These 11 Anti-Dandruff Shampoos Will Keep Your Scalp Flake Free

Jupiter Balancing Shampoo gets to the root of dandruff.

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Best Dandruff Shampoos
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Considering I'm a New Yorker who wears all-black often, it's imperative that my scalp stay flake-free all year long — I cringe any time my dandruff creates an unsightly snowfall spread atop my shoulders. That being said, I know how difficult it is to keep the scalp happy 24/7. Having dealt with a dry, flaky, and irritated scalp for years, I know a thing or two about which products and ingredients work best for staying flake-free. Before looking into scalp serums, scrubs, and massagers, you need to add a reliable anti-dandruff shampoo into your routine. Luckily, I've tried practically every worthwhile one on the market, and I asked two experts for the tips and tricks, too. Right now, we crowned the Jupiter Balancing Shampoo as our best overall pick. It packs a one-two punch that controls dandruff and keeps strands moisturized, plus it works for nearly all hair types.

But because we know you might want to shop around, below, we've rounded up the tried-and-true, best dandruff shampoos for different hair types, hair needs, and budgets, too.

Our Picks

Best Overall: Jupiter Balancing Shampoo

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What We Love: The creamy, hydrating texture soothes the scalp beautifully.

What We Don't Love: It's only sold on their website, so it might be hard to get at times.

We name this the best of the bunch for a reason. Not only do other InStyle editors use (and love) the shampoo, but it's the one shampoo I consistently come back to for dandruff control. The rich, creamy texture builds into a lather beautifully. It doesn't feel thin or gel-like that's common among other anti-dandruff shampoos. Because most anti-dandruff shampoos focus on treating the scalp, I've found not all of them actually hydrate my hair. But Jupiter does. The medicated, active ingredient zinc pyrithione (which only has a one percent concentration) treats flakes, while squalane, coconut oil, and sugar kelp extract nourish the hair, increase hair shine, decrease breakage, and as a bonus, hydrate the scalp, too. It's safe for color- and chemically-treated hair because it's sulfate-, paraben-, phthalate-, cruelty-, and dye-free, which all tend to be too harsh for delicate strands.

When applying to your hair, make sure you lather enough to cover your entire scalp, and let sit for 2-3 minutes — it's important to let the product sit for a few minutes to allow the active ingredient to do its job. You can use this shampoo 3-4 times per week, but the amount will depend on your scalp's needs.

Price at time of publish: $24

Size: 9.5 fl oz | Hair Type: All Hair Types | Fragrance-Free: No

Best Value: Dove Beauty DermaCare Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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What We Love: Low price with high efficacy.

What We Don't Love: The sulfates may irritate your scalp, if you're sensitive to sulfates.

InStyle beauty editor Kayla Greaves recommends this shampoo for those with natural curls who suffer from dandruff. It leaves the hair and scalp feeling super moisturized so much so that Greaves says, "I was able to easily run the comb straight through my hair." According to her, it was the quickest wash day she's ever experienced. Dove infused coconut and shea butter into the pH-balanced formula to give customers a pleasant, subdued smell. With continued use, your flaky scalp will heal, while drier, dull strands come back to life. We love the low price yet high efficacy, and appreciate that you can use this product long-term without breaking the bank in the process.

Although this product is paraben-free, dye-free, and aluminum-free, it does contain sulfates, which might cause irritation for sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Price at time of publish: $5

Size: 12 fl oz | Hair Type: All Hair Types | Fragrance-Free: No

Best for Fine Hair: Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

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What We Love: It uses uncommon ingredients to fight dandruff.

What We Don't Love: The sulfates may irritate your scalp, if you're sensitive to sulfates.

Because Sachajuan loaded this shampoo with high-functioning ingredients rarely found in other shampoos, like piroctone olamine and climbazole, yet crucial for a flake-free scalp, it soothes inflammation and irritation while gently removing dandruff. It also includes a rich blend of botanicals — like rosemary oil, menthol, ginger extract — and medicinal properties, like lactic and salicylic acids, to promote cell turnover and maintain the moisture balance of your hair and scalp. Thanks to its lightweight formula, it will work well for fine hair that looks greasy easily. Plus, the product is vegan, cruelty-, and paraben-free.

Price at time of publish: $34

Size: 8.4 fl oz | Hair Type: Dry Hair | Fragrance-Free: No

Best for Curly Hair: SheaMoisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo

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What We Love: It's formulated specifically for curly hair.

What We Don't Love: It might feel too heavy on fine hair types.

As a traditional, natural cleanser for clarifying and smoothing the skin, African black soap stands out in this SheaMoisture formula. The sulfate-free shampoo thoroughly cleanses the scalp, removing excess oil, dirt, and any flakey build-ups. Plus, with ingredients such as bamboo charcoal, tea tree oil, and willow bark extract, the shampoo will soothe your scalp. It's so powerful that it doesn't even need an active anti-dandruff ingredient (like pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole) to effectively treat and prevent dandruff. But best of all, it will revitalize your curls, whether you have loose waves or tight coils.

Price at time of publish: $9

Size: 13 fl oz | Hair Type: Curly and Natural Hair Types | Fragrance-Free: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: Vanicream Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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What We Love: The unscented, mild shampoo has been tested by dermatologists, confirming it's safe for sensitive skin.

What We Don't Love: It doesn't have many benefits outside of soothing the scalp and preventing dandruff.

I have sensitive skin that reacts to harsh formulas and strong fragrances, but the Vanicream skin care line is one of the few products that doesn't cause irritation even when used regularly — and their anti-dandruff shampoo is no exception. Formulated with two percent zinc pyrithione, this pick reaches the maximum over-the-counter strength to calm itchy, flakey skin caused by excessive dryness. It even works well for those with seborrheic dermatitis, a condition that causes chronic dandruff. Much like the rest of the Vanicream products, this shampoo is free of dyes, fragrances, parabens, lanolin, proteins, gluten, sulfates, and formaldehyde releasers. The only downside: it probably won't do much for your hair, like add volume, shine, or any other benefits because it's solely focused on the health of your skin.

Price at time of publish: $12

Size: 8 fl oz | Hair Type: Sensitive Scalp | Fragrance-Free: Yes

Best Eco-Friendly: Ethique Heali Kiwi Solid Shampoo Bar

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What We Love: It's eco-conscious thanks to its plastic-free, compostable packaging and mindful ingredients.

What We Don't Love: Using a shampoo bar can be slippery while applying.

For anyone looking to purchase an eco-conscious product that also fights dandruff, this shampoo bar from Ethique will work wonders for you. Although it might take some getting used to, since it's a bar, I'm confident you'll be hooked on this 100 percent soap-free, pH balanced formula. Thanks to calming oils like karanja, neem, and lime, on top of healing oatmeal, this pick will relieve an irritated scalp, while gently cleansing your hair, too. Reviewers love how clean their hair feels post-shower, and also appreciate that the bar doesn't leave any residue after rinsing. You will even positively impact the planet by using this product: you'll save three 350 mL plastic bottles and 2,750 mL of water with each purchase. And one tree is planted for every product.

Using a shampoo bar is pretty simple, but it might take a newcomer some getting used to. First, you need to wet your hair and the shampoo bar. Then slide the bar from root to tip about 3-4 times. Next, set the bar down and lather the shampoo into your hair until it begins to foam. Finally, rinse the product and follow with a conditioner if you'd like.

Price at time of publish: $17

Size: 3.88 oz | Hair Type: Itchy Scalp | Fragrance-Free: No

Best Extra-Strength: Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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What We Love: It's a trusted anti-dandruff brand with many years of research under its belt.

What We Don't Love: It could be drying if used every day.

When it comes to fighting dandruff, there's nothing more recognizable than the Head & Shoulders brand. This clinical-strength formulation contains one percent selenium sulfide to help fight off flakes with regular use. If you suffer from occasional bouts of dandruff that flair up as the seasons change, this product might not be for you, though, because it's designed to treat severe, chronic dandruff. It promises to moisturize your hair, but take that advice with a grain of salt; its ingredients focus on the scalp rather than the strands, so we recommend following up with a hydrating or leave-in conditioner to ensure you don't strip your hair.

Price at time of publish: $10

Size: 13.5 fl oz | Hair Type: Very Dry, Irritated Scalp | Fragrance-Free: No

Best for Short Hair: First Aid Beauty Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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What We Love: It's gentle and safe for color-treated hair.

What We Don't Love: This formula doesn't lather and foam easily due to the thick texture.

First Aid Beauty dipped its toes in the sensitive scalp category with this Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. Not only does this shampoo contain pyrithione zinc to fight the flakes, but it also features calendula and vitamin E to prevent itchiness and dryness, too. We love that it's sulfate-, paraben-, silicone-, gluten-, and cruelty-free.

Blair Murphy-Rose, a New York-based board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of NY, loves the First Aid Beauty Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for those with shorter locks. "This shampoo is an excellent choice for shorter hair—it doesn't lather quite as well for longer hair." Other reviewers also mentioned that, while the formula feels rich and creamy, it doesn't lather and foam as well as some others. If you do have long hair, you might need to use more product than expected.

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 8 fl oz | Hair Type: All Hair Types | Fragrance-Free: Yes (No Artificial Fragrance)

Best Ketoconazole Shampoo: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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What We Love: It works great for tough-to-treat dandruff.

What We Don't Love: It can be very drying to your hair.

Dr. Murphy-Rose loves ketoconazole for fighting against flakes, especially this one percent ketoconazole shampoo from Nizoral. But because of how tough it is, it can dry out your hair when used too often. Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends using it only once or twice a week in between your washes with regular shampoo and hydrating conditioner. She also does not recommend the product for color-treated hair because it won't be gentle on delicate hair.

Despite how tough it is, though, it does lather nicely, spreading easily throughout your entire head. And if you are worried about it drying out your hair too much, try only applying the product only to your problem areas. (For me, it's along my hairline.)

Price at time of publish: $27

Size: 7 fl oz | Hair Type: All Hair Types, Thick | Fragrance-Free: No

Best Moisturizing: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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What We Love: The gorgeous scent and beautiful texture.

What We Don't Love: It might not be as effective as other stronger anti-dandruff formulas.

Have you seen a sexier anti-dandruff shampoo before? We think not. On top of being a beautifully-scented product (it features Oribe's signature bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood scent named Côte d'Azur) that will look lovely in your shower, this shampoo relieves dryness, reduces redness on the scalp, eliminates dandruff flakes, and helps maintain a healthy moisture barrier to prevent further aggravation. It boasts a plethora of ingredients: orange and lemon fruit extracts to keep your scalp's moisture balance in check, sugarcane to hydrate your hair and scalp, and salicylic acid to gently exfoliate the scalp and eliminate dandruff flakes. It's safe for color-treated hair, and is ideal for those who deal with mild dandruff from time to time.

Price at time of publish: $46

Size: 8.5 fl oz | Hair Type: All Hair Types | Fragrance-Free: No

Best Treatment: Cucinello Beauty Plush Perfecting Scalp Treatment

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What We Love: The luxe lather and skincare-worthy ingredients.

What We Don't Love: It's only sold on their website.

I trust my hair with few people, and Paul Cucinello, a New York City-based celebrity stylist, is one of them. When Cucinello told me he was coming out with his own hair care line that focused on maintaining scalp health with skincare-worthy ingredients, I knew I would hoard every product. A few years later, and I'm still regularly using his line for all my hair care needs — the biggest one being my dry, irritated scalp.

The Plush Perfecting Scalp Treatment feels as luxe as it sounds. Loaded with anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe an irritated scalp. Hyaluronic acid works to hydrate the hair and scalp, while the citrus fruit acid complex gently exfoliates your scalp and closes the cuticle of the hair for a more vibrant color and shine. Apricot kernel oil also helps eliminate dandruff and keeps hair soft and strong, and coconut oil moisturizes, while removing build-up around the hair follicles. This formula is non-drying, safe for color-treated hair, and can be used a few times a week for healthy scalp maintenance.

Price at time of publish: $62

Size: 6 fl oz | Hair Type: All Hair Types | Fragrance-Free: No

What to Keep in Mind

Active Ingredients

For those suffering with moderate to severe dandruff, it's important to look for a product that has an active ingredient to help fight against flakes. These active ingredients include zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, salicylic acid, or ketoconazole.

"Shampoo as often as needed, yet alternate between dandruff fighting active ingredients and gentle daily shampoos to maintain the balance of the scalp's microbiome," explains New York-based trichologist Bridgette Hill. "It is important to slow down the cellular turnover of the scalp when managing dandruff. It is the overactivity of the scalp's cells that create the embarrassing flakiness."

Hair type and length

Finding the right anti-dandruff shampoo for you can depend on your hair type and hair length. For those with fine hair, you'll want to find a lightweight dandruff shampoo that won't weigh hair down, while those with thicker, coarse, or curly hair might be able to handle a thicker shampoo. Additionally, if you have long hair and like a good lather, you might not love the thicker-consistency shampoos that don't spread throughout the scalp as easily.

Severity of dandruff

If you suffer from bouts of dandruff every so often, you might not need an extra-strength anti-dandruff shampoo every time. Consider trying out one of the more gentle yet effective formulas that have more mild flake-fighting ingredients instead, like salicylic acid or a lower dose of zinc pyrithione.

Your Questions, Answered

What causes dandruff?

Dandruff is a chronic condition that waxes and wanes — it's usually associated with excess oil production and an overgrowth of fungus, particularly Malassezia, on the scalp. "The scalp contains an abundance of hair follicles with glands that produce large amounts of sebum, an oily substance, creating an ideal environment for fungi to thrive," explains Dr. Murphy-Rose. "Fungal overgrowth on the scalp can trigger a hypersensitivity-like reaction that causes itching, flaking, and sometimes redness of dandruff."

Washing hair more frequently to reduce the amount of oil and to remove dead skin cells, as well as using antifungal shampoos often controls dandruff. "Dandruff can be worsened by stress and by certain medications," says Dr. Murphy-Rose.

Do I have dandruff or a dry scalp?

Dandruff is a result of the overproduction of yeast fueled by an overproduction of unhealthy bacteria or fungi. "It is a disruption of the scalp's microbiome that prevents the horny layer of the scalp's skin cells to remain tightly coherent, and instead, they shed rapidly, producing uncomfortable build up on the scalp and large flakes to shed from the scalp," explains Hill.

On the other hand, a dry scalp can be a result of something as simple as a reaction to products used, overuse of heating tools, overall body dehydration, to more complex scalp conditions ranging from dandruff to plaque psoriasis. "Dry scalp means there is a depletion in its moisturizing agent which is sebum—insufficient sebum production can be caused by genetics, lifestyle, diet, hairstyling habits, environmental, health, stress, hormones, and medications," explains Hill. "Symptoms of a dry scalp may include tightness, soreness-like flakiness, and dry, brittle hair."

When it comes to explaining dandruff vs. dry scalp, Hill likes to use the analogy of dried seasonings to differentiate flakes as a result of dry/dehydrated scalp and flakes as a result of dandruff. "Flakes from dehydrated and dry scalps are more analogous to salt granules, and dandruff flakes look more like dried onion flakes," she says.

What ingredients should you look for in a dandruff shampoo?

Ingredients that fight yeast will help to reduce dandruff. Common such ingredients include zinc pyrithione and selenium sulfide will help. "For thick scaly plaques, salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, can help to break down the scale," explains Dr. Murphy-Rose. "Skin-soothing ingredients are an added benefit to look for."

How often can you use dandruff shampoo?

According to Dr. Murphy-Rose, you can use a dandruff shampoo every day, and she recommends using it at least three times a week when symptoms are present. "The best way to use them is to lather the shampoo on well and then leave the lather in place for five minutes before rinsing, so the active ingredients have time to go to work," she explains. "In fact, just increasing the frequency of hair washing even with a non-dandruff shampoo can help to treat and prevent dandruff by reducing dandruff-promoting oils on the scalp."

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