The 17 Best Dandruff Shampoos

Almost 100 million bottles of dandruff shampoo are sold in the USA, and an estimated half the population have suffered from a flakey scalp at some point in their lives [1].  Yet dandruff is considered to be the most commercially exploited skin and scalp disorder/disease [2] by the personal care industry.

We’ve reviewed hundreds of dandruff shampoos and thousands of hours of research, and can vouch that commercial exploitation and disinformation are still as rife in this industry as it ever was.

Cutting through the disinformation is tough It’s the reason I started this site! Finding a good dandruff shampoo back then shampoo was trial and error. Now its a case of performing a quick search.

So it’s almost surreal not to be editing a site, 6 years later, with hundreds of reviews and articles, penned by genuine experts (including a product formulator and two practicing pharmacists).

Even with our in house expertise, compiling our best dandruff shampoos was tough. So, for the first time, we spoke to 5 board-certified dermatologists for their input.

Their input was a gamechanger.

We’re now in a unique position to list the best dandruff shampoos on the market today, and it gives us great pleasure to name….

The Winner

Sebclair Shampoo is our best-medicated dandruff shampoo of 2019.

In our tests this Piroctone Olamine shampoo, designed to treat dandruff caused by Seborrheic Dermatitis, was simply the best and most gentle formulation on the market.

In addition to Piroctone Olamine, the rest of the shampoo has been formulated with an alost unique level of care and attention.    It contains Sorbitol – a humectant aka an active which attracts water to itself. When such an ingredient’s near your scalp, skin can be hydrated and soothed. Great news for dry scalp sufferers. It’s also an ingredient used to break down biofilms.

Instead of SLS, Seblair uses 5 extremely mild cleansing and foaming agents. The cleansing ingredients are all perfect for sensitive scalps, have no significant ingredients likely to cause contact dermatitis and this shampoo still washes oily hair and scalps extremely well.

Also of note are the extracts with antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

To top it off, Sebclair uses an ultra-mild, natural preservative system and contains no essential oils, no fragrance, no parfum and no allergens.

Bottom line: If you have an extremely sensitive scalp but suffer from dry scalp or mild/moderate seb derm, Sebclair shampoo is the embodiment of your perfect remedy.

Sebclair Shampoo
An outstanding shampoo, formulated with precision and care, and the best dandruff shampoo we've seen this year.
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Runners Up

We couldn’t really separate the next two shampoos.

Dead Sea Spa MAGIK Mineral Shampoo contains two active ingredients, Zinc Pyrithione and Salicylic Acid.

Zinc Pyrithione is a gentle, well tolerated, antifungal agent found in many dandruff shampoos.  It’s used primarily to treat mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

Salicylic Acid is on the other hand used in shampoos, creams, and ointments mainly for its keratolytic effects – the ingredient causes the epidermis to shed more easily, helping to remove dry and flaky skin [17]. You’ll often see salicylic acid referred to as an exfoliator – and its added to dandruff shampoos to help shift existing build up.

Salicylic Acid and Zinc Pyrithione compliment each other so well because Salicylic Acid can soften the existing build up on your scalp and help the Zinc Pyrithione penetrate the scalp more effectively [18].

Dr. Matthew Zirwas, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bexley Dermatology in Bexley, Ohio, told us that he prefers shampoos that contain multiple active ingredients. “Our experience has been that all of the ‘normal’ 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.  For resistant dandruff, compounded shampoos that contain multiple active ingredients work much better than regular shampoos.”

Aside from the active ingredients, Dead Sea Spa has chosen some innovative help ingredients that really made this shampoo stand out.

The formulation is gentle, it smells great and washes as well as a high-end salon shampoo.  On the downside, it contains fragrances and a secondary surfactant called Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

Both ingredients can cause reactions in the very sensitive skin sufferers. But compared to 99% of shampoos out there, it’s as gentle as they come.

Dead Sea Spa Magik Mineral Shampoo
Two active ingredients and a winning formulation make this shampoo a long time favorite of ours
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Our second runner up, DHS Fragrance Free Tar Shampoo is a coal tar shampooCoal Tar remains a controversial active ingredient to this day, but there’s no denying that it can be effective at treat dandruff caused by both seb derm and scalp psoriasis.

The shampoo contains a 0.5% coal tar concentration and uses gentle surfactants in a very minimalist gentle formula.   While 0.5% coal tar is way below 5% you’ll see in some shampoos, stronger isn’t necessarily better.  In fact, a recent study suggests that a 1% coal tar solution is more effective than a 5% solution when treating mild to moderate psoriasis.

In addition, this is one of the gentlest shampoos we’ve reviewed.   The ingredient list is minimal, with only 7 ingredients in total.  Two of these ingredients are surfactants; Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine.  So while it isn’t sulfate-free, we’re talking two relatively gentle but high performing cleaning agents all the same.  The other ingredients are salt, citric acid, and an emulsifier.

Washing with this shampoo is better than most coal tar shampoos.  And, while no coal tar shampoo has a particularly pleasant aroma, DHS has done a good job in formulating a coal tar shampoo with a relatively decent(ish) smell.

If you have a sensitive scalp we simply can’t recommend this shampoo highly enough.

DHS Fragrance Free Tar Shampoo is on sale now
Our favorite coal tar shampoo formulated with sensitive skin sufferers in mind
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— Our reviewers test and recommend all the shampoos to help you find your best dandruff shampoo.  If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn some commission.  We must stress that our reviews are completely independent and our reviewers are unaware of any of these commission agreements

What’s in this article:

The Best Dandruff Shampoos of 2019

SebClair Shampoo

Sebclair Shampoo

Suitable for  dry scalp or seborrheic dermatitis

Sebclair shampoo is designed for mild to moderate dandruff caused by either a dry scalp or seborrheic dermatitis.

The shampoo contains only one active ingredient, Piroctone Olamine.

We’re finding Piroctone Olamine is becoming ever more popular in newer dandruff shampoos.  And for good reason too.  Studies show that Piroctone Olamine is extremely effective at clearing dandruff caused by seb derm [3] while another shows a 1% formula of piroctone olamine [4] is effective in reducing oiliness of your scalp, increasing hair thickness and reducing hair shedding. Great new for scalps prone to seb derm or excessive dryness.

Sebclair shampoo a fragrance-free formulation, containing no essential oils, no major allergens and contains some of the gentlest combinations of surfactants we’ve seen.

As an added bonus, it also contains Sorbitol.   Sorbitol is a humectant ie an ingredient that attracts water to itself. When such an ingredient is near your scalp, skin can be hydrated and soothed.   Great news for dry scalp sufferers.  It’s also an ingredient used to break down biofilms.  Biofilms accumulate at a molecular level and build up a resistance to antifungal ingredients [5].  They may just be the reason why your dandruff shampoo has stopped working.

In an ever crowded market, Sebclair shampoo really does stand out of the anti-dandruff crowd.

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Dead Sea Spa Magik Mineral Shampoo bottle

Dead Sea Spa MAGIK Mineral Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis

Dead Sea Spa MAGIK Mineral Shampoo is a combination shampoo containing both salicylic acid and zinc pyrithione.  Both active ingredients are FDA approved for treating dandruff caused by scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.

Zinc Pyrithione may be considered the godfather of the anti-dandruff active ingredients family. It’s been used for a long time and its effectiveness was accepted before even scientists knew why it worked. Though many studies exist on zinc pyrithione, a 2018 study found that as an antifungal and anti-bacterial Zinc Pyrithione helps to quell populations of the Malassezia yeasts associated with seb derm [6].

Perhaps more noteworthy, in 2001, it was found that Seborrheic Dermatitis sufferers have an altered skin structure that is improved significantly with zinc pyrithione treatment [7].

Salicylic Acid, on the other hand, does not possess any antifungal properties often used in the treatment of seb derm.  However, it is keratolytic that can help soften and remove existing flakey build up on the scalp. In addition, a recent study suggests that the presence of salicylic acid with an anti-fungal can help amplify the power of that anti-fungal agent.[8]

The thinking behind this shampoo is that the salicylic acid will soften and exfoliate existing build up and the zinc pyrithione will help prevent new build up from forming.  As an added bonus, the salicylic acid will help improve the efficacy of the zinc pyrithione.

I’m generally a big fan of combination shampoos and this is no exception.  The shampoo feels great, has a nice light smell and leaves the hair feeling extremely soft.  It only contains one contact allergen of note too – cocamidopropyl betaine.

If you suffer from mild seb derm or scalp psoriasis I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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Seba

Sebamed Anti Dandruff Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis

Sebamed are a German maker of  ph balanced medicinal skin care.  It’s a shampoo containing only one active ingredient – Piroctone Olamine – which is an excellent choice to control mild to moderate seb derm or dry scalp.

While the shampoo isn’t sulfate or fragrance-free, it’s long been a favorite with regular readers of Dandruff Deconstructed.

Why isn’t this brand better known!

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DHS Fragrance Free Tar Shampoo

DHS Fragrance Free Tar Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis

DHS Coal Tar Shampoo is an expertly formulated shampoo containing 0.5% coal tar.

Coal Tar is an oddity in the anti-dandruff world – it’s actually a mixture of over 10, 000 ingredients – not all of which are known.  When used on the skin, these ingredients are able to show antifungal [9] and anti-inflammatory [10]  properties while potentially normalizing skin cell growth [11].

Numerous studies demonstrate the ingredients efficacy in treating psoriasis with one 2010 study concluding coal tar products appear to be therapeutic in psoriasis and AD, are well tolerated with few side effects and are cost-effective [12].  As such, it’s long been an FDA approved treatment for seb derm.

DHS’s Fragrance Free formula is particularly stand out as it washes well, doesn’t smell as bad as most other coal tar shampoos and is the gentlest coal tar shampoo we’ve yet reviewed.

I can’t recommend this shampoo or this company highly enough.

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Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo bottle

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis

Another Neutrogena shampoo in our best of list.  This is quite simply the best pure Salicylic Acid shampoo we’ve yet reviewed.

Board certified dermatologist, Debra Jaliman MD rates it.  She explained to us, “I like this shampoo – it will give you relief from itching”.Dr. Caren Campbell, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Caren Campbell MD Dermatology echoed these sentiments, “T/Sal is effective for removing scales and scalp build up on psoriasis patients or folliculitis patients.  Just don’t use it too much?

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 class shampoo.

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scalp 18 coal tar shampoo bottle

Scalp 18 Coal Tar Shampoo

Designed to treat seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis

Scalp 18 Coal Tar shampoo is a 2% coal tar formulation that has a number of added essential oils to further nourish and soothe the scalp.

These essential oils do contain fragrance but if you’re not sensitive to fragrances then this is a superb shampoo.

It is extremely gentle and washes like a high end salon shampoo.

If you’re not sensitive to fragrances then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this shampoo.

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Maple Holistic's Tea Tree Anti-Dandruff Shampoo bottle

Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

Suitable for  dry scalp or seborrheic dermatitis

Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo is an outstanding Tea Tree shampoo for treating Dry Scalp or Seb Derm.

Tea tree oil is an immensely popular active ingredient in dandruff shampoos and has been used for centuries to treat many skin and scalp problems.  It’s derived from the ‘Melaleuca alternifolia’ tree native to Australia with the first medicinal use recorded over 100 years ago [13].

Numerous laboratory studies [13] have shown that tea tree oil is an effective antifungal against Malassezia yeasts – thought to be responsible for the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.

Maple Holistics formula doesn’t contain any artificial coloring or fragrance, sulfates, parabens, or carcinogens. It contains only three potential contact allergens, with two of the three being tea tree and rosemary essential oils.

This combination of cleansing agents is gentle, effective and innovative while the shampoo smells ace and washes even better.

If you’re looking for a tea tree shampoo, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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DHS Sal Shampoo

DHS Sal Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis

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 is a worthy entry in our best dandruff shampoos of 2019.

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Free and Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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.

This isn’t the first Free & Clear shampoo we’ve reviewed, and we hope it’s not the last.

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Nizoral Anti Dandruff Shampoo bottle

Nizoral 2% Anti Dandruff Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis

Nizoral is probably the most effective shampoo on the market to control dandruff caused by seb derm.

Containing one active ingredient, a 2% concentration of Ketoconazole, it’s technically a medicine.  It’s one of few anti-dandruff shampoos approved to make healthcare claims i.e. to treat and prevent dandruff.

It’s on the FDA’s approved list of dandruff treatments and in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend 2% ketoconazole as a first line treatment for seb derm on the scalp.  This recommendation is backed by the British Association of Dermatologists.

The reason it’s so widely recommended is that it’s effective.  Numerous studies demonstrate its efficacy in treating seb derm including a very recently published 2018 study [14] 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.

Dr. Caren Campbell loves it, “I love ketoconazole shampoo for a variety of conditions from dandruff aka seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp and beard and tinea versicolor on the chest and back. Both are conditions caused by an overgrowth of the normal yeast that lives on our skin.  Ketoconazole helps reduce the number of those organisms on the skin.

I love it simply because it’s effective and its affordable so it’s often my first line treatment – sometimes in combination with a topical steroid solution..”

Nizoral contains a 2% dose of antifungal ketoconazole mixed into an 11 ingredient fragrance-free formula.

If you suffer from moderate to severe seb derm – it’s a must try.

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La Roche-Posay Kerium Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

La Roche-Posay Kerium Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis and dry scalp

La Roche Posay is a combination shampoo, combining both Piroctone Olamine and Salicylic Acid.

The Salicylic Acid will help exfoliate existing dandruff build up while the Piroctone Olamine is designed to prevent any new outbreaks.

It’s a match made in heaven.

I can’t let a mention of a review pass without commenting on how luxurious this shampoo feels and smells when washing – better than any medicated shampoo I have ever tried. And I’ve tried lots!

There are a couple of harsh ingredients but compared to the majority of the shampoos on the market, this is a first class Piroctone Olamine shampoo.

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Selsun

Selsun 2.5% Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis

Another go to shampoo if you suffer from moderate to severe seb derm.  Selsun 2.5% shampoo contains a 2.5% concentration of Selenium Sulfide.

Selenium Sulfide is on the FDA approved list of dandruff treatments and, like ketoconazole, is recommended by the the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a first line treatment for seb derm on the scalp.

These recommendations are based on a pivotal systematic review published in 2009, which evaluated the efficacy of ketoconazole and selenium sulfide for seborrheic dermatitis [15]. 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 1993 study which found both ketoconazole 2% shampoo and selenium sulfide 2.5% shampoo are effective in the treatment of moderate to severe dandruff [16].

Selsun 2.5% formulation isn’t perfect by any means, it contains a number of relatively harsh ingredients and isn’t exactly catering to the high fashion crowd.  It also remains available on prescription only in the USA.

However, there’s a reason why doctors continue to prescribe it – it works.

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DHS Zinc Dandruff Shampoo is on sale now

DHS Zinc Dandruff Shampoo

Suitable for Seborrheic Dermatitis

DHS Zinc Dandruff Shampoo is yet another top class shampoo from DHS.

This time, the active ingredient is Zinc Pyrithione, making it ideal for sufferers of mild seb derm, and the rest of the formulation is excellent.

Dr. Caren Campbell is a fan.  “DHS Zinc Shampoo is fabulous.  I recommend it for anyone looking for something gentle to treat their mild to moderate dandruff or seb derm.  It’s both affordable and accessible.”

Yes, there are two ingredients to watch out for; TEA Lauryl Sulfate and Perfume.  But other than the sulfate and the fragrance there are remarkably only another 5 ingredients in this shampoo (discounting the zinc pyrithione). And one of them is coloring!

I wish every manufacturer would subscribe to the more is less philosophy of shampoo formulation.

If you’re looking for a shampoo to treat a mild case of seb derm, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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Bioderma Node DS+ Shampoo

Bioderma Node DS Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis

Bioderma Nodé DS+ shampoo certainly packs an anti-dandruff punch. Its combination of anti-dandruff actives (Piroctone Olamine and Zinc Pyrithione), with keratolytic Salicylic Acid and anti-inflammatory Sodium Shale Oil Sulfonate are also complimented by several scalp soothing ingredients.

That is a heck of an ingredients list only let down by the use of SLES and one or two other potential irritants.

This shampoo is definitely worth checking out.

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Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo is a beautiful looking Scandinavian shampoo which contains a very effective (new-age) combination of anti-dandruff actives.

Containing Piroctone Olamine and Climbazole ready to defeat dandruff causing Malassezia yeast and Salicylic and Lactic Acids ready to eliminate existing flakes.

There really is a lot to love about this formula.

It’s as good on the inside as it looks on the outside.

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Bioderma Node P

Bioderma Node P Apaisant Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis

Bioderma Node P Apaisant Anti-Dandruff Soothing Shampoo is a fabulous option for sensitive, irritated conditions of mild to moderate dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

With a combination of 2 fungal actives in Climbazole and Piroctone Olamine with the and dry flake busting Salicylic Acid, its overall efficacy is excellent.

It washes and smells great and if it weren’t for the presence of fragrances and silicones it would be an almost perfect sensitive scalp friendly formulation.

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ORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

ORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Suitable for seborrheic dermatitis, dry scalp and scalp psoriasis

ORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a fantastic collection of shampooing ingredients targeted at – doing away with flakes.

With a 2% maximum dose of salicylic acid accompanied by natural AHAs, ORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo has huge power to soften and dissolve existing flakes, while also helping to prevent new ones. An anti-dandruff shampoo which will help make your dandruff invisible, while also helping to improve the overall health of your scalp.

If you’re sensitive to fragrances then you probably want to look elsewhere, but otherwise, full credit must go to Oribe.

Who would have ever thought it was possible to put the glam into dandruff control.

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Sebclair ShampooDead Sea Spa MAGIK Mineral ShampooDHS Fragrance Free Tar ShampooSebamed Anti Dandruff ShampooNeutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic ShampooScalp 18 Coal Tar ShampooMaple Holistics Tea Tree Oil ShampooDHS Sal Dandruff ShampooFree and Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff ShampooNizoralLa Roche-Posay Kerium Anti-Dandruff ShampooSelsun 2.5% ShampooDHS Zinc Dandruff ShampooBioderma Node DS ShampooSachajuan Scalp ShampooBioderma Node P Apaisant Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Sensitive ScalpsORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Sebclair Shampoo
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Dead Sea Spa MAGIK Mineral Shampoo
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DHS Fragrance Free Tar Shampoo
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Sebamed Anti Dandruff Shampoo
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Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo
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Scalp 18 Coal Tar Shampoo
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Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
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DHS Sal Dandruff Shampoo
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Free and Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
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Nizoral
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La Roche-Posay Kerium Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
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Selsun 2.5% Shampoo
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DHS Zinc Dandruff Shampoo
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Bioderma Node DS Shampoo
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Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo
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Bioderma Node P Apaisant Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps
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ORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
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RATING
ACTIVE INGREDIENTPiroctone OlamineSalicylic Acid
Zinc Pyrithione
1% Coal TarPiroctone OlamineSalicylic AcidCoal TarTea Tree Oil3% Salicylic AcidZinc Pyrithione2% KetoconazolePiroctone Olamine
Salicylic Acid
2.5% Selenium SulfideZinc PyrithioneZinc Pyrithione
Piroctone Olamine
Salicylic Acid
Climbazole
Piroctone Olamine
Salicylic Acid
Climbazole
Piroctone Olamine
Salicylic Acid
FRAGRANCE FREE
SULFATE FREE
PARABEN FREE
FORMALDEHYDE FREE
MI FREE

How we chose the winners

All our reviews are research driven.

Our reviewers are experts in product formulation, qualified pharmacists or experts in haircare.

They assess the primary purpose of the dandruff shampoo, by examining the active ingredients present in the formulation.  These active ingredients are designed to control specific types of dandruff. We explain, in laymans terms, what those active ingredients actually do and outline the pros and cons.

Our reviews will also assess the rest of the formulation, deconstructing the shampoos to their constituent parts and describe the key ones in detail.  In addition, we warn of the presence of any one of over 100 ingredients that can potentially itch, irritate and even cause dandruff themselves.  A significant number (~90%) of these chemicals have never been tested for their effect on human health.   Many of these chemicals are known to have adverse effects on our skin and one of these adverse effects is dandruff.

Unlike most review sites, our reviewers personally try every shampoo they review and they also assess how the shampoo washes, how it smells and look at the price point in their market.    These may be medicated shampoos, but that doesn’t mean we want to compromise on a little bit of luxury!

What we won’t do is tell you if the dandruff shampoo will work for you.  To understand that, you have to understand how to control your dandruff.

How to control dandruff

Dandruff is (incorrectly) a term we use to describe a flakey scalp.There are a number of conditions that can cause a flakey scalp, including seborrheic dermatitiscradle cap, tinea capitis, eczema, contact dermatitis, scalp psoriasis, dry scalp etc etc etc.In order to control your dandruff, you will often need to understand the root cause.  I did.The UK National Health Service advises that you don’t usually need to see your doctor if you have dandruff, and instead treat it with an over the counter shampoo.  However, they state that it’s a good idea to visit them if:

  • you’ve tried anti-dandruff shampoos for at least a month and your symptoms haven’t improved
  • your dandruff is very severe or your scalp is very itchy
  • your scalp is red or swollen
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, you’re having chemotherapy, you have HIV, or you’re taking medication that suppresses your immune system

Board certified dermatologist Brent Thomas Goedjen M.D., founder of Live Oak Dermatology in Roswell, GA explains further, “A common misconception is that the skin flaking of seborrheic dermatitis is a result of dryness rather than a result of inflammation.  This leads patients to sometimes compensate by reducing the frequency of hair washing and attempting to rub off the scale. Unfortunately, this has the opposite of the intended effect by allowing conditions for yeast to flourish and therefore promoting the inflammation.  Rubbing the inflamed skin also contributes to perpetuate the problem.”

Dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology mirror this advice.  It’s fairly easy to treat and control dandruff with patience – and the right dandruff shampoo.

“Many people believe dandruff is caused by poor hygiene, but this simply isn’t true,” said board-certified dermatologist Adam J. Friedman, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology and director of dermatologic research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Rather than try to remedy dandruff by over-shampooing or over-brushing your hair, which can both be damaging to the hair, use dandruff shampoo and scalp treatments instead.”

What shampoos are designed to control my condition?

Anti-dandruff shampoos can contain many different active ingredients.

These active ingredients are designed to control specific types of dandruff.   They perform different tasks.

Without understanding your condition, it’s pointless to even try to find the right shampoo. You have to match the active ingredient to the type of dandruff.

Using the wrong shampoo on the wrong type of dandruff will, at best, have no effect.  It may even aggravate the condition!

• Anti-fungals are best for seborrheic dermatitis e.g. ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, piroctone olamine

• Ingredients that inhibit cell growth or scalp exfoliators often work best with psoriasis e.g. coal tar or salicylic acid

• Conditioning treatments can help dry scalp.

• Clarifying shampoos are best for product build up.

Dr Brent Thomas Goedjen explains, “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.

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.”

Once you understand the condition causing your dandruff, and you understand the active ingredients or treatments you want to try, it’s time to find your best dandruff shampoo.

How to find your best dandruff shampoo

We have reviewed many shampoos and have developed a unique dandruff shampoo search to help you find your best shampoo.

To use this tool, simply the condition causing your dandruff, select what ingredients you’d like to avoid and we’ll show you every shampoo we’ve reviewed that meet that criteria.

Our reviews will explain, in detail, how effective these shampoos are and what chemicals these shampoos contain. They deconstruct the shampoos to their constituent parts and describe the key ones in detail.

Unlike most review sites, our reviewers personally try every shampoo they review. It may take us longer to get a review out there but try and find another site which provides such comprehensive information.

In addition, our reviews will warn you of the presence of any one of over 100 ingredients that can potentially itch, irritate and even cause dandruff themselves.  A significant number (~90%) of these chemicals have never been tested for their effect on human health.   Many of these chemicals are known to have adverse effects on our skin and one of these adverse effects is dandruff.

It’s absolute madness.

Many of us dandruff sufferers have sensitive skin.     The gentler the shampoo the better as far as we’re concerned.   And after a bit research on this site, we’re pretty confident you’ll agree.   If you want to read an impartial scientific overview of sulfates, parabens, MI, silicones, alcohols, formaldehyde, phthalates or a whole host of other controversial ingredients, then you’ve come to the right place.

How often should I wash with a dandruff shampoo?

To use a dandruff shampoo, or any shampoo for that matter, shampoo, you should always follow the instructions on the label.

This isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.  For example, Dead Sea Spa provides no guidance on frequency but instead recommend that you, “Apply to wet hair, massaging into scalp and hair. Rinse well. For best results follow with Spa Magik Hair Magic serum or Conditioning Scalp Mud.”

Neutrogena, on the other hand, recommends, “For best results, use at least twice a week or as directed by a doctor.”

So we asked a doctor for guidance.

Dr. Matthew Zirwas recommended trying a shampoo for, “at least a month because if your old shampoo had ingredients that were causing a dandruff-like rash of their own, it will take 4-8 weeks for that ingredient to work its way out of your body after you start the new stuff.”

For some further clarity, Dr. Ben Barankin, told us, “For mild-moderate dandruff, I recommend daily shampooing, and ideally alternating 3 shampoos, each with active anti-dandruff ingredients.”

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, a Toronto based board-certified dermatologist at the Toronto Dermatology Centre, 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.”

References

[1] Luis J. Borda and Tongyu C. Wikramanayake (2015) Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review

[2] Ranganathan S1, Mukhopadhyay T. (2010) Dandruff: the most commercially exploited skin disease.

[3] Lodén M , Wessman C. (2000) The antidandruff efficacy of a shampoo containing piroctone olamine and salicylic acid in comparison to that of a zinc pyrithione shampoo.

[4] C. Piérard‐Franchimont, V. Goffin, F. Henry, I. Uhoda, C. Braham, G. E. Piérard (2002) Nudging hair shedding by antidandruff shampoos. A comparison of 1% ketoconazole, 1% piroctone olamine and 1% zinc pyrithione formulations

[5] Figueredo LA1, Cafarchia C, Otranto D. (2013) Antifungal susceptibility of Malassezia pachydermatis biofilm.

[6] Minji Park, Yong-Joon Cho, Yang Won Lee & Won Hee Jung (2018) Understanding the Mechanism of Action of the Anti-Dandruff Agent Zinc Pyrithione against Malassezia restricta

[7] Warner RR1, Schwartz JR, Boissy Y, Dawson TL Jr. (2001) Dandruff has an altered stratum corneum ultrastructure that is improved with zinc pyrithione shampoo.

[8] da Rocha Neto AC1, Maraschin M2, Di Piero RM3. (2015) Antifungal activity of salicylic acid against Penicillium expansum and its possible mechanisms of action.

[9] Nenoff P1, Haustein UF, Fiedler A. (1995) The antifungal activity of a coal tar gel on Malassezia furfur in vitro.

[10] Joshua A. Zeichner (2010) Use of Topical Coal Tar Foam for the Treatment of Psoriasis in Difficult-to-treat Areas

[11] Ellen H. van den Bogaard,1,2 Judith G.M. Bergboer,1 Mieke Vonk-Bergers,1 Ivonne M.J.J. van Vlijmen-Willems,1 Stanleyson V. Hato,3 Pieter G.M. van der Valk,1 Jens Michael Schröder,4Irma Joosten,2 Patrick L.J.M. Zeeuwen,1 and Joost Schalkwijk1 (2013) Coal tar induces AHR-dependent skin barrier repair in atopic dermatitis

[12] Slutsky JB , Clark RA , Remedios AA , Klein PA (2010) An evidence-based review of the efficacy of coal tar preparations in the treatment of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

[13] C. F. Carson,1 K. A. Hammer,1 and T. V. Riley1,2,* (2006) Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties

[14] 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.

[15] Luigi Naldi, M.D. and Alfredo Rebora, M.D. (2009) Seborrheic Dermatitis

[16] Danby FW1, Maddin WS, Margesson LJ, 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.

[17] Fluhr, J. W., Cavallotti, C., & Berardesca, E. (2008). Emollients, moisturizers, and keratolytic agents in psoriasis. Clinics in Dermatology, 26(4), 380-386.

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

Author Profile

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

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

First Class MChem in Chemistry

A master of chemistry, a product formulation expert and a regular reviewer on this site. Megan wishes to remain partially anonymous so she can be candid about her employer's and competitor products.

BSc (Hons) in Medical Science.

Medical Science graduate, and Medical writer with several published works, both academic and in popular science.