Call me a hippie or call me an optimist, but I truly believe that mother nature knows best. When it comes to treating and preventing dandruff, I’m a huge fan of natural dandruff shampoos that actually work by either inhibiting yeast growth or effectively removing dead skin and other buildup.
“Dandruff is an inflammatory skin condition that is genetic. Some believe that it’s caused by a sensitivity to a yeast that lives on all of our skin,” Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., a New York-based board certified dermatologist, explains to Bustle.
With that in mind, you may want to look for ingredients which inhibit yeast growth. “Shampoos containing selenium and/or zinc can be helpful, as these minerals have antifungal properties,” says Dr. Mudgil. Another great ingredient to look for is tea tree oil, one of nature’s best dandruff treatments, thanks in part to its antifungal properties. Using a shampoo with salicylic acid is another way to keep your scalp free of dead skin cells and other kinds of buildup, which make dandruff and irritation worse.
Aside from treating your dandruff with specific ingredients, it’s also important to choose formulas that won’t dry out or irritate your scalp in other ways. “Those with dandruff have sensitive skin and should be on the lookout for products that exacerbate their condition,” advises Dr. Mudgil.
Not sure where to begin? These 12 highly rated dandruff shampoos work with powerful natural ingredients — and without harsh cleansing agents which can irritate your scalp further.
1. This Medicated Dandruff Shampoo With 2% Salicylic Acid
With botanicals, essential oils, and 2% salicylic acid, Avalon Organics dandruff shampoo helps keep your scalp comfortable and free of buildup and flakes. It’s also free of parabens, sulfates, synthetic colors, and fragrances, and it’s a great option for sensitive scalps.
A Helpful Review: “Dandruff is pretty much gone. If I wash my hair every other day or every day with this, I don’t even see any dandruff anymore! I had very severe psoriasis and nothing helped. This is AMAZING.”
2. A Refreshing Option That People Call “Magical”
Because it uses healing ingredients like rosemary, olive oil, and jojoba, Jason’s dandruff shampoo moisturizes dry scalps naturally with a refreshing scent. However, the real secret is salicylic acid and sulfur, which eliminates dryness, flakes, and itch.
A Helpful Review: “I read the reviews and they were too good to be true. But since I moved to IL from CA 2.5 years ago I have been suffering from dandruff and I have not been able to find a cure. I have used all famous shampoos, though they gave relief when I used them, there was nothing permanent. […] I bought this 2 days ago and after using it just once, the dandruff is gone. No itchy scalp, no dandruff, nothing. […] This is a magical product and I wonder why I did not find this thing two years ago.”
3. A Therapeutic Zinc Shampoo With 4.6 Stars
DHS zinc shampoo is another favorite on Amazon, and it includes one of the key ingredients that Dr. Mudgil recommends: zinc — specifically 2% pyrithione zinc — to heal, calm, and balance the scalp. The effective formula improves the look and feel of the scalp, all while conditioning and healing. The only downside is that it’s not free of sulfates.
A Helpful Review: “I have been using this Zinc shampoo for only 2 months and even after the very first use, my dandruff was gone! I have not had to “check” my shoulders once since I started using this product.”
4. A Fragrance-Free Zinc Bar Soap That Can Be Used On Hair
When you see a bar of soap, you probably don’t immediately think of it as a hair product, but this Zinc Therapy bar from DermaHarmony is a versatile budget-friendly option. It’s formulated with 2% pyrithione zinc, plus soothing ingredients like oatmeal, olive oil, and vitamin E. What’s more, it’s notably fragrance free for those who have sensitive skin. To use, simply work up a later using warm water and massage into scalp and hair (or other affected facial areas).
A Helpful Review: “I’ve suffered with seborrheic dermatitis on face for years. […] UNTIL this bar! Ever since I was informed that this condition is basically just face dandruff (I’ve also suffered from scalp dandruff too) I started to treat it the same way I do my scalp! Pyrithione zinc is a gift.”
5. This Tea Tree Shampoo & Conditioner Combo
This sulfate- and paraben-free tea tree shampoo and conditioner set is gentle and reinvigorating on your hair and scalp, while the antifungal properties of tea tree oil help with dandruff. It includes nourishing organic ingredients like raw manuka honey, coconut oil, and aloe vera, too. The best part is, it comes in a huge 16-ounce bottles that will last you ages.
A Helpful Review: “A little goes a long way. I have been using the regular Honeyskin shampoo and conditioner, but was still having dandruff issues. I am so glad I tried this new tea tree line, the first time I used it, dandruff gone! Also left my hair silky & smooth. Love!”
6. A Super Gentle Shampoo For The Most Sensitive Scalps
More than 8,000 reviewers have given this Maple Holistics shampoo a perfect five-star rating, and it’s another great sulfate-free, therapeutic tea tree shampoo that helps ease flaking and irritation. It leaves hair feeling clean and moisturized simultaneously, and reviewers report that it helps with a range of other scalp issues like acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and rashes as well.
A Helpful Review: “I’ve had problems with dandruff related to sebhoric dermatitis since I was a kid 40 plus years ago. Nothing I’ve tried has helped very much and that includes the sulfur based products, ketocanozole Nizoral, etc. I’ve been using this almost daily for a month now and my scalp is doing better than it ever had other than when I was in the army and had no hair. This stuff works wonders and I highly recommend it.”
7. A pH-Balanced Shampoo You Can Use Every Day
Because it’s free of sulfates, artificial fragrance, and parabens, Puriya’s tea tree dandruff shampoo is a favorite for many. It cleanses and hydrates with 100% naturally derived ingredients, and it’s pH balanced to help your scalp return to a healthy state.
A Helpful Review: “After struggling for 7 months with a recurring rash on my neck, scalp and temple areas on my face, I was really frustrated and about to go to the doctor. I have tried the coal tar based shampoos, the salicylic acid shampoos, “Blue” shampoo by themselves and in combination. Nothing would stop the outbreaks which were on about a 5 day cycle. After researching the best selling shampoo on amazon, I decided to give this one last try. […] Amazingly after the first wash and condition the itchiness diminished. Then by the forth day the flakiness stopped. I was still skeptical that I had merely started treatment with Puriya at the end of one my cycles (which normally the itchiness stopped for two days before resuming with really bad flakiness). I am now entering the forth week of using Puriya and have no flakes, no itch and no skin redness.”
8. This Hemp-Based Shampoo That’s Gentle On Sensitive Scalps
This gentle shampoo option uses virgin hemp seed oil to seal in moisture and reduce flakes. And the manufacturer promises that it also strengthens strands and balances oil production. It’s a great option for scalps that are sensitive to other dandruff remedies, like tea tree oil, SLS, and peppermint. It’s sulfate- and paraben-free, but does have a little fragrance included.
A Helpful Review: “I decided to try out this shampoo for my constantly itchy/flaky scalp. I think I might have had mild psoriasis on my scalp my whole life and never really known it. All other shampoos I’ve used have left me with tons of flaky white residue and burning/itching sensations. […] It lathers just enough. It rinsed out easily and left my hair and scalp feeling very clean. I didn’t use any conditioner, and honestly I didn’t need to! I waited until it dried to determine if it helped with the irritation. Usually I can tell right away if it’s going to start getting itchy. Low and behold, it dried, and my scalp did not itch! Not only did my scalp feel soothed for the first time in years, my hair is shiny and bouncy and silky-soft!”
9. This Shampoo That Cleanses & Hydrates With Natural Soapberries
This Tree To Tub soapberry shampoo is effective at tackling dandruff using soapberries, which are natural nuts that create a pH-balanced cleanser. It’s also got calming and invigorating ingredients like chamomile, aloe, and peppermint. It’s also free of sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrance, and many other irritants.
A Helpful Review: “I admit I was a little skeptical, but to my surprise it worked! Not only is my scalp itch gone with a few treatments, but it makes my hair feel clean without harsh chemicals. And the scent is very refreshing. This is a great everyday shampoo. I will definitely order this again.”
Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., with Mudgil Dermatology
Satchell, Andrew C. (2002) Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12451368/