The 6 best dandruff shampoos for men

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ByMasha Vapnitchnaia

The skin flakes and itchy, red scalp that are telltale signs of seborrheic dermatitis (a.k.a. dandruff) are typically caused by a yeast type of fungus. “A yeast found on the skin called malassezia can contribute to the inflammatory response in seborrhea. This yeast feeds on sebum and therefore thrives in oily areas,” Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains to Mic. This is why the best dandruff shampoos for men (or anyone, really) contain powerful antimicrobial and antifungal ingredients and help manage symptoms like itchiness and inflammation — and there are options below that anyone can use.

“We cannot cure seborrheic dermatitis, but we can manage it and there are several [over-the-counter] shampoo ingredients that can be helpful,” Dr. King says, noting that medicated ingredients like ketoconazole, pyrithione zinc, and selenium sulfide all have antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Pyrithione zinc is “particularly gentle and well-suited for sensitive skin,” Dr. King adds. King also recommends some non-medicated ingredients, like tea tree oil and coal tar, though keep in mind that coal tar can discolor light hair and stain nails, skin, and clothing. And if you have a buildup of flakes? “Salicylic acid may be useful when used in conjunction with other treatments. Its main benefit is that it helps to reduce scaling on the scalp,” Dr. King offers. You may want to try different dandruff shampoos to find the active ingredient that works best for you.

Finally, Dr. King notes that dandruff flareups can be caused by a number of reasons, including seasonal changes and stress, and recommends seeing your dermatologist if over-the-counter treatments aren’t sufficient. With that in mind, read on for the best dandruff shampoos — all of which contain ingredients proven to soothe itchy, flaky scalps.


The expert-recommended one

Dr. King recommends this Dove two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, calling it “a mild, pH-balanced formulation that can decrease yeast on the skin without causing irritation.” The chamomile-scented cleanser is made with 1% pyrithione zinc and caffeine, which can also improve scalp health, and it helps to reduce flakes, itchiness, and redness while providing hydration for the scalp. Each order comes with two bottles.

One reviewer wrote: “I've suffered dry scalp and dandruff my entire life. Some days it felt like my scalp was on fire [...] I've tried so many products over the years and absolutely nothing worked [...] This got rid of it in 5 days. This has made my life so much better. 10/10 would recommend.”


The fan favorite

More than 44,000 reviewers on Amazon have given this popular dandruff shampoo a five-star rating. The formula contains 1% ketoconazole to help reduce flaking, and it also works to soothe itchiness and redness. It has a clean, fresh scent, and according to the brand, you’ll only need to use this medicated shampoo twice a week to help control dandruff.

One reviewer wrote: “After one shower, I felt relief for days! No more scratching and no more flakes. I followed directions to use every 3-4 days and I’ve used it 3 times so far. My head feels amazing. I haven’t felt this relieved in forever.”


The one for sensitive skin

Not only does this Vanicream shampoo contain 2% pyrithione zinc, but it’s also free of potentially irritating ingredients, including sulfates, phosphates, parabens, dyes, and fragrance. It’s also pH-balanced. The unscented shampoo has earned more than 3,000 five-star ratings from Amazon reviewers, many of whom recommended following it up with the Vanicream conditioner.

One reviewer wrote: “I have a lot of allergies and sensitivities so when I started to develop some dandruff I was concerned. I decided to try this brand my dermatologist suggested for the dandruff control and it worked in 1 to 2 shampoos! Amazing stuff. “


The exfoliating one with salicylic acid

The formula of this scalp relief shampoo includes two non-medicated active ingredients recommended by Dr. King: tea tree oil (which has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties) and salicylic acid to reduce scaling. It’s a pH-balanced hair cleanser and is also paraben- and silicone-free. The shampoo also contains sage oil, which can help improve hair strength and growth, and it has a fresh scent.

One reviewer wrote: “I love this shampoo and was on the hunt for a cruelty free dandruff shampoo that actually works on my hair. My scalp is very sensitive and this cleans my hair without stripping it.”


The classic one

Head & Shoulders has been synonymous with dandruff relief for decades, and this shampoo can help reduce flakes and excess oil production while hydrating the scalp. The medicated shampoo includes 1% selenium sulfide, moisturizing honey, and cooling menthol to soothe itching and dryness. It also has a fresh, citrus scent.

One reviewer wrote: “I couldn't get my shampoos to last more than a day because of how oily my hair was. Now I can go 3 days [...] You don't need much either [...] Once I cleared up the oil, no more dandruff.”


The one with coal tar

This dandruff shampoo contains 2.9% solubilized coal tar extract and is free from dyes and artificial fragrances — but like all tar shampoos, it has a strong, distinct smell on application and can potentially darken light hair. However, with a 4.5-star overall rating on Amazon, it has worked for many reviewers. The brand recommends using it at least twice a week for best results.

One reviewer wrote: “I have really bad flaky and [itchy] dandruff and after 2 washes it started to relieve my symptoms. Honestly a life saver.”


Dr. Hadley King, board-certified dermatologist in New York City

Study referenced:

Fischer, T., Hipler, U., & Elsner, P. (2007). Effect of caffeine and testosterone on the proliferation of human hair folliclesin vitro. International Journal Of Dermatology, 46(1), 27-35.