Dermatologists share their secrets, the best anti-dandruff shampoos, and other treatments that work.
Dandruff can strike anyone at any time of the year, but it is more common in winter and fall when temperatures and humidity drop. Although dandruff doesn’t pose a danger or is contagious, the flakes can be embarrassing. It’s crucial to change your scalp care routine in order to be more winter-friendly.
“Cold weather is a breeding ground for a lot of skin disorders that are worsened by dryness,” said board-certified dermatologist Anna Chacon, who specializes in hair loss and scalp conditions such as psoriasis and dandruff (also known as seborrheic dermatitis). “If you are stressed by seasonal changes, or just uncomfortably cold, this can make your psoriasis and dermatitis worse.”
Luckily, your flake-free scalp regimen doesn’t have to be pricey or time-consuming, but according to experts, it will require some preparation and a little knowledge about .do-it-yourself scalp care.
Erum N. Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist .based outside of Philadelphia, said she tells her patients that the most important step in fighting seasonal dandruff is to anticipate it.
“We know that dandruff usually flares in spring and fall.” Knowing this, plan to start preventative approaches four weeks in advance,” she told us, adding,”Dandruff shampoos cannot always actively treat dandruff once it flares, but are actually very good at preventing it.”
Ilyas recommended looking for shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione. This has antimicrobial properties.
Chacon says that while the type of cleanser is important, it doesn’t really matter how often you use it. People often believe that dandruff is caused by hair and scalp dryness. This myth can lead to people skipping shampoos.
Chacon stated, “Don’t think that washing it too often is necessarily bad. Everyday is fine. Even if your hair is the driest, I wouldn’t let it go for more than a week.
However, she recommends that you keep your scalp moisturized and avoid scratching. This could make the condition worse.
You may think that you are immune to dandruff simply because your scalp is oily. However, you may require a different treatment from someone with a dry or oily scalp.
Loretta Ciraldo is a board-certified dermatologist that treats patients suffering from scalp conditions like psoriasis and dandruff. She says that with an oily scalp, you can use potent treatments almost anywhere. Patients should try coal tar, which is a thick dark liquid that relieves itching and salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells. Although these ingredients are great for normal or oily scalps, Ciraldo cautioned that they shouldn’t be used if the scalp is sensitive.
When looking for the best solution, Ilyas suggested topical treatments containing ingredients that address the two major symptoms of dandruff – itching and flaking. Consider common ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, which has anti-yeast properties and “can often be added to scalp exfoliators to help address the underlying yeast that triggers inflammation resulting in scaling,” coconut oil, which “can be beneficial for dry, flaky scalps to help hydrate and improve scaling or flaking to the scalp,” and tea tree oil, which also pairs nicely with scalp exfoliators and will likely address some of the underlying triggers for scalp inflammation that result in scaling and itching, Ilyas said.
There are many options for over-the-counter products.
Ciraldo stated that no matter what product you use, you must make sure to massage it into your scalp. Apply the product to the scalp and allow it to work its magic for a while. Rinse off the shampoo with regular shampoo if necessary.
Experts recommend that you see a dermatologist if the problem continues. These home shampoos and treatments can be used to eliminate pesky flakes.
Experts’ favorite dandruff treatments
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Hairspray
Chacon suggested this formula because it contains coal tar extract, which helps with itching and calms the skin.
Amazon has it for $8.62
DHS SAL Shampoo, Maximum Strength
Chacon recommended this shampoo as well. It contains 2% salicylic acid which breaks down flaky buildup, relieves itching, and helps with flaking.
Amazon offers a 3-pack for $26.73.
Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Hairspray
Ciraldo stated that Neutrogena Sal is her favorite because it “is wonderful at ungluing all of these dead cells from one another.”
Amazon has it for only $12.71
Tarsum Medicated Shampoo/Gel
Ciraldo stated that this treatment is appropriate for oily or full-head hair. However, he cautioned that it is not recommended for sensitive scalps.
Walgreens has it for only $14.99
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Ciraldo says this formula is safe enough to use on color-treated hair and those that have been chemically treated.
Amazon has it for only $14.84
Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Shampoo
Ciraldo stated that this simple solution is effective for mild cases.
You can get it from Amazon for $10.94.