Experts share their go-to products for getting rid of flakes.
From the telltale itchy scalp to white flakes on your dark sweater, there's no doubt about it—dandruff is a pain. The good news: Over-the-counter shampoos can help remedy the chronic skin condition, which affects nearly 50% of people worldwide.
Because there are so many variations of dandruff shampoos on the market, it can be hard to tell the difference between them all. That’s why we reached out to experts to find out exactly what to look for when shopping for dandruff shampoos, along with their recommendations on which ones are actually worth buying.
These are the 12 best dandruff shampoos to buy online, according to dermatologists:
- Best Overall: Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo
- Best Rated: Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Best Value: Dove DermaCare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Best With Coal Tar: Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
- Best Cooling Sensation: Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo
- Best for Scalp Buildup: Neutrogena T/SAL Therapeutic Shampoo With Salicylic Acid
- Best for Curly Hair: Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisture Boost Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Best High-End: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Best for Color-Treated Hair: L'Oreal Paris EverFresh Anti-Dandruff Sulfate-Free Shampoo
- Best With Tea Tree Oil: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo
- Best for Scalp Acne: DHS Zinc Shampoo
- Best for Thin Hair: Nioxin Scalp Recovery Anti-Dandruff Medicating Cleanser Shampoo
When shopping for dandruff shampoos, one of the most important factors to consider is what ingredients it uses, because that’s what makes it effective. “The active ingredients in dandruff shampoos work to manage and reduce flakiness, dryness, and itchiness of the scalp,” says Shari Sperling, DO, a board-certified dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology.
Some of the most common ones include pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, and coal tar. But since dandruff has many causes—dry skin, sensitivity to hair products, and a yeast-like fungus are common culprits—you may need to experiment with a few different products to find the formula that works best for you.
Best Overall: Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo
Of all the dandruff shampoos recommended by the dermatologists we tapped, Head & Shoulders was the most popular pick. While the brand makes dandruff shampoos in plenty of varieties, this simple, no-frills option is a great place to start. It contains pyrithione zinc, which has been found to help kill fungus and bacteria on the scalp, says Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. She recommends using the anti-dandruff shampoo daily at first to combat flakes, then gradually re-introducing your regular shampoo when symptoms subside.
Best Rated: Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Another highly recommended option is Nizoral A-D, which also happens to be the best-rated dandruff shampoo on Amazon with an average of 4.5 stars from over 15,000 reviews. Even shoppers who say they’ve tried practically every dandruff remedy insist they’re able to confidently wear black clothes again after using Nizoral. “This powerful shampoo is formulated with ketoconazole 1%, which is an effective ingredient in treating dandruff,” says Dr. Sperling. It helps specifically target fungus, but you don’t need to use this one daily—she says that once or twice a week is enough.
Best Value: Dove DermaCare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
At just $4 a bottle, Dove DermaCare is the best affordable dandruff shampoo you can buy. Thanks to the pyrithione zinc in its formula, which Dr. Jaliman says “adds anti-microbial properties,” the shampoo is an inexpensive way to treat dandruff. Shoppers especially love that it has a fresh coconut-lime scent (one describes it as “heavenly”) and that it leaves their hair feeling silky smooth.
Best With Coal Tar: Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
Dr. Jaliman also likes Neutrogena's T/Gel Shampoo, which contains flake-fighting coal tar, which is known for helping slow down shedding of dry skin cells and reducing the appearance of white flakes. One thing to note: Coal tar may darken light hair, so skip this one if you have blonde or light gray hair. Even though some customers say the smell is pretty strong, it’s worth it to get rid of dandruff. One wrote: “After two uses and less than a week, my psoriasis-covered scalp has almost completely disappeared. The red sores are almost gone, and I have no flakes or dandruff anymore.”
Best Cooling Sensation: Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo
Unlike some of the others on this list, this maximum-strength dandruff shampoo uses the antifungal selenium sulfide as its anti-dandruff ingredient. It also contains cooling menthol, and cosmetic dermatologist Michele Greene says that those two ingredients “work synergistically to relieve scalp irritation and soothe itching and discomfort.” But if you find that your hair is on the drier side, you can also opt for this moisturizing version with aloe.
Best for Scalp Buildup: Neutrogena T/SAL Therapeutic Shampoo With Salicylic Acid
Unlike the brand’s other version that uses coal tar, this Neutrogena dandruff shampoo uses salicylic acid. The powerful liquid exfoliator is “an effective ingredient for clearing buildup on the scalp,” according to Dr. Sperling. And Amazon customers agree: “This is the only stuff that reliably keeps me itch- and flake-free, without drying the ever-loving heck out of my hair,” wrote one person.
Best for Curly Hair: Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisture Boost Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
This moisturizing anti-dandruff line by Head & Shoulders was specially designed by Black scientists to work well on curly and coily hair. The formula contains hydrating coconut oil to make sure your natural hair stays moisturized. “I have very curly hair and also have pretty significant dandruff,” said a reviewer. “It was always hard for me to decide whether to cater to my curls or promote a healthy scalp. This is what I've been waiting for. My hair is hydrated and my scalp is flake-free.”
Best High-End: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Even though it’s pricier than most options on this list, Oribe’s anti-dandruff shampoo is worth the splurge. Shoppers say it smells amazing and keeps their hair in “shampoo-commercial condition.” The derm-approved salicylic acid gets rid of dry flakes, while the fruit and sugarcane extracts soothe and hydrate your scalp. “I have insanely thick, coarse hair that gets icky dandruff build-up just by looking at it weird,” wrote one person. “This shampoo has helped so much and I can finally wear a black shirt without worrying about a snowstorm on my shoulders.”
Best for Color-Treated Hair: L'Oreal Paris EverFresh Anti-Dandruff Sulfate-Free Shampoo
L'Oreal has an entire line dedicated to sulfate-free hair products, including this dandruff shampoo that won’t sacrifice your color. It’s designed to be safe for color-treated hair, so it won’t strip away dye or cause your color to fade. And since it contains 1% pyrithione zinc, it’s an effective yet gentle way to target the itchiness and flakes.
Best With Tea Tree Oil: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo
Whether you have sensitive skin or just want to take a more natural approach to control your dandruff, this Paul Mitchell tea tree shampoo is worth a shot. “If you have an inflamed scalp and want a gentle shampoo, try one with tea tree oil,” says Dr. Jaliman. “It has antifungal properties and can help prevent dandruff.” Customers say it really does take away the itch, and they love how fresh and clean their scalps feel after washing their hair with it.
Best for Scalp Acne: DHS Zinc Shampoo
DHS dandruff shampoos come in a few varieties that contain different active ingredients, but this one in particular uses zinc. “This is great for patients with active flaking in the scalp,” explains Melanie Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Art of Skin MD and associate clinical professor at UCSD. “It is also helpful for many adult patients that suffer from occasional breakouts of the scalp or folliculitis as this beta hydroxy acid has anti-acne properties and is capable of penetrating the hair follicle.”
Best for Thin Hair: Nioxin Scalp Recovery Anti-Dandruff Medicating Cleanser Shampoo
Nioxin is known for its products designed for thinning hair, but the brand also makes scalp treatments to help with dandruff. In addition to the pyrithione zinc as its active ingredient, Dr. Jaliman loves that Nioxin’s dandruff shampoo has green tea in it, which she says is “a powerful antioxidant [that] soothes the scalp and helps with inflammation.”