16 Luxury Dandruff Shampoos & Treatments That Work For All Textures — & Look Great In The Shower
No one ever said that dealing with an itchy scalp and flakes was glamorous, but thanks to the latest crop of luxury dandruff shampoos and treatments that really work (and look good in your shower, too) that's all about to change.
Almost everyone experiences dandruff, the buildup that forms on your scalp and tends to fall to your shoulders, sprinkling your favorite black sweater with white flakes from time to time; and for a while, trusty Head & Shoulders shampoo was the only treatment option that was readily available. Not to knock the drugstore staple or anything (it really does work — more on that later), but the formula didn't necessarily stack up to the OUAIs and Oribes of the world, at least from a #shelfie standpoint. Beauty enthusiasts were in desperate need of shampoos, conditioners, and stylers that both worked on dandruff and felt luxurious — and boy, did haircare brands heed the call.
But before you can find products that'll work for you, it’s important to realize what causes dandruff, how to effectively treat it, and how to prevent it in the future. “Dandruff is also called seborrheic dermatitis, and it's thought to be caused by yeast that lives on the skin normally,” Dr. Jennifer Vickers of Sanova Dermatology tells The Zoe Report. “That yeast feeds on the oils, or sebum, that our skin produces, leading to inflammation that manifests as redness, irritation, itching, and flaking.”
In other words, it’s not a dry scalp that’s causing flakes. “Dandruff is an oil problem,” Vickers says — and for some, it’s unavoidable. “Unfortunately, it's caused by our genes,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner of Zeichner Dermatology tells us. “In some people, the body reacts more to yeast on the skin then other people.”
There are other factors that cause dandruff-like inflammation, though. Pollutants in the air can irritate the scalp, causing dryness and peeling; and product buildup can result in an itchy scalp, as well. “Bad news for all the dry shampoo addicts out there: If you don't regularly wash your hair, oils and skin cells from your scalp can build up, causing dandruff,” Ed Valentine, the Managing Director of hair care brand NatureLab, tells TZR.
Since people tend to wash their hair less in the fall and winter (because who wants a cold, wet head of hair when it’s 40 degrees outside?), it can seem as if dandruff appears more often in the colder months — but that’s simply a function of behavior, and not the weather’s effect on our skin.
“To treat dandruff, dermatologists target both the yeast and the inflammation,” Dr. Vickers explains. “Dandruff shampoos that are purchased in a drugstore are definitely effective to treat inflammation, but some patients need prescription-strength shampoos or topical steroid creams for control.”
A key ingredient to look for in over-the-counter hair care products is zinc pyrithione, which has been shown to eliminate the symptoms of dandruff and prevent future outbreaks with regular use. Dr. Zeichner recommends Dove DermaCare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti Dandruff Shampoo. “Think of it as a scalp treatment," he suggests. “Apply it with your fingertips, rub it into the scalp, and let it sit while you sing the alphabet, then rinse off. It needs enough contact time with the scalp to exert its effect.”
Once you’ve cleared up a case of dandruff, it’s time to shift your focus to prevention. “Seborrheic dermatitis can sometimes be prevented by increasing the frequency of shampooing,” Dr. Vickers tells us.
Of course, that’s not always a realistic option — especially for women with natural hair, who may only shampoo once or twice a week to preserve the health of their hair. In this case, add a pre-poo or scalp treatment to your wash day routine in order to target excess oil and product buildup. “Witch hazel as a pre-poo works wonders for my dry scalp, " Michelle Thames, a natural hair blogger, explained to NaturallyCurly.com. “Simply massage witch hazel directly on your scalp before you shampoo.”
If it feels like dandruff is taking over your life, it may be time to book an appointment with a dermatologist for a prescription-level treatment. Otherwise, the latest luxury shampoos, conditioners, and stylers — like Oribe's Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-on Treatment, made with biotin to boost the growth of your hair, too — should have you covered.
Ahead, 16 of the prettiest — and most effective — dandruff-fighting products on the market.
Biolage R.A.W. Scalp Care Rebalance Scalp Oil
Consider this your new go-to pre-poo to instantly get rid of itchiness. After applying, wash and style your hair as usual.
African Black Soap Dandruff Control Pre-Poo Rinse
Rid your scalp from dandruff with this mix of charcoal powder (to break through buildup) and shea oil (to balance your natural oils). Massage it into your scalp and let it sit for 10 minutes before shampooing.
"To handle dandruff, I recommend products that are formulated to keep your hair and scalp as healthy as they can be," Valentine tells us. "This shampoo contains plant stem cells, designed to optimize the health of your scalp." If you're wondering, plant stem cells are responsible for the continuous regeneration of the epidermis — which means a healthy, flake-free scalp.
Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
This shampoo blends FDA-compliant dandruff medication with natural, organic ingredients that fight inflammation and flaking (like rosemary extract and jojoba oil).
Refreshing Anti Dandruff Cleanser Tea Tree Mint
Koils by Nature
Keep curls and coils free from flakes with this tea tree-infused foaming cleanser, which also includes natural burdock root and bay leaf to eliminate product buildup.
"Our new Scalp Conditioner has lactic acid, rosemary oil, climbazole, and piroctone olamine to remove dandruff and soothe an irritated scalp," the brand tells TZR.
Scalp Revival Charcoal + Peppermint Oil Cooling Jelly Conditioner
Besides keeping dandruff at bay, this conditioner from Briogeo has the most incredible cooling effect, courtesy of tea tree oil and peppermint oil.
Moisture Care Anti-Dandruff Co-Wash Conditioner
Head & Shoulders
Natural girls can skip the shampoo and head straight to conditioner with Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Co-Wash, made with zinc pyrithione to fight yeast and balance your pH levels.
Dry & Itchy Scalp Care Leave In Conditioner
As I Am
Every product in As I Am's line is designed specifically for textured curls and coils. This olive oil and tea tree leave in conditioner, from the brand's Dry & Itchy Scalp Care range, keeps curls moisturized, shiny, and dandruff-free.
Flaky Scalp Toner
Made with aloe leaf extract, Philip Kingsley's toner has a unique anti-flaking effect, as well as anti-microbial properties to kill inflammation-causing bacteria.
CAKE Restorative Scalp Tonic
Reverie's scalp oil not only soothes irritated scalps, it also prevents hair loss by targeting hair follicles with apple stem cells.
Huile Apaisante Soothing Treatment for Sensitive Scalp
Full of natural ingredients, this once-a-week treatment is ideal for sensitive scalps thanks to azulene, a eucalyptus extract that calms as it de-clogs pores.
Trust Issues Instant Scalp Rebalancing Treatment
IGK Hair Care
Spray this onto your scalp as needed — damp or dry — for a boost of IGK's patented Hydrogel Time Release Technology, which moisturizes the scalp as soon as it hits and keeps working throughout the day.
Scalp & Body Scrub
Massage this into your scalp every week to exfoliate, loosen product buildup, and keep your hair healthy. "If you have thicker hair, or worry about the product not reaching your scalp, you can divide your hair into four sections and apply in sub-sections using a comb, applicator brush, or old toothbrush," celebrity hairstylist Monae Everett tells us.
Purifying Hair Finish Lotion with Sage Vinegar
The key ingredient? Herbal vinegar to balance the pH of your scalp and leave it tingly and refreshed — not itchy.
Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-on Treatment
Like a leave-in conditioner, Oribe's anti-dandruff treatment can be applied after your shower to fight and prevent flaking, thanks to calming aloe vera and protein-building biotin.