How we pick our products
There are many different types of anti-dandruff shampoos on the market. There are some for women, some for men and even some for animals. In the following article you will find an overview of anti-dandruff shampoo, important points for your purchase decision and in our guide the most frequently asked questions on the subject.
With our anti-dandruff shampoo test 2022, we aim to give you a complete picture of the available anti-dandruff shampoos so that you can find the right product for you. We also present all the products that we have examined in detail.
- 1 Summary
- 2 The Best Anti-dandruff shampoo: Our Picks
- 3 Buying and evaluation criteria for anti-dandruff shampoos
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying anti-dandruff shampoos
- 4.1 What is anti-dandruff shampoo and how does it work?
- 4.2 When and for whom is anti-dandruff shampoo useful?
- 4.3 Can anti-dandruff shampoo be harmful?
- 4.4 What ingredients do anti-dandruff shampoos have?
- 4.5 How much does anti-dandruff shampoo cost?
- 4.6 What types of anti-dandruff shampoos are there?
- 4.7 How often and how long should I use anti-dandruff shampoo?
- 4.8 What are the alternatives to anti-dandruff shampoos?
- Ideally, an anti-dandruff shampoo helps the scalp to recover and reduce dandruff. Often it is bacteria or fungal infections that lead to dandruff.
- There is also dandruff that is completely harmless from a health point of view. These can be avoided by changing the bad conditions for the scalp. An important factor here is often the diet.
- The difference between anti-dandruff shampoo for men and women is often mainly the smell. Sometimes it can also happen that the products for men are somewhat milder than those for women.
The Best Anti-dandruff shampoo: Our Picks
Buying and evaluation criteria for anti-dandruff shampoos
When buying anti-dandruff shampoo, you can look at various aspects, such as:
By making the right choice, you can save money on the one hand and on the other hand make sure that you do not add anything to your body that it does not need. Therefore, make sure that you know your needs and match the products to them.
The fragrance of shampoos is a key factor in the decision to buy. This is no different with anti-dandruff shampoos.
You should therefore make sure that you do not choose a fragrance that you do not want to smell on your hair afterwards. However, the smell is not the only thing that fragrances bring with them.
If your anti-dandruff shampoo contains perfume, it is usually alcohol-based and can dry out your scalp.
Furthermore, certain fragrances can cause allergic reactions. Stop using the product if allergic reactions occur and consult a professional if the symptoms do not disappear.
Anti-dandruff shampoos come in different colours. If your shampoo is coloured, it does not mean that it contains harmful substances.
Some anti-dandruff shampoos are artificially coloured. If this is the case, it must be indicated on the packaging, as dyes can also cause allergic reactions.
However, colouring can also be caused by certain ingredients. Shampoos made with selenium sulphide, for example, often have a peach to orange hue if they are not additionally coloured.
Most anti-dandruff shampoos come in different sizes and shapes. Your decision may depend on whether you need a smaller package for travel or if you want to get the most bang for your buck. Often, larger packages are proportionally cheaper than smaller ones.
So think carefully beforehand about your hair type and how much anti-dandruff shampoo makes sense for you. Usually, anti-dandruff shampoos come in quantities between 300 and 900 millilitres.
Suitable for men / women
When looking for an anti-dandruff shampoo, you will first find yourself deciding between products for women and products for men.
The differences between these products are mostly in the fragrance. Products for women tend to have the “classic feminine scent”, while shampoos for men have a “more masculine” scent.
Women tend not to wash their hair with shampoo every day. Men, on the other hand, usually wash their hair with shampoo every time they shower.
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying anti-dandruff shampoos
In the following, we want to inform you about the effectiveness of anti-dandruff shampoos and give you an understanding of the current state of science. We have summarised all the important information in the following sections.
What is anti-dandruff shampoo and how does it work?
Many people have problems with dandruff on their scalp. Dandruff is basically nothing more than dead scalp that is rejected by the body when it has been renewed by new cells.
In order for these dandruff to become visible, the body has to make this rejection stronger and over a longer period of time. This happens when the scalp is irritated by microorganisms. We explain the effect of an anti-dandruff shampoo here. (1)
Establishing a healthy balance on the scalp
Anti-dandruff shampoos can create a healthy balance on your scalp so that your scalp is no longer so irritated. (1, 6)
Once the pathogen is contained, your scalp can recover better. Always remember that you have bacteria and fungi on your scalp at all times. These cannot be completely eliminated either.
Depending on the ingredients in the anti-dandruff shampoo, inflammation and the associated itching can be reduced.
In the best case, your scalp can recover to such an extent that redness recedes and the formation of dandruff is reduced. (2, 8, 10)
Effect against pimples
Certain anti-dandruff shampoos contain zinc or camomile, for example. Zinc and camomile support the skin in the healing process and pimples can be prevented or at least minimised. (2, 10)
Lightening the hair
Anti-dandruff shampoos are usually stronger than normal shampoos in their effect. This can be an undesirable side effect, but can help with hair colouring accidents.
For example, some anti-dandruff shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulphates. These dissolve up to seven times more proteins from the hair than normal water, which can cause the hair to lighten. (3, 8)
When and for whom is anti-dandruff shampoo useful?
An anti-dandruff shampoo is not simply differentiated from other shampoos by its name, but is suitable for certain people. You can find out when it makes sense for you to use such a shampoo here:
- For dandruff: As the name suggests, anti-dandruff shampoo is of course suitable if you experience dandruff. If you are not sure when it is really dandruff and if you have dandruff, you should consult a doctor.
- For lightening the hair: Be aware that an anti-dandruff shampoo is not made to lighten the hair. At best, you run the risk of irritating your scalp or damaging your hair by overusing anti-dandruff shampoo. (3, 11)
- For pimples: Anti-dandruff shampoos that work against fungi and bacteria can also help against pimples if they are caused by these pathogens. However, it is also possible that the pimples are caused by hormonal changes, in which case anti-dandruff shampoos will not help. (4, 9)
If one or more of the above cases apply, an anti-dandruff shampoo is worthwhile.
Can anti-dandruff shampoo be harmful?
Anti-dandruff shampoos are usually completely harmless and do not contain anything that will cause permanent damage. Nevertheless, you should use these products sensibly.
Caution is advised after hair transplants, for example. After a hair transplant, the scalp is irritated and anti-dandruff shampoo can delay healing or lead to complications. (5, 8)
For example, if the shampoo contains sodium lauryl sulphate, which can dry out the scalp, you should not use it. However, a doctor will be able to recommend a suitable mild shampoo that will allow your scalp to recover. (5, 8)
Anti-dandruff shampoos can usually be used during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. There are no studies or cases where anti-dandruff shampoos have been shown to have a negative effect on the mother or the baby.
What ingredients do anti-dandruff shampoos have?
Anti-dandruff shampoos have a number of different ingredients, all of which can have different effects. In this section, we will mention three that are always the subject of discussion:
Zinc pyrithione is listed as an ingredient in some anti-dandruff shampoos. This substance is said to have an antibacterial effect, which can thus reduce the development of dandruff.
However, zinc pyrithione can also damage the skin’s natural protective acid mantle, making the skin more susceptible to infections. In addition, the substance still leaves many questions unanswered about its effects in the human body (6)
Bisabolol is also frequently used in the production of shampoos. Bisabolol is a plant extract obtained from camomile.
It is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect and it is often used in sun creams, lotions and make up products. However, bisabolol can cause dermatitis in people with allergies. (2)
Paraffin is another controversial term that is often used in connection with anti-dandruff shampoos. Paraffin is a waste product from the petroleum industry and is used in many areas such as cosmetics, candles and even food.
It is debatable whether the advantages or disadvantages outweigh the disadvantages, but no harmful effect was found. The study shows that creams with paraffin content could be good for wound healing. (11)
How much does anti-dandruff shampoo cost?
The cost of anti-dandruff shampoo depends on the brand and the amount of product. Normally, however, anti-dandruff shampoos are priced close to each other and anyone with dandruff should be able to buy a suitable product.
|Filling quantity in ml||price in euros|
|250 – 400||3 – 30|
|400 – 600||15 – 30|
|600 – 900||30 – 40|
On average, the prices of anti-dandruff shampoos range from 3 euros to about 40 euros. However, these values are averages and may vary.
What types of anti-dandruff shampoos are there?
Basically, three types of anti-dandruff shampoos can be distinguished: For women, for men and for animals. All of these products have different properties.
|For women||Is usually more intensive, can also only be used every few days||Can cause skin irritation more quickly, can lead to hair damage more quickly|
|For men||Is gentler on the scalp, tends to lead to less hair damage||Must be used regularly and often|
|For animals||Is pleasant for the animal without fragrances||Should only be used for certain animals|
In the following, we will briefly explain the three categories and their respective characteristics.
Anti-dandruff shampoos for humans
The difference in anti-dandruff shampoos for men is not that men and women have different hair per se, but that they have different hair types and application routines. There are men with thicker and thinner hair and the same is true for women.
You should pay attention to how you use your shampoo. Women’s shampoos are usually more concentrated because they don’t wash their hair as often as men. The smell is probably the main difference between shampoos for men and those for women.
Anti-dandruff shampoos for animals
In most cases, special anti-dandruff shampoos should be used for animals, as animals such as dogs have a different skin texture than humans.
The skin differs in thickness and number of sweat glands, so they react differently to anti-dandruff shampoos than humans. Human skin also has a pH value of about 5.5 – dogs about 7.5, so what is PH-neutral for humans (i.e. in the range of 5.5) is not neutral for dogs.
How often and how long should I use anti-dandruff shampoo?
When using anti-dandruff shampoos, make sure that the instructions on the packaging are followed. Otherwise, it may not be able to develop its effect.
For example, some shampoos need to be used regularly and more often – tending to be the anti-dandruff shampoos for men. Others should not be used too often, otherwise skin irritation and hair damage can occur.
What are the alternatives to anti-dandruff shampoos?
If it is dry dandruff, certain behaviours can also be adapted as an alternative to anti-dandruff shampoo. If the dandruff is harmless to health, it can also be due to a wrong diet, for example. In this case, you can change your eating habits and the dandruff should decrease.
Other causes can be daily hair washing with aggressive shampoos or longer stays in air-conditioned rooms. If these causes are changed, the scalp should also be able to recover.
Picture source: Monticello / 123rf
Xu Z, Wang Z, Yuan C, et al. Dandruff is associated with the conjoined interactions between host and microorganisms. Sci Rep. 2016;6:24877. Published 2016 May 12. doi:10.1038/srep24877
Russell K, Jacob SE. Bisabolol. Dermatitis. 2010;21(1):57-58.
Zhou Y, Foltis L, Moore DJ, Rigoletto R. Protection of oxidative hair color fading from shampoo washing by hydrophobically modified cationic polymers. J Cosmet Sci. 2009;60(2):217-238.
Williams HC, Dellavalle RP, Garner S. Acne vulgaris [published correction appears in Lancet. 2012 Jan 28;379(9813):314]. Lancet. 2012;379(9813):361-372. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60321-8
Schweiger D, Schoelermann AM, Filbry A, Hamann T, Moser C, Rippke F. Highly efficient and compatible shampoo for use after hair transplant. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:355-360. Published 2015 Jul 22. doi:10.2147/CCID.S86015
Collins LZ, Baines FL, Matheson JR, et al. Sex-related differences in response to zinc pyrithione shampoo vs. non-anti-dandruff shampoo. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2018;40(6):583-588. doi:10.1111/ics.12501
Rushton H, Gummer C, L, Flasch H: 2-in-1 Shampoo Technology: State-of-the-Art Shampoo and Conditioner in One. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 1994;7:78-83. doi: 10.1159/000211278
Horita K, Horita D, Tomita H, Yasoshima M, Yagami A, Matsunaga K. Effects of different base agents on prediction of skin irritation by sodium lauryl sulfate using patch testing and repeated application test. Toxicology. 2017;382:10-15. doi:10.1016/j.tox.2017.03.003
de Cássia Comis Wagner R, Joekes I. Hair protein removal by sodium dodecyl sulfate. Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2005;41(1):7-14. doi:10.1016/j.colsurfb.2004.10.023
da Gama RM, França-Stefoni SA, Sá-Dias TC, Bedin V, Baby AR, Velasco MVR. Protective effect of conditioner agents on hair treated with oxidative hair dye. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018;17(6):1090-1095. doi:10.1111/jocd.12484
Färber A, Daniels R. Ex vivo Skin Permeation of Betulin from Water-in-Oil Foams. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2016;29(5):250-256. doi:10.1159/000448689