particularly if you have a lot of flaking and inflammation to the scalp. You should start to see improvements within a few washes. I generally recommend patients try out a dandruff shampoo for at least two months to assess all the benefits,” she explains.
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