How To Effectively Use Anti-Dandruff Shampoos?


Dandruff is a buildup of skin cells that shed of the scalp. The shedding of dead skin cells is a normal process, but becomes a problem when cell turnover takes place too fast, causing noticeable flakes that do not go away as easy when you shampoo.

The fungus malassezia is a trigger of excessive dandruff, when it grows in large amounts on the skin. Malassezia is also known as  pityrosporum. Anti-dandruff shampoos are formulated with ingredients that kill malassezia.

Some of these ingredients include:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Zinc pyrithione
  • Coal tar
  • Salicylic acid

Dandruff shampoos, work based on the individual. I recommend trying a couple of anti – dandruff shampoos with different ingredients to see which shampoo works best for you. The following list of shampoos are to guide you, but feel free to try other brands as well.

Over the counter shampoos 

  1. MG 217 PSORIASIS shampoo is an over the counter shampoo, that will break down, and remove stubborn dandruff from the hair, and scalp thoroughly. The ingredient that helps combat flakes is the 3% coal tar. I use this shampoo on clients who have psoriasis because it breaks down hard to remove flakes, without irritating the scalp for some people. It is an all in one shampoo, and conditioner so it does not leave the hair dry.

Shampoos with coal tar do not have a pleasant smell. The odor can linger after the shampoo is rinsed out the of hair.

You can use a nicer smelling moisturizing shampoo after rinsing the MG 217 PSORIASIS shampoo to minimize the coal tar smell. I recommend Affirm MoistuRight Nourishing Shampoo which has a great smell.

Using a moisturizing shampoo as a second wash, after a dandruff shampoo, will also help prevent dryness of the hair.  

  1. Nizoral A-D Ketoconazole 1% anti-dandruff shampoo is effective in removing dandruff. The smell of Nizoral is pleasant, and clients who use this shampoo one to two times a week get the best results. The ketoconazole kills malassezia, and also limits the growth of fungus. In the salon, I use Nizoral shampoo to minimize scales from seborrheic dermatitis. I do not recommend using this shampoo more than two times for the week because it can be very drying on the hair. This is why it is important to use a moisturizing shampoo right after anti-dandruff shampoos to help soften your hair.
  2. Selsun Blue Deep Cleansing Micro Bead Scrub shampoo active ingredient is 3% salicylic acid. Aside from killing fungus associated with dandruff, salicylic acid dissolves dandruff so it is easily washed away. This shampoo can be used one to two times a week.

Professional anti-dandruff shampoos 

  1. Mizani Scalp Care Shampoo has 1% pyrithione zinc in it and works well if you just want to control dandruff that is easier to remove. If you have a more chronic flakes it will be more beneficial to use the Mizani Scalp Care Pre Treatment to exfoliate your scalp, prior to using the Mizani Scalp Care Shampoo. The Mizani Scalp Care Pre Treatment has salicylic acid, which helps exfoliate. It must sit on the scalp for three minutes. Once you rinse it, proceed to use the Mizani Scalp Care Shampoo. Using the pre treatment will help get excess build up, and oil off the scalp. The Mizani Scalp Care Pre Treatment is a gentle pre treatment, and will not leave your scalp feeling dry.
  2. Help Hair Scalp Therapy Shampoo is another option to help keep dandruff under control if your case of              dandruff is not severe. It has 2% pyrithione zinc, and is a shampoo and conditioner in one. So you get the benefits of gently removing flakes, and maintaining the proper moisture levels in your hair.
  3. Nioxin Scalp Recovery Medicating Cleanser with 1% zinc helps the scalp feel invigorated, and soothed if you suffer from dry, itchy flakes. What helps alleviate dry scalp even better is the leave in treatment for the scalp, called Nioxin Scalp Therapy Soothing Serum. First, shampoo with the Nioxin Scalp Recovery Medicating Shampoo, second condition your hair with the conditioner of your choice, after the conditioner is rinsed, apply Nioxin Scalp Recovery Soothing Serum.

How to prevent dryness while using a dandruff shampoo?

Put the dandruff shampoo of your choice in a applicator bottle, and place the shampoo directly on the scalp. This will prevent the shampoo from touching your hair. Let the shampoo sit on the hair for 10 minutes. Rinse the dandruff shampoo, and use a moisturising shampoo of your choice directly after rinsing the dandruff shampoo.

You can also use clarifying shampoos to remove flakes, but you have to let the clarifying shampoo sit on the scalp for 10 minutes as well. I have had much success in the salon with DevaCurl BUILDUP BUSTER, it is a sulfate free clarifying cleanser that gently clarifies the hair and scalp. It uses micellar water to remove dirt, and buildup without stripping your hair. I recommend this for natural, and relaxed hair. If you are sensitive to ingredients found in standard shampoos, try DevaCurl BUILDUP BUSTER.

Another sulfate free clarifying option, that can help remove flakes, is Malibu C Scalp Wellness Shampoo. It has spearmint, and eucalyptus which are essential oils with antifungal properties. They also sooth the scalp, which helps with irritation and itching.

I would advise to follow up with a moisturizing shampoo after using one of these sulfate free options just to be on the safe side, just because a shampoo is sulfate free, does not mean that your hair will not feel dry after, especially if it is a clarifying shampoo. Other moisturizing shampoos to try are:

Not sure what conditioners you can use after cleansing your scalp? Here are some recommendations.

How to remove stubborn flakes?

Use a scale softener like Philip Kingsley Scalp Exfoliating Scalp Mask before you use a dandruff shampoo. I like this mask because it removes buildup of the scalp, while moisturizing the scalp. The texture of the mask is creamy, which allows you to place it exactly where you need it on the scalp. The Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask also helps sooth the scalp from itching. Another option to soften flakes before you shampoo, would be witch hazel. It will help loosen flakes, and make it easier for the shampoo to breakdown the dandruff.

Other Scale Softeners to try:

How often should you use a dandruff shampoo? 

Shampoo at least one to two times a week until you notice improvements with your scalp. Once you see less dandruff, you need to shampoo a minimum of once a week, making sure to alternate between a dandruff shampoo, and a moisturizing shampoo. Use a scalp toner after you condition your hair, or in between the week when your scalp feels dry. A good toner for the scalp is Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner. It is a leave in toner with camphor that helps sooth the scalp, and control fungus. This method will slow down the reoccurrence of dandruff.

Why you should never use heavy oils to treat dandruff?

Oils do not help remove dandruff from the scalp. Oils make flakes stick to your hair, and scalp, making them harder to remove.

Sometimes, it takes a while to find a dandruff shampoo that works for you. Try more than one, to see which one works best for you. If after you have tried a few shampoos for 3 months or more, and do not notice a change, you should see a dermatologist.

What are some anti – dandruff shampoos that work well for you?




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