The itching and flaking of dandruff can almost always be controlled. For mild dandruff, first try daily cleansing with a gentle shampoo to reduce oil and skin cell buildup. If that doesn’t help, try a medicated dandruff shampoo. You may need to try more than one shampoo to find the hair care routine that works for you. And you’ll likely need repeated or long-term treatment.
If you develop itching, stinging, redness or burning from any product, stop using it. If you develop an allergic reaction — such as a rash, hives or difficulty breathing — seek immediate medical attention.
Dandruff shampoos are classified according to the medication they contain:
- Pyrithione zinc shampoos (DermaZinc, Head & Shoulders, Jason Dandruff Relief 2 in 1). These contain the antibacterial and antifungal agent zinc pyrithione.
- Tar-based shampoos (Neutrogena T/Gel). Coal tar slows how quickly skin cells on your scalp die and flake off. If you have light-colored hair, this type of shampoo may cause discoloration. It can also make the scalp more sensitive to sunlight.
- Shampoos containing salicylic acid (Neutrogena T/Sal, Baker’s P & S, others). These products help eliminate scale.
- Selenium sulfide shampoos (Head & Shoulders Intensive, Selsun Blue, others). These contain an antifungal agent. Use these products as directed and rinse well after shampooing, as they can discolor the hair and scalp.
- Ketoconazole shampoos (Nizoral A-D). This shampoo is intended to kill dandruff-causing fungi that live on your scalp. It’s available over-the-counter or by prescription.
If one type of shampoo works for a time and then seems to lose its effectiveness, try alternating between two types of dandruff shampoos.