15 Best Dandruff Shampoos 2024 to Soothe Itchy, Dry Scalp | Allure

By Jennifer Hussein and Deanna Pai

Dandruff is incredibly common but, fortunately, easy to address. To tackle flaking on your scalp, the best dandruff shampoo deploys dedicated ingredients and provides some much-needed relief. Forest Wood Off-Cut With Bark

15 Best Dandruff Shampoos 2024 to Soothe Itchy, Dry Scalp | Allure

Though dandruff is commonly mistaken for a dry scalp, the two conditions are quite different. "Dandruff is the result of increased oil production and yeast overgrowth on the scalp," Texas-based board-certified dermatologist Heidi Prather, MD, previously told Allure. Accordingly, it makes sense that dandruff tends to develop on those with oily scalps rather than dry ones.

The yeast in question is called malassezia, and can be commonly found in the skin, according to New York City board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. "It can contribute to the inflammatory response in seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis [the scientific name for dandruff] and feeds on sebum, so it, therefore, thrives in oily areas," she adds.

Dandruff is limited to the scalp and typically presents itself as loose, white scales or plaques, as Dr. Prather explained, but it can evolve into seborrheic dermatitis. The latter can affect other seborrheic areas (like your face, chest, and back à la fungal acne) and manifests as yellow, greasy scales coupled with redness, itching, and irritation. Triggers such as buildup-causing styling products, stress, infrequent (or too much) shampooing, overproduction of sweat, and living in moist, humid, and warm environments can exacerbate dandruff, too.

While Dr. King says we can't fully cure seborrheic dermatitis, there are ways to manage it, like through over-the-counter shampoo ingredients — that is, outside of topical corticosteroids that your board-certified dermatologist can prescribe. Dr. King calls out several anti-fungal (and some antimicrobial) ingredients like selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, ketoconazole, coal tar, and tea tree oil that can decrease malassezia, inhibit fungal growth, and calm an irritated, inflamed, and itchy scalp. According to Dr. King, pyrithione zinc-infused formulations are especially gentle yet still effective, making them great for sensitive scalps.

Joel Lamm, MD, a NYC-based board-certified dermatologist, says salicylic acid is another useful exfoliating ingredient that helps wash flakes away and reduces scaling when used in conjunction with other dandruff-specific treatments. With that in mind, it's time to tackle your flaking concerns with the best dandruff shampoos that'll upgrade your scalp-care and hair-care routines.

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

Why It's Worth It: David Kim, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC at Idriss Dermatology, vouches for Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, as does Dr. Lamm. This over-the-counter medicated shampoo contains 1% ketoconazole, but they aren't the only derms who are fans of the potent formula. Ketoconazole is "an active ingredient found in prescription shampoos that reduces inflammation and fungal growth — the root cause of dandruff," NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Neil Sadick, MD, explains.

Editor Tip: It contains sulfates which deliver a thorough cleanse and satisfying lather. If they're a concern of yours, take note.

Key Ingredients: Ketoconazole | Who It's For: People with stubborn dandruff

Why It's Worth It: Oribe's Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo contains salicylic acid to wash away buildup, flakes, and excess oil, but this dandruff treatment also has impressive moisturizing properties. This delightfully creamy formula is a blend of hydrating and antioxidant-rich extracts derived from edelweiss flower, watermelon, lychee, and bilberry fruit, which condition the scalp and leave hair feeling softer and smoother than ever before.

Editor Tip: When you skip wash day, consider the Oribe Serene Scalp Oil Control Dry Shampoo Powder, which won a 2023 Best of Beauty Award.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, glycerin, caffeine | Who It's For: People who want results with compromising style

Why It's Worth It: Nioxin's Scalp Recovery Cleanser is a flaky scalp savior for its ability to diminish flaking and dry skin while preventing these concerns from coming back. That's all thanks to the addition of pyrithione zinc, a gentle anti-fungal, and moisture-replenishing antioxidant polyphenols derived from green tea.

Editor Tip: It could be too potent for everyday use, so wash with it twice a week.

Key Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, green tea | Who It's For: Those who anticipate seasonal flakes or dryness

Why It's Worth It: Dr. King also vouches for Dove's Dermacare Scalp Dryness and Itch Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo as an affordable option that's also spiked with pyrithione zinc. "It's a mild, pH-balanced formulation that can decrease yeast on the skin without causing irritation," she says. Plus, this gentle shampoo can be used daily on all hair types.

Editor Tip: It's infused with a refreshing coconut and shea butter scent.

Key Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, coconut oil, shea butter | Who It's For: Those with dry or sensitive scalps

Why It's Worth It: Ouai's Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is one our our top sulfate-free picks for washing dead skin cells and excess oil down the drain. This gentle hair and scalp cleanser targets flaking with exfoliating salicylic acid — making it an excellent choice for oily hair — while conditioning additives like glycerin intensively hydrate the scalp. The results: minimal flakes and much-needed relief from scalp irritation.

Editor Tip: It features the brand's Cape Town scent, which has an earthy feel with a hint of ginger.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, glycerin | Who It's For: Those prone to greasy roots or product buildup

Why It's Worth It: Kérastase's Bain Crème Antipelliculaire Antidandruff Shampoo is not only gentler on hair than some formulas, but it also actively hydrates strands — a hard thing to find among shampoos, dandruff or otherwise. The formula, which has a nourishing, creamy texture, supplements 1% pyrithione zinc with squalane, glycerin, and calming plant extracts.

Editor Tip: It's sulfate-free, which helps prevent further dryness.

Key Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, squalane | Who It's For: People with naturally dry hair

Why It's Worth It: For less than $15, Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo is a budget-friendly pick that does the job right. Like many of the shampoos on this list, its main ingredient is flake-reducing, anti-fungal pyrithione zinc. But what makes Vanicream's shampoo stand out is its gentle, sensitive skin-friendly formulation, which is free of dyes, sulfates, fragrances, lanolin, and parabens.

Editor Tip: It's also formulated without botanical extracts and essential oils, which are potential allergens.

Key Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc | Who It's For: People with very sensitive or reactive skin

Why It's Worth It: The Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo is the ultimate compromise between scalp care and hair health; it makes quick work of scales and flakes without leaving hair dry or dull. "I started using this after I experienced postpartum hair loss with a side of flakes, and found that it somehow left my 2B curls more defined and less frizzy," says Allure contributor Deanna Pai.

Editor Tip: Zendaya is also a fan.

Key Ingredients: Cocamidopropyl betaine, piroctone olamine | Who It's For: People with waves and curls

Why It's Worth It: TPH by Taraji's Master Cleanse Scalp Treatment Wash has a three-pronged applicator that allows the soothing product to reach every corner of your scalp, but that's not the only reason we love this 2020 Best of Beauty Award winner. This invigorating shampoo is made with a trifecta of itch- and flake-reducing ingredients like witch hazel, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil. All three of these ingredients are known for their anti-inflammatory and sebum-balancing properties, and when combined, they work hand-in-hand to address your scalp-related needs.

Editor Tip: The clever nozzle easily navigates through wigs, weaves, and protective hairstyles to get to your scalp. "The clarifying Master Cleanse is watery enough that it's easy to make sure that no area gets missed, plus the slight tingle the product creates when you massage it in means you can really feel where it's penetrating," Allure editor in chief Jessica Cruel, who uses it as a pre-shower clarifying treatment, previously said. "Once I added water, this cleanser didn’t lather as much as most (it’s sulfate-free), but it cleared away weeks of flakes and edge-control gel with the blend of witch hazel water, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil."

Key Ingredients: Witch hazel, tea tree oil, eucalyptus | Who It's For: People with coarse or textured hair

Why It's Worth It: If you're worried about brassiness or stripping away color with the more powerful shampoos on this list, look no further than DpHue's Apple Cider Vinegar Soothing Shampoo. It can get rid of dandruff flakes with its gentle yet effective star ingredient, apple cider vinegar, which exfoliates and provides antibacterial benefits. This intensive cleanser is free of sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulfates, two ingredients notorious for causing color to fade.

Editor Tip: Not only does it not strip color, but it can actually boost shine.

Key Ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, ginger root extract, lavender | Who It's For: People who color their hair

Why It's Worth It: Paul Mitchell's Tea Tree Special Shampoo won Allure commerce writer Jennifer Hussein over with its combination of anti-inflammatory tea tree oil, peppermint, and soothing lavender, which provides a zingy, get-your-scalp-right kind of clean. It helps wash away dirt and oil and is made for all hair types, too.

Editor Tip: New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, recommends using the wash with its matching conditioner, which also invigorates the scalp.

Key Ingredients: Tea tree oil, peppermint, lavender | Who It's For: People who want an aromatherapeutic option

Why It's Worth It: Neutrogena's T/Sal Shampoo is a classic dandruff-buster with 3% salicylic acid as its star ingredient. "Just like in products designed for your face, shampoos containing salicylic acid work as "a peeling agent that helps increase cell turnover," according to cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson. "This can help reduce flaking and break up the scaly patches."

Editor Tip: This is a good option if you're not sure what kind of condition you're working with, since it targets signs of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and scalp psoriasis alike.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Who It's For: People with thick or large flakes

Why It's Worth It: Got an itch that can't be satisfyingly scratched? Head & Shoulders's Clinical Strength Dandruff Defense Intensive Itch Relief Shampoo, an Allure Best of Beauty winner, is here to help. This intensive shampoo gets its itch-relieving powers from 1% selenium sulfide, which our dermatologists previously listed as a go-to ingredient for addressing dandruff and the itchiness that comes with it.

Editor Tip: If you have a sensitive scalp, the Head & Shoulders Clinical Dandruff Defense Sensitive Shampoo is a gentler yet effective option. The 2022 Allure Best of Beauty winner targets dandruff with 1% selenium sulfide, while aloe vera works its soothing, irritation-calming powers.

Key Ingredients: Selenium sulfide, menthol | Who It's For: People with pronounced itchiness

Why It's Worth It: The star ingredient in Jupiter's Balancing Shampoo is 1% pyrithione zinc, which means this shampoo is especially great for sensitive scalps. To keep the skin on your scalp free of flaking and irritation, this shampoo is also infused with coconut oil and squalane, two ingredients that are known for their moisture-retaining abilities.

Editor Tip: It works best if it sits for two to three minutes before you rinse.

15 Best Dandruff Shampoos 2024 to Soothe Itchy, Dry Scalp | Allure

100% Rubber Wood Particle Board Key Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc, squalane, coconut oil | Who It's For: People who want to avoid greasiness at the roots