Best anti-dandruff shampoos to soothe flaking scalps

·9-min read

According to Head & Shoulders, half of us have suffered from dandruff at some point.

But far from the clinical-looking and medicinal-smelling shampoos that were the only options for so long, today’s anti-dandruff offerings look and feel as luxurious as their non-treatment counterparts. It’s an important development because, as regular shampoos won’t cut it when it comes to clearing dandruff, picking up a treatment version – and sticking to using it – is essential.

“The fungus malassezia exists on everyone’s scalp,” explains Consultant Trichologist and member of the Institute of Trichologists, Stephanie Sey. “However some people can have a sensitivity to it which causes dandruff. Lifestyle factors can contribute to the problem too, such as not washing your hair frequently enough and applying oils to the scalp. Cosmetic shampoos and haircare don’t treat the root cause so it’s important to use a treatment with an active ingredient to help control and effectively treat the cause as well as the symptoms.”

While dandruff in the clinical sense is thick, sticky and yellow, often the problem is a dry, flaking scalp and can be cared for more easily with anti-dandruff shampoos and some simple tricks. “A lot of managing a dry scalp is taking a mindful approach and seeing what works for your individual case,” advises Tom Smith leading hairstylist and evo International Creative Director. “The best action is to improve the barrier function and the equilibrium of the scalp. Try shampooing more or less frequently to see if it helps, using cooler water. Then, if your scalp is still very oily, itchy or flaky, shampoo twice and rinse well to ensure the scalp is properly cleansed.

“Avoid scratching: once you start, you can cause more harm than good. Try tying longer hair up as less follicle movement means less itchiness and always shampoo after exercising so your scalp is not irritated by sweat. Also remember that those who wear their hair shorter can often notice dry flakes more because flakiness gets trapped in longer hair rather than falling out and onto the shoulders.”

Not only are these ten anti-dandruff shampoos effective and pleasurable to use, they won’t draw attention on the bathroom shelf either.

Kérastase Specifique Bain Anti-Pelliculaire Shampoo

In a thick, sumptuous formula, this anti-dandruff shampoo works equally well on dry and oily hair types. Deliciously rich without feeling heavy, it works up easily into a luscious lather, so you won’t need to use much to feel a mildly cooling sensation on the scalp that eases the urge to scratch instantly.

Salicylic acid gently exfoliates and cleanses, while two anti-dandruff molecules have powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties, so hair and scalp gain short and long term benefits. Once hair is dry, it feels luxuriously soft and clean - even the next day - and there’s still a trace of the elegant floral scent through it,

Buy now £19.04, lookfantastic

Head & Shoulders DERMA XPRO Hydrating Anti Dandruff Shampoo

Most likely the first brand that comes to mind for tackling dandruff, Head & Shoulders caters for every type of flake-prone hair and scalp need you could think of. Aimed particularly at those with dry skin on the scalp, this hydrating shampoo contains the clinically proven active ingredient piroctone olamine, which works on eliminating the microbe that causes dandruff, while aloe vera and vitamin E soothe and hydrate the skin.

The creamy texture lathers up then rinses away easily and, while some coconut scents can be sweet or overpowering, this one has a soft, clean aroma as it’s from coconut milk. Once dried and styled, hair has good bounce, a soft feel and is flake-free.

Buy now £9.99, Boots

Percy & Reed I’m No Flake Scalp Soothing Shampoo

If you’re particularly sensitive and want an anti-dandruff formula as soothing as possible, this is the perfect choice. But despite its gentle feel, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s anything but a powerhouse of effective ingredients. Work a little of the liquid balm through hair and it quickly lathers up, allowing the oil-regulating and flake-fighting properties to work, including a sugar beet extract that protects and improves scalp health.

Pro-vitamin B5 ensures hair gets a shine boost; geranium and bergamot essential oils make for an elegant scent that adds to the overall premium feel. Vegan friendly and silicone free, the packaging is recyclable too.

Buy now £12.00, Percy & Reed

VENN Synbiotic Polyamine Shampoo

With a pearlescent finish to the white, liquid lotion, this formula says luxury from the start. Admittedly the price tag is hefty, but this anti-dandruff shampoo is formulated like a high-end skincare product, targeting the microbiome on the scalp with a sophisticated blend of pre- and probiotics to re-balance, strengthen and nourish the skin there.

It may seem quite runny as you pump it into your palm, but a little goes a long way (which helps a little in offsetting the cost) and it uses “micro-bubbles” to gently lift dirt and product build-up from the hair without any harsh, foaming agents. Hair is left with a superbly silky feel and is stays gently scented by the clean eucalyptus leaf oil aroma.

Buy now £49.00, Space NK

Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

As a global pioneer in trichology, Philip Kingsley’s legacy lives on in his incredible hair and scalp products. With plenty of reviewers claiming to see improvements in just a couple of uses, this anti-microbial, anti-dandruff shampoo aimed at particularly itchy and irritated scalps doesn’t disappoint.

It’s gentle enough to use daily, but punchy enough to deep cleanse, clear away flakes and ease redness thanks to an exceptional blend of anti-irritant and anti-flake ingredients. Massage in for 60 seconds to lather up and enjoy the crisp apple aroma: once your scalp is clear of dandruff, just use for regular maintenance or an occasional deep cleanse.

Buy now £20.40, lookfantastic

Salcura Omega Rich Shampoo

As a range that’s beloved for creating ultra-effective care for allergic skins, creating a shampoo dedicated to being anti-itch seems like a natural winner for scalps suffering with issues from dandruff to dermatitis. It’s packed with omega proteins from seabuckthorn berry that heal and repair to help strengthen the natural barrier function of the skin, which in turn, brings balance to the scalp and fights flaking and itching.

The light liquid-gel consistency has a barely-there scent from natural ingredients including rosemary and frankincense, and leaves the scalp clean and calm after leaving to work for a minute or so before rinsing with lukewarm water. Hair doesn’t feel like it needs conditioned afterwards but stays tangle-free and with plenty of softness when you touch it.

Buy now £7.99, Amazon

Davines Naturaltech Purifying Shampoo

Don’t be startled by this shampoo’s bright orange shade – it’s the mineral selenium in this paraben-free blend of effective, naturally-derived ingredients. Suitable for both oily and dry scalps that have dandruff, the texture is satisfyingly gooey and although it doesn’t foam up as the formula has no foaming sulphates, this wont leave hair feeling weighted down as it washes out easily.

The hero ingredient is dandelion extract, which is antifungal and antibacterial, ensuring hair and scalp are clean, healthy and flake-free. An intensive treatment, the recommendation is to use twice weekly for three weeks, leaving a few minutes to ‘process’ before washing off.

Buy now £20.00, Amazon

La Roche Posay Kerium DS Anti-Dandruff Intensive Shampoo

The dermatologist-recommended brand for sensitive and allergy-prone skin has transferred that know-how into a fantastic anti-dandruff formula to use as a targeted four-week regime for soothing irritation and banishing dry flakes. The gel consistency spreads easily through hair and makes it easy to spend a minute or two massaging into the scalp.

This lets the micro-exfoliating ingredients get to work, loosening dry skin build-up so the shampoo can be rinsed clean away. As an intensive, twice-weekly treatment, it’s perfect for a regular deep detox and to stave off itching. Remember to add conditioner afterwards thought to ensure hair has a silky finish.

Buy now £12.50, lookfantastic

Vichy Dercos Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Normal to Oily Hair

For hair that’s on the oilier side, this thick formula is ideal. It helps keep lengths as well as the scalp feeling fresh without drying out the ends, so after washing hair, is easy to manage and style too. There are two key active purifying and soothing ingredients – a type of selenium used to treat dermatitis in oily skin, plus Cohesyl, created by Vichy to help cement the skin cells and prevent them from flaking off.

It has a lovely soothing lather and although the mint leaf and menthol fragrance is quite intense, that only adds to the detoxed scalp sensation.

Buy now £9.50, Boots

Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo

The medicinal smell and Pepto pink colour lets you know from opening the cap that this is a serious treatment. It’s one that fans swear by for clearing away the most stubborn flakes and easing itching from the first wash, with a guideline that it’s swapped in for your regular shampoo every three or four days for up to a month, before becoming a maintenance treatment.

The anti-dandruff hero ingredient is ketoconazole, a potent antifungal active that prevents the growth of the bacteria on the scalp that causes flaking, restoring the skin’s balance. That’s not to say it’s harsh on hair: you’ll only need conditioner if your lengths are on the dry side.

Buy now £6.00, Amazon


Anti-dandruff shampoos have suffered a bad rep for being bottles you’d rather keep hidden and with scents and textures that don’t feel luxurious to use. Kérastase Specifique Bain Anti-Pelliculaire Shampoo proves that wrong with a formula that’s soothing from the start and not only leaves the scalp flake-free, but also ensures hair has the softness and swishiness you expect from a premium haircare range.

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