How to Choose the Best Shampoo for Dandruff

Frequent shampooing helps control dandruff.
Frequent shampooing helps control dandruff. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Dandruff is a broad term referring to white flakes on the scalp and in the hair. While the symptoms may appear much the same, there are many causes, including over-production of skin cells, dry scalp, fungal infection and seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis, known as cradle cap in babies, also produces greasy patches on the scalp. The cause of is not known, but it's believed to be related to hormones or overgrowth of a fungus commonly found on the scalp. The best treatment for dandruff is shampoo containing specific ingredients.

Read the ingredients on shampoo bottles. Dandruff caused by over-production of skin cells due to fungus or seborrheic dermatitis responds to zinc pyrithione, selenium sulphide and ketoconazole. The best shampoos contain these active ingredients in combination with other additives.

Massage shampoo into scalp and leave on for five minutes before rinsing.
Massage shampoo into scalp and leave on for five minutes before rinsing. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Compare shampoos for the amount of the active ingredient. Read the full instructions for each brand. Selenium sulphide is considered a stronger treatment than zinc pyrithione. Ketoconazole is a synthetic anti-fungal agent also used to treat fungal infections, such as tinea versicolor, found on other areas of the body. Compare the characteristics with your symptoms to determine the best dandruff shampoo for you.

Use a shampoo containing tea tree oil if you prefer natural ingredients. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal agent effective against dandruff caused by the yeast Pityrosporum ovale. Shampoo containing five percent tea tree oil reduces the over-production of skin cells caused by this yeast.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rinse hair with one tablespoon of vinegar in a cup of water to restore natural pH balance to scalp and hair after shampooing. Vinegar kills bacteria and fungus while it conditions hair by closing the cuticle. Rinse off or leave in -- the vinegar smell dissipates as the hair dries.
  • Try a shampoo with a different dandruff-fighting ingredient if one does not work for you. If the problem persists after trying the various ingredients recommended, consult a dermatologist for prescription-strength dandruff shampoo.

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