What Are the Most Common Treatments for Dandruff?

There are countless anti-dandruff products to choose from but only 7 well-researched and proven anti-dandruff actives. Each active ingredient works in a slightly different way, so if you don't get results from one treatment, you may find success with another.

If you see visible white flakes of dead skin in your hair and on your shoulders, you most likely have dandruff. This condition is the result of your scalp skin growing and shedding faster than normal.

If you've recently developed dandruff, you may be wondering exactly what treatments are available. If you've been suffering a while, you may be looking to trial a new treatment.

Whichever bracket you fit into, familiarising yourself with the most common anti-dandruff ingredients will aid you in designing a scalp care routine that works for you. Just seven widely studied actives have been accepted for the treatment of dandruff:

  1. Zinc, e.g. zinc pyrithione
  2. Salicylic acid
  3. Coal tar
  4. Selenium sulphide
  5. Ketoconazole
  6. Piroctone olamine
  7. Climbazole

What Are the Most Common Treatments for Dandruff?


Each of these ingredients works in a slightly different way. While scientists have not identified one universal trigger of dandruff, a few causal factors are identified repeatedly. By pinpointing the trigger of your own dandruff, you can determine your most effective scalp treatment.

Zinc-Based Treatments for Dandruff

One of the most validated theories for the cause of dandruff is an overgrowth of a fungus called 'Malassezia'. While this fungus is naturally found within normal scalp microflora, it's found at increased levels on the skin of dandruff sufferers.

Zinc pyrithione is an antifungal and antibacterial active. Zinc also functions as an astringent and can thus normalise a very oily scalp.

We recommend the following zinc-based anti-dandruff shampoos:

Salicylic Acid Treatments for Dandruff

Salicylic acid, which speeds up skin's natural exfoliation rate, is often found in anti-acne skincare products. Such an ingredient might seem counterintuitive in a treatment for dandruff, which already exhibits an increased skin-cell turnover rate.

But salicylic acid can treat dandruff in many ways:

  • As an anti-inflammatory
  • As an exfoliant, which removes excess dead cells and flakes
  • As a softening agent, which helps skin retain hydration

Salicylic acid is an antibacterial agent, but it does lack the antifungal activity of some other well-known anti-dandruff actives. Regardless, salicylic acid is very effective at treating the visible signs, discomfort, and itchiness associated with dandruff.

For this reason, you'll often find salicylic acid combined with another active, as in Kérastase Bain Exfoliant Purifiant (Oily), which also contains zinc pyrithione.


What Are the Most Common Treatments for Dandruff?


Coal Tar for Dandruff

Anti-dandruff coal tar helps to slow down the rate at which skin cells die and shed. By reducing this rate, you can minimise the signs and symptoms of dandruff.

It's important to note that coal tar does produce side effects. If you have light hair, you may notice darkening in areas of treatment. If you have dark hair, it's unlikely that you'll notice a colour change.

Other Treatments for Dandruff

Selenium sulphide, ketoconazole, piroctone olamine, and climbazole are all antifungal agents. With regular use, these ingredients have been noted to reduce hair shedding, helping to combat the thinning associated with prevalent scalp dandruff.

To trial an antifungal treatment other than zinc, we recommend Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo, which contains piroctone olamine, climbazole, and salicylic acid.

If you've been using an anti-dandruff treatment that's not showing the results you'd hoped for, try switching to a product with different active ingredients. If you're unsure which to try next, our trained team of skincare specialists is available by email (service@adorebeauty.com.au) or phone (03 9486 7179).


Ultimate Guide to Scalp Care