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 list of dermatologist recommended 8 best dandruff shampoos in 2021 is applicable for both men and women.
Make sure to also read my post on natural dandruff treatments. Several recent studies have suggested that the condition of the scalp can impact hair growth. In particular, killing the Malassezia fungi and yeast is proven to benefit scalp hair growth.
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.
Over the years, I have had many episodes of severe dandruff and scalp itching and burning, especially during dry weather days. Luckily, these are not too frequent, and I have found a number of dermatologist recommended best hair loss shampoos to help get things under control. I have tried most top rated medicated anti-dandruff shampoos out there, as well as other remedies 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 medicated products have their own unique key ingredients. These have their own unique 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.
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 these shampoos that reduce dandruff include:
- Salicylic acid.
- Zinc pyrithione.
- Coal tar.
- Selenium sulfide.
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. For best results, make sure to lather and leave the shampoo on your scalp for at least a few minutes before rinsing.
The 8 Best Dandruff Shampoos in 2021
The below is an official list of the best dandruff shampoos in 2021 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.
- Nizoral Shampoo
- Neutrogena T/Gel
- Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength
- Jason Natural
- Head & Shoulders Classic
- Selsun Blue
- Pura D’or
- Dove DermaCare
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. It also reduces hairfall in some cases due to anti-androgenic properties. See my post on Nizoral for far more details and discussions behind the science of 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.
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 targeting 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. 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.
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, 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.
Best Dandruff Shampoo Video
Other Popular Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Choices
- 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.
- 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 color-treated hair. Key ingredients include African black soap, bamboo charcoal, tea tree oil and willow bark extract. Soothes itching while revitalizing dry hair and skin. Never tested on animals.
- 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 popular are argan oil based anti-dandruff shampoos.
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.