Dandruff flakes are annoying and embarrassing, the product a scalp condition marked by flaky skin and itchiness that can leave you coated in unsightly white flecks. The good news is that the right dandruff shampoo can completely take care of this condition, making your scalp comfortable and your shoulders flake-free.
Effective dandruff shampoos work by addressing the causes of the condition. Per our friends at the Mayo Clinic, the four most common causes of dandruff are seborrheic dermatitis, otherwise known as irritated, oily skin; straight up dirty hair; a fungus called Malassezia that can make your scalp bug out; and plain old dry skin. Oh, also, dandruff is far more common in guys, possibly due to male hormones.
Not all dandruff shampoos aren’t created equal, so it’s important to read the ingredients. And if your scalp shows any signs of redness or burning, stop washing your hair with the product in question. If you can’t find an over-the-counter shampoo that works, there are prescription options a dermatologist can describe.
Common ingredients in dandruff shampoos:
- Pyrithione zinc shampoos can help eliminate the fungus on your scalp that can cause dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
- Tar-based shampoos help conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis by slowing down how quickly skin cells on your scalp flake off.
- Salicylic acid shampoos can help get rid of scaliness, but may dry out your scalp.
- Selenium sulfide shampoos slow your skin cells from dying and may also reduce malassezia.
- Ketoconazole shampoos are made with an antifungal agent that may work when other shampoos fail.
Here are the best dandruff shampoos that should help you get the condition under control quickly.
Oribe hair products are the best of the best. As is this anti-dandruff shampoo. It's formulated with salicylic acid, so it relieves and prevents dandruff while soothing your dry, itchy, irritated scalp.
Pros: Oribe’s shampoo leaves your hair shiny and glossy, and helps get rid of dandruff by including salicylic acid in its formulation. Added bonus: it’s made without parabens, sulfates or sodium chloride.
Cons: It smells great, but doesn’t work for everyone.
If you want a dandruff-fighting shampoo that's chemical free (mostly), this is it. It's made without SLS/Sulfates, parabens and harsh chemicals, and is powered by tea tree, peppermint and eucalyptus.
Pros: KICK shampoo is full of herbal essences, including tea tree oil and rosemary, to help strengthen hair follicles. Folks swear it gets rid of scalp itchiness and irritation.
Cons: It has a very strong smell.
One of the most popular shampoos on the market, Nizoral is loaded with ketoconazole and has a proven track record of effectively treating the fungal growth that causes flaking.
Pros: This is a go-to shampoo that also lathers nicely and smells fresh. It only needs to be applied twice a week to knock down any outbreaks. And it usually works when others fail.
Cons: Some users have complained of it leaving their hair dry afterward.
One of the best-known dandruff shampoo brands is one of the cheapest, and it's clinical strength formula is even more powerful than the original.
Pros: This shampoo is loaded with selenium sulfide, part of a formula designed to cleanse, protect, and moisturize for full-scalp health.
Cons: The smell can be kind of sulfurous, which some users find more disqualifying than others. If it lingers after conditioning and rinsing you may want to try another option.
Designed to get to the root of a dry scalp condition, this product will treat your dandruff and improve the overall condition of your scalp.
Pros: The main ingredient in this dandruff shampoo is coal tar extract, which will soothe your head and cause any itchy, flaky scalp conditions to fade away. You can use it either daily or weekly depending on your issues.
Cons: It can discolor lighter-colored hair, reports the Mayo Clinic, so it’s better for those with darker follicles.
A product designed for salons, it's a luxury alternative that brings immediate relief.
Pros: It will manage the underlying issues causing your flaking with picoctine olamine and salicylic acid. It also has menthol, rosemary oil, and ginger to make your noggin feel fantastic.
Cons: It’s not cheap and works best with a similarly pricey matching conditioner.
A gentler shampoo that does not contain fungicides found in most other dandruff shampoos, it effectively tames your scalp.
Pros: Its formula has tea tree oil, jojoba oil, rosemary, and olive oil to bring relief to irritated scalps and start healing. It also has salicylic acid to further stop flaking. It’s great if you live in colder, drier climates.
Cons: This dandruff shampoo may not be the best choice for really serious cases of fungal infestation.
Perfect for people with both dandruff and oily hair, this dandruff shampoo treats the underlying issues and has you looking fresh quickly.
Pros: This dandruff shampoo treats seborrheic dermatitis with zinc pyrithione to get it under control while rosemary oil and sage leaf extract go to work on fixing your hair. You can use it daily and it should add volume to your hair over time.
Cons: There are some complaints that it leaves a bit of an off-putting scent in your hair.
A high-quality product that really works, without drying out your hair and scalp.
Pros: The key ingredient in this dandruff shampoo is pyrithione zinc, which targets and helps control dandruff. It also contains mint to help calm an irritated scalp.
Cons: The price is high, but you only need to use small amounts.
Because it's so drying, this shampoo can feel like a peel for your scalp, and it's fragrance-free, to boot.
Pros: This dandruff shampoo contains three percent salicylic acid, which can treat symptoms caused by scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. So you deal with all three, in one bottle.
Cons: Can really dry out your hair, in some cases, and lead to additional flaking, so condition accordingly.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.