At some point, most of us have wondered whether or not we have dandruff — especially when our scalps start to feel the effects of cold, dry weather. It can be challenging to know the difference between dry scalp flakes, product buildup flakes and dandruff flakes.
According to Houston-based dermatologist Dr. Suneel Chilukuri, dandruff affects about 50% of the world’s population today. So, if you have dandruff, the good news is you’re not alone.
Thankfully, affordable anti-dandruff options are aplenty and they’re infused with medicated ingredients that will soothe, heal and nourish the scalp and help you keep flakes at bay for good.
We turned to some top dermatologists and scalp experts to learn about their go-to products for treating dandruff — and they’re all under $20!
Best dandruff shampoos
According to NYC dermatologist Dr. Tiffany Libby, the active ingredient in this shampoo is ketoconazole, which is an alternative to the prescription-strength ingredients many dermatologists would prescribe for dandruff.
Libby suggests rubbing it into your scalp and allowing it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing. If you’re using this shampoo consistently, you should see a decrease in itchiness and flaking over time.
If you’re looking for a tried-and-true formula that has stood the test of time, look no further. This classic shampoo is a favorite of NYC dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. The active ingredient, pyrithione zinc, is very effective in helping to control and treat dandruff.
Not only is it a gentle shampoo that's designed not to dry out or irritate the scalp, but it’s also paraben-free.
Dr. Robyn Gmyrek suggests reaching for a shampoo that’s free of fragrance, gluten and sulfates like this one. Its zinc-infused formula is designed to relieve itchiness and flakiness.
When it comes to an inflamed scalp, you want to look for natural ingredients that hydrate, soothe and heal like tea tree. According to scalp expert Marina Perkovic of Eliut Salon, tea tree oil has natural antifungal properties that help heal dandruff-causing fungus. The formula also includes rosemary to help to soothe and relieve inflammation.
Dr. Deanna Mraz Robinson advises her patients to use this drugstore cleanser two to three times a week. The amount of fungus on the scalp should reduce over time thanks to the antimicrobial ingredient pyrithione zinc.
Neutrogena T-Sal is formulated with 3% salicylic acid to help decrease inflammation. It’s Chilukuri's drugstore pick for busting dandruff and scalp irritation. Salicylic acid also helps to remove excess oils for the scalp and treats scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, too.
This shampoo also contains pyrithione zinc and other ingredients that lower levels of dandruff-causing yeast on the skin, dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner told us. It uses Chinese botanical extracts to soothe the skin and feels like a luxurious treatment.
If you have color-treated hair, you don’t have to sacrifice proper color care to treat your dandruff. Dr. Marisa Garshick opts for this sulfate-free, pyrithione zinc-based shampoo because it not only reduces flaking, itching and irritation, but it keeps dye jobs intact and nourishes the hair, too.
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