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Tea tree oil shampoos are among the most popular dandruff shampoos on the market today.
Out of the 110 shampoos we’ve reviewed, Tea Tree Oil is present in 12% of them, making it the second most popular active ingredient in dandruff shampoos (after salicylic acid if you’re interested).
After completing approximately 80 hours of research, talking to 3 manufacturers of tea tree cosmetic products and asking for further guidance from two board-certified dermatologists, we’re in a unique position to name the best in class tea tree oil shampoos on the market today.
The Winner – Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo
Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo is, in our opinion, the best tea tree shampoo on the market today.
It washes incredibly well and feels like a salon shampoo rather than a medicated dandruff shampoo.
It has a very pleasant botanical scent with notes of lavender and tea tree. However, it isn’t overpowering and is just enough to smell very pleasant without overwhelming one’s nose.
The ingredients are absolutely outstanding. This is one of the gentlest formulations we’ve yet reviewed. The cleaning agents are well considered and chosen for being effective and gentle. It’s free from sulfates and parabens – the lack of sulfates is outstanding considering the shampoo that foams so well.
The company has achieved this by adding a number of cleaning agents in small quantities. Surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Glucoside Carboxylate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate and Lauryl Glucoside may sound terrifying, but they are actually gentle but luxurious feeling cleansing agents.
Maple Holistics can be rightly proud of this formulation.
Maple Holistics has added a number of conditioning agents such as Botanical keratin, a protein found naturally in our hair and D-Panthenol, an excellent and gentle conditioner for your hair and scalp. These conditioning agents explain why it feels so good to wash with this shampoo.
Maple Holistics has done an outstanding job with this shampoo and if it wasn’t for the presence of Cocamidopropyl Betaine, this would have been a sure-fire five out of five. It’s one of the best shampoos we’ve reviewed period, never mind the best tea tree shampoo.
Only those who are extremely sensitive to fragrances need to look elsewhere.
Maple Holistics has created an excellent dandruff shampoo that leaves out sulfates and parabens and has instead opted for a unique blend of cleaning/conditioning agents and essential oils. If you suffer from mild dandruff and you want to use a natural product you can feel good about, you won’t be disappointed with this shampoo.
The Runner Up – Bella B, Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo
Our runner up in this category is actually a baby shampoo. However, Bella is an outstanding shampoo all the same. Yes, it may be designed for cradle cap, but cradle cap is just another name for seborrheic dermatitis on babies.
And as it’s suitable for a baby’s head, this shampoo is as gentle as they come. Like Maple Holistics Tea Tree shampoo, Bella B, Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo is both sulfate and paraben free, and instead uses a combination of extremely gentle surfactants to wash and foam.
In addition to the cleaning agents, Bella B, Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo contains oatmeal. Oatmeal is an ever more popular addition to cosmetic products. With good reason too. A 2002 published research study , tested the soothing, anti-inflammatory effects of oatmeal against skin which was purposefully irritated with a harsh cleanser known as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Results showed oatmeal extracts have a significant counteracting effect. A study from 2015  showed colloidal oatmeal to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits which help treat the persistent itch associated with dry, irritated skin. And this 2016 published study  showed oatmeal’s ability to help skin restructure itself to that of a healthy skin barrier while also offering pH buffering capacity. Skin pH is extremely important – troublesome skin often has a pH which is too high.
Bella B has also added:
- Shea butter, an ingredient known to help nourish and condition skin being an excellent, highly absorbable skin moisturizer with suspected anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Vitamin E – the most well tested and well known anti-oxidant, helpful for offering sensitive cradle cap scalps consistent protection.
- Aloe vera – an age-old remedy for dry, irritated, upset skin types.
Disappointingly the company have added Fragrance to the shampoo. If you suspect your baby’s scalp is sensitive to fragrance, be sure to patch test this formula before use.
In addition, like Maple Holistics, Bella B has added Cocamidopropyl Betaine – a known contact allergen in some people. In fact, it has the dubious distinction of being named the Contact Allergen of the Year in 2004 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
The company could have and really should have avoided adding both ingredients. We’d be looking at shampoo nirvana with these two quite needless ingredients replaced.
That said, while disappointed with these additions, we’re extremely impressed with this all-natural alternative for regular soothing of your baby’s cradle cap. It washes well, the formulation shows imagination and care, and the actives added are a winner.
Bella B, Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo may be designed for infants, but its gentle formulation is perfect for sensitive adult scalps. The formulation leaves out sulfates and parabens but instead uses tea tree oil, oatmeal, shea butter and more to help control dandruff and gently restore your skin defense barrier.
In Third Place – Pura Dor Argan Oil Scalp & Dandruff Treatment
Pura just managed the third place ahead of Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo and Honeydew Dandruff Shampoo for Kids. All 3 shampoos scored ⅘ according to our reviewers but Pura D’or has just pipped them to the post due to its outstanding performance in controlling dandruff.
Pura D’or has achieved this performance by combining zinc pyrithione with tea tree oil, and an abundance of carefully selected essential oils, to create a unique formulation.
The shampoo foams and washes well considering it doesn’t contain any sulfates. And it leaves your hair felt incredibly soft afterward. Probably on account of Pura D’or adding the argan oil and avocado oil.
This really is premium quality performance.
The only real downside to this shampoo is the sheer quantity of fragrant essential oils the company has used. If you’re sensitive to fragrances then steer well clear of this shampoo. It’s incredibly fragrance intensive, although none of them artificial.
Our reviewer said at the time that this shampoo is the most interesting and well-designed formulation they have yet seen in a dandruff shampoo – and while we’ve seen an increasing number of essential oil based shampoos emerge on the market in recent years – Pura D’or is still onto a winner.
Pura Dor Argan Oil Scalp & Dandruff Treatment looks like a premium product. It's priced like a premium product too but true to their word, Pura D'or has really cut down on most of the harsh chemicals you often find in dandruff shampoos. They have instead added tea tree oil, peppermint oil, argan oil, avocado oil and a number of other fragrant essential oils to create one of the most innovative and exciting dandruff shampoo formulations we’ve ever seen. Just steer clear if you’re sensitive to fragrances.
What’s in this article:
The 10 Best Tea Tree Oil Shampoos
The 10 best tea tree shampoos on the market today are…
Hydrating shampoo formulas don’t come around often making Art Naturals Scalp 18 Coal Tar Shampoo a gem. Best for dry, itchy scalp symptoms. Can be used for mild dandruff. Plant-based, sustainable and cruelty-free – an all-round goodie.Read the entire review
Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo is an outstanding Tea Tree shampoo for treating Dry Scalp or Seb Derm. It 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.
The combination of cleansing agents used are 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.Read the entire review
Are you looking for a natural solution to your baby’s crusty cradle cap? Want a formula that works with your skin to help restore a healthy scalp? Then look no further than Bella B’s Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo with oatmeal, tea tree oil, shea butter and more for helping restore what makes your baby's scalp healthy. Free of parabens, animal by-products, harsh cleansers and preservatives, the hypoallergenic formula makes Bella B’s bee gone cradle cap baby shampoo a great solution for the everyday care of your baby's scalp.Read the entire review
Pura's D'or Argan Oil shampoo features an interesting formula that combines traditional therapy and herbalism.
It wears a premium price tag, but it is truly a premium product.
The active ingredient in Pura's product is the familiar zinc pyrithione. It also includes aloe vera and grapefruit seed extract, which have antifungal and antioxidant properties, and a number of fragrant essential oils.
Normally, shampoos containing argan oil send up a red flag for people with seborrheic dermatitis. The oleic acid content can exacerbate the condition. However, the amount present determines the sensitivity level, and a little should have no impact.
After using the shampoo, we found that it delivered a great performance without producing adverse reactions.
If you're sensitive to fragrance, cocamidopropyl betaine or phenooxyethanol, you may want to steer clear of this shampoo, but for many dandruff sufferers, it can achieve complete control of symptoms while providing a pleasant and surprisingly sudsy washing experience along with reliable treatment results.Read the entire review
Maple Holistics has created an innovative and gentle shampoo using essential oils rather than traditional active ingredients to control dandruff. Despite being marketed as a sage shampoo, it actually contains a number of essential oils including tea tree, jojoba, sage, tea tree, rosemary, peach kernel and spikenard oils. The thick, white, pearly shampoo smells like tea tree oil mixed with other herbal notes. Considering its lack of sulfates, its foaming abilities are impressive, and it provides an excellent washing experience. Due to the inclusion of panthenol, it leaves your hair feeling extremely soft. Although older formulations contained undesirable ingredients, the only contact allergen listed in the current formula is cocamidopropyl betaine.
If you suffer from mild seborrheic dermatitis or dry scalp, and you’re not sensitive to the fragrances in essential oils, this is a gentle, well-formulated shampoo that we highly recommend.Read the entire review
Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis
Honeydew Natural Dandruff Shampoo For Kids is, as the name suggests, a naturally derived anti-dandruff shampoo aimed at kids. The formula contains ingredients helpful for scalp health, essential oils active as antifungals and cleansers which are mild and respectful of skin.
This really is an excellent, well-designed formulation, containing a number of gentle, innovative cleaning agents.
On the downside, it’s a little harder to wash out that most shampoos, and isn't for children who are allergy prone or sensitive to fragrances.Read the entire review
Mineral Fusion's formula contains an interesting blend of therapeutic agents. It features salicylic acid, which is normally used in conjunction with other active ingredients that kill the offending fungus or slow down cell regeneration.
Used alone, salicylic acid will exfoliate existing dandruff, but it won't prevent new dandruff from forming.
If you’re willing to take a leap of faith and trust in the undocumented healing powers of the product's mineral content, which includes extracts of malachite, smithsonite, rhodochrosite, and hematite, this formula might be a great option. The shampoo also contains tea tree and oregano oils, which are both effective for treating seborrheic dermatitis.
You won't find parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, artificial color or fragrance on the label.
Unfortunately, it does contain the contact allergens potassium sorbate, coco-betaine, ethylhexylglycerin and dimethicone.
In use, this mineral shampoo delivers luxurious lather and a squeaky clean finish. While its efficacy in controlling dandruff inspires some skepticism, its overall performance is top-notch.Read the entire review
This shampoo is an enigma. It contains some innovative essential and plant oils but also contains some pretty harsh allergens. The wash is fantastic, it doesn't dry your hair. It smells pleasant too. However, the active ingredient will only help those of you with the mildest forms of Seb Derm and the price is pretty extortionate too.
Picking a score from that is tough but the shampoo, in our opinion, really doesn't justify the price tag.Read the entire review
Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis
A strongly cleansing shampoo for anyone suffering from seborrheic dermatitis.Combining two anti-dandruff active ingredients - Piroctone Olamine and Tea Tree Oil - Australian Organic Tea Tree Anti-Dandruff Shampoo promises a firm knock-out for sufferers of mild to moderate seb derm.
It’s worth noting there are a handful of allergens and sensitizers in the mix which is what takes this dandruff fighter down to 3 stars.Read the entire review
Designed to treat Dry Scalp
It looks like honey, it smells like honey and the wash is luxurious. Unfortunately that's where the good times end. The long list of perfumes mean I could never recommend this to anyone with dry sensitive skinRead the entire review
Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis
Cristiano Ronaldo is on their commercials! Like the Portuguese national team, even with Cristiano Ronaldo on side, this is a distinctly average performer.Read the entire review
JASON Normalizing Tea Tree Treatment Shampoo uses a blend of tea tree essential oil, grapefruit extract, and other nourishing substances to slough away a dry, flaky scalp and help condition dry skin. However, with the addition of a some pretty nasty of contact allergens - in particular the fragrances - this shampoo isn’t as gentle or “natural” as you may have hoped.
Try it out if you do not react negatively to perfumes.
However, there are far gentler tea tree alternatives out there.Read the entire review
How we chose the winners
All our reviewers are experts in their field, be that product formulation, pharmacy or 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 and we’ll explain what those are.
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 shampoo will work for you. To understand that, you have to understand how to control your dandruff.
Tea Tree Oil Shampoos
What is a tea tree oil shampoo?
Tea tree oil shampoos are regular shampoos containing up to 5% tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that can be found in a wide variety of shampoos or creams and is thought to improve the symptoms of various skin conditions. It’s been used for many years too – the first medicinal use was recorded over 100 years ago  to treat wounds and skin ailments.
That said, the oil didn’t gain widespread recognition until the 1920s when a chemist working at the University of New South Wales published evidence comparing the effects to other commonly used antimicrobials .
In 1989, the University of New South Wales conducted the first in-depth analysis of tea tree oil  and found that the oil contained over 100 unique components. The ‘International Organisation for Standardisation’ set limits for the 14 most common components.
This means that if you buy a tea tree oil shampoo in North America or Europe, the composition of the tea tree should be roughly equivalent.
Nate Masteron explained to us why Honeydew Products (who have a shampoo featured in out top en) use it in their anti-dandruff shampoos. “The antifungal properties present in tea tree oil means that it can fight seborrheic dermatitis from the root cause. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your regular shampoo or investing in a natural shampoo that contains tea tree oil as the active ingredient, can alleviate dandruff and nourish the hair.”
How Effective is a Tea Tree Oil Shampoo?
The European Medicines Agency state that the use of tea tree oil for wounds, insect bites, small boils, athlete’s foot and mouth inflammation are based on their ‘traditional use’. This means that, although there is insufficient evidence from clinical trials, the effectiveness of these herbal medicines is plausible and there is evidence that they have been used safely in this way for at least 30 years (including at least 15 years within the EU). Moreover, the intended use does not require medical supervision.
That said, tea tree oil has a number of potential uses when treating a number of scalp conditions. Several 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.
A study published in 2000 by researchers at The University of Western Australia compared the activity of different antifungal agents on Malassezia yeasts . The study found that ketoconazole was the most effective, followed by tea tree oil. The authors concluded that tea tree oil may be a suitable alternative to ketoconazole, but no human trials have been conducted to date.
Another study published in 2002 assigned 126 participants with mild or moderate dandruff to two treatment groups: 5% tea tree oil shampoo or placebo . The tea tree oil group showed a statistically significant overall improvement of 41%, compared to 11% for placebo. The study hypothesized that the antifungal effects of tea tree oil likely played a role.
Scalp psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition, caused by the accumulation of inflammatory cells. No trials have evaluated the role of tea tree oil in the condition, but one 2002 study injected 27 volunteers with histamine to imitate an inflammatory response . The study found that tea tree oil effectively improved symptoms compared to paraffin oil.
A dry, itchy scalp can be caused by sensitivities to hair products, excessive hair washing, hair dryer use, low humidity and a variety of medical conditions affecting the skin such as allergies and infections. It is often accompanied by scalp irritation, itching and redness. Because it has antimicrobial and moisturizing properties, and it helps alleviate itching sensations, the typical five-percent concentration of tea tree oil in shampoo products can be beneficial in managing dry scalp.
It’s this adaptability that attracts so many manufacturers to it when formulating a shampoo.
Australian Bodycare has been developing personal care products since 1992 and they told us that they use tea tree oil in their products because, “it effectively heals, cleanses and protects skin and hair. Natural Tea Tree Oil is known for its powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties and has been known to the aboriginals through generations.”
Friendly Soap, A Gold Medalist in the Green Parent Natural Beauty Awards echoed these sentiments and uses tea tree oil in their products because, “of its antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.”
How often should I wash using a tea tree oil based 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. Maple Holsitics provide no guidance on frequency but instead recommend that you, “Rinse hair, massage quarter-sized amount of shampoo throughout scalp and hair. Allow the therapeutic benefits a few minutes (2-3) to absorb before rinsing. For best results, follow with a nourishing conditioner.”
Pura Dor recommends that “For best results use for 3 months. Continue use thereafter.” Which is confusing. Use for 3 months and then continue to use it?
For some further clarity, we asked Dr. Ben Barankin, a Toronto based board-certified dermatologist at the Toronto Dermatology Centre, for his advice, and he told us, “For mild-moderate dandruff, I recommend daily shampooing, and ideally alternating 3 shampoos, each with active anti-dandruff ingredients.”
Dr. Matthew Zirwas, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bexley Dermatology in Bexley, Ohio, 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.”
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.”
What Are The Risks With Using A Tea Tree Oil Shampoo?
The European Medicines Agency Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products  state that,
Side effects reported with tea tree oil medicines include skin reactions such as pain, mild itching, burning sensation, irritation, stinging, redness and swelling, and other allergic reactions.
Burn-like skin reactions have been reported rarely (in between 1 and 10 patients in 10,000).
Studies that have been conducted note that tea tree oil-containing cosmetics are generally well tolerated, with more reactions at concentrations above 5%. Certain individuals are more likely to experience adverse reactions – for example, those with eczema – but the irritation typically resolves on withdrawal of the product.
A 2008 review by the European Commission ‘Scientific Committee on Consumer Products’, noted that manufacturers must protect tea tree oil products from the air and heat . Once the components oxidize, they are more likely to irritate the skin. The review also noted that at concentrations above 5%, tea tree oil is more likely to induce skin and eye irritation.
A 2006 review article published in ‘Food and Chemical Toxicology’  noted that tea tree oil was toxic if swallowed, with 787 reported cases of tea tree oil poisoning identified in the United States in 2003. But most of these cases were children drinking the concentrated oil, not a shampoo, and no deaths reported – although immediate medical intervention was necessary.
Essentially, tea tree oil in topical solutions such as shampoos is considered safe and effective in concentrations of up to 5%. However, pure tea tree essential oil and hair products containing tea tree oil may cause skin and eye irritation.
It must be noted that Tea Tree Oil shampoos should not be used on babies under the age of 6 months old
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