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In addition to Piroctone Olamine, the rest of the shampoo has been formulated with an almost 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 perfume 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.
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 . 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 complement 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 .
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 very sensitive skin sufferers. But compared to 99% of shampoos out there, it’s as gentle as they come.
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.
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 . 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.
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.
Sebamed is a German maker of ph-balanced medicinal skincare. 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.
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  and anti-inflammatory  properties while potentially normalizing skin cell growth .
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.
Numerous laboratory studies  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.
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 sensitizer 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.
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.
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  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 it’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 layman’s terms, what those active ingredients actually do and outline the pros and cons.
Unlike most review sites, our reviewers personally try every shampoo they review and they also assess how the shampoo washes, how it smells and looks 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.
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 perpetuating the problem.”
“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?
• Ingredients that inhibit cell growth or scalp exfoliators often work best with psoriasis e.g. coal tar or salicylic acid
• Conditioning treatments can help a 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 that provides such comprehensive information.
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 recommends 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.”
 Luis J. Borda and Tongyu C. Wikramanayake (2015) Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review
 Ranganathan S1, Mukhopadhyay T. (2010) Dandruff: the most commercially exploited skin disease.
 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.
 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
 Figueredo LA1, Cafarchia C, Otranto D. (2013) Antifungal susceptibility of Malassezia pachydermatis biofilm.
 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
 Warner RR1, Schwartz JR, Boissy Y, Dawson TL Jr. (2001) Dandruff has an altered stratum corneum ultrastructure that is improved with zinc pyrithione shampoo.
 da Rocha Neto AC1, Maraschin M2, Di Piero RM3. (2015) Antifungal activity of salicylic acid against Penicillium expansum and its possible mechanisms of action.
 Nenoff P1, Haustein UF, Fiedler A. (1995) The antifungal activity of a coal tar gel on Malassezia furfur in vitro.
 Joshua A. Zeichner (2010) Use of Topical Coal Tar Foam for the Treatment of Psoriasis in Difficult-to-treat Areas
 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
 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.
 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
 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.
 Luigi Naldi, M.D. and Alfredo Rebora, M.D. (2009) Seborrheic Dermatitis
 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.
 Fluhr, J. W., Cavallotti, C., & Berardesca, E. (2008). Emollients, moisturizers, and keratolytic agents in psoriasis. Clinics in Dermatology, 26(4), 380-386.
 Williams, A. C., & Barry, B. W. (2012). Penetration enhancers. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 64, 128-137.
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