What is the best dandruff shampoo for your itchy, dry and flaky scalp? There are many popular choices, ranging from Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo, to Neutrogena T/Gel, to Head & Shoulders. Scroll to the bottom for my 5 best dandruff shampoo ranking.
What Dandruff Shampoo do you Need?
The best dandruff shampoo (with or without conditioners) will relieve your itchy, flaky and dry scalps, especially in balding inflamed regions of your head. For those suffering from recurring dandruff episodes, treatment choices can be confusing. A first choice of treatment is to look for an effective dandruff shampoo for your needs. Most of the leading products work effectively in both men and women.
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, while for others, it represents a daily problem that can be genetic in nature. Dry indoor heating during winters and washing your hair too often can both further exacerbate the flaking and dead skin cells. Note that dandruff is one particular manifestation of a condition called seborrheic dermatitis.
Over the years, I have had many episodes of dandruff and scalp itching and burning. Luckily, these are not too frequent, and I have found a number of dermatologist recommended shampoos to help when things get out of hand. I have tried almost all of the top rated medicated anti-dandruff shampoos out there.
A number of scientifically sound approaches are being used nowadays to target and control scalp flaking. Most of the below selected medicated products have their own unique key ingredients with their own mechanisms of action to give you a smooth flake-free scalp. I try to alternate between several different 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.
In addition to dandruff, many of the below shampoos also work to treat other skin conditions of scalp buildup and flaking such as eczema and psoriasis (although usually only when mild to moderate). Note that several of the products contains sulfates and other potentially harmful ingredients that cause side effects in some people.
Product effectiveness can also vary depending on whether you have a dry scalp versus oily scalp; whether you are male or female; and your own propensity for allergic reactions to certain ingredients. Make sure to leave the shampoo on your scalp for at least several minutes before lathering and rinsing.
The 5 Best Anti-Dandruff Shampoos
Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
My favorite dandruff shampoo product with ample scientific backing behind its efficacy and numerous Amazon and Walmart 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. See my post on Nizoral for much more details and discussion of the science behind this product. 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.
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
The key active ingredient in this popular dermatologist recommended 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 scalp skin.
Some users do not like the smell of this 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%.
Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Shampoo
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 targeting scalp flakes is this clinical strength shampoo. The key active ingredient in it is selenium sulfide 1%, which reduces scalp fungus and bacteria. 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.
JASON Natural Dandruff Relief Shampoo
Although not as well known as the above three listed products, this 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 ingredients that improve scalp health include: cooling aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, jojoba oil, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), olive oil, rosemary oil, seaweed extract, tea tree oil and vitamin E.
Head & Shoulders Classic Anti-Dandruff
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. A cleaner scalp helps provide relief from uncomfortable itching and flaking, reduced redness, and removes product buildup.
Best Dandruff Shampoo Video
- 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. Other ingredients are not listed.
- 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 very popular dandruff shampoo that is based on ciclopirox olamine.
Your Dandruff Shampoo Experiences
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?