The 8 Best Dandruff Shampoos of 2020

Washes that combat dry flakes

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First Look

Best Overall: Nizoral A-D Shampoo at Amazon

"Contains ketoconazole, a potent anti-fungal also found in prescription-grade dandruff medications."

Best Budget: Selsun Blue Medicated Shampoo at Amazon

"Controls itching and flaking caused by the toughest cases of dandruff with selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, and salicylic acid."

Best Luxury Buy: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo at Amazon

"Salicylic acid gently exfoliates the scalp and caffeine rejuvenates hair follicles to help alleviate and prevent dandruff."

Best for Oily Hair: Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo at cvs.com

"It treats chronic scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff with coal tar extract."

Best for Women: Biolage R.A.W. Scalp Care Shampoo System at Amazon

"De-stresses tresses and purifies the scalp to eliminate dandruff and calm itching."

Best for Men: BOSLEYMD Scalp Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo at Amazon

"With extended use, you’ll notice a purified scalp free of build-up from styling products and pollution, in addition to a healthy, dandruff-free head."

Best for Color Treated Hair: L’Oreal Paris EverFresh Antidandruff Shampoo at Amazon

"This sulfate-free formula is tough on flakes, but gentle enough for color-treated locks."

Best for Kids: Mustela Foam Shampoo for Cradle Cap at Amazon

"This Mustela Foam Shampoo is many parents’ go-to for infants to kids under nine years old."

Nobody wants a dusting of flakes on their shoulders, especially when it's not snowing. Dandruff can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

“Dandruff, often caused by seborrheic dermatitis, is caused by buildup of Malassezia organisms that lower immunity in areas of the skin have sebaceous glands like the scalp, chest, eyebrows, and beard, as well as around the nose,” says Orit Markowitz, M.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “This leads to increased sebum levels and an activation of inflammatory pathways leading not just to flakes but redness as well.”

“Prescription steroid medication is another treatment option for dandruff and I also recommend more frequent washing of these hair bearing areas," Dr. Markowitz adds. "A common misconception is that because dandruff falls under the umbrella of eczema the issue is dry scalp and you should wash less frequently, when in fact it is worsened by sebum build up and does better with more frequent washing.”

The good news is that using a shampoo with dandruff-fighting ingredients and the proper hair-washing technique can make the flakes a distant memory.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Nizoral A-D Shampoo

Nizoral contains ketoconazole, which is a potent anti-fungal also found in prescription-grade dandruff medications. This gentler formula is still safe for color-treated hair and adds a pleasant clean scent to the thick suds. It leaves a fresh scent behind, so you can rest easy knowing that your hair will have a clean appearance and smell. Nizoral should be used twice a week for best results.

Best Budget: Selsun Blue Medicated Shampoo

When other formulas fall short, this Selsun Blue Medicated Shampoo controls itching and flaking caused by the toughest cases of dandruff with selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, and salicylic acid. It also helps prevent seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp to keep symptoms from flaring up again. Still, it’s gentle on hair and works on a variety of hair types. One reviewer said it works well with her coily hair: “The shampoo is a creamy dark teal color and lathers quickly/easily. My hair was left soft and the menthol smelled like Mint and had a cooling effect on my scalp, which relieved me. I use this shampoo twice a week faithfully. I don't think that I would switch back to another shampoo.”

Another reviewer wrote: “Now can see a big difference in my scalp because this product works and now I'm not self conscious about my hair and people seeing flakes.”

Best Luxury Buy: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Keep pesky flakes at bay with Oribe's hydrating and effective Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. Salicylic acid gently exfoliates the scalp and caffeine rejuvenates hair follicles to help alleviate and prevent dandruff. It’s also gentle and free of sulfates, so the suds are soothing to your dry, itchy, and irritated scalp. “Great smell and has stopped my scalp from being itchy and dry skin,” one reviewer shared. “I use it a couple times a week and love how gentle it is on my hair.”

Best for Oily Hair: Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo

Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo
Courtesy of Amazon.

Neutrogena's T/Gel is a go-to for oily and dandruff-prone scalps. Its formula, which has a seal of recognition from the National Psoriasis Foundation, treats chronic scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff with coal tar extract. It should be used at least once a week in order to see results, but can be used daily if your hair needs a little more TLC. Its formula won't dry out your hair, but will leave it feeling silky and soft.

Best for Women: Biolage R.A.W. Scalp Care Shampoo System

Stressed out by flakes and dry scalp? This real authentic wholesome shampoo (plus conditioner and treatment system) de-stresses tresses and purifies the scalp to eliminate dandruff and calm itching. You won’t believe it’s a dandruff fighter until you see the effect of 2.9 percent salicylic acid and willow bark extract. It smells and feels like a luxe spa treatment atop your head with rosemary.

Best for Men: BOSLEYMD Scalp Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

The active ingredient pyrithione zinc helps eliminate dandruff, minimizing visible flakes and over time it calms the scalp. With extended use, you’ll notice a purified scalp free of build-up from styling products and pollution, in addition to a healthy, dandruff-free head. The formula also contains rosemary extract, which treats and reduces scalp inflammation and improves circulation and pumpkin seed encourage hair growth. The brand conducted a limited trial and 100 percent of participants reported improved scalp conditions in only two weeks.

Best for Color Treated Hair: L’Oreal Paris EverFresh Antidandruff Shampoo

EverFresh

This sulfate-free formula is tough on flakes, but gentle enough for color-treated locks. L’Oreal Paris EverFresh Antidandruff Shampoo does that with pyrithione zinc to diminish dandruff, but it is free of sulfates, salts, and surfactants. It works like a medicated shampoo, but its sweet aroma doesn’t give away the dandruff-busting power inside.

Best for Kids: Mustela Foam Shampoo for Cradle Cap

Mustela

Kids can suffer from dandruff, too. Thankfully, the active ingredients that fight flakes in adults are also safe for children, per Dr. Markowitz. This Mustela Foam Shampoo is many parents’ go-to for infants to kids under nine years old. You can feel good about using it on your little ones, because it’s preservative-free (think parabens and phthalates).

Not everyone loved the smell, but reviewers noted a few washes with this rid their child’s scalp of flakes. As with anything related to your children, consult your pediatrician or doctor before using this product.

Final Verdict

Nizoral A-D is one of the best options for fighting pesky flakes. It contains ketoconazole, a potent anti-fungal also found in prescription-grade dandruff medications. A luxurious alternative, the Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo makes treating dandruff feel like a high-end spa treatment. The combination of salicylic acid to gently exfoliate the scalp and soothing ingredients is hard to beat.

What to Look for in a Dandruff Shampoo

Ingredients: The common ingredients found in anti-dandruff shampoos are pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and coal tar. These can all effectively reduce dandruff, according to Dr. Markowitz. Exactly which ingredient is right for you may take some trial and error. Your scalp may react differently to each.

Hair type: You should factor in your specific hair type when choosing a dandruff shampoo. There are a variety of formulas designed for color-treated, dry, and curly hair types. For example, your hair and scalp may need an extra boost of moisture, so hydrating ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera are just as important as the flake-fighters above.

Method: How you wash your strands can either enhance or diminish the effects of the dandruff shampoo creating all the suds. The frequency of and style of your scrubbing method play a role. Dr. Markowitz recommends starting by shampooing two times a week, and if your condition remains unchanged, you can add one or two weekly washings to your schedule. When you do scrub up, note the instructions on the bottle and in general scrub it in with your fingertips and let it sit for five minutes or more before rinsing. This allows the active ingredients to penetrate better and more likely to stick around post-shower.

Pair anti-dandruff shampoos with anti-dandruff conditioners, too. The conditioner adds to the active ingredients left by the shampoo instead of washing it away.

Why Trust Verywell Health

As a seasoned health writer, Jennifer Nied understands how vital quality product recommendations are for treating symptoms safely and effectively at home. For over 10 years, she has reviewed products, interviewed experts, scrutinized ingredients, and pored over research studies and claims, to help readers like you understand what works for your specific conditions. Every product in this piece was selected taking into account recommendations from doctors, published research, and real customer reviews.

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