The 8 Best Shampoos for Seborrheic Dermatitis of 2020

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

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

First Look

Best Overall: Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo at Amazon

"This shampoo lathers quickly, seeping into the scalp to relieve common symptoms caused by dandruff and leaving your hair smelling fresh."

Best Budget: Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo at Amazon

"This budget friendly shampoo is formulated to work like a prescription-strength one, the key ingredient being selenium sulfide."

Best Natural Medicated: Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo at Amazon

"Uses a combination of sulfur and salicylic acid to treat mild psoriasis and dermatitis, which ultimately eliminates flakes and itchiness."

Best Medicated: Nioxin Scalp Recovery Cleanser for Unisex at Amazon

"It helps restore the scalp to its natural balance and provides soothing protection."

Best Natural: The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo at Amazon

"This shampoo perfectly calms the scalp by relieving irritation, itchiness, and boosting moisture."

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

"Not only does it clean the scalp, but leaves hair strong and full with a helpful dose of biotin."

Best for Babies: Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for Children at Amazon

"Pediatrician approved and contains the active ingredient pyrithione zinc to help fight off flaking, itching, and scaling."

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

"Along with caffeine, vitamin E, and shea butter, Oribe rejuvenates and nourishes the scalp."

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 suspect yeast might play a role in it. Dr. 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

Best Overall: Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo 7 Fl. Oz Itchy Scalp Dandruff Treatment w/ Ketoconazole 1%

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% of 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.

Best Budget: Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo

Head & Shoulders was specifically created to help those struggling with dandruff, and because the brand knows dandruff comes in many forms, they’ve created an extra strength formula to help those with bad cases. Seborrheic dermatitis would be one of those cases.

This budget friendly shampoo is formulated to work like a prescription-strength one, the key ingredient being selenium sulfide. It’s said to tackle the root causes of dandruff by targeting malassezia irritants and keeping the scalp free of problems for up to seven days. When used at least twice a week, you will see the best results. For maximum dandruff control, it’s recommended to use every time you shampoo.

Best Natural Medicated: Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo

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.

Best Medicated: Nioxin Scalp Recovery Cleanser for Unisex

Formulated with 1% 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.

Best Natural: The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo

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.

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

Similar to dye, hair straighteners and some protective hairstyles can aggravate seborrheic dermatitis, because it can result in less frequency 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.

Best for Babies: Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for Children

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.

Best Luxury: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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, vitamin E, and shea butter, Oribe rejuvenates and nourishes the scalp.

Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. 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

What to Look for in Shampoos for Seborrheic Dermatitis

Fungus Fighters: Shampoos with antifungals like ketoconazole and selenium sulfide tackle fungal growth, which can be a root cause of dandruff

Essential Oils and Vitamins: Shampoos that contain essential oils and vitamins tend to be the most soothing. Their healing effects help calm the scalp by adding moisture to relieve any tenderness caused by dryness and itchiness.

Why Trust Verywell Health

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.

The Ultimate Shampoo for Seborrheic Dermatitis Buying Guide 

By: Sarah Bradley

Yeast: it’s great for all your COVID-induced quarantine attempts at sourdough bread baking, but not so great for your skin. If you’ve ever had dandruff, cradle cap, or random, unidentifiable patches of red, flaky stuff on your scalp, face, chest, or back, you’ve had an overgrowth of yeast on your skin in the form of a condition called seborrheic dermatitis.

It’s not serious or contagious. On the other hand, it is annoying, unsightly, and hard to get rid of. But why do some people have it and others don’t? 

“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,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Zeichner says that the skin’s overreaction to yeast is what causes seborrheic dermatitis, which typically affects your scalp, causing dandruff or cradle cap. But since this is a skin issue, not a hair issue, seborrheic dermatitis can crop up in other places, too, like the eyebrows, the skin around your nose and mouth, your chest and upper torso, and your back.

“These are all areas where there are high levels of oil glands, which create an environment that encourages overgrowth of yeast,” says Dr. Zeichner. 

Thankfully, treatment for seborrheic dermatitis isn’t complicated: cleansing with an antifungal shampoo is often all that’s needed. The yeast can be stubborn, though, and there are many over-the-counter shampoos available for kicking your seborrheic dermatitis to the curb. So which one is right for you? Here’s a guide.

Key Considerations 

Antifungal Ingredients

If you really want to beat the 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. 

“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 Dr. Caren Campbell, “and coconut oil doesn't help [because] oil-based products only increase the oil-rich environment the yeast already likes to grow in.”

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 TLC. Choose a shampoo that is designed for daily use so 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,” adds 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 (bonus: they’re affordable and readily available!).

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 anti fungal shampoo and a topical steroid solution.  

Product Types 

Zinc Pyrithione

Zinc pyrithione, pyrithione zinc...it doesn’t matter how you arrange the words, this antimicrobial is often listed as the active ingredient in OTC dandruff shampoos. Because zinc has powerful antifungal properties, it’s pretty good at killing yeast overgrowth. It may also be available as a cream, but either way, is usually recommended for daily use.  

Selenium Sulfide

The blue-green stuff that gives Selsun Blue shampoo its signature hue, 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, and many dermatologists recommend starting 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

Dr. Zeichner 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.

Brands/Manufacturers 

Dove Dermacare 

Everyone knows Dove for its moisturizing products, and its Dermacare line is no exception. With zinc pyrithione, Dr. Zeichner says these dandruff-fighting shampoos are extremely effective in reducing the yeast overgrowth that causes skin inflammation. They also contain coconut and shea butter, though, for extra moisturization, so you don’t have to worry as much as hydrating your scalp or skin after use. There are also Dove Dermacare conditioners available, so if you’re using the shampoo on your scalp, you can follow Dr. Zeichner’s suggestion to follow it up with a dandruff-specific conditioner.

Neutrogena 

Neutrogena makes a couple of products designed to reduce seborrheic dermatitis and its inflammatory effects on your skin: T/Gel, made with one percent coal tar, and T/Sal, made with three percent salicylic acid. 

T/Sal is a little more straightforward: it can be used every day (as long as your skin can tolerate salicylic acid treatments, like acne creams) and works to remove the dead skin cells that cause dandruff and flaking. T/Gel is a little more intense, as it's often used to treat psoriasis. It’s designed for use a few times per week, and isn’t suitable for color-treated hair; it can stain your skin and your clothes, and affect the color of blond or bleached hair. 

Nizoral A-D

The active ingredient in this shampoo is ketoconazole and it’s a fairly strong OTC option; if you haven’t had luck with some of the more common drugstore brands but aren’t ready to see a dermatologist yet, this is a smart next step. Nizoral A-D goes to the source of your dandruff, killing the yeast and controlling future outbreaks of flaking and itching. It should only be used a few times per week, but unlike some other ingredients (like coal tar), it’s safe for use with color-treated or chemically processed hair.

Selsun Blue

If you want a lot of options for treating your seborrheic dermatitis, Selsun Blue’s line of products doesn’t come up short—there are hydrating, “natural,” medicated, and 2-in-1 shampoo conditioner options, among others. It’s an easy-to-find option available at most grocery stores and drugstores, making it a solid choice for a first line of defense in mild cases. Most formulations contain selenium sulfide; depending on the specific product, you may also find salicylic acid, aloe, and vitamin E.

Maintenance 

There is no maintenance, per se, of seborrheic dermatitis shampoos themselves; the maintenance comes with how you use them. In general, you should always follow the directions on the package (or your dermatologist’s instructions for use), since depending on where you’re applying the product, it may not be safe for daily use.

For scalp application, Dr. Zeichner says to apply the product like a typical shampoo: lather it up on your scalp for 30 seconds, then rinse. You can use it intermittently, he adds, when your seborrheic dermatitis flares up; after it improves, you can return to your usual shampoo routine. Some antifungals may not be safe for use on the scalp every day, so make sure you know how often to apply it.

For skin application, the process is similar but you have a little more leeway—most antifungals can be used on the skin daily, although you might find certain parts of your body (like your face) are more sensitive than others (like your chest). 

It’s always a good idea to start off slow, with two or three applications per week, and add more from there if needed. Once your seborrheic dermatitis has cleared, discontinue use of the shampoo until you experience another outbreak. 

Conclusion 

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. A shampoo by Selsun Blue or Dove Dermacare is a good place to start, but if you need better results, you can move up to a stronger formulation like Neutrogena T/Gel or Nizoral. 

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.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  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

  2. Mayo Clinic. Coal Tar (Topical Route) Precautions. Published June 1, 2020.