The 8 Best Shampoos for Seborrheic Dermatitis of 2021

Nourish your scalp, control oil, and get rid of flaky skin

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Best Shampoos for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

Seborrheic dermatitis, a common skin condition that presents as red patches with overlying greasy, yellow scales, can cause serious discomfort. With symptoms like itchiness, dandruff, and redness, it's no walk in the park to deal with this condition.

The root cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but experts believe yeast might play a role in it. Bridget French, M.D., a dermatologist at Apex Health Care Associates, explains that “because the areas of the skin typically affected are those containing many oil glands, it’s thought to be an inflammatory response to excess oil production.”

Dr. French says steroid creams and topical antifungals are a mainstay of treatment, along with oral fungals for patients with “severe scalp involvement.” As for shampoos, those containing ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, and pyrithione zinc are most commonly used. It’s important to note that some shampoos can be very drying, which can create brittle hair prone to breakage. So, if you run into this issue after using any of these recommended shampoo options, make sure to use a moisturizing conditioner afterward. 

Here are some great shampoo options that work to tackle symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, such as dandruff, and other skin conditions to relieve you of an irritated scalp.

Our Top Picks
Recommended by doctors, it works to manage any dandruff outbreak with its antifungal ingredients while leaving your mane fresh.
Ideal if you're experiencing mild psoriasis and dermatitis, the botanical shampoo uses a combo of sulfur acid and natural oils.
A solid pick for relieving the itchiness and flakiness associated with seborrheic dermatitis, it works to restore natural balance.
Made with a blend of essential oil, birch bark, and honey, it calms the scalp by relieving irritation and boosting moisture.
Best for Color Treated Hair:
Briogeo Scalp Revival Shampoo at Amazon
Safe for color-treated hair, it contains vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators, which remove dead skin cells and product build-up.
Pediatrician-approved and containing active ingredients to help fight off flaking, it also doubles as a body wash.
Oribe’s formula combines sumptuous fragrance and exfoliating salicylic acid to control flaking and reduce itching.
Best for Every Hair Type:
Sebamed Everyday Shampoo at Walgreens
Works to rid dryness while it retains moisture.

Best Overall: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo 7 Fl. Oz Itchy Scalp Dandruff Treatment w/ Ketoconazole 1%
Pros
  • Contains antifungal ingredients

  • Recommended by doctors

  • Safe for color-treated and processed hair

Cons
  • May cause dryness

Gentle, yet strong enough to kill any dandruff outbreak, Nizoral is one of the most highly trusted anti-dandruff shampoos on the market. It contains 1% ketoconazole, an antifungal that works by preventing fungus growth, and relieves the flaking, scaling, and itching caused by dandruff. This shampoo lathers quickly, seeping into the scalp to relieve common symptoms caused by dandruff and leaving your hair smelling fresh. In order to see the best results, it’s recommended to use this shampoo every three to four days for up to eight weeks.

Active Ingredients: Ketoconazole 1% | Uses: Flaking, scaling and itching of the scalp associated with dermatitis

Best Natural Medicated: Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo

Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
Pros
  • Botanical ingredients

  • Free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates

Cons
  • Doesn’t lather well and may leave hair greasy

Sometimes the best way to go back to nature is by making sure your products are chemical free. Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo relies on nature’s botanicals to bring you a natural shampoo free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfate. Instead, this shampoo uses a combination of sulfur and salicylic acid to treat mild psoriasis and dermatitis, which ultimately eliminates flakes and itchiness. Added in to soothe and moisturize the scalp are plant-based healers like rosemary, olive, and jojoba oils. If you use this shampoo at least three times a week, the occurrence of flaking, scaling, and itching should be significantly reduced.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid 2.2%, Sulfur 2.4% | Uses: Mild psoriasis and dermatitis

Best Medicated: Nioxin Scalp Recovery System

Nioxin Scalp Recovery System
Pros
  • Formulated with green tea extract

  • Pleasant smell

Cons
  • Expensive

Formulated with one percent pyrithione zinc and green tea extracts, this shampoo is ideal for relieving the itchiness and flakiness associated with seborrheic dermatitis. It helps restore the scalp to its natural balance and provides soothing protection. For the best results, use it at least three days a week. What’s extra nice about this particular shampoo is that it doesn’t have the unpleasant smell of medicated dandruff shampoos, but is light and soothing.

Active Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc 1 % | Uses: Flaking and itching of the scalp associated with dermatitis

Best Natural: The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo

The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo
Pros
  • Hydrating

  • Reduces itching and irritation

  • All-natural ingredients

Cons
  • Small bottle

  • Contains sodium laureth sulfate

The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo may be small and its ingredients light, but don’t let that fool you because this shampoo is mighty. Made with a blend of ginger essential oil, birch bark, white willow, and honey, this shampoo perfectly calms the scalp by relieving irritation, itchiness, and boosting moisture. It’s just as effective as more traditionally formulated shampoos and definitely smells a lot better with its spicy scent. As long as you massage it into wet hair and use it as needed, your scalp should feel clean and healthy again.

Active Ingredients: None | Uses: Flaking and dryness of the scalp associated with dermatitis

Best for Color Treated Hair: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo
Pros
  • Cleanses the scalp with micro-exfoliators

  • Cruelty-free

  • Safe for color-treated and processed hair

Cons
  • Expensive

Similar to dye, hair straighteners and some protective hairstyles can aggravate seborrheic dermatitis, because it can result in less frequent hair washing and helps the scalp accumulate oil and debris, explains Dr. French. But this shampoo might be able to help because it’s not a regular shampoo. Its formula contains vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators, set to remove dead skin cells and any product build-up from the scalp. Not only does it clean the scalp, but leaves hair strong and full with a helpful dose of biotin

It’s hard to know whether most dandruff shampoos are working, but this one from Briogeo clues you in by actually cooling your scalp with soothing tea tree oil that also works hard to eliminate flakes. When using the shampoo, make sure to massage it into the scalp and all the way through your ends for the best results.

Active Ingredients: None | Uses: Dryness, flaking, and itching of scalp due to dermatitis or excess product build-up

Best for Babies: Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo & Body Wash

Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo & Body Wash
Pros
  • Pediatrician-approved for use with infants and children

  • Can also be used on the body to treat dermatitis and fungal acne

  • No irritating fragrances or dyes

Cons
  • Can take multiple uses to see results

  • Thicker, creamier consistency

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition amongst children, especially in babies under three months. It usually begins with cradle cap, but can also start on the face or diaper area. Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo is pediatrician-approved and contains the active ingredient pyrithione zinc to help fight off flaking, itching, and scaling. It also doubles as a body wash, which is extra nice considering seborrheic dermatitis isn’t always exclusive to the scalp area.

This formula is virtually free of any harmful ingredients: no fragrance, dye, alcohol, parabens, sulfates, or BPA. Results start to show after one or two washes, but most parents will start to see significant improvement with their child’s skin after one to two weeks of consecutive use.

Active Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc 0.95% | Uses: Scaling, redness, itching, and flaking associated with dermatitis or “cradle cap” in babies

Best Luxury: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Pros
  • Easy to lather

  • Pleasant smell

  • Attractive packaging

Cons
  • Many consumers complain it’s not very effective

  • More costly than some other brands

Sometimes you need to splurge, baby, splurge. Not only does this shampoo look extra pretty sitting in your shower, but the way it lathers when massaged into your scalp truly feels luxurious. Oribe’s formula combines its beautiful packaging with sumptuous fragrance to smell like perfume and exfoliating salicylic acid to control flaking and reduce itching. Along with caffeine, sugarcane extract, and orange and lemon extract, Oribe rejuvenates and nourishes the scalp.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid 2.0% | Uses: Relieving dryness and itching of scalp, reducing dandruff

Best for Every Hair Type: Sebamed Everyday Shampoo

Sebamed Everyday Shampoo

This shampoo is truly formulated to improve the health of your strands and scalp. If you’re dealing with dandruff, the soap-free shampoo works to rid dryness and add moisture back into the skin. The result: far less itching, and relief for your tired hands. Did we mention it's mild? The pH balance is designed to optimize scalp health, making it safe to use for any hair type and problem (from psoriasis to seborrheic dermatitis).

Final Verdict

Shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis are available OTC and by prescription. If you want to start with an OTC product, choose one with an antifungal ingredient and follow the package directions. You can’t go wrong with Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (view at Amazon). It’s one of the highest-rated anti-dandruff shampoos and will leave your scalp feeling strong and protected. But, if you want an extra-strength formula, try going the medicated route with Nioxin Scalp Recovery Cleanser for Unisex (view at Amazon). 

If you’re still suffering from seborrheic dermatitis after trying OTC shampoos, make an appointment with a dermatologist. They may be able to prescribe you a shampoo with a higher formulation of antifungals or even a topical steroid treatment to reduce your symptoms.

What to Look for in Shampoos for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Antifungal Ingredients:

If you want to tackle yeast, you need a shampoo containing antifungal ingredients like zinc or ketoconazole. While it’s tempting to use that all-natural remedy for dry scalp you found on Pinterest, it probably won’t do the trick when it comes to treating dandruff

“Tea tree oil gets a lot of airplay for seborrheic dermatitis, but the antifungal agents are much more effective,” says San Francisco-based board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, M.D., “and coconut oil doesn't help [because] oil-based products only increase the oil-rich environment the yeast already likes to grow in.”

Here are some of the ingredients you should look for when shopping for an antifungal shampoo:

  • Zinc Pyrithione: Zinc pyrithione is an antimicrobial that is often listed as the active ingredient in OTC dandruff shampoos. Because zinc has powerful antifungal properties, it’s good at killing yeast overgrowth. It may also be available as a cream and is often recommended for daily use.  
  • Selenium Sulfide: Selenium sulfide is an antifungal that can slow down the overgrowth of yeast on your scalp and skin. Some products contain both selenium sulfide and zinc pyrithione. It can be a little harsher than zinc pyrithione, though, so it's best to start slow by using the product only a couple of times per week at first (then building up from there), keeping an eye out for skin irritation. 
  • Ketoconazole: This antifungal has more uses than some of the other antifungals on this list, and can be prescribed to treat everything from athlete’s foot to tinea versicolor to ringworm. You can find this ingredient in a popular OTC shampoo called Nizoral, but it’s more often administered in a prescription topical cream. If you do opt for the shampoo, make sure to follow the directions on the packaging; it’s usually recommended that you only use it twice per week or every three days on the scalp.
  • Salicylic Acid: Joshua Zeichner, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says that if your seborrheic dermatitis consists of thick crust or patchy scales, it can help to choose a shampoo with salicylic acid. This beta-hydroxy acid removes the dead cells that build up on the surface of the skin, forming unsightly, stubborn, and itchy patches of scaly or flaky skin.

Hydrating:

Since seborrheic dermatitis itself can be drying to your skin, by the time you start applying an antifungal treatment, your skin could be in need of some extra hydration. Choose a shampoo that is designed for daily use so that you’re not stripping your skin of too many of its natural oils or even one that’s made with moisturizers to replenish some of the oils washed away during the cleansing treatment.

FYI: If you’re using the product on your scalp (as a dual-purpose shampoo and dandruff treatment), you should follow up with an antifungal conditioner, too.

“Make sure to use a dandruff conditioner along with your dandruff shampoo,” says Dr. Zeichner, “otherwise a regular conditioner may wash away the active ingredient that has been deposited on the skin.” 

OTC or Prescription:

Dr. Zeichner says that over-the-counter products are often all that is needed to combat seborrheic dermatitis, so drugstore shampoos are probably the best place to start. But if your condition is moderate to severe or you’re finding that OTC products aren’t giving you the results you want, Dr. Campbell says not to hesitate to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for something stronger.

“Prescription-strength shampoos contain antifungal agents at higher concentrations or anti-inflammatory agents like steroids that help calm the [allergic reaction] from the yeast,” she explains, noting that her personal favorite treatment for seborrheic dermatitis is a prescription-strength antifungal shampoo and a topical steroid solution.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should I use my shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis?

    It depends on the ingredients used to treat your condition. Gentler formulas, like those containing salicylic acid, may be used several times a week (or, in some cases, even every day). But other shampoos, such as the ones with coal tar or pyrithione zinc, may only be recommended for use once a week.

    It’s a good idea to check the directions on the bottle of shampoo you choose to treat your seborrheic dermatitis. It will tell you how often you should use the product for best results. If you're unsure about your specific hair and scalp texture and how it will react to a new shampoo, ask your dermatologist for guidance.

Yeast lives on everyone as part of our natural microbiome, but some people just have a more sensitive immune system which does not [like it], leading to redness, itching, and flaking. —Joshua Zeichner, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital

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Having been raised by two medical professionals, Amari Pollard understands the importance of health literacy. As a seasoned health writer, she is committed to producing well-researched and well-sourced product reviews to help people make informed medical decisions.

Additional reporting for this story by Sarah Bradley

Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

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  1. Savi GD, Bortoluzzi AJ, Scussel VM. Antifungal properties of zinc-compounds against toxigenic fungi and mycotoxinInt J Food Sci Technol. 2013;48(9):1834-1840. doi:10.1111/ijfs.12158