What is the best dandruff shampoo for your itchy, dry and flaky scalp? Nowadays, there are many popular choices. These range from Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo, to Neutrogena T/Gel, to Head & Shoulders.
The below updated list of dermatologist recommended 10 best dandruff shampoos in 2023 is applicable for both men and women. Some of the recommended brands have many decades of research behind their formulas.
Make sure to also read my post on natural dandruff treatments. Several recent studies suggest that the condition of the scalp can impact hair growth. In particular, killing the Malassezia (P. ovale) fungi and yeast is proven to benefit scalp hair growth. Most hair loss sufferers tend to often get inflamed scalp conditions. On a related note, also make sure to read my post on demodex mites and hair loss.
My Experience with Head & Shoulders
In 2022, I chose to try out Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength dandruff defense shampoo for intensive itch relief. Over the course of 20 years, I have used various Head & Shoulders shampoos for my frequent dandruff problems.
I have also used many dermatologist recomended hair loss shampoos to help soothe my inflamed scalp.
However, in recent years, I tended to almost always favor the very effective Nizoral shampoo to treat my scalp flakes. However, in 2022, Nizoral started to lose its effectiveness for me. Perhaps because the Malassezia (Pityrosporum) fungus started to develop tolerance to Nizoral? Moreover, the Nizoral makes my scalp a bit too dry at times.
Switching to the Head & Shoulders extra strength anti-dandruff shampoo has been a great success so far. My scalp flakes always go away for at least two or three days after each use. I also do not seem to get excessive scalp skin dryness after using this product. I hope this result continues in 2023 and beyond.
What Shampoo Gets Rid of Dandruff?
The best dandruff shampoo (with or without conditioners) will at least temporarily relieve your dry, itchy, flaky scalps. Scaly scalp skin conditions and inflammation are especially common in balding regions of the head. For those suffering from recurring dandruff episodes, treatment choices can be confusing.
A first solution defense is to look for an effective dandruff treatment shampoo for your hair care needs. Most of the leading products (both non-prescription and prescription strength) work effectively in both men and women. Some will work better than others for color treated hair, greasy oily hair, excessively dry hair, grey hair and curly hair. Others will work better on oily scalps versus dry scalps.
The tingling scalp and embarrassing white flakes on dark clothing cause a lot of stress in people suffering from this problem. For some, the dandruff comes and goes in patches. For others, it represents a daily problem of high skin turnover that can be genetic in nature.
Dry indoor winter heating and washing your hair too often can further exacerbate the flaking, itchiness and dead skin cells. Note that dandruff is one particular manifestation of a condition called seborrheic dermatitis. People in hot weather countries such as India will need a different shampoo to those in rainy countries such as the UK.
Over the years, I have had many episodes of severe dandruff and scalp itching and burning, especially during dry weather days. Although these are not always frequent, I have tried and tested most top rated medicated anti-dandruff shampoos over the years. And I have also experiments with many natural treatments such as apple cider vinegar.
How to Treat Scalp Flakes and Dryness
A number of scientifically sound dandruff treatment approaches can be used to target and control scalp flaking.
Most of the below selected best dandruff treatment medicated products have their own unique key ingredients. These have their own distinct mechanisms of action to give you a smooth flake-free scalp.
I try to alternate between several different antifungal and dandruff shampoos every month. My reasons for doing this are so as to:
- Not get side effects from the overuse of any one product with its key anti-dandruff ingredient(s).
- Avoid having my scalp becoming immune to the effects of certain ingredients due to overuse. This can lead to dandruff recurrence.
Try to purchase products that do not include sulfates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, diethanolamine (DEA) and artificial dyes. I try to also buy products that are never tested on animals.
In addition to dandruff (see reddit), many of the below shampoos also work to treat other skin conditions of scalp buildup and flaking such as eczema and psoriasis. Usually, these products work by reducing the overproduction of skin cells when mild to moderate. Note that several of the products contains sulfates and other potentially harmful ingredients that cause side effects in some people. For babies with cradle cap, it is recommended to use less harmful baby shampoos.
Key ingredients in dandruff shampoos that reduce scalp flakes and itching include:
- Salicylic acid.
- Zinc pyrithione.
- Coal tar.
- Selenium sulfide.
- Ciclopirox olamine.
- Piroctone olamine.
Product effectiveness can also vary depending upon: whether you have a dry scalp versus oily scalp (overproduction by the sebaceous glands); presence of Malassezia yeasts on the scalp; whether you are male or female; and your own propensity for allergic immune reactions to certain ingredients.
For best results, make sure to lather and leave the shampoo on your scalp for at least a few minutes before rinsing. This is especially true for the bestselling Nizoral shampoo.
The 10 Best Dandruff Shampoos in 2023
The below is an official list of the best dandruff shampoos in 2022 to tackle scalp itching and dry flakes. All of the below shampoos are recommended by dermatologists and medical doctors.
Most are also among the top choices in rankings and ratings by WebMD, Consumer Reports and Amazon. Make sure to lather, rinse and scrub thoroughly when using these products. Note that some of these may not be available in countries such as the UK and India.
- Nizoral Shampoo
- Neutrogena T/Gel
- Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength
- Jason Natural
- Head & Shoulders Classic
- Selsun Blue
- Pura D’or
- Dove DermaCare
- Nioxin Scalp Recovery
- Paul Mitchell Tea Tree
One of my favorite dandruff shampoo products with ample scientific backing behind its efficacy. Numerous positive Amazon, Walmart and Reddit reviews. The key active ingredient in this over-the-counter shampoo is Ketoconazole 1%, which is an anti-fungal agent with anti-dandruff and anti-androgenic properties. The last of these aids scalp hair growth according to a number of studies.
Nizoral attacks the Malassezia microbe, the main cause of dandruff in many instances. It also reduces hairfall in some cases due to anti-androgenic properties. Nizoral comes in a fairly small bottle, but still lasts for many months with twice a week usage. I do not recommend more frequent usage or else you can exacerbate scalp dryness and end up with brittle hair quality and texture. You can also get Nizoral 2% medicated shampoo with a prescription.
The key active ingredient in this popular dermatologist recommended T/Gel product is 2% coal tar extract. Accompanying instructions suggest just once a week usage to be ideal in combating dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis as well as psoriasis. The coal tar gives this product an unusual color and keratolytic properties that can smoothen and improve inflamed scalp skin.
Some users do not like the smell of this medicated anti dandruff shampoo and also complain about dyed color treated hair fading. Coal tar also helps slow down the shedding of dry skin cells and can reduce scalp acne. Note that Neutrogena T/Sal is a different product made by the same company, but is also highly rated and contains salicylic acid 3%.
Over the years, Head & Shoulders has probably produced more varieties of shampoos to target dandruff than any other company out there. Their most popular product for preventing scalp flakes is this clinical strength shampoo. The key active ingredient in it is selenium sulfide 1%, which reduces scalp fungus and bacteria at the root.
This product offers lasting relief from scalp itching and flaking. You can also find a number of other highly rated and reviewed Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoos on Amazon. After lathering, make sure to leave the product on your scalp for at least 5 minutes before rinsing and styling. Head & Shoulders also sells an anti-dandruff and anti hairfall two-in-one shampoo. However, I am skeptical in general about shampoos that claim to reduce hair fall. L’Oreal Paris also makes a fall resist 3X anti-dandruff anti-hair fall shampoo.
Although not as well known as the above three listed products, Jason Natural is a unique pH balanced largely natural product. It contains colloidal sulfur 2% and salicylic acid 2% as the two main active ingredients to tackle dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Formulated with additional beneficial herbal and natural ingredients that improve scalp health, including: cooling aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, jojoba oil, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), olive oil, rosemary oil, seaweed extract, tea tree oil and vitamin E.
Head & Shoulders came out with a pyrithione zinc based shampoo all the way back in 1961. To this day, the company still makes anti-dandruff shampoos that are based on this original active ingredient, in a zinc pyrithione 1% formulation. This key ingredient helps inhibit scalp yeast and fungus growth. This classic clean version is also paraben free.
A cleaner scalp helps provide relief from uncomfortable itching and flaking; reduces redness and scaly skin; and removes product buildup. All beneficial in those with thinning hair. You can pick up various Head & Shoulders shampoos at your local Walgreens or CVS pharmacies.
Selsun Blue moisturizing anti-dandruff shampoo with aloe is the company’s bestselling product to fight visible flakes and dry hair. It contains selenium sulfide 1%. The aloe will soothe and moisturize sensitive scalps.
Also popular are Selsun Blue medicated dandruff shampoo and conditioner 2-in-1; and Selsun Blue Active 3-in-1 dandruff shampoo, which contains salicylic acid 2% to help fight acne and buildup.
Pura D’or has taken the hair loss world by storm over the past decade. The company’s shampoo products contain a wide range of beneficial ingredients. Moreover, Pura D’or is especially renowned when it comes to its product packaging and marketing. The Pura D’or Maximum Defense (MD) anti-hair thinning shampoo contains both 0.9% ketoconazole and 0.5% coal tar extract.
Both are known to fight dandruff. However, do note that some of the reviews suggest missing ketoconazole in newer formulations. Make sure to verify the exact ingredients before purchasing. This shampoo also contains a proprietary herbal blend of 19 key ingredients that nourish the scalp. This includes saw palmetto, nettle extract, He Shou Wu (Fo-Ti), red Korean seaweed, hibiscus, clary sage, black cumin seed, tea tree, pygeum bark and rosemary.
Dove is a globally renowned cosmetics brand name. The Dove DermaCare dandruff shampoo is formulated with active pyrithione zinc to resolve dryness and itching in dandruff-prone scalps. Its mild pH balanced formula helps avoid moisture depletion, and leaves hair flake free, smooth, and less frizzy.
Nioxin is a respected brand, but not known for its dandruff shampoos. However, their scalp recovery line of products is a popular product to treat itch and flaky scalps. It contains zinc pyrithione, green tea extract, scalp soothing peppermint oil and biotin. The product claims to prevent recurrence of flaking and itching associated with seborrheic dermatitis.
A number of readers have mentioned the highly rated Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo. I have heard about this product a lot over the years, and might even have tried it some years ago. You can often purchase it at local hairdressers and beauty salons for a discount.
Besides tea tree oil, the product also contains peppermint and lavender according to the manufacturer’s website. Note that Head & Shoulders also sells a popular tea tree oil containing anti-dandruff shampoo that is currently on sale at Walmart.
- Make sure to see my video summary of the best dandruff shampoos in the world.
Comparison Table of the Best Dandruff Shampoos
|Brand Name||Price||Key Anti-Dandruff Ingredients|
|Neutrogena T/Gel||$17||Coal Tar.|
|Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength||$20||Selenium Sulfide.|
|Jason Natural||$10||Sulfur and Salicylic Acid.|
|Head & Shoulders Classic Clean||$3||Zinc Pyrithione.|
|Selsun Blue||$7||Selenium Sulfide.|
|Pura D’or MD||$38||Ketoconazole and Coal Tar.|
|Dove DermaCare||$5||Pyrithione Zinc.|
|Nioxin Scalp Recovery||$43||Salicylic Acid.|
|Paul Mitchell Tea Tree||$28||Tea Tree Oil.|
Other Popular Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Choices
- Also popular option is the color-safe shea moisture African Black Soap bamboo charcoal deep cleansing shampoo. This is a popular dandruff shampoo for African American hair. It does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can harm colored hair. Key ingredients include African black soap, bamboo charcoal, tea tree oil and willow bark extract. Soothes itching while revitalizing dry hair and skin. This product was never tested on animals. On a related note, Briogea sells a charcoal and coconut based shampoo and scalp scrub product.
- Some people have mentioned that ciclopirox olamine based shampoos may be effective for moderate levels of dandruff. However, I have as yet not found any popular over-the-counter dandruff shampoo that is based on ciclopirox olamine. Also effective is piroctone olamine.
- Also popular are argan oil and apple cider vinegar based anti-dandruff shampoos. Head & Shoulders sells a highly rated apple cider vinegar containing 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner product.
Dandruff Shampoo Soap Bar
A very interesting product that is worth mentioning here is Ethique’s highly rated and popular dandruff shampoo soap bar. This Ethique Heali Kiwi shampoo bar is eco-friendly and helps tackle dandruff and itchy scalps. The bar (various colors for different hair types) contains cocoa butter, coconut oil, neem oil, karanja oil and oatmeal. Each solid bar is equivalent to 3 bottles of liquid shampoo.
Ethique is renowned in New Zealand for its eco-friendly environmental footprint. Plastic waste is a huge global problem, especially in the oceans. According to Ethique, 80 billion plastic bottles of shampoos and conditioners are disposed of around the world each year. This product is much needed and highly recommended.
Your Experiences Relieving Itchy, Flaky Scalps
Do you have an itchy scalp and dandruff related problems? What shampoos have worked best for you over the years without drying out your hair (both men and women can respond)? Have you tried any natural and herbal products and seen a reduction in flaking and dryness? Feel free to share success and failure stories, as well as rate your top shampoos.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about the best dandruff shampoos for your itchy flaky scalp.
What is the most effective shampoo for dandruff?
Our picks for the most effective dandruff shampoo are as follows: Nizoral A-D; Neutrogena T/Gel; Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength; Jason Natural; Selsun Blue; Pura D’Or MD; Dove Dermacare; Nioxin Scalp Recovery; and Paul Mitchell Tea Tree.
What ingredients are the most effective in anti-dandruff shampoos?
The most effective ingredients in dandruff shampoos are ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, coal tar, selenium sulfide, sulfur, tea tree oil and ciclopirox and clobetasol.
How often should you use a dandruff shampoo?
If a mild shampoo does not control your dandruff, a medicated dandruff shampoo should be used two to three times per week. If this causes excessive scalp dryness, you can reduce the frequency and wash your scalp with milder moisturizing products on other days.
Is it OK to use a dandruff shampoo every day?
For most people, daily use of a dandruff shampoo will lead to excessive scalp dryness and skin problems. This is especially true if the product contains harsher ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Parabens, Polyethylene Glycols and Alcohol.