11 of the Best Dandruff Shampoos, According to Dermatologists

Flakes be gone—for good this time.

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Washing hair with shampoo!
Photo: skynesher / Getty Images

Let's talk about dandruff. It's not the most alluring hair care topic, but an itchy, flaky scalp is a common issue—luckily, it's one that's typically easy to manage. Before we speak to treatments and solutions, it's important to explain what dandruff actually is. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Christine Choi Kim, this chronic scalp condition—which can impact any hair texture or skin type—is considered a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, and while its cause is not entirely known, it is mostly attributed to an excess of oil production and yeast that is naturally found on skin. "This yeast feeds on the oil on your scalp and breaks it down into byproducts that can induce abnormal cell turnover and shedding," she says. "The result can be a flaky, itchy scalp." Genetics, underlying illness, medications, stress, and seasonal changes could also be to blame.

Top Picks

As for the best way to treat dandruff? Start by using the right products. Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City, says to examine your current hair care arsenal; some formulas might be causing or worsening scalp buildup. Next, seek out a dandruff shampoo that is clarifying and provides gentle scalp exfoliation to remove that oil and debris. If your dandruff continues, Dr. Engelman says to purchase a medicated shampoo; ingredients to bookmark are tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and zinc pyrithione.

Preventing future buildup, explains Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, comes down to shampooing regularly, managing stress, and eating a healthy diet (rich in zinc, healthy fats, and vitamin B). When it comes to sudsing up, do so preventatively; Dr. Graf says to massage medicated products onto the scalp—don't focus on your strands—and let them sit for about five to 10 minutes before getting into the shower. Ahead, these experts share several of the best anti-dandruff shampoos on the market, so you can find sweet relief.


Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Courtesy of Amazon

"Nizoral (ketoconazole) 1-Percent Shampoo has the same active anti-yeast ingredient as a prescription. You can kick it up to two percent (which is prescription strength) as needed by asking your dermatologist," says Dr. Choi Kim.

Shop Now: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $14.84, amazon.com.


Curlsmith Detox Kit
Courtesy of Curlsmith

"Curlsmith's Detox Kit is fantastic for addressing dandruff," notes Dr. Engelman. "It's a three-step system—Super Slip Pre-Biotic Primer, Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic, and Post-Biotic Calming Conditioner—that efficiently cleanses, clarifies, and fortifies the scalp." The primer coats the hair shaft with a protective, detangling shield, then the shampoo deeply cleans and exfoliates the scalp—finally, the conditioner soothes irritation.

Shop Now: Curlsmith Detox Kit, $69, curlsmith.com.

Philip Kingsley

Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo
Courtesy of Dermstore

Perfect for all hair types, this Philip Kingsley shampoo treats even the most stubborn dandruff with aloe leaf juice; it helps repair skin cells on the scalp and an anti-microbial called "piroctone olamine" calms the itch and stops flakes.

Shop Now: Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo, $40, dermstore.com.

CLn Shampoo

lovely skin CLn Shampoo
Courtesy of Lovely Skin

"CLn Shampoo contains the anti-microbial benefits of sodium hypochlorite to cleanse a scalp that is prone to itching, flaking, eczema, folliculitis, and dermatitis," says Dr. Choi Kim.

Shop Now: CLn Shampoo, $36, lovelyskin.com.


Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Courtesy of Nordstrom

One of Dr. Marisa K. Garshick's picks is Oribe's Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. It utilizes salicylic acid to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and treat any irritation.

Shop Now: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $46, nordstrom.com.

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Scalp Care Liter Set
Courtesy of Paul Mitchell

"I like the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Scalp Care Collection," says Dr. Engelman of this series which benefits both your scalp and your strands. "It contains an awesome blend which combines Kakadu plum, clover flower extract, ginseng, pea peptides, and turmeric to stimulate the scalp and protect against hair breakage."

Shop Now: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Scalp Care Liter Set, $51, paulmitchell.com.

Head & Shoulders

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Daily-Use Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Courtesy of Target

This classic dandruff shampoo—and one of Dr. Graf's picks—is tried and true for a reason. It has pyrithione zinc to clear scalp buildup and protect skin from future flakes.

Shop Now: Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Daily-Use Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $6.59, target.com.


Vanicream Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff
Courtesy of Target

This iteration contains the anti-inflammatory ingredient pyrithione zinc and is free from parabens, fragrances, dyes, or formaldehyde. "It is also sulfate-, betaine-, and gluten-free. This is a great option for someone who has dandruff and is also sensitive to allergens," says Dr. Choi Kim.

Shop Now: Vanicream Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff, $10.99, target.com.

First Aid Beauty

First Aid Beauty Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with 1% Pyrithione Zinc
Courtesy of Ulta

First Aid Beauty's formula also boasts pyrithione zinc, as well as nourishing ingredients like silk peptides and calendula to keep hair strong and moisturized.

Shop Now: First Aid Beauty Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with 1% Pyrithione Zinc, $30, ulta.com.

Selsun Blue

Selsun Blue Medicated with Menthol Dandruff Shampoo
Courtesy of Target

Dr. Graf is a big fan of this formula from Selsun Blue—and if you're looking for something strong, this is your best bet. It contains selenium sulfide which eliminates flakes and itchiness, but is still soothing thanks to cooling menthol.

Shop Now: Selsun Blue Medicated with Menthol Dandruff Shampoo, $8.59, target.com.

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