Best Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo

Finding the right seborrheic dermatitis shampoo can be an easy but, at the same time, demanding process.

Finding any anti-dandruff shampoo is easy because the modern market is filled with countless options due to high consumers’ demand. According to the statistics, 5 to 10% of American population is affected by symptoms of scalp flakiness, dryness, redness, and itchiness.

What makes the process of finding the best shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis difficult is that every case of seborrheic dermatitis is different and the world doesn’t offer one go-to shampoo suitable for every patient. Your skin type and skin sensitivity will have a large saying in what product is best for you. Some chemicals within the formulas of commercial anti-dandruff shampoos may irritate your scalp and worsen the flare-up. This doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel. This simply means that you will have to try out a couple of shampoos more before sticking with the best one.

Since it is practically impossible to give every commercial seborrheic dermatitis shampoo a try, take a look at the following list of seborrheic dermatitis shampoo reviews to get a better idea of what you should look out for in a product and what to expect.  

Buyer’s knowledge

First and foremost, the best way to treat seborrheic dermatitis is to know its causes inside and out. Medical experts to this day are not completely sure how seborrheic dermatitis develops.

However, trigger factors of recurrent flare-ups provide enough information for a person to develop an effective therapy based on few lifestyle changes

So, what are the most pronounced causes of seborrheic dermatitis on scalp?

  • Proliferation of Malassezia yeasts on scalp becomes abnormal when sebaceous glands produce excess oil called sebum on which these fungi thrive. Malassezia furfur yeast causes inflammation, dryness, flakiness, and itchiness on the scalp.
  • Hard water and chlorine affect the health of the scalp as well as the hair. Hard water dries out the skin while chlorine causes irritation. The problem becomes bigger when minerals found in the hard water, for instance, calcium and magnesium, bind with soap to create so-called “soap scum”. The created layer of “soap scum” cannot be rinsed off the scalp with plain water. When this residue stays on the scalp, it clogs the pores, consequently impeding proper sebum secretion.
  • Harsh chemicals in shampoos and conditioners make skin more sensitive, dry and irritable. If you have sensitive skin, avoid using shampoos containing parabens (preservatives), lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth, and fragrances.
  • Improper functioning of immune system, due to stress, hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, vitamin D deficiency, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s disease etc. triggers chronic flare-ups. You can boost your immune function with seborrheic dermatitis diet, by drinking plenty of water, getting 8 hours of sleep, spending time in nature and in the sun.

The reason why these causes of seborrheic dermatitis are listed before reviews is to remind you that anti-dandruff shampoos may treat the symptoms of your current flare-up, but for the long-run improvements, you will have to tweak your lifestyle, current skin care routine, and diet. Interestingly enough, these are also common causes for skin conditions in animals, particularly guinea pigs, which makes it important to find the best guinea pig shampoo for your pet. A safe shampoo for guinea pigs will ensure your pet is healthy and comfortable at all times.

Most common active ingredients used in seborrheic dermatitis shampoos

A number of naturally derived or synthetically produced ingredients have the ability to suppress inflammation, fight abnormal skin oiliness or dryness, slow down the production of skin cells to reduce flakiness, kill fungus and bacteria, and provide relief from irritation and itchiness of the scalp.

Here is a list of active ingredients most commonly found in antidandruff shampoos used in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis on scalp:

  • Pyrithione Zinc
  • Coal Tar
  • Ketoconazole
  • Selenium Sulfide
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Sulfur
  • Tea Tree Oil

It is advisable to do a research on these main ingredients prior to the purchase of any seborrheic dermatitis shampoo. Following segment of reviews will introduce you to 6 medicated shampoos listed according to their main active ingredient. Not all main ingredients are discussed in details.

Seborrheic dermatitis shampoo reviews

  1. Head and Shoulders – Pyrithione Zinc

Head and Shoulders may be one of the most popular antidandruff shampoos currently on the market. The affordability and accessibility have made all products under the name Head and Shoulders widely popular amongst people with or without seborrheic dermatitis. Yes, even people that don’t have dry, flaky and irritating scalp use their shampoos because it makes their hair feel and look nice.

The main dandruff fighting ingredient in Head and Shoulders shampoos is Pyrithione Zinc. This chemical carries fungistatic and bacteriostatic properties, which stop the thriving of harmful microorganisms on scalp responsible for abnormal skin cell growth and shedding.

head and shoulders seborrheic dermatitis shampoo

Proctor and Gamble, the owners of Head and Shoulders, have conducted a number of toxicology and safety studies to prove that their products are safe for eternal use. While Zinc Pyrithione is FDA approved agent, it is still important to mention that this ingredient is highly dangerous when in high concentrations (+20%). Furthermore, Zinc Pyrithione has even been linked to causing DNA damage according to the 2010 study published in Cell Stress & Chaperones.

According to the popular opinion, Head and Shoulder shampoos are effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp. However, there have been few complaints amongst users that Head and Shoulders shampoos tend to worsen the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, especially when used regularly. 

  1. John Masters’ Organics – Pyrithione Zinc

If you are looking for a more natural alternative to Head and Shoulders, a shampoo that still contains Pyrithione Zinc but has fewer chemicals, John Masters’ Organics shampoo might be the right seborrheic dermatitis shampoo for you. This natural shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis contains active Pyrithione Zinc which will help you stop the proliferation of Malassezia furfur yeast responsible for the flakiness, inflammation, and itchiness of your scalp. In other words, Pyrithione Zinc will help you restore your scalp’s microflora and therefore reverse those chronic symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.

John Masters’ Organics seborrheic dermatitis shampoo

John Masters’ Organics shampoo is a certified organic product. It is free of sulfate and parabens but is rich in plant and flower extracts for more skin-friendly showering experience. This natural shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis is enriched with chamomile, papaya fruit extract, aloe vera leaf juice, rosemary extract, lavender extract and the list goes on.

John Masters’ Organics shampoo doesn’t contain EDTA agent with the role of making hard water more scalp-friendly. If you are using hard water to wash your hair, you might find this shampoo drying and ineffective when “soap scum” won’t allow your seborrheic dermatitis to improve.

  1. Neutrogena T/Gel – Coal Tar

Neutrogena T/Gel shampoo has a natural foundation due to the presence of antifungal coal tar within its formula. Coal tar has been used in the treatments of various skin disorders for decades. Coal tar slows abnormal skin cell growth, kills off fungus and bacteria living on the scalp, and normalizes inflammatory responses of the skin.

You probably haven’t heard of coal tar shampoos before because they are not widely popular amongst people for a couple of reasons. Firstly, coal tar itself has a strong, unpleasant smell. Skincare brands that give this active ingredient a chance make their best effort to overpower the unpleasant smell, which makes the fragrance of shampoos quite strong and strange. Neutrogena T/Gel is not any different when it comes to that. Secondly, coal tar tends to stain clothes. However, a thorough wash easily removes the brown stains.

Neutrogena T/Gel seborrheic dermatitis shampoo

Regarding the safety of coal tar, we can assume that Neutrogena has done its duty of conducting a fair amount of studies proving the safety of their products. Medical studies conducted throughout the history prove that coal tar is a relatively safe ingredient.

Speaking of ingredients, Neutrogena T/Gel shampoo has a fairly short list of ingredients printed on the back of the packaging, which makes the shampoo less mysterious and less concerning. According to the consumers’ experiences, this Neutrogena antidandruff shampoo is less drying than those containing Pyrithione Zinc.

  1. Nizoral – Ketoconazole

Nizoral over the counter shampoo contains an active antifungal ingredient called Ketoconazole. This ingredient is found in various antifungal ointment and creams. For instance, in ketoconazole cream, used in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis, athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, and dandruff.

Ketoconazole is a strong, powerful ingredient that makes Nizoral shampoo quite aggressive. According to the description of one patient, when Nizoral is applied to the scalp, it seems as it removes everything good and bad found on it. Simply said, Nizoral is one of the strongest antifungal shampoos currently available on the market. The proof is in the fact that this seborrheic dermatitis aid used to be available in the USA only under the prescription.

Nizoral seborrheic dermatitis shampoo

The aggressiveness of Nizoral triggers the question “Are ketoconazole shampoos even safe?” Based on the medical studies, ketoconazole is a completely safe ingredient when used in minimum 2% concentration and when used properly, 2 to 3 times per week.

Nizoral and other ketoconazole shampoos are, according to the study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, almost as effective as 1% hydrocortisone cream used in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis on the chest, back, face and other parts of skin, where sebaceous glands are most prominent.

  1. Neutrogena T/Sal – Salicylic Acid

If you are affected by a mild case of seborrheic dermatitis that doesn’t require aggressive treatment, Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo may be the right option for you. The main active ingredient found in this shampoo is called salicylic acid, which is a keratolytic agent used in medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Salicylic acid has natural origin because it is derived from the bark of willow trees. This medical aid is used in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis and acne when in low concentration, and in the treatment of warts and corns when in higher concentration.

Neutrogena T/Sal seborrheic dermatitis shampoo

Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo may be one of the most gentle seborrheic dermatitis shampoos on the market. Its formula is so mild that for some patients, affected by severe flakiness and irritation, it does not provide healing properties that are powerful enough, probably, due to the fact that acid can’t reach those fungi embedded deep within the pores.

If you are affected by a severe form of dandruff, you can still give Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo a try. If you don’t notice any improvements within a couple of uses, try finding yourself a shampoo containing both salicylic acid and sulfur. Both ingredients, when combined together, generate much stronger antidandruff activity.

  1. Jason Dandruff Relief – Sulfur

Jason Dandruff Relief shampoo contains both sulfur and salicylic acid, which goes along with the suggestion mentioned in the previous paragraph. Sulfur and salicylic acid complement and elevate each other. Their compatibility makes the Jason Dandruff Relief shampoo effective in removing dead skin cells, as well as in fighting Malassezia furfur yeast colonization.

Jason Dandruff Relief seborrheic dermatitis shampoo

Salicylic acid and sulfur both have a natural origin and have been used in medicine for centuries. They both have reliable safety data and are, therefore, considered to be one of the safest active ingredients used in the skin care industry today. The only negative aspect of both ingredients is that they make Jason Dandruff Relief shampoo smelly. Some patients describe the scent of hair after it has been washed similar to one of the rotten eggs.

If we put the smelliness aside, the effectiveness of the shampoo itself is, according to the popular opinion, impressive and comparable to one of Head and Shoulders. The positive results of using Jason Dandruff Relief appear to stick around longer than expected. To reach such results, a patient has to use this medicated shampoo according to the instructions given on the packaging or according to those provided by a pharmacist.

Other shampoos worth mentioning

If you have already tried all of the above reviewed medicated shampoos, but none helped your case of seborrheic dermatitis on scalp, try giving these shampoos a try:

  1. Selsun Blue – Selenium Sulfide
  2. Paul Mitchell – Tea Tree Oil
  3. Aveda Rosemary Mint Smapoo
  4. Acure Organics Argan Oil Shampoo
  5. Rahua Shampoo


Seborrheic dermatitis is a physically and emotionally draining skin disorder. The symptoms of recurrent flare-ups can leave patient self-conscious and occasionally even hopeless. Fortunately, modern market offers a diverse and vast spectrum of antidandruff shampoos, and previous list of reviews just shows that.

Every shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis scalp treatment is not the same. Why? Well, not every active ingredient has the same capabilities and healing attributes. Some have better antifungal properties, while others  – better anti-inflammatory qualities. Make sure to choose your shampoo according to the symptoms you are trying to heal.

When speaking of these active ingredients it is important to mention that the aggressiveness is not always the best feature you should be looking out for. Aggressive active ingredients may provide quick relief from symptoms, but with that, eradicate good and bad bacteria from your scalp. Prolonged use of medicated shampoos can lead to detrimental consequences on microflora. Choose your medicated shampoos wisely, and remember, best results are always seen when a medicine is used correctly and according to the usage directions printed on packaging or provided by doctor or pharmacist.