The 15 Best Dandruff Shampoos of 2023

Dermatologists say Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is the “gold standard”

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 Best Dandruff Shampoos

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Though dandruff usually isn’t a serious medical condition, it's very common and can be uncomfortable or even painful. Plus, dandruff isn’t good for your scalp or hair health. The obvious signs of dandruff are scales or painful itching. Reaching for a dandruff shampoo is typically the first step—and the most effective way, according to the American Academy of Dermatology—to control the condition. 

“The best anti-dandruff shampoo contains antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory ingredients,” says board-certified dermatologist Yoram Harth, MD. “For mild dandruff, look for shampoos that contain pyrithione zinc and salicylic acid. For severe dandruff, look for shampoos that contain ketoconazole.” You can also look for active ingredients like ketoconazole, selenium and sulfide. If these don’t work, your dermatologist may prescribe a prescription-strength shampoo or leave-on solution for dandruff (but they usually do a good job of providing relief).

We spoke with dermatologists and reviewed over-the-counter dandruff shampoos from the top brands for the right active ingredients and concentration of them. We also looked closely for brands and products that were free of sulfates and irritants. A board-certified dermatologist on our Medical Expert Board also reviewed this article for medical and scientific accuracy. While you can find a good dandruff shampoo between $5-15, some higher-end brands are pricier; the right one for you may come down to personal preference. 

Here are the best dandruff shampoos, according to dermatologists.

Best Overall

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo


Why We Like It: Ketoconazole fights a type of yeast, malassezia, a primary cause of dandruff, and this formula is safe for color-treated hair.

It’s Worth Noting: Though it’s rare, some people may experience allergic reactions to the active ingredient in Nizoral.

We named this Nizoral shampoo our best overall because dermatologists recommend this dandruff shampoo time and time again for its effectiveness against fighting a type of yeast, malassezia, associated with dandruff. “Nizoral shampoo is the gold standard for treating dandruff,” explains Barry D. Goldman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Manhattan. “The antifungal active ingredient, ketoconazole, kills dandruff-causing fungus, alleviating flaking and itchiness.”

Finding the right anti-dandruff shampoo can depend on your hair type. This tried-and-true shampoo is gentle enough for color-treated and gray hair, and it’s suitable for all hair types, including thick hair. For severe cases, Nizoral makes a 2% strength dandruff shampoo, but it’s only available with a prescription from a physician or dermatologist. As a first attempt to treat dandruff at home, this is a great starting point.

Price at time of publication: $16

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% ketoconazole
  • Scent: Fresh
  • Usage: Lather into wet hair. Rinse and repeat. Use every 3-4 days up to 8 weeks.

Best For Sensitive Skin

Vanicream Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Vanicream Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo


Why We Like It: Formulated without fragrance and sulfates, this shampoo isn’t likely to cause irritation or increase sensitivity.

It’s Worth Noting: Can leave hair feeling dehydrated and difficult to detangle.

Vanicream shampoo, formerly known as Free & Clear, comes recommended by dermatologists for individuals with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, especially those who also have sensitive skin. We like that the formula is free of common irritants, such as dyes, fragrances, parabens, and essential oils—the typical nasties that can cause flare ups. It’s also free of sulfates, making it a choice if you have color-treated hair. 

Though it manages to avoid so many ingredients, one that did make the list is maximum-strength pyrithione zinc that actually makes a noticeable difference in symptoms like flaking and irritation. “This dandruff shampoo is fragrance-free and sulfate-free, making it suitable for those with sensitive skin and color-treated hair,” Dr. Harth says. “The active ingredient is 2% pyrithione zinc to help reduce flakes and relieve itching, dryness, redness, and scaling.”

Price at time of publication: $11

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 2% pyrithione zinc
  • Scent: Unscented 
  • Usage: Use at least twice per week. Allow it to sit on the scalp for several minutes before rinsing.

Best Clinical Strength

Head & Shoulders Clinical Dandruff Defense Intensive Itch Relief

best dandruff shampoos


Why We Like It: Fights malassezia fungus to provide relief from dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

It’s Worth Noting: It may be too strong for fine hair types.

Selenium sulfide shampoos like this one from Head & Shoulders are commonly used to treat dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and fungal scalp infections. “Selenium sulfide is an antifungal ingredient which targets the malassezia fungus and decreases sebum production in the scalp,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

We like that this shampoo has antimicrobial properties and reduces yeast on the scalp. This active ingredient is best for more severe cases of dandruff. Selenium sulfide is available in concentrations up to 2.5% with a prescription, but this 1% concentration by Head & Shoulders is the maximum strength available OTC.

The instructions warn those with gray, bleached, permed, or color-treated hair to rinse the shampoo for 5 minutes, likely to prevent discoloration.

Price at time of publication: $10

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% selenium sulfide
  • Scent: Ocean
  • Usage: Use at least twice a week on wet hair. Rinse for 5 minutes on gray or treated hair.

Best For Itch-Relief

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo-Extra Strength

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Relieves itchiness associated with dandruff, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

It’s Worth Noting: Can cause discoloration on light hair, such as gray and blonde hair, as well as bleached hair.

Dandruff is primarily depicted as white flakes or scales around the scalp, but this condition can also be very itchy. For cases of dandruff accompanied by itchiness, as well as conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, dermatologists recommend therapeutic shampoos formulated with coal tar. 

“Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo-Extra Strength has 1% coal tar, making it very effective for itch relief,” says Dr. Jaliman. “However, this isn’t safe for blonde or bleached hair as it can cause discoloration.”

Price at time of publication: $17

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% coal tar
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Usage: Apply to wet hair twice a week and let it sit on the scalp for a few minutes before rinsing.

Best For Psoriasis

MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning 3% Coal Tar Shampoo

best dandruff shampoos


Why We Like It: Offers treatment for a broad range of scalp conditions.

It’s Worth Noting: Since it includes fragrance, dyes, parabens, and sulfates, it might not be ideal for those with sensitive skin types.

There are a few overlapping symptoms between scalp psoriasis and dandruff: itching, scaling, and redness. Dandruff is less severe and usually clears up with the use of OTC dandruff shampoos, though prescription-strength treatments are sometimes necessary. Scalp psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disorder, but the first course of action is the same as dandruff—medicated shampoos. And this one from MG217 is our first choice for those with scalp psoriasis.

Shampoos for psoriasis relieve itching, scaliness, redness, and irritation much like dandruff treatments. They also slow the growth of cells that cause a build up of scales on the scalp. We like this medicated shampoo for psoriasis by MG217 because it is recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation for its effectiveness against psoriasis, dandruff, and seborrheic dermatitis, plus it has high concentration of coal (which is responsible for its efficacy and ability to restore a healthy scalp).

Price at time of publication: $10

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 3% coal tar
  • Scent: Strong smell of tar
  • Usage: Lather into wet hair and leave it on for several minutes. Use twice a week or more frequently.

Best Medicated

Nioxin Scalp Recovery Anti-Dandruff Medicating Cleanser Shampoo

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Green extract soothes and moisturizes hair while providing anti-fungal benefits.

It’s Worth Noting: While it contains the same active ingredient as other dandruff shampoos, it comes with a higher price tag.

This cream-based dandruff shampoo is powered by 1% pyrithione zinc, one of the most common and effective active ingredients that soothes an itchy, flaky scalp. “Pyrithione zinc helps get rid of malassezia, a fungus on the skin and scalp,” says Dr. Jaliman.

The Nioxin medicated shampoo is great for daily hair washers as well as those who only wash a couple times a week—it can be used as little as twice per week or as frequently as daily like most pyrithione zinc-based shampoos. It also contains green tea extracts, which simultaneously increase moisture and possess anti-fungal properties. With regular use, this shampoo visibly reduces flakiness and moisturizes color-treated or permed hair.

Price at time of publication: $55

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% pyrithione zinc, green tea
  • Scent: Contains fragrance
  • Usage: Use twice per week or daily

Best Men’s

Harry's Men's Extra-Strength Anti-Dandruff 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Calms dandruff with anti-fungal ingredients while cooling a troubled scalp.

It’s Worth Noting: While tea tree oil fights fungus, essential oils can be irritating to some.

Dandruff shampoo formulated with pyrithione zinc, an antifungal ingredient, can make longer hair difficult to soften and detangle. This 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner by Harry’s is best for those with short hair who still want to address scalp-related issues. The active ingredient prevents flaking and itching while conditioning ingredients like aloe and coconut moisturize your hair.

This shampoo gets its scent from essential oils like peppermint and tea tree oil, which have a cooling effect but can also cause irritation in some with sensitive skin. The antifungal benefits of tea tree oil may also boost the shampoo’s ability to keep dandruff at bay. “Tea tree oil is antifungal and has been shown to have similar effects to ketoconazole shampoos on seborrheic dermatitis-related scalp redness and dandruff,” says Dr. Harth.

Price at time of publication: $8

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 2% pyrithione zinc, aloe, menthol
  • Scent: Peppermint
  • Usage: Use twice per week or more.

Best Women’s

Dove Soothing Moisture Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Lower concentration of pyrithione zinc is more gentle on sensitive skin and scalps.

It’s Worth Noting: Contains sulfates and fragrance, which can irritate extra sensitive skin.

The key ingredient in Dove’s anti-dandruff shampoo is 1% pyrithione zinc, making it a more gentle choice if you find higher concentrations of this active ingredient too harsh. Pyrithione zinc is a common and effective ingredient in shampoo for dandruff and other scalp conditions like psoriasis, but it can make hair difficult to manage. This formula is best for reducing flaking and irritation while smoothing and moisturizing longer hair.

The lower concentration of pyrithione zinc makes it suitable for more frequent use—even daily use. It’s also infused with sweet almond oil for added moisture to dry hair. However, if you have extra sensitive skin you should be aware that there are sulfates and fragrance present in this shampoo.

Price at time of publication: $5

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% pyrithione zinc
  • Scent: Fresh and rich
  • Usage: Use two or more times per week.

Best For Kids

Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo & Body Wash

Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo & Body Wash


Why We Like It: It’s free of ingredients that can cause irritation in children with sensitive skin and scalps.

It’s Worth Noting: The lower concentration may not be strong enough for severe cases.

Dandruff can affect anyone—even babies and children. This anti-dandruff shampoo is suitable for children of all ages who experience both dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. We also like that it doubles as a body wash for kids. 

Formulated by a pediatrician for children with sensitive scalps, it’s powered by pyrithione zinc at a lower concentration of 0.95% to eliminate scaling, redness, itching, flaking, and irritation of the scalp and skin. It also contains licorice root extract to soothe redness on delicate skin. Though it’s formulated for babies and kids, adults can use it, too.

Price at time of publication: $13

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 0.95% pyrithione zinc, licorice root extract
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Usage: Use a minimum of twice per week. Leave on for 1-2 minutes before rinsing if the child has a thick build up of scales.

Best For Color-Treated Hair

Biolage Scalp Sync Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Can be used daily on all hair types, including color-treated hair.

It’s Worth Noting: The brand doesn’t list the concentration of if’s key ingredient pyrithione zinc.

This dandruff shampoo gives your scalp a nice cleanse with sulfates, though this may be too harsh for some hair types. Menthol and mint leave your scalp feeling cool and refreshed while pyrithione zinc eliminates dandruff and flakes.

Like many pyrithione zinc shampoos for dandruff, this shampoo is meant to be used regularly—a minimum of twice per week. However, it’s gentle enough to use as your daily hair wash. While it’s not formulated to preserve hair color, it’s safe for color-treated hair.

Price at time of publication: $38

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, peppermint
  • Scent: Contains fragrance
  • Usage: Use twice or more per week. Let it sit on wet hair for 1-2 minutes before rinsing.

Best Organic

Avalon Organics Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Salicylic acid reduces build up and scales.

It’s Worth Noting: It’s powered by a blend of essential oils, which can cause sensitivity in some.

According to Dr. Jaliman, salicylic acid is a key ingredient in dandruff shampoos, like this one from Avalon Organics, because “it exfoliates and gets rid of the dead skin cells on the outermost layer of the skin.” Salicylic acid can be used to treat dandruff similar to how it’s used for oily, acne prone skin—it breaks down the build up of oil and dead skin cells. 

Topical salicylic acid washes treat scalp conditions like dandruff, psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis by breaking down thick layers of skin. It’s also helpful in removing scaly skin, according to research in the Indian Journal of Dermatology.

This dandruff shampoo from Avalon Organics contains 2% salicylic acid to control itching and reduce flaking and scaling. Tea tree oil and other essential oils target dandruff-causing fungus while aloe conditions hair.

Price at time of publication: $11

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, aloe, tea tree oil
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Usage: Apply to wet hair a minimum of two times per week.

Best For Dry Hair

Selsun Blue Moisturizing Dandruff Shampoo

Selsun Blue Moisturizing Dandruff Shampoo


Why We Like It: Selenium Sulfide fights a yeastlike fungus that causes dandruff without drying out the scalp and hair.

It’s Worth Noting: Has a strong scent that some find unpleasant.

Dandruff and dryness tend to go hand-in-hand. Since dandruff shampoos often contain strong ingredients, some may make dryness worse. Dermatologists recommend Selsun Blue for dandruff since it treats itchiness and flakiness while increasing hair and scalp moisture.

“Selsun Blue contains Selenium Sulfide, which combats the overproduction of yeast on your scalp,” Dr. Harth says. “Aloe vera helps hydrate dryness and calm itchiness.” 

Price at time of publication: $9

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% selenium sulfide, aloe
  • Scent: Coconut
  • Usage: Massage onto wet hair twice per week.

Best For Fine Hair

Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo

Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo

Philip Kingsley

Why We Like It: Gentle enough for daily use, even for color-treated hair.

It’s Worth Noting: It’s pricier than many other picks on our list and contains fragrance, so it may not be ideal if you have sensitive skin.

Developed by trichologists — hair and scalp doctors — Philip Kingsley’s scalp shampoo clears flakiness and build up while calming and soothing an irritated scalp. Its anti-dandruff properties can be attributed to cocamidopropyl betaine and piroctone olamine, a powerful duo that cleanses and protects your crown.

While most anti-dandruff shampoos are powered by ingredients like pyrithione zinc, ketoconazole, and coal tar, this one takes a different approach. Cocamidopropyl betaine is a coconut oil-based surfactant that cleanses scalp build up, and piroctone olamine relieves an inflamed scalp. Together, the two work in harmony to do away with flakes and irritation.

Price at time of publication: $40

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Cocamidopropyl betaine, piroctone olamine, aloe
  • Scent: Fresh apple
  • Usage: Use daily to clear active dandruff or in intervals as needed for prevention and upkeep.

Best For Oily Hair

L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Scalp Care + Detox Shampoo

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Deeply cleanses oily scalp and hair without disturbing color treatments.

It’s Worth Noting: While it removes build up on the scalp, this shampoo doesn’t contain active ingredients associated with treating dandruff.

Dandruff is mainly associated with a tight, dry, and itchy scalp, but dandruff can also be oily and greasy. We like that this L’Oreal Paris shampoo gives a greasy scalp the deep cleanse it needs, breaking down build up, dirt, and oil in the process all while preserving color treatments.

Menthol cools and refreshes the scalp while giving the shampoo its fresh scent. It contains cocamidopropyl betaine for its cleansing properties and neem leaf extract to soothe inflammation. Neem leaf also has anti-dandruff benefits.

Price at time of publication: $9

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: Cocamidopropyl betaine, menthol, neem leaf extract
  • Scent: Menthol
  • Usage: Use at least twice a week on wet hair.

Best For Curly Hair

Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Sulfate Free Scalp Care Shampoo

best dandruff shampoo


Why We Like It: Specifically formulated for natural, curly hair types.

It’s Worth Noting: While it’s free of parabens and dyes, it contains added fragrance.

People with curly hair types have enough trouble finding suitable shampoos. Dermatologists recommend this Head & Shoulders shampoo for treating dandruff on curly hair at home.

“It’s specifically formulated for people with curly, kinky, or coiled hair types while fighting flakes,” Dr. Harth says. “It removes the build up of scaling and contains coconut oil to hydrate the scalp and hair.”

Price at time of publication: $8

Product Details:

  • Key Ingredients: 1% pyrithione zinc, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar
  • Scent: Coconut
  • Usage: Use at least twice a week or every time you wash your hair.

How We Selected the Dandruff Shampoos

We rounded up the best shampoos for dandruff based on the recommendations and expertise of board-certified dermatologists. Qualified experts provided criteria on choosing anti-dandruff shampoos, so we were equipped with the knowledge of what to look for. Experts we spoke with included:

  • Barry D. Goldman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City
  • Yoram Harth, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in San Francisco and the chief medical officer of MDhair
  • Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City

We included a range of products that are suitable for a variety of hair types, including color-treated and curly hair, at all price points. All of our picks are available OTC without a prescription and can be purchased online from a range of retailers.

What to Know About Dandruff Shampoos

While dandruff usually isn’t serious, it can be uncomfortable or even painful (not to mention the toll on your self-esteem if you find yourself flaking in public). Anti-dandruff shampoos available OTC are generally the first step to treating the condition and ditching dandruff for good.

Dandruff shampoo alleviates symptoms like flaking, itching, dryness, and irritation with the use of a few key active ingredients.

Key ingredients in dandruff shampoo

The main key players, and the ones you should look for, in dandruff shampoos include:

  • Pyrithione zinc
  • Ketoconazole
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Coal tar
  • Salicylic acid
  • Tea tree oil

They each work differently and are available in different concentrations, but the dermatologists we spoke to had confidence in these ingredients.

“Pyrithione zinc, coal tar, and selenium sulfide are antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, meaning they can kill the fungus, bacteria, and microorganisms that contribute to an itchy, flaky scalp,” Dr. Harth says. “Ketoconazole and tea tree oil are antifungal, and salicylic acid helps remove the dead skin cells and excess oil from the scalp.”

How dandruff shampoos work

Dandruff shampoo works in a few ways, depending on the active ingredients. They target the main symptoms of dandruff—itching and flaking.

Pyrithione zinc is one of the most common ingredients in dandruff shampoo, and it works by reducing the fungus associated with causing dandruff. Ketoconazole shampoos also work by slowing the growth of this fungus. Selenium sulfide banishes dandruff by removing the flakes and scales from irritated scalps. Coal tar is also effective at treating dandruff and psoriasis, especially for alleviating itchiness.

Your Questions, Answered

What causes dandruff?

Dandruff, which also goes by the name of seborrheic dermatitis by dermatologists, causes the scalp to appear crusty and flaky. This could be due to a few reasons.

“Dandruff is usually the result of a familial tendency for scalp conditions,” Dr. Harth says. “When the scalp gets inflamed, dead skin cells stick to one another and form the white flakes of dandruff. Malassezia, a fungus, is a contributing factor to excessive shedding of skin cells, flaking, and scaling.”

Dandruff can be caused by genetics, irritation, a dry or oily scalp, malassezia (a yeastlike fungus), conditions like psoriasis or eczema, and contact dermatitis from products. Even using the wrong shampoo can cause dandruff, Dr. Harth says, noting that sulfates are common culprits of stripping the scalp of its natural oils. He recommends sulfate-free shampoo for those struggling with irritation and flaking.

Can dandruff shampoo damage your hair or cause hair loss?

Dandruff doesn’t inherently cause hair loss, and neither do dandruff shampoos. There are anecdotal cases of hair damage after using dandruff shampoo, such as increased dryness, hair thinning or hair loss, and discoloration in color-treated, gray, and blonde hair. Using dandruff shampoo as intended helps reduce the risk of hair damage.

How often should you use dandruff shampoo?

You can use most dandruff shampoos 2-3 times per week, but some are gentle enough for daily use. Check the usage on the label for the most accurate instructions.

Does your hair become dependent on dandruff shampoo?

As your dandruff subsides after using anti-dandruff shampoo regularly, you may wonder if you can go back to your old hair care routine. To prevent dandruff from returning, you should continue to incorporate the dandruff shampoo on a regular basis but not as frequently. You may go from using dandruff shampoo 2-3 times a week or on a daily basis to an as needed basis. Consider alternating between your regular shampoo and your dandruff shampoo to keep the flakes at bay.

What does dandruff shampoo cost? 

Since dandruff shampoos are available OTC and at most drugstores, they typically range in price from $5-15, but can cost as much as $40-60 for higher end brands. Our best overall from Nizoral was $15 when we published this list.

Who We Are

Lacey Muinos is a health and skin care writer. She is an avid skin health researcher and has developed a complex understanding of skin issues from interviewing medical experts like board-certified dermatologists.

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1 Source 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. Ranganathan S, Mukhopadhyay T. Dandruff: the most commercially exploited skin disease. Indian J Dermatol. 2010;55(2):130-134.

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