11 Shampoos That Will Banish Dandruff and Soothe an Itchy Scalp

Between the telltale flakes and itchy scalp, dandruff is nearly impossible to ignore. However, it’s very possible to treat, as long as you use the best dandruff shampoo you can find (read “one that contains effective active ingredients and works well with your scalp and hair”).

In order to choose the best dandruff shampoo to thwart the tiny snowstorm on your scalp, it’s helpful to remember what causes dandruff in the first place. It can happen whether your skin is dry or oily, and in some cases it can even happen as part of an allergic reaction to a hair-care product. However, more often than not, dandruff crops up after an overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast (Malassezia furfur) triggers an inflammatory reaction on your scalp. That overgrowth then leads to an excess of skin cells that eventually have to flake off as—you guessed it—dandruff. 

With that in mind, some of the best dandruff shampoos will contain antifungal ingredients, like ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, and zinc pyrithione, which will rein in the yeast that’s setting your dandruff in motion. SELF spoke with several dermatologists who sang the praises of antifungal shampoos for dandruff, but also noted that salicylic acid can be just as helpful when it comes to resolving your average case of flakes, thanks to its exfoliating properties. 

All of these ingredients are considered extremely effective as far as eliminating dandruff goes, but you may need to adjust how you use them depending on your hair type. Namely, if you have natural or curly hair, you may find that some anti-dandruff shampoos are too drying to use every time you wash your hair. 

“People will just tell everyone, ‘Use this dandruff shampoo every day,’ [but] that’s not really appropriate for people with curly hair or kinky hair, because shampooing too frequently dries their hair out,” Dina Strachan, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the director of Aglow Dermatology, tells SELF. If you don’t think your hair is suited to frequent washing with a dandruff shampoo, you can look for a product with added moisturizers or use the shampoo only once a week, which is the wash frequency that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends for people who have natural hair and dandruff. If you aren’t sure which product will suit you best or if your shampoo of choice doesn’t seem to be helping, talk to your dermatologist: They can help determine which shampoo is best for treating your dandruff and keeping your hair and scalp happy (Dr. Strachan says it’s not uncommon to recommend or prescribe treatments in addition to shampoo for her patients who have natural hair). 

If you find that your dandruff isn’t getting better after several weeks of regular shampooing (or if you’re dealing with redness and irritation on top of the usual flakes and itchiness), that’s another reason to get in touch with your dermatologist. There’s always a chance that you}re dealing with something other than dandruff, like eczema, that will need a diagnosis; or you might have dandruff that’s severe enough that you need a prescription-strength product to address it once and for all.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most effective anti-dandruff shampoos you can try, based on recommendations from dermatologists. Read on to find the best dandruff shampoo for you—because we should all have something to reach for when flakes start to fall. 

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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