The Best Products To Stop Dandruff In Its Tracks

Anyone with dandruff knows it's more than just a minor inconvenience — it's a total pain in the you-know-what. Unfortunately, the stigma around a flaky scalp is still very real (which is surprising, considering nearly 20% of the population has one). And, because it's kept so quiet, chances are you haven't branched out from the same products that were recommended to you years ago, even if they're not working well.
"Dandruff is very common," says Stephen Pullan, trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York. "In its mildest form, it can be thought of simply as dead skin cells shedding off the top layer of the scalp, [which] happens all over the body. The process can speed up, however, creating visual dandruff, or even worse, [symptoms] such as a bothersome form of flakes that adhere to the hair shaft and can create hair loss."
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There are countless ways you can both soothe an itchy scalp or actually treat visible dandruff — and it all starts with finding a product that your scalp responds to. Sometimes this takes some trial and error, not only with products, but also the frequency with which you use them. And a dry scalp isn't always the issue, which means that you can't just slap an oil on to make it go away.
"A lot of people think [having flakes] is a dry-scalp problem, but it's normally actually an oil problem," says David Kingsley, PhD, a trichologist in New York. "It's caused by a lipophilic yeast, which means that it eats oil." But don't stress, because "everybody has it on the scalp, but some people seem to be more affected," he says. No matter what the cause, the solution is finding a product that strikes a balance.
Finding balance can be as simple as opting for a spray to calm itchy skin, doing a monthly exfoliating mask (which often pack both exfoliating AHAs or BHAs), or smoothing on a refreshing oil like tea tree or peppermint. To treat visible flakes, however, Pullan recommends bringing in the big guns: "selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, [coal] tar, or anti-fungal agents such as fluconazole or ketoconazole," he says.
Fortunately, hair care brands are well aware of how important reinvention is in the market, and there are tons of new products that can help remedy an itchy scalp or treat full-blown flaking. Ahead, you'll find dandruff products you probably haven't considered, including masks and sprays, to help turn this annoying scalp issue into a distant memory.
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Even if you don't think your scalp is dry, flakes are still a possibility. According to dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, when your scalp overproduces oil, the additional sebum can harden and resemble dandruff. This clay-based formula will absorb and pull out any residue, flakes, and excess oil so your scalp — and style — will have relief from greasy build-up.

L'Oréal Hair Expert Extraordinary Clay Shampoo For Oily Hair, $4.99, available at L'Oréal.
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Thanks to active ingredient pyrithione zinc, this budget-friendly shampoo is a highly effective way to stop dandruff in its tracks without breaking the bank. Bonus? It has a hit of cucumber for hydration and mint for an invigorating experience.

Clear Complete Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $4.99, available at Target.
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For those who need to clean house quick — i.e. rid the scalp of buildup or excess oil — look to a scalp facial or mask. Including both manual (the brush) and chemical (fruit enzymes) exfoliants, this treatment is like hitting "reset" on the scalp. It sloughs away dry flakes, which will allow your everyday dandruff shampoo to penetrate better. Will it cure existing dandruff? No, but it does help ease the symptoms and it could help prevent dandruff from developing in the first place.

Alterna Haircare Caviar Clinical Exfoliating Scalp Facial, $36, available at Sephora.
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While it may come secondary to finding a product that works, there is another issue many think about: how their dandruff shampoos look in the shower. Not to worry, because chic packaging and medicated ingredients are not mutually exclusive. Take, for example, Swedish brand Sachajuan's Scalp Shampoo. It contains actives (piroctone olamine, climbazole, salicylic acid) and naturally stimulating fragrances (rosemary oil, menthol) in a pared-down bottle.

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo, $28, available at Barneys New York.
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Those with natural or textured hair know that lathering up with a daily foaming shampoo is far from ideal, but if you have an itchy scalp caused by dandruff, there's still hope. The mainstay dandruff shampoo brand we all know and love also offers this handy treatment spray that can be applied between washes. It feels invigorating and tingly when sprayed on, and helps to balance the scalp sans water.

Instead of the medicated ingredients found in the brand's shampoos (selenium sulfide and HydraZinc), this formula has peppermint oil and vitamin E, which soothe the itching that can occur between washings. It also helps to condition hair and moisturize the scalp — but be sure to pick up its classic complementary shampoo if you have severe dandruff. (This stuff won't treat it on its own.)

Head & Shoulders Moisture Care Scalp Soother Treatment, $7.75, available at Walmart.
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Looking for something with a natural active ingredient? French hairstylist Christophe Robin's formula is gentle enough to be used as your everyday wash, but also packs jujube bark extract, a natural anti-dandruff ingredient.

Christophe Robin Purifying Shampoo with Jujube Bark Extract, $38, available at Sephora.
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Trichologist Philip Kingsley, MD, famously created the brand's best-selling hair mask (still available today) for Audrey Hepburn to stop her ongoing hair breakage. The highly targeted range doesn't stop there. Its products, like this dandruff shampoo, are all doctor-approved and have a cult-like following. The formula's active ingredients will help to relieve flaking and itching (thanks to piroctone olamine) and gently cleanse the hair and scalp (courtesy of lauryl betaine).

Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Shampoo, $40, available at Philip Kingsley.
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Phyto's popular anti-dandruff shampoo is consistently sold out across many e-commerce sites — Sephora, Ulta, Birchbox — and for good reasons. In the brand's own clinical trials, the formula cleared 100% of the participants' dandruff in four weeks, and most in under one week, thanks to its exfoliating blend of salicylic acid and willow-leaf extract. Translation: Grab a bottle when you can.

Phyto Phythéol Intense Dandruff Treatment Shampoo, $26, available at Sephora.
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This intensive exfoliating treatment has a major cult following — or at least as much of a following as a dandruff product can have. Gently massage it into your scalp and throughout hair before shampooing, and let the apricot seed powder and argan shells slough away dead skin cells and buildup. The rosemary extract and menthol leave your hair with a super fresh, clean feeling once rinsed.

Kiehl’s Micro-Exfoliating Scalp Treatment, $20, available at Kiehl’s.
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If you want a natural solution to dandruff or a flaky scalp, you're likely familiar with the benefits of tea tree oil. While the science is a bit thinner than with the actives mentioned earlier, there is preliminary evidence — and plenty of first-hand affirmation — to make it worth a try.

Earth's Nectar's spray claims to fight dandruff with bacteria-killing tea tree oil, soothe dry and irritated scalp with jojoba and almond oils, and even help to stop breakage with vitamin E. We love that it's gentle enough to use daily or as a deep conditioning treatment.

Earth's Nectar Jojoba & Tea Tree Scalp Oil, $18.50, available at Sephora.
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Christophe Robin's detoxifying shampoo is enriched with sea salt to rid the scalp of gunk and buildup. The salt crystals are thick, so expect a legit rubdown.

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, $53, available at Sephora.
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