According to Experts, These Are *the* Shampoos to Use If You Have Dandruff
Dandruff is one of those pesky topics that no one ever seems to want to talk about, but we most definitely should talk about! (In fact, according to Columbia Skin Clinic, one in five people deals with dandruff.) So let's shed the mystique shall we? While it's incredibly common, dandruff—and its treatment—can be a little more complicated than one might think, and since a multitude of issues might be at play, it's best to meet with a dermatologist if you've been experiencing new or or worsening scalp issues like flaking, itchiness, or irritation.
You'll want to heed your doctor's diagnosis and directions, especially since there are different types of dandruff and the intensity can vary, but your product regimen can go a long way in terms of management and treatment. Below, we're covering some baseline questions and need-to-knows about dandruff in addition to asking trusted experts for their top recommendations when it comes to the best shampoos and conditioners for dandruff.
But first, what is dandruff, and can you actually get rid of it?
While dandruff may seem pretty straight forward, it can actually present in multiple ways. According to board-certified dermatologist Kseniya Kobets, director of cosmetic dermatology at Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care, dandruff can present as an oily scalp, as an oily and dry scalp (which she says tends to be confusing for patients), and sometimes just as a dry scalp. "Dandruff—or seborrheic dermatitis—is thought to be caused by the overgrowth of a particular genus of yeast (fungus Malassezia spp), but many other factors can worsen or exacerbate it."
For instance, dandruff can flare up during times of stress (likely, Kobets says, from an increase in cortisol, which can spike inflammation and disrupt our body's normal immune responses), but it can also be triggered by other factors that disrupt the balance of the scalp's microbiome. Think products that are excessively oily, product buildup, or even certain medications like systemic antibiotics.
Lastly, while dandruff is highly treatable, it isn't curable. "There are several excellent treatments that help to reduce or prevent dandruff, but once the treatment stops, the dandruff tends to return," notes Sanjay Batra, Ph.D., a regenerative medicine expert who’s well-versed on all things scalpcare. "Caring for the scalp is imperative so that the fungus is prevented from becoming too widespread," Batra explains. And the treatments don't have to be extreme or too intense. Choosing the right type of shampoo—be it clarifying, medicated, or fortified with scalp-healthy ingredients—can go a long way. More on that below!
The Best Shampoos & Conditioners for Dandruff
Nutrafol Scalp Shampoo & Lightweight Conditioner
"Nutrafol's shampoo, in unpublished clinical data, has shown to decrease buildup and oiliness in the scalp after use," says Kobets. "Also, it is pH balanced to keep the microbiome of the scalp healthy."
Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo & Soothing & Calming Healthy Scalp Conditioner With Tea Tree Oil
"If there is a lot of scalp scaling and buildup, you can add on an exfoliating or clarifying ingredient such as salicylic acid or tea tree oil," shares Kobets. "This one from Neutrogena has salicylic acid—just be sure when using clarifying shampoos like this one to keep your lather closer to the scalp and roots of your hair, as you do not want them to strip your strands of the natural oils that keep it strong and healthy."
Nizoral AD AntiDandruff Shampoo & Deep Moisturizing Conditioner
"For the most part, ketoconazole shampoo (available over the counter as Nizoral 1% or prescription 2% ketoconazole active ingredient) is a great add-on to a shampooing regimen for someone dealing with dandruff," Kobets tells us."It will treat the yeast overgrowth and is also thought to help prevent androgenetic alopecia, which causes balding. Since ketoconazole can make the rest of the hair very brittle over time, I advise using it on the root of the scalp, only and to use another shampoo for your mid-lengths and ends."
Redken Scalp Relief Dandruff Control Shampoo & All Soft Conditioner
Kobets is also a fan of Redken's line of shampoos and conditioners. This anti-dandruff formula contains pyrithione zinc, which is an active ingredient, to decrease flakes, dryness, and itchiness. Not to mention both the shampoo and conditioner are pH balanced. "Not only does pyrithione zinc reduce the fungus population, but it also helps to soothe the upper skin layer (keratinocytes) and reduce the oil production from hair follicles," Batra adds.
Selsun Blue Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo With Menthol
"Selenium, which is usually present in shampoos in the form of selenium sulfide, is also great for dandruff," says Batra. "This mineral helps reduce the amount of skin cell production while simultaneously reducing the fungus population." (As a note, pair this with any hydrating conditioner you love.)
Avalon Organics Therapy Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo & Scalp Treatment Tea Tree Conditioner
"For clients, I like to recommend Avalon Organics Anti-Dandruff Itch & Flake Shampoo," Batra shares. "This one contains 2% salicylic acid for its clarifying effect and tea tree oil as natural fragrance."
Beekman 1802 Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
"Some individuals would like to go as organic as possible, and in such cases, they may elect to use a hair rinse that is technically not a shampoo," notes Batra. "There is a product on the market that is as simple as it gets—Beekman 1802 Apple Cider Hair Rinse. If our patients want to be as close to nature as possible, this is a good option."
Kérastase Symbiose Antidandruff Hydrating Shampoo & Silicone-Free Hydrating Conditioner for Scalp & Hair
"In efforts to improve scalp health and decrease scalp inflammation and irritation, it can be a good idea to prioritize shampoos and conditioners that are paraben-free, preservative-free, sulfate-free, and fragrance-free—or at least choose milder or more natural fragrances," adds Kobets. This new formula from Kérastase will still deliver the luxe moisture your strands are craving, but the addition of pyrithione zinc gently cleanses and purifies the scalp, making it a great option for people dealing with dandruff.
Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo & Conditioner
Free of parabens, this scalp-friendly cocktail from Sachajuan works wonders for dandruff thanks to the mighty ensemble of ingredients like rosemary oil, menthol, and ginger extract (to soothe irritation), piroctone olamine, and climbazole (to nix dry dandruff and itch), plus lactic acid and salicylic acid to regulate oil production and improve cell turnover to help shed dead skin while stimulating new cell growth.
Ouai Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
We're huge fans of all things Ouai. Therefore, we love that the brand has its own strategic shampoo to help treat dandruff. Its starring ingredient is the addition of salicylic acid, so you're left with fewer flakes, not to mention less itch and irritation.
Briogeo Scalp Revival Megastrength+ Dandruff Relief Shampoo Charcoal + AHA/BHA
A powerhouse for anyone dealing with dandruff (or any type of scalp issues, really), this shampoo features an elite composition of both charcoal and AHAs and BHAs to provide relief from physical discomfort while eradicating pesky flakes. Plus, it's ultra hydrating so your hair won't look like straw post-cleanse.
Davines Naturaltech Purifying Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Davines is beloved by hairstylists, celebs, and beauty editors alike. This A+ formula works on oily and dry types of dandruff—it's antimicrobial, and it also keeps inflammation at bay. Consider it the ultimate clarifying detox.
Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Shampoo & Conditioner
This is one of the best shampoos for dandruff and flakes if you're looking for something gentle enough to use daily. The formula effectively cleanses and clarifies while also getting rid of flakes and stubborn oil buildup. Plus, despite how well it cleanses the scalp and hair, it won't strip away your color.
Aveda Scalp Solutions Balancing Shampoo & Replenishing Conditioner
Free from all of the things our experts recommend steering clear of (i.e., sulfates, silicones, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, etc.), this cooling and delicate purifying shampoo helps remedy scalp woes by gently cleansing while also kicking excess oils, impurities, and pollution sitting on the hair and scalp to the curb. (Not to mention it's like a trip to the spa in a bottle.)
K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Peptide pH Maintenance Shampoo
People can't stop talking about K18 for its damage-defying benefits, but this pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner are also a godsend for stressed scalps, as they're microbiome certified to help maintain scalp health.
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