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According to Experts, These Are *the* Shampoos to Use If You Have Dandruff


Dandruff is one of those pesky topics that no one ever seems to want to talk about, but we most definitely should talk about! (In fact, according to Columbia Skin Clinic, one in five people deals with dandruff.) So let’s shed the mystique shall we? While it’s incredibly common, dandruff—and its treatment—can be a little more complicated than one might think, and since a multitude of issues might be at play, it’s best to meet with a dermatologist if you’ve been experiencing new or or worsening scalp issues like flaking, itchiness, or irritation.

You’ll want to heed your doctor’s diagnosis and directions, especially since there are different types of dandruff and the intensity can vary, but your product regimen can go a long way in terms of management and treatment. Below, we’re covering some baseline questions and need-to-knows about dandruff in addition to asking trusted experts for their top recommendations when it comes to the best shampoos and conditioners for dandruff.

But first, what is dandruff, and can you actually get rid of it?

While dandruff may seem pretty straight forward, it can actually present in multiple ways. According to board-certified dermatologist Kseniya Kobets, director of cosmetic dermatology at Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care, dandruff can present as an oily scalp, as an oily and dry scalp (which she says tends to be confusing for patients), and sometimes just as a dry scalp. “Dandruff—or seborrheic dermatitis—is thought to be caused by the overgrowth of a particular genus of yeast (fungus Malassezia spp), but many other factors can worsen or exacerbate it.”

For instance, dandruff can flare up during times of stress (likely, Kobets says, from an increase in cortisol, which can spike inflammation and disrupt our body’s normal immune responses), but it can also be triggered by other factors that disrupt the balance of the scalp’s microbiome. Think products that are excessively oily, product buildup, or even certain medications like systemic antibiotics. 

Lastly, while dandruff is highly treatable, it isn’t curable. “There are several excellent treatments that help to reduce or prevent dandruff, but once the treatment stops, the dandruff tends to return,” notes Sanjay Batra, Ph.D., a regenerative medicine expert who’s well-versed on all things scalpcare. “Caring for the scalp is imperative so that the fungus is prevented from becoming too widespread,” Batra explains. And the treatments don’t have to be extreme or too intense. Choosing the right type of shampoo—be it clarifying, medicated, or fortified with scalp-healthy ingredients—can go a long way. More on that below!