Dandruff Shampoo

Monday, 17 November 2008 | Tags: , ,

Moisturizing your scalp is important for preventing dandruff, and also for nourishing your hair as it grows. To treat a dry, itchy, flaky scalp, various dandruff shampoos use different active ingredients. We test some options to see which work best.

The Basics

  • Gentle and regular cleansing with a dandruff shampoo usually keeps flakes at bay.

  • The active ingredient in the shampoo provides the de-flaking success:

    • Pyrithione Zinc is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that helps reduce the fungus that causes dandruff.

    • Tar-based shampoos use coal tar, a by-product of the coal manufacturing process, to control dandruff by slowing the creation of skin cells, which in turn decreases the number of flakes.

    • Selenium sulfide prevents active cell turnover.

    • Ketoconazole is a broad spectrum antifungal agent relatively new to the market and has shown favourable results.

    • Tea Tree Oil is a natural ingredient extracted from the Australian tea tree. It’s considered a cosmetic agent not a pharmaceutical, but has been proven to reduce the severity and extent of dandruff.

  • To be sure you’ve got dandruff, turn your head upside down, and rub your scalp vigorously over a piece of dark paper or fabric:

    • Tiny dry powdery bits mean you have a dry scalp.

    • Larger and slightly greasy flakes mean you’ve got dandruff.

Be Aware

  • If your scalp is also red and irritated you may have seborrheic dermatitis. If the flakes are sticking to your head you could have psoriasis. Both of these conditions should be treated by your doctor.


With the help of some willing testers who struggle to manage their dandruff, we tested these different dandruff shampoos to see which helped fight the flakes best.

Our test products: .  
  • Head & Shoulders pyrithione zinc: $1.63 per 100 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Nature’s Gate Organics tea tree oil: $2.40 per 100 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Selsun Blue sulfide: $3.66 per 100 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Neutrogena T/Gel coal tar ingredient: $5.57 per 100 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Redken pyrithione zinc: $5.65 per 100 ml
. .
  • Nizoral anti-fungal agent: $10.83 per 100 ml
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)


Flake Test

  • Head & Shoulders and Redken use the same active ingredient and both do a good job dealing with dandruff. 

  • The smell and look of the Neutrogena T/Gel is very unappealing, though it certainly worked.

  • The tea tree oil in Nature’s Gate controlled flakes and left hair feeling nice and soft.

  • Selsun Blue has a distinct smell but it also did a good job controlling itch and flakes.


The various active ingredients worked had a different effect on different testers, so it’s a matter of finding out which one works best for you. However, once you’ve found your ingredient, the texture and smell of the shampoo may make a difference to your top choice.



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