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16 Best Dandruff Shampoos for Every Type of Hair, According to Experts

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Dandruff may not be the most fun haircare topic to talk about but we are here to help you care for your scalp. While there are many causes of dandruff, one of the more effective ways to control it is through regular cleansing with shampoo to mitigate oil and skin cell buildup. But which shampoo is best for you?

First, try to narrow down what is causing your scalp to flake. If your dandruff tends to occur seasonally, you might have a dry scalp. The two conditions are commonly confused, but they are actually quite different. It is important to know if you just need a little moisture or if you need a product to help manage oil production and yeast overgrowth. Yearlong flakes may indicate a skin condition like psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, a kind of eczema, so it is always good to check in with a dermatologist if the flakes persist.

You will need a board-certified dermatologist if you are looking for a topical corticosteroids, but there are many helpful ingredients in over-the-counter products such as selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc, ketoconazole, coal tar, and tea tree oil that can help with flaking scalps.

Read on for everything to know about flaky scalps and the 17 best dandruff shampoos to help relieve them.


So do I have dandruff or just a dry scalp?

It can be hard to tell the two apart since both have similar symptoms, but board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of CompleteSkinMD, dermatologist Dr. Julie Karen, walks us through the key differences. While both conditions can cause discomfort like itching, redness, and general irritation, “dandruff is linked to an overproduction of oil which usually results in an oily scalp, and oily or sticky flakes,” she explains. “Whereas dry scalp is related to your scalp lacking moisture, which produces smaller flakes that look almost like powdered sugar.”

What causes dandruff?

Dandruff is caused by an overgrowth of yeast (called malassezia) that is naturally found on your skin. According to Karen, your scalp feeds off your skin’s oil, causing dead skin cells to slough off. While the cause varies from person to person, Wes Sharpton, a hairstylist and the lead educator for Hairstory, also notes that even some of the products you currently use can trigger it, too.

What are the best ways to combat a dry and flaky scalp?

You can find relief no matter why your scalp is flaking, because just like every other beauty product out there, the best dandruff shampoos are catered for every kind of hair, and we’ve listed them all below.

Are there ingredients known to cause dandruff?

Many hair-care products promise gorgeous, shiny locks but also contain ingredients that can irritate your scalp if you have any scalp conditions or disorders. For instance, sulfates, parabens, triclosan, silicones, and fragrance can strip an already dry scalp, further irritate a sensitive one, or create more buildup.

What should I do about extreme dandruff?

Head to the doctor for a scalp check if your dandruff is especially stubborn. You might have psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis: two skin conditions that trigger flakes and yet are unrelated to dry skin. If you are diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis, your doctor might prescribe you a 2 percent ketoconazole shampoo. It’s an antifungal treatment that restores balance to your scalp’s natural fungal ecosystem. After using it, your flakes could vanish almost immediately, but the shampoo will be incredibly drying. Try alternating every other wash with a moisturizing shampoo to find some relief and keep your scalp nourished.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo With Ketoconazole


Pros: Works similarly to a prescription without having to see a doctor
Cons: Dries out the hair

This is the over-the-counter version of a prescription dandruff shampoo. It’s equipped with the same active ingredient — ketoconazole — but in a smaller dose. It’s a big hit in the dandruff community on Reddit, though it is obviously not as effective as its prescription counterpart, and it has an innocuous, barely there scent.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo for Itching

Pros: Smells fresh, cleans hair thoroughly
Cons: Can cause the scalp to tingle, though it isn’t painful

If itching is the only sensation your scalp has been experiencing lately, get ready to change your life with this best-selling reviving shampoo. The star ingredient, tea-tree oil, is known for antifungal and antibacterial properties that keep scalps clean and balanced. This bottle contains the “Tingle Complex” (a refreshing blend of tea-tree oil, peppermint, and lavender), which gets irritated scalps to truly chill.

The Best Soothing Dandruff Shampoo

Pros: Super-moisturizing
Cons: Takes a bit of time to be effective

While most dandruff shampoos are at the very least a little bit drying, Sachajuan’s is actually moisturizing. It makes hair feel soft, and the bottle is actually pretty, not an embarrassing medicinal-looking thing. The shampoo uses salicylic and lactic acids to remove flakes, and a few different oils in the mix help soothe your scalp. Although this isn’t the most powerful dandruff fighter, using it is a very pleasant experience.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo for Sensitive Skin

Pros: Fragrance-free formula that’s great for sensitive scalps
Cons: Thick consistency

Of course the brand beloved by derms for its no-frills, sensitive skin care offers sensitive scalp care. It contains 2 percent pyrithione zinc, an antifungal and antimicrobial used to treat dandruff, and reviewers rave about how well the unscented shampoo cleared up their dermatitis and dandruff without irritating already sensitive skin. Fragrance can be one of those additives that can exacerbate an already sensitive scalp.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo for Dry Hair

Pros: Keeps hair healthy
Cons: High price for a small bottle

Fighting flakes sounds like it’d be harsh on the scalp, but this effective formulation from the trichology experts at Philip Kingsley is gentle enough for daily use. The antimicrobial piroctone olamine alleviates the scalp of flaking, itching, and buildup, while a hefty dose of aloe vera soothes and repairs skin without drying or stripping hair in the process.

The Best Eco-Friendly Dandruff Shampoo

Pros: Lasts a long time
Cons: Storage can be messy

If you’re slowly replacing all the bottles in your shower, here’s a plastic-free alternative. This kiwi-scented bar combats scalp issues with neem oil — an antifungal that contains nimbidin, an anti-inflammatory that prevents irritation. You’ll also find Karanja oil — often used to treat conditions like eczema with soothing anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Reviewers love the scent and rich lather and how it volumizes and cleans even the finest hair without drying or weighing it down.

The Best Vegan Dandruff Shampoo

Pros: Sleek design that fits in any shower
Cons: May leave hair feeling greasy, according to some reviewers

This shampoo will teleport you to a spa with its calming aroma. The medicated cleanser is imbued with vegan ingredients that work to nourish the scalp while getting to the root of dandruff and irritation with an ingredient list that is free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and dyes. And it contains zinc pyrithione, which Karen recommends as an ingredient to get at the root of flaking and control oil production on the scalp.

The Best Chemical Exfoliant for Your Scalp

Pros: Lathers well, smells amazing
Cons: Can dry out hair

Ouai’s latest release combats a flaky scalp with gently exfoliating salicylic acid and helps reduce flaking, itching, and irritation without drying out your hair. Reviewers with all hair types love both how it makes their hair feel and how it smells — it has earthy notes of ginger, spearmint, and green fig.

The Best-Smelling Dandruff Shampoo

Pros: Smells amazing
Cons: Seems hit or miss on aiding an itchy scalp

Instead of chemical exfoliants or ketoconazole, Philip B.’s Anti-Flake shampoo uses zinc and coal tar to fight dandruff. They work to normalize your scalp’s natural oil production and slow down the rate scalp skin cells die and flake off. Philip B.’s shampoo is perfect if your dandruff situation is mild to moderate, and I can’t get over how great it smells: like a hippie oil store.

The Best Dandruff Treatment

Pros: Luxurious treatment
Cons: Strong smell

This shampoo requires you to take on an intense, two-week hair regimen of marinating and massaging your dry scalp with the formula for five to seven minutes, two or three times per week. Even if you typically wash your hair only once a week, the extra shampooing isn’t damaging or drying. Your flakes will be gone before you know it, and after that, you can switch to monthly washes with a maintenance shampoo in between. It’s exhausting at first, but you’ll be glad you held strong.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair

Pros: Works well year-round, helps with psoriasis
Cons: Doesn’t lather well

Coloring your hair costs a lot of money, so it makes sense that you’d rather not play a game of chance when it comes to finding the right shampoo. This one from Redken is formulated with pyrithione zinc, which treats dandruff without stripping your hair color. And it’s convenient: You can apply the shampoo to your dry scalp and let it marinate before heading into the shower (it works on a wet scalp too).

The Best Drugstore Dandruff Shampoo

Pros: Affordable, helps reduce redness
Cons: Not ideal for everyday use

Dove’s anti-dandruff shampoo is a well-rounded formula that’s easy to find. It’s formulated with dandruff-removing and -preventing pyrithione zinc (the same stuff in Head & Shoulders), but it’s backed up with moisturizing coconut and shea butters to make sure your scalp and hair stay nourished during the medication process.

The Best Exfoliating Dandruff Shampoo

Pros: Invigorates the scalp
Cons: Expensive

We’ve come a long way. It’s now possible to buy dandruff shampoos in millennial pink, skin-care-level packaging. With Oribe’s luxe formula, your scalp gets the treatment your face is used to with exfoliating salicylic acid that lifts flakes instead of sloughing them off. And it has vitamin C and caffeine to keep your scalp stimulated.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo for Curly Hair

Pros: Hydrating formula, keeps hair feeling lightweight but still helps with itchy skin
Cons: Inconvenient packaging, according to some reviewers

Dandruff shampoos may not be the kindest on curly hair. For one, they can be very drying, which is why Amazon reviewers love this moisturizing co-wash. It contains the usual dandruff fighter, zinc pyrithione (one percent), as well as olive oil and tea-tree oil. Along with a tingly scalp (thanks to the tea-tree oil), reviewers report less flakes and no more dryness and itching. It also has lots of slip for easy detangling and washing.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo With Salicylic Acid

Pros: Price, dermatologists’ OTC recommendation, product has been around for over ten years
Cons: There are more pleasant scents on the market

The “Sal” must stand for salicylic acid because this therapeutic shampoo has 3 percent of the clinically proven active ingredient to help clear scalp buildup while relieving itching and flaking. This is your no-frills option with no added color, preservatives, or fragrance. At one of the lower price points on this list, this is a great first step in your scalp care journey.

The Best Dandruff Shampoo For Your Scalp’s Microbiome

Pros: Soothing ingredients, smells great
Cons: Might not be best for everyday use

With no sulfates, no parabens, no phthalates, and no mineral oil or petrolatum, SheaMoisture packs its shampoo with 3 percent salicylic acid and apple cider vinegar for its antimicrobial properties. If your main issue is itchiness, this shampoo will help to relieve inflammation and balance the pH of your scalp while minimizing the flakes but not compromising on a nice-smelling product.

Our Experts:

  • Dr. Julie Karen, Jupiter’s Head of Science & Resident Dermatologist, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of CompleteSkinMD, dermatologist
  • Wes Sharpton, hairstylist and the lead educator for Hairstory
  • Chinea Rodriguez, fashion and beauty shopping writer at the Cut
  • Brooke LaMantia, Cut shop writer
  • Kelsey Borovinsky, Cut Shop contributor
The Best Dandruff Shampoos for Every Kind of Hair