Relieve the symptoms of dandruff without stripping your hair with these specialised shampoos
Dandruff isn’t something many people want to admit to but it happens to everyone at some point in their lives. So if you find your scalp is suffering due to the weather, central heating or other reasons, a topical dandruff shampoo can help. In fact, many of the best anti-dandruff shampoos can get your scalp back to normal in just days, so you can leave that uncomfortable, itching feeling behind.
It can be a tricky issue to sort out without the right tools, though – as can the accompanying redness and irritation. So in order to spare you the trouble of wasting needless cash on ineffective shampoos, we’ve rounded up the best available. Before that though, make sure you read our buyer’s guide – it will talk you through which ingredients to look out for on the packaging, and how best to use your shampoo of choice.
Best anti-dandruff shampoo: At a glance
How to choose the best anti-dandruff shampoo for you
What is dandruff and what causes it?
Dandruff is a common skin condition whereby white flakes of dead skin appear in the hair. It can be accompanied by an itchy, dry scalp and if you’re really unlucky, redness and inflammation.
According to the NHS, among the most common causes (of which there are many) are eczema, psoriasis (skin condition causing red, flaky patches of skin with scales), seborrheic dermatitis (overgrowth of yeast on the skin), tinea capitis (fungal infection of the scalp) and allergic contact dermatitis (reaction to hair products).
Shouldn’t I see a doctor?
Not necessarily. Dandruff is a very common problem, affecting an estimated one in five people and anti-dandruff shampoo is generally considered the best solution. Don’t give up if the first one you try doesn’t work, as you may have to work through a few to find the best one for you.
That said, if there’s no improvement after about a month, it’s probably time to see a doctor, who may prescribe a stronger treatment.
What should I look for in an anti-dandruff shampoo?
The NHS advises looking for a shampoo containing one of these ingredients:
- Zinc pyrithione
- Salicylic acid
- Selenium sulphide (or selenium sulfide)
- Coal tar
What if I’m still not sure which one to buy?
We’ve listed the anti-dandruff shampoos that we have found to be the best below, but if you’re still not sure which one to go for, your pharmacist can help.
Any other tips?
Always check the instructions on your shampoo before using it and leave it in your hair for at least five minutes before you wash it out, unless the instructions suggest otherwise. Remember that hats, stress and pollution can all exacerbate dandruff. Also avoid contact with very hot water, heat styling tools including hair dryers and hair products.
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The best anti-dandruff shampoo you can buy in 2023
1. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Best anti-dandruff shampoo you can buy
Price: £5.99 | Buy now from BootsThe main ingredient is ketoconazole, a highly effective antifungal agent that knocks the socks off a lot of the less potent ingredients of other anti-dandruff shampoos. Give yourself a week of daily hair washing to see a difference, but there’s every likelihood you will, and you only need a tiny bit each time, which must be massaged in.
It’s fragrance-free, which will be music to the ears of those who associate anti-dandruff shampoos with strong chemical smells, and it attacks not only dryness and flakiness but soothes a red and itchy scalp.
Key specs – Volume: 60ml
2. The Body Shop Ginger Anti Dandruff Shampoo: Best shampoo for long-term use
Price: £14 | Buy now from AmazonThis sells at a rate of one every four seconds, which shows how loved it is – and there are over 1,200 (mostly very positive) reviews on their website. Customer after customer rates this over all the other anti-dandruff shampoos they tried, not only because it stops the itching and flakiness of dandruff but because it makes hair so manageable and healthy.
Fresh, zingy and cleansing, it’s made with ginger from Sri Lanka, birch bark, white willow extracts and honey. And while other anti-dandruff shampoos often stop having an effect after a few months, this one keeps on working its magic no matter how long you use it for. Shame they don’t do a matching conditioner, though. Also available in larger sized bottles.
Key specs – Volume: 60ml
3. Vichy Dercos Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Best anti-dandruff shampoo for dry hair
Price: £13 | Buy now from Lookfantastic Remedying a sore and flaky scalp can often leave you with straw-like strands when you’re turning to harsh anti-dandruff shampoos. And that’ll only leave you with more problems to solve if you have dry hair or regularly use bleach or colour. Thankfully, this shampoo from Vichy soothes your scalp and removes flakiness without stripping your locks of all moisture. Created especially for dry hair, (though we think it’s suitable for all hair types), the Dercos shampoo uses a thick and creamy texture to carry its Selenium and Cohesyl enriched formula.
The yellow shampoo looks a little startling at first but trust us, your scalp will feel smooth and cleansed with continued use. For the best results, Vichy advises leaving the shampoo on to work its magic for 2 minutes before rinsing. Any following washes can be applied and rinsed as normal.
Key specs – Volume: 200ml
4. Neutrogena T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo: Best anti-dandruff shampoo with coal tar
Price: £7 | Buy now from AmazonThe active ingredient here is coal tar, which doesn’t exactly sound a tempting substance to pour over your head but it actually works wonders for psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis (common causes of dandruff) by reducing itching, irritation, redness and inflammation. This shampoo also contains salicylic acid, which helps get rid of the scales of skin that fall unwelcomingly on your shoulders – the ultimate tell-tale sign of dandruff.
Whiff warning: it pongs. But for any kind of scalp issue, it really is a fantastic product that starts working within a few days and leaves the hair feeling nice and soft too.
Key specs – Volume: 125ml
5. Eucerin Calming Urea Shampoo: Best for relieving an itching scalp
Price: £10 | Buy now from AmazonUrea is an anti-inflammatory that also hydrates and moisturises the skin, making this shampoo a godsend for those whose scalp has dried out and may have become itchy in the process. Additional ingredients, such as polidocanol, also help with the soothing and the added bonus is that it leaves hair looking healthy and shiny.
Unlike many anti-dandruff shampoos, it doesn’t leave your hair feeling greasy and the shampoo doesn’t smell but keep white towels well away as it can stain. If other anti-dandruff shampoos you’ve tried don’t do a thing for inflammation, soreness – and especially itchiness – this is your best bet.
Key specs – Volume: 250ml
6. Philip Kingsley Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo: Best for colour-treated hair
Price: £22 | Buy now from AmazonThis is a gentle formula, with a refreshing but subtle apple scent. It suits those who find themselves regularly scratching their itchy scalp, but don’t like the idea of massaging lots of chemicals in their hair. It has lauryl benatine, a mild cleanser, and piroctone olamine, which gets rid of the flakes.
It works well for colour-treated hair and if you use it with the conditioner and mask from the same range, it does a grand job of exfoliating and soothing an irritated scalp and leaving hair feeling gorgeous. But it has none of the more potent ingredients of much stronger anti-dandruff shampoos, so it’s not for those who suffer very badly.
Key specs – Volume: 250ml
7. Aveda Scalp Benefits Shampoo: A great anti-dandruff shampoo that’s lovely to use
Price: £21 | Buy now from LookfantasticThis feels so kind on itchy and/or sore scalps that you won’t be able to wait to jump in the shower. Plus it keeps the dead skin at bay without drying hair out. It’s gentle but nourishing, thanks to the burdock root, echinacea and sage and has a pleasant, subtle smell, with rosemary and cinnamon coming to the fore.
With no sulphates, it’s also cleansing and while we found we didn’t need the matching conditioner to make it feel soft, using it after the shampoo is the icing on the cake for healthy, luscious locks with not a white flake in sight.
Key specs – Volume: 250ml