Medicated Shampoos to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis Dandruff

Keep flakes at bay with a medicated shampoo

Do you have visible white flakes from dandruff? Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects parts of the head and torso where you have a lot of oil-producing glands. Dandruff is considered a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, which can also appear as red, flaky skin around the nose, eyebrows, forehead, ears, and scalp.

The condition affects only about 3 percent of the population and is more commonly seen in men, elderly people who are bedridden or have neurologic conditions, and people with a weakened immune system. Seborrheic dermatitis can't be cured, but the good news is that it can be controlled. Topical steroid ointments are used on most areas of the skin, but those aren't easy to use on the scalp. You can, however, use a medicated shampoo.

How Medicated Shampoos Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis Dandruff

Shampoos that contain coal tar, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, or salicylic acid are effective ways to treat and control seborrheic dermatitis. Some of these shampoos are available only with a prescription, but the following seborrheic dermatitis shampoos are available over-the-counter at your nearest drugstore.

When you shop for a medicated shampoo, look for one that says on the label that it is for seborrheic dermatitis. Use it according to the label directions, which often include leaving it on your hair or scalp for a specific length of time to allow the ingredients to work. You may also find that you need to alternate different shampoos or switch to a new one as different types lose their effectiveness for you.

1
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

woman shampooing with gluten-free shampoo
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Dandruff is associated with overgrowth of the fungus Malassezia. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is the only shampoo on this list that contains ketoconazole, a known anti-fungal medication. It also contains wheat protein and wheat germ oil. Using this shampoo just two times a week is enough to keep dandruff in check. It's a very thick liquid and it's fresh-smelling.

Consult a doctor first for children under 12 years old and if you are pregnant women. Don't use the product on parts of the skin that are broken or inflamed, and try not to get it in your eyes. If you do accidentally get it in your eyes, rinse them out with water right away.

2
Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength

Head & Shoulders is an iconic brand that built its marketing on dandruff control. This clinical-strength shampoo contains 1 percent selenium sulfide, a medication that prevents itching, irritation, scaling, and redness, and causes a tingling sensation. It's an effective treatment for even the most persistent, severe dandruff, but it's also extremely gentle and pH balanced, making it safe for everyday use.

3
Head & Shoulders Extra Strength

Not everyone responds to medication the same way, which is why Head & Shoulders makes shampoos and conditioners that have a range of formulations. Head & Shoulders Extra Strength contains 2 percent pyrithione zinc, another type of medication. If you have stubborn dandruff, this shampoo might do the trick.

4
Zincon Medicated Dandruff Shampoo

This dandruff shampoo is made by Denorex, another brand that has been around for many years. Zincon Medicated Dandruff Shampoo contains pyrithione zinc. Unlike many of medicated shampoos, this one doesn't have an unpleasant, medicated scent. It's also gentle enough for everyday use.

5
Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo

Selsun Blue is another standby. The Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo contains 1 percent selenium sulfide and menthol, which gets dandruff levels under control and gives the scalp a tingling sensation. Shake the bottle well before using it to ensure it is mixed. Use it anywhere from twice a week to every time you shampoo. Be sure to keep the shampoo away from children as the blue color may make them curious, but it should not be ingested.

6
Sebulex Medicated Dandruff Shampoo

Sebulex Medicated Dandruff Shampoo treats seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. It contains two percent sulfur and two percent salicylic acid that control dandruff and provide major scalp relief. Although it does contain sulfur, you don't have to worry – it doesn't smell like sulfur. It works as well as non-medicated shampoos for cleansing your hair.

7
Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo

Another standby is the Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo. It contains 3 percent salicylic acid as the active ingredient, which helps break down flaky skin. It doesn't contain any added colors, preservatives, or fragrances. This shampoo doesn't slow down excessive skin turnover, so if you have moderate to severe seborrhea, you might want to use this shampoo in conjunction with another product that's included in this list. Use it at least three times a week, and once you lather it into your scalp, let it sit there for several minutes before rinsing it out.

A Word From Verywell

You may get relief by using an over-the-counter medicated shampoo for your dandruff, or you may need a prescription-strength shampoo. Discuss this issue with your doctor so you can keep seborrheic dermatitis under control.

Sources:

Del Rosso JQ. Adult Seborrheic Dermatitis: A Status Report on Practical Topical Management. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2011;4(5):32-38.

Seborrheic dermatitis. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000963.htm.

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