How to Choose Anti Dandruff Shampoo

Three Parts:Choosing Anti-Dandruff IngredientsUsing Anti-Dandruff ShampoosMaximizing Anti-Dandruff Haircare

You probably know when you need to use an anti-dandruff shampoo, but knowing how to select one when there are so many options available can be much more complicated. Most anti-dandruff shampoos contain one of five ingredients. Knowing what these ingredients accomplish may help you make your decision, but you may still need to experiment with more than one to find the best option for your specific needs.

Part 1
Choosing Anti-Dandruff Ingredients

  1. 1
    Choose shampoos containing zinc pyrithione.[1] Zinc pyrithione is an antibacterial and antifungal agent. Dandruff shampoos containing this ingredient are especially effective at treating dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis caused by malassezia fungi.[2]
    • Popular brands include Head & Shoulders and Jason Dandruff Relief 2 in 1.
  2. 2
    Consider tar-based shampoos.[3] Shampoos containing coal tar slow down the rate at which skin cells die and flake away, making them effective against dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis.[4]
    • Popular brands include Neutrogena T/Gel and Denorex.
    • Some tar shampoos can discolor blonde, gray, or white hair, so this may not be the best option if you have light-colored hair.[5]
    • Tar shampoos can also make your scalp more sensitive to sunlight. If you use a tar shampoo, wear a hat when you go outdoors and stay under shade as much as possible.[6]
  3. 3
    Use shampoos with selenium sulfide.[7] Shampoos with selenium sulfide also slow down the rate at which your skin cells die and shed, similar to the way tar shampoos work. Additionally, selenium sulfide may also reduce malassezia fungi like zinc pyrithione shampoos do.[8]
    • Note, however, that selenium sulfide shampoos can discolor blonde, gray, or dyed hair. It might be best to avoid these shampoos if your hair color falls under one of these categories. Furthermore, you should thoroughly rinse these shampoos out of your hair to help reduce the risk of discoloration.
    • Popular brands include Selsun Blue and Dandrex.
  4. 4
    Try a shampoo with salicylic acid.[9] Salicylic acid is a relatively mild acid that can soften the skin and strip away the dead skin cells on your scalp. Results may vary with this type of shampoo; for some individuals, salicylic acid shampoos can cause more dryness and flaking.[10]
    • If you experience dryness and excess flaking with this type of shampoo, you might be able to relieve the condition by following each shampooing with a standard conditioner.
    • Popular brands include Neutrogena T/Sal and Keralyt Scalp.
  5. 5
    Test out ketoconazole shampoos.[11] Ketoconazole is an antifungal agent that works against a wide variety of fungi. It's often used as a last resort when other dandruff shampoos fail to treat the problem.[12]
    • Many ketoconazole shampoos are available only by prescription, but there are some over-the-counter options, like Nizoral and generic drug store brands.

Part 2
Using Anti-Dandruff Shampoos

  1. 1
    Commit to trial and error. No two dandruff shampoos are exactly alike; similarly, no two dandruff sufferers are exactly alike, either. The best dandruff shampoo for one person may not be the best one for you, so be prepared to try out a few different options before finding one that works.[13]
    • Zinc pyrithione shampoos tend to have fewer negative side effects and are generally well tolerated, making them a popular first option.
    • If you have darker hair, tar shampoos and selenium sulfide shampoos are equally good options as long as you follow the label instructions closely.
    • Since salicylic acid shampoos can cause additional dryness, they are generally a less popular choice, but are still safe for most people.
    • Ketoconazole shampoos are generally used when other anti-dandruff shampoo types fail to work or stop working.
    • For a more precise recommendation suited to your hair type and scalp needs, consult a dermatologist.
  2. 2
    Massage the shampoo into your scalp. You should always follow the label instructions closely for any dandruff shampoo you use, but generally, you'll need to apply the shampoo to wet hair and thoroughly massage it into the scalp using your fingers.[14]
    • In most cases, you'll need to let the shampoo sit on your scalp for about five minutes before rinsing it out. Others, however, should be rinsed out immediately after application (especially those containing selenium sulfide).[15]
  3. 3
    Use the shampoo regularly. To bring severe cases of dandruff under control, you'll typically need to use your anti-dandruff shampoo once every one to two days.[16]
    • The exception is Ketoconazole shampoo, which should be used only twice per week.[17]
    • As your dandruff subsides, you can cut back the amount used to about twice per week, or once per week if you have coarser hair.[18][19]
  4. 4
    Swap between two anti-dandruff shampoos, if necessary. One shampoo may work for a period of time before suddenly becoming less effective. If this happens, consider switching back and forth between two different ingredient types, using each one at least once per week.[20]
    • You may also consider switching entirely to another type of dandruff shampoo instead of alternating between the old and new ingredients,[21] but doing so may prove less effective than alternating between two.

Part 3
Maximizing Anti-Dandruff Haircare

  1. 1
    Work with your hair type. Many anti-dandruff shampoos only have one formula, but others are formulated for different hair types.[22] Focus on finding a shampoo that helps cut down dandruff first; if that shampoo makes your overall hair quality worsen (e.g., making your hair limp, dry, or weak), consider looking for a special formula that contains the same active ingredient while correcting the new problem.
    • While some dandruff shampoos are also available in multiple scents, the smell of your shampoo should be the last concern on your list. Dandruff control and overall hair health maintenance should be of greater concern.
  2. 2
    Consider using an anti-dandruff conditioner. While the conditioner itself won't help fight the dandruff, it's important to select a conditioner that won't strip away the active ingredient in the shampoo. Your best bet is to select a conditioner specifically formulated to accompany your shampoo of choice.[23]
    • If you are unable to find a conditioner that matches your shampoo, try to find one made with natural or organic ingredients. Gentle moisturizers are usually best, but stay away from clarifying conditioners.
  3. 3
    Avoid shampoos containing harsh ingredients. If you eventually decide to introduce a normal shampoo back into your hair care routine, stay away from those containing ingredients ammonium lauryl sulfate and other anionic surfactants, which tend to dry the scalp and worsen the problem. Try to find a sulfate-free shampoo instead.[24]
    • Also note that washing your hair too frequently or not often enough can worsen dandruff.[25] Once your dandruff problem is under control, you should only wash your hair once every other day at most, and at least two or three times per week at minimum.
  4. 4
    Contact a dermatologist if necessary. If you are unable to get your dandruff under control on your own, consult your family doctor or dermatologist and ask for a prescription-strength shampoo or steroid lotion.[26]
    • While dandruff is frequently caused by dry skin, it could also be caused by a medical condition, like seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, or fungal infections.[27] Your doctor will be able to determine the cause of your dandruff and work with you to find the best solution for it.


  • Exercise caution if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Some shampoos may not be recommended under these circumstances, so it's important to consult the product label or ask your doctor before proceeding with dandruff treatment.[28]
  • If you feel any itching, stinging, or other discomfort using an anti-dandruff shampoo, immediately rinse it out and discontinue use. Avoid other shampoos with the same ingredient.[29]
  • If you experience an allergic reaction, like hives or difficulty breathing, rinse out the shampoo and seek immediate medical care.[30]

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Categories: Hair Remedies