The 15 best dandruff shampoos in 2024

    When you buy through our links, Business Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

    Relieve your scalp of irritation and flakiness for good with the best dandruff shampoos out there.

    Amazon; Ulta/Business Insider

    The first indication of dandruff usually occurs when you run your hands through your hair and catch sight of white flakes on your top, like an unwanted dusting of snow. However, before they can fall, the skin on your scalp manifests as “flaky red and pink patches” on the scalp [and some] people also have itching,” explains London-based consultant dermatologist Dr. Anastasia Therianou. “We can also find these [patches] on the face and the body. This is called seborrheic dermatitis, but when it’s localized on the scalp, we call it dandruff.” 

    Although it can’t be cured, “we can keep it under control,” Dr. Therianou shares. The easiest approach involves using the best shampoo, as these are formulated to help calm dandruff and give irritated skin some TLC. However, not all dandruff shampoos are made the same, and when it comes to your scalp health, you’ll want to pick the best dandruff shampoo of them all.

    If you’re confused by all the options, keep reading for our expert-backed advice and highly-researched selects. But if you want to know which is the best of the best, look toward the Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo. All hair types can benefit from a monthly (or weekly) cleansing session with this dermatologist-approved best-selling formulation that leaves the scalp clean, healthy, and free of buildup.  Note that some products on this list may be unavailable outside the US, as the ingredient zinc pyrithione is banned for use in cosmetics products in the EU.

    Our top picks for the best dandruff shampoos

    Best overall

    The active ingredient in this shampoo is coal tar — which medical professionals have used for years to help treat forms of dermatitis, as it helps slow skin cell growth and minimizes dryness. The formulation also comprises citric acid, which is thought to aid dandruff thanks to its pH-friendly and antioxidant properties.

    While coal tar may not emanate the most nose-pleasing scents, it means business: This shampoo has garnered nearly 12,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. It’s strong stuff, meaning it’s one of the best dandruff shampoos that gets to work quickly and doesn’t need to be used daily — so a bottle lasts a good while. Note that coal tar shampoos should be avoided if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

    Best drugstore

    We all love getting more bang for our buck, and this delivers a 2-in-1 formula. Dandruff shampoos may put some off due to their medicinal-like scents, but users rave about how nice this one smells. And, even better, they love the fact that it leaves hair feeling smoother and softer. 

    Along with an active ingredient of zinc pyrithione, the formulation also contains anti-inflammatory aloe vera and sunflower seed to help calm the skin, cucumber to aid scalp health, and peppermint to moisturize.


    Best for oily hair

    This shampoo comes as another recommendation from Dr. Therianou, this time thanks to the salicylic acid content — an ingredient she advises for calming dandruff. It’s been proven in studies to break down the clumps of dead skin cells that often accumulate on the scalp with this condition. As a bonus, the formula also contains selenium sulfide — an antifungal to tackle yeast overgrowth.

    Users report seeing results fast and note that a little goes a long way. Furthermore, they state the shampoo has an appealingly fresh scent and doesn’t leave hair feeling or looking dry.

    Best moisturizing

    Curly, coily, and kinky hair types are no strangers to clarifying shampoos — especially if it’s wash day and your scalp has been itching for days. With all the styling products that these hair types use to keep curls moisturized and defined, a good balancing shampoo is a must. This co-wash from Head and Shoulders offers the power of a dandruff shampoo for curly hair, without stripping hair of the natural oils it needs to stay nourished. 

    Zinc pyrithione is used to combat dandruff, flakiness, and fungal activity on the scalp that may be causing you to scratch incessantly at your head. This co-wash relieves scalp dryness, while coconut oil adds moisture without clogging hair follicles.

    Most potent

    Korean beauty practices are well-observed in the US, specifically regarding the dewy skin goals of the K-beauty trends. However, Korean haircare isn’t given the same attention even though it is just as effective and beneficial to overall beauty routines. This deep cleansing shampoo from the Korean brand Ryo is the perfect introduction to the category for a daily dandruff wash that reduces excessive sebum (oil) while gently soothing the scalp. 

    Fermented mint keeps greasy scalps at bay, while the added peppermint and pine needle extract offer mattifying and cooling sensations. This liquid formula quickly lathers into a gentle foam that easily covers the entire scalp with only a quarter-sized amount.

    Best luxury

    Philip B. has been synonymous with scalp assistance since the brand launched its first product (the rejuvenating oil treatment) in 1992. After 32 years, the brand has extended to include a full line of luxury hair care products that still put scalp health first. This is proven by their extra-strength anti-flake relief shampoo, which is one of the best dandruff shampoos for a reason. 

    The powerful formulation of two leading dandruff ingredients (coal tar and zinc pyrithione) combined with invigorating tea tree oil and soothing aloe vera makes for the ultimate dandruff cleansing experience. After your first use, you’ll notice reduced oil and irritation with a lingering scent of sage and juniper berries that adds to the luxe experience.

    Best scalp treatment

    This brand is best known for its hair-thickening products, but if you have dandruff, then the Scalp Recovery range is worth looking at. As part of a wider flake-fighting range (including a conditioner, exfoliator, and serum), this shampoo contains zinc pyrithione to fight Malassezia yeast overgrowth. However, green tea extract and peppermint oil also help soothe the scalp, along with nourishing vitamins such as biotin.

    Users like that it lathers well and thoroughly cleanses the hair and scalp. Plus, many reviewers comment on how effective it is at preventing itching and the appearance of flakes.

    Best sulfate-free

    If the five-star reviews are anything to go by, this dandruff-buster really is out-of-this-world. Formulated and developed alongside dermatologists, it comprises an array of ingredients to fight flakes: zinc pyrithione, moisturizing squalane, antibacterial green tea, aloe vera, and antifungal jujube, to name a few.

    Some dandruff shampoos can leave hair feeling — and looking — a bit dry and lackluster, but this is designed to ensure locks keep their shine and feel smooth. Plus, it’s vegan and okay for those with colored and chemically treated hair. Want even more? The range includes conditioner, serum, elixir, and a mask for a full-on attack against dandruff.

    Best for sensitive scalps

    This product combines nature’s best ingredients to help tackle flakes, itching, and dryness. As the name reveals, the primary ingredient is ginger, which offers antimicrobial and antifungal properties and a subtle warming scent when you lather up. It also contains birch bark extract, thought to have antimicrobial properties, and honey to moisturize dry scalps.

    The formulation is suitable for all hair types (including colored-treated hair), and there’s a matching conditioner available for a full-on scalp cleanse. Plus, as an extra feel-good boost, the bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic.

    Best for curly hair

    Designed for all hair types, this cleansing scalp wash is particularly popular with naturally curly hair and braided protective styles. Contributing writer Alexis Gaskin has been using this scalp cleanser for three months and is amazed at the non-lather formulation that eliminates buildup and leaves behind a tingly sensation that isn’t irritating.

    If you’re dealing with a lot of product buildup and a scratchy scalp that won’t go away, consider using this wash twice a week to rebalance the scalp and keep irritation away. The formulation of tea tree oil, eucalyptus, and witch hazel gently reduces oil without stripping hair of oil or dehydrating the scalp and makes it one of the best dandruff shampoos we’ve tried.

    Best for dry hair

    The last thing that dry hair dealing with dandruff needs is a shampoo that strips hair of oil and causes more dehydration in its wake. Instead of regularly using one of the potent dandruff shampoos mentioned here, opt for this hair-restoring shampoo formulated without the usual dandruff shampoo ingredients. Charcoal and kaolin clay are the hero ingredients of this shampoo for its ability to draw out excessive oil without leaving the scalp feeling tight or dry. 

    This vegan, color-safe, and leaping bunny-approved shampoo works hard to reduce buildup without removing the hair’s needed oils. Start by using this shampoo once a week if you’re currently dealing with dandruff, and follow up with the matching conditioner (It’s A 10 Scalp Restore Miracle Tingling Conditioner) to add back any moisture you may have lost.

    Best for damaged hair

    Dr. Therianou notes that the main active ingredient in this product — selenium sulfide — is one to look out for. Why? Its antifungal properties mean it’s proven to help slow the growth of dandruff-inducing yeast on the scalp. Furthermore, it also contains citric acid, a potential flake reliever.

    Although some users comment on the strong scent, they state it’s worth it; especially as they saw results quickly. They also state that only a small amount is required to create a good lather — meaning you won’t rush through a bottle — and the inclusion of menthol creates a fresh, tingly feeling for the scalp.

    Best gentle

    Perhaps the most well-known brand on our list, Head & Shoulders, has been fighting flakes for 60 years. It’s another shampoo with zinc pyrithione as an active ingredient — key in tackling dandruff-causing Malassezia — and offers a handy 2-in-1 action with a built-in conditioner, too. 

    The fact that it’s effective but doesn’t cost the earth is a bonus, along with its fresh scent. Plus, it’s not only formulated to get rid of flaky skin, but also relieve symptoms of itching and dryness, and is designed for everyday use (should you wish).

    Best for color-treated hair

    Australian brand Davroe keeps nature at its heart, an ethos reflected in the formulation of this shampoo. There’s an array of scalp- and hair-friendly plant-based ingredients, including aloe vera, antioxidant-rich Vitis vinifera, and peppermint oil. Plus, rice and quinoa extracts are on hand to help moisturize. 

    Everything in this shampoo is vegan, and a conditioner is available if you’d like to provide your hair with some extra love. Furthermore, it’s gentle and safe to use on colored hair — important to be aware of as some dandruff ingredients (such as coal tar) may cause temporary discoloration.

    Best preventative

    A key element to this product’s clinically proven formulation is ketoconazole — an ingredient that Dr. Therianou highlights as being particularly beneficial thanks to its antifungal properties. One study indicated it is 10 times more effective at fighting Malassezia growth than other dandruff-targeting ingredients.

    Multiple users praise how quickly it gets to work and like that it doesn’t have to be used daily: Once or twice a week alongside your ‘regular’ shampoo is sufficient. It’s suitable for all hair types — including color-treated hair — and has a fresh scent you’ll be happy to lather your locks in.

    What to look for


    After scrolling through the best dandruff shampoos, you probably noticed a few repeating key ingredients among formulations. That’s because the best dandruff shampoos are made with the same shampoo ingredients for dandruff that minimize flakiness, sebum production (oil), and irritation that leads to this scalp concern. 

    Non-irritating shampoos like TPH by Taraji Master Cleanse Scalp Wash and It’s a 10 Scalp Restore Miracle Charcoal Shampoo are formulated with naturally derived ingredients like peppermint oil, eucalyptus, and kaolin clay. Trichologist Shab Caspara recommends using ingredients like these to reduce oil without harshly stripping the scalp. “Since dandruff is caused by scalp buildup from the over-production of sebum and product residue, a mineral clay like kaolin clay can help unclog the scalp and follicle openings and help clarify dandruff.” 

    Medicated anti-dandruff shampoos like the Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Nioxin Scalp Recovery Cleanser are made with coal tar, zinc pyrithione, and ketoconazole, which offer antifungal properties to reduce dandruff on the scalp and hair. These ingredients give the thick texture and (sometimes unpleasant) scent synonymous with anti-dandruff shampoos. 

    Ultimately, the formulation you choose should be based on your scalp sensitivity, hair type, and dandruff needs. Check the ingredient list of the anti-dandruff shampoo you’re buying to ensure it includes one (or many) of the previously mentioned ingredients. And be mindful of formulations with rich oils that may over-moisturize and clog follicles. “Hydrating shampoos, which are typically very gentle cleansers, formulated with rich oils and [hair] butters like avocado oil and shea butter should be avoided by those prone to dandruff,” shares Caspara.  

    Hair type: 

    “Dandruff shampoos should be applied and focused on the roots as they are formulated to work on the scalp and not the hair strands, regardless of your hair type,” confirms Caspara. When picking a dandruff shampoo, it’s important to be mindful of your hair type, but you should mainly focus on how oily or dry your scalp is. While some hair types are more prone to oiliness than others (aka straight and wavy hair), you should check out your scalp’s oil level (regardless of hair type) to decide which anti-dandruff shampoo works for you.


    How often should you use dandruff shampoo?

    If you’re currently dealing with dandruff, you should incorporate a dandruff shampoo into your routine until your scalp is thoroughly cleansed, Caspara recommends. “It can also be said [that] a dandruff shampoo should be used on an as-needed basis whenever you feel like your scalp is showing signs of flaking, excess oiliness, or itchiness.”  

    For those trying to tackle dandruff before it arrives (especially if you’re in a dry or cold climate), add a gentle anti-dandruff shampoo like the Head and Shoulders Moisturizing Hair & Scalp Co-Wash — perfect for curly and coily hair — or the Ryo Scalp Deep Cleansing & Cooling Shampoo — made for all hair types.

    How long does dandruff shampoo take to work?

    The best dandruff shampoos will eliminate buildup after the first use while continuously soothing the scalp over time. Caspara shares, “While there are various degrees of dandruff and results can take a few wash days to really take effect, some can notice a difference after their first use.” The effectiveness of your dandruff shampoo can also depend on how bad your scalp is. If you’ve been dealing with dandruff for months, consider speaking with an expert to figure out your scalp health, and give your shampoo or dandruff treatment a few uses to re-balance your head.

    Is it dandruff or dry scalp buildup?

    Dry scalp, dandruff, flakiness, and product buildup are often used interchangeably to describe an imbalanced scalp. However, there are differences between dandruff and a dry scalp, especially when to consider, especially when it comes to determining which of the best dandruff shampoos to invest in. “A dry scalp can feel tight and itchy and is technically a scalp stripped of its natural oils by harsh cleansing products or even dry weather or indoor heat,” Caspara confirms. 

    She continues, “Dandruff is caused by build-up that can create flaking, soreness, and inflammation by blocking the hair follicle opening.” Many of the best dandruff shampoos will address buildup, flakiness, and a dry scalp — however, make sure that’s the case when picking out a shampoo. If you’re dealing with it all, reach for our best overall pick, the Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo.  

    Read the original article on Business Insider


    Latest posts