This article reviews 7 shampoos specifically formulated to treat or reduce the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.
The list focuses on one shampoo per active ingredient and sticks to those active ingredients that are currently approved by the FDA (you can review the FDA approved list of active ingredients); with the exception of tea tree oil. Alternative shampoos which use these same active ingredients also exist and may be found mentioned throughout, yet, there are not as throughout discussed.
The shampoos described are deemed to be the most popular choice for the specific active agent. And for each shampoo, you’ve find discussion of the following topics:
- How the active ingredient works
- What makes the specific shampoo stand out
- Safety profile of the active ingredient
- Overall potential
- My personal experience
- General tips
The main goal of the writing is to analyze the active ingredients and is meant to provide readers with a solid foundation in their search for the perfect choice. While the reading may be a bit dry and boring at certain points, adequate knowledge is our best weapon when it comes to dealing with such an allusive skin issue as seborrheic dermatitis.
Accurate diagnosis is the most important part of treatment
In order for a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo to be effective, it’s important your symptoms are indeed related to seborrheic dermatitis and not a visually similar skin condition (such as plaque psoriasis). Many underestimate the importance of accurate diagnosis and may spend their efforts trying to treat the wrong condition. Take the time to visit a local professional and have them evaluate your skin (visiting several further improves the accuracy of your diagnosis).
What is Seborrheic Dermatitis
To get the ball rolling and before we dive directly into the list, let’s take a moment to briefly review seborrheic dermatitis.
Seborrheic dermatitis is believed to be a chronic skin condition that affects roughly 5% of the adult population . And unfortunately, it’s considered a chronic skin disorder that requires ongoing maintenance treatment.
When the condition affects the scalp, it is more commonly known as dandruff (believed to be a more mild form of seborrheic dermatitis with limited inflammation. though some disagreement exists). In the case of dandruff, the condition is estimated to affect up to 50% of the general population .
The condition is characterized by dryness, patches of dry (often greasy) skin flakes, significant itching, and general irritation of the affected skin.
Though not universally accepted, the majority of literature on the subject concludes that seborrheic dermatitis is caused by the Malassezia fungus [3, 4]. This fungus is present on the skin of healthy individuals as well, but some of us, the fungus is believed to be responsible for the skin symptoms collectively known as seborrheic dermatitis.
A thorough discussion of the condition is outside the scope of this article, but if you like to learn more about the condition, you refer to the seborrheic dermatitis owner’s manual.
So that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the list of shampoos designed specifically to treat the condition.
Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo Review
1. Head and Shoulders – Classic Clean – Pyrithione Zinc Dandruff Shampoo
Active ingredient: Pyrithione Zinc 1%
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Zinc Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance, Dimethicone, Sodium Benzoate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Blue 1, Red 33.
This is the single most popular shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis. In fact, it is so popular that many people without dandruff (or it’s more aggressive form, seborrheic dermatitis) use it every day as well. Through effective marketing campaigns, simple product packaging, affordability, and effectiveness; it is has truly been able to become one of the top selling shampoos on the market today.
Part of this is because throughout the years, Head and Shoulders (with Procter & Gamble as the parent company) has carried out and/or sponsored numerous studies on dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and scaling. And as a result of all of this information, it seems the research team strongly believes the malassezia yeast is the main culprit behind all seborrheic dermatitis problems.
In turn, they have pioneered much of the work relating to the Malassezia furfur yeast/fungus (which many researchers believe is responsible for seborrheic dermatitis) and finding new ways to suppress it. Developing an effective anti-fungal agent which kills malassezia yeast/fungus, while idng12451368 skin cells (as it is promoted).
Is Head and Shoulders a Safe Shampoo
Proctor and Gamble (the owners of Head and Shoulders) have funded a vast amount of safety and toxicology studies to prove that Head and Shoulders is not harmful to the average user.
Plus, weather it’s a good indicator or not, it’s safety may also be demonstrated by the fact that it’s sold in a many countries around the world (as many countries require their own safety testing).
Yet, there is one thing worth mentioning. Zinc Pyrithione becomes highly dangerous at high concentrations (+20%) and can be associated with DNA damage at these higher levels . A scary fact at first, but on second thought, many common skin care ingredients become dangerous as the concentration increases (just think; urea, lactic acid, etc.).
How Well Does Head and Shoulders Work
Zinc pyrithione is considered one of the most effective anti-fungal agents for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis [6, 7]. While ketoconazole and selenium sulfide may be more effective in more aggressive cases , zinc pyrithione finds a good middle ground with a limited number of known side-effects.
Some online reviews do mention that with continued usage they’ve noted changes in skin tone (becoming more pale), heightened sun sensitivity, and increased skin dryness.
My Personal Experience with Head and Shoulders
In my experience, Head and Shoulders is highly effective and the results come within hours of first use. Itchiness subsides practically right away. Irritation and dermatitis start to die down, and redness subsides.
Flakiness and dryness are the symptoms which only start to disappear after more frequent usage. In fact, for me, dryness was actually increased during use and was only aided by moisturizers and conditioners.
- For most people, Head and Shoulders works amazingly well for both dandruff and it’s more aggressive form, seborrheic dermatitis.
- Its active ingredient, zinc pyrithione, is an FDA approved agent of the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
- Zinc pyrithione has been demonstrated to be safe when used at or below the recommended concentration.
- Some individuals report several negative aspects of long-term usage; most commonly this includes pale skin, sun sensitivity, and dryness.
2. Neutrogena T/Gel – Therapeutic Shampoo – Original Formula
Active ingredient: Coal Tar 1% (4% Neutar® Solubilized Coal Tar Extract)
Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Polysorbate 20, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Bishydroxyethyl Dihydroxypropyl Stearammonium Chloride, Fragrance, Cocamide MEA, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, DMDM Hydantoin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Triethanolamine
The active ingredient of T/Gel, coal tar, has a long history for its use in the treatment of various skin conditions [8, 9] and has made the list of FDA approved substances for the treatment of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis. And while other tars hav been used (pine tar, sulfonated shale oil, etc), coal tar has gained the most popularity due to it’s abundance and relatively inexpensive cost.
Generally, it is believed that tar based products work mainly by slowing skin cell reproduction, normalizing the skins inflammatory response mechanism, and killing off bacteria/fungus [10, 11].
Many alternative coal tar shampoos available
If you’re looking for alternative coal tar based options, you can find a comprehensive list over on DandruffDeconstructed (a website run by a fellow community member, Chris).
Are Coal Tar Shampoos Safe
Thanks to its long history of use, coal tar has a substantial amount of evidence to support it’s long-term safety ; with some studies evaluating its impact over the course of several decades .
The more natural tar alternatives have much less hard data and facts regarding their safety, but they to have stood the test of time (with minimal negative reports found in the literature). Plus, if you really want to be ahead of the curb, some newer research does claim that sulfonated oils may a superior safety profile when compared to coal tar preparations .
There are potential concerns regarding the neurotoxicity and carcinogenic aspects of tars, however, to date, there has not been a direct connection to threat in humans .
Unfortunately, coal tar does pos a clear photosensitizing effects , making the skin more sensitive to sunlight at certain UV ranges. So, uf you plan to use it prior to sun-exposure, make sure you plan ahead and minimize sun exposure to the treated skin.
How Well Does Coal Tar Work
As an active ingredient, coal tar at the range of 0.5% to 5% has been approved by the FDA as an effective treatment approach to seborrheic dermatitis.
It’s antifungal effects against malassezia have been established  and in the lab setting it’s effectiveness may be similar to that of ketoconazole .
In addition to it’s anti-fungal potential, coal tar ha been documented to :
- Reduce epidermal hyperproliferation (increased rate of skin turnover) in psoriatic skin
- Thicken the epidermis in healthy skin
- Posses anti-pruritic and anti-inflammatory effects
- Inhibit sebum secretion
My Personal Experience
Neutrogena T/Gel was actually my favorite shampoo out of the mass market products I’ve tried. The ingredients list was much shorter than a typical Head and Shoulders formula and it didn’t dry the skin as much. Overall, it was probably my second most used anti-fungal shampoo product to date (Head and Shoulders being the first, simply because it worked well for my issues before they became more aggressive).
Knowing everything I know now, if I was faced with seborrheic dermatitis for the first time all over again, a coal tar based shampoo would likely be the first option to test out.
Towards the end of my issues with seborrheic dermatitis, I did successfully use a sulfonated shale oil based shampoo instead of coal tar. But that shampoo was expensive, difficult to find (even online), and recent Amazon reviews suggest issues with the new formula; hence it’s not included in this official list.
Other tar products I’ve used, such as Grandpas Pine Tar soap have also been quite effective. They did dry the skin out more than the Neutrogena, but I thought the smell of those was much more natural and likable (like a campfire). Neutrogena tried to mask their smell with fairly strong perfume and what they ended up with smells somewhat strange.
Why Tar Shampoos May Not Be As Popular
The main negative point associated with these products is the strong smell and their ability to easily stain clothes.
The first one regarding the smell is true, it was quite a strong smell, but once you get used to it, you actually start to enjoy it (at least I enjoyed the pine tar soap).
The second point regarding the staining is not as true (at least it was not for me). Yes, it is brown and obviously, it will make things brown if you get it on fabric. However, in my experience, a thorough wash was more than enough to quickly get it out.
- Neutrogena T/Gel utilizes coal tar as the active ingredient
- Coal tar is an FDA approved treatment for seborrheic dermatitis and is very effective at controlling it’s symptoms
- Thanks to it’s long history, a robust safety record exists
- The original T/Gel formula has a fairly short ingredients list, is reported to be less drying then zinc pyrithione based products
- Tar based can be considered of natural origin and their strong odor can be a negative for some
3. Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Active ingredients: Ketoconazole (1%)
Ingredients: Acrylic Acid Polymer, Butylated Hydroxytoluene, Cocamide MEA, FD&C Blue 1, Fragrance, Glycol Distearate, Polyquaternium 7, Quaternium 15, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Hydrochloric Acid, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Water (Aqua)
The active ingredient in Nizoral, Ketoconazole, is considered to be of the most effective over the counter anti-fungal agent that have been developed in this century. It is widely used in the medical field for not only the treatment of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, but a long list of other conditions related to fungal overgrowth (both external and internal).
Are Ketoconazole Shampoos Safe
Based on all research papers I’ve read, Nizoral/Ketoconazole is completely safe if used according to the 2-3 times per week recommendations .
As with almost all over the counter substances, some adverse reactions have been reported:
- Hair discoloration
- Hair texture changes
- Itching/burning sensations
- Irritation and development of sensitivity
However, please note that the strength of the solution will play a big role in its safety; with lower concentrations typically presenting list risk. All the data I’ve looked at used a maximum concentration of 2% (which is the max you will find anywhere for sale anyway).
How Effective is Ketoconazole Against Seborrheic Dermatitis
Put simply, Ketoconazole is considered the most effective over the counter anti-fungal agent for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis . With some studies even showing that it’s almost as effective as hydrocortisone based products .
Plus, for those experiencing excessive hair loss, studies suggest that it can significantly improve hair growth in terms of both hair shaft thickness and overall hair density [19, 20]. Accordingly, there are even reviews on Amazon of people using it specifically in attempt to reverse/delay early balding.
My Personal Experience with Nizoral
This to me was the strongest anti-fungal shampoo I’ve tried for seborrheic dermatitis. When applied to the skin or hair, it felt that it completely stripped everything away and left it raw/bare (if that makes sense). And when using it as a shampoo, it felt like my hair has just been turned into dead grass/straw.
Yes, it did eradicate redness, itchiness, flakiness, and all the bad stuff associated with seborrheic dermatitis. However, due to how strong it was, I was only able to use this a couple of times.
- The Ketoconazole based shampoo, Nizoral, works extremely well for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis
- While its safety record is not as in-depth as the previous two contenders, it has been deemed safe
- Ketoconazole is one of the strongest over the counter anti-fungal agents available
- Initial research suggests it may also help control/reverse excessive hair loss and balding
- Some users report it can be quite drying
4. Selsun Blue – Medicated Dandruff Shampoo
Active ingredient – Selenium Sulfide 1% Ingredients: Water, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Distearyl Phthalic Acid Amide, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamide MEA, Dimethicone, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylate, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Titanium Dioxide, Blue 1
Selsun Blue is was the first commercial successful brand to release a selenium sulfide shampoo option to the North American market.
A close relative to sulfur, selenium sulfide, was developed in the 1950s in an effort to reduce the unfavorable characteristics of sulfur (primarily odor), while also increasing it’s therapeutic benefit. The end result was a modern anti-fungal agent that is both highly effective and mild to the skin.
Are Selenium Sulfide Shampoos Safe
Overall, selenium sulfide shampoos have been documented to be safe with regular usage . However, it does appear to have a greater chance of side-effects than most of the other options discussed here .
The product is banned in Japan and in several countries around Europe. It is also considered a carcinogen by the EPA and the state of California (granted the state of California considers quite a bit of things as possible carcinogens).
However, the safety data that does exist, has warranted the FDA to continue to allow it’s sale in North America
and feature it in the official list of actives approved for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
How Well Do Sulfide Shampoos Work
Based on the results people online have been able to obtain, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is highly effective for seborrheic dermatitis. Clinical studies equate it to being as effective as ketoconazole based shampoos . Even potentially more so then the Head and Shoulders (pyrithione zinc) and T/Gel (coal tar).
It also appears to have less negative impact on the skins ability to tolerate the sun (which the others strongly affect). And if you are reading this and have experience with Selsun Blue, please consider taking the time to share your knowledge with other readers in the comments below.
My Personal Experience
To me, this looked like one of the stranger products. It’s blue color and thick consistency make it look like slime from a kids movie. Nonetheless, countless users across the world swear by its effectiveness and you can find numerous YouTube reviews described that it worked in cases where other antifungals failed.
In truth, I’ve never tried the product so I do not really have my own opinion of it. The reason I didn’t try it is quite simple. By the time I learned about it, I was completely done with anti-fungal usage. Even then there were times where I really wanted to give it a try but didn’t. Additionally, the one thing that was always in the back of my mind, where it’s safety concerns.
- Selsun Blue is the most popular shampoo in North America utilizing Selenium Sulfide as it’s active ingredient
- Selenium sulfide has been documented to be very effective for controlling the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis
- Safety concerns of prolonged use exist 
- Many online reviews note emphasize that it proved effective for them, when others failed
5. Neutrogena T/Sal – Therapeutic Shampoo – Scalp Build-Up Control
Active ingredient: Salicylic Acid 3%
Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Polyquaternium-22, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Citrate
Another option from Neutrogena on this list, T/Sal, takes a slightly different approach than all the other options review thus far. Instead of dependence on a primarily anti-fungal agent, T/Sal utilizes a salycilic acid, which while being deemed to have potential anti-fungal properties, is best known for it’s skin peeling action.
Accordingly, T/Sal works by removing the dead skin and any yeast build up using a fairly strong acid.
Salicylic acid is an acid of natural origin and is derived from the willow trees bark. It is most frequently used as an effective solution for acne and at higher concentrations, to remove warts and corns .
When used for seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), it is extremely effective at removing the flakes , leaving the skin feeling tight and effectively bare.
Are Salicylic Acid Shampoos Safe
Salicylic acid seems to be one of the safer products listed here. Its popularity in a wide variety of applications has allowed for quite an impressive amount of safety data to be gathered around it .
Some people with very sensitive skin have been shown to experience slight discomfort from its use (likely due to its highly acidic nature), but these are isolated cases. And for the most part, it shouldn’t cause any side effects.
Do Salicylic Acid Shampoos Work
Yes and no. It seems to work very well when the seborrheic dermatitis is quite mild, however, as seborrheic dermatitis becomes worse, it may be insufficient. And this is likely due to the malassezia yeast getting deeper into the skin layers combined with salicylic acid’s fairly weak anti-fungal properties .
Nonetheless, combination of salicylic acid a more potent anti-fungal agent (even at lower concentrations), such with sulfur, may allow for a sort of one-two punch to the issue. Proving to be a more effective solution to seborrheic dermatitis, then full strength salicylic acid or sulfur on their own .
My Personal Experience with T/Sal
Specifically for me, it did not seem to have very lasting results. Tough the first wash would produce an almost instant improve, the skin seemed to adapt rather quickly and a corresponding return of symptoms.
Granted, one of my favorite aspects was just how mild it was.
- Neutrogena T/Sal and it’s active ingredient Salycic Acid, work quit well for mild seborrheic dermatitis
- Salicylic acid’s, main benefits are derived from its ability to remove flakes and scales
- In more aggressive cases of seborrheic dermatitis, it may be insufficient
6. Jason – Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
Active ingredients: Sulfur 2.0%, Salicylic Acid 2.0%
Ingredients: Aqua (water), sodium cocoyl isethionate, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, stearic acid, potassium cocoyl glutamate, glycerin, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, cetyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine, hydrolyzed wheat protein, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil(1), pogostemon cablin (patchouli) oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil(1), camphor, dimethyl sulfone(2), menthol, methyl salicylate, potassium hydroxide, sodium PCA, xanthan gum, benzyl alcohol, capryloyl glycine, undecylenoyl glycine, amyl cinnamal, benzyl benzoate, hexyl cinnamal, hydroxycitronellal, linalool, limonene, fragrance (parfum)
Several formulations sell under the same name
Please take note of the specific ingredients list mentioned here. There are other formulations from the Jason brand under the same “Dandruf Relief” name on the market which contain a substantially diferent shampoo base.
The Jason Dandruff Relief shampoo goes hand in hand with the suggestion from the previous section. It takes both sulfur and salicylic acid and combines them into one single formula. And while the smell of this shampoo may be quite off-putting (due to the asulfur), the sulfur and salicylic acid combo make a great team.
Salicylic acid goes to work at removing build-up and scales, while the sulfur other does more of the heavy lifting takes up the fight against the malassezia yeast/fungus.
As mentioned in the previous discussion on T/Sal, the combination of both salycilic acid and sulfur have been documented to be highly effective for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis . While sulfur has lost some of it’s glory in recent decades due to its strong odor, it does remain one of the FDA approved agents for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.
Are Sulfur Based Shampoo Safe
Both of the ingredients in the Jason shampoo (salicylic acid and sulfur) are of natural origin and have been used for centuries. They have a fairly strong safety record and I would consider them to be one of the safest products listed here (while still being extremely effective).
The only potential safety concern to keep in mind is the strong odor originating from the sulfur. This in of itselft can be highly dangerous when going out, meeting new people, and socializilng. Simply put, it’s probably not the best thing to use right before you head out. 🙂
How Well Do Sulfur Based Shampoos Work
There is a ton of praise for this shampoo on many of the different online retailers (the bad ratings are typically from people who either have not used it consistently enough or can’t stand the smell).
Unfortuently, there are several different formulations available in North American under the exact same name. When pruchasing, please keep in mind that the formula which contains “sodium cocoyl isethionate” as it’s main cleansing agent gets most of the praise.
My Personal Experience
In my experience, the results were on par with Head and Shoulders and the progress obtained seem to stick around for longer. But it did seem that it take a little longer than the others to start working. However, once you get things under control the maintenance schedule is more slack.
- Jason Dandruff Relief utilizes a combination approach of two active ingreidents, saliycylic acid and sulfur
- The combination of active ingredients typically works well even for more moderate/severe cases
- Sulfur’s effectivness it optimized by sticking to the recommended usage schedule
- Strong odor of the formula may detour many consumers, especially those with longer hair
7. Paul Mitchell – Tea Tree Oil Special Shampoo
Active ingredient: Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil
Ingredients: Aqua (Water, Eau), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamide MIPA, Parfum (Fragrance), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Panthenol, Menthol, Hedychium Coronarium (White Ginger) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Algae Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Oleamidopropyl Betaine, Propylene Glycol, Glycol Stearate, PEG-150 Distearate, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Polyquaternium-7, Bisamino PEG/PPG-41/3 Aminoethyl PG-Propyl Dimethicone, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Nitrate, Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol, CI 42090 (Blue 1), CI 19140 (Yellow 5).
Thanks in large part to it’s natural appeal, tea tree oil containing formulations have become quite popular in the North American market. And though it may not be the most popular of these, Paul Mitchell’s offering has gotten quite a lot of praise due to it’s hair salon quality foundation.
Are Tea Tree Oil Shampoos Safe
As the active ingredient, tea tree oil, may be the oldest option featured on this list . Accordingly, it’s long history helps solidify it’s established safety profile (at or below te recommended concentration levels).
If you are considering this method because you are in search of a natural treatment option, be aware that Paul Mitchells shampoo does contain some ingredients that would be considered a negative on this front (such as SLS and others) and you may find a more “natural” tea tree shampoo offered elsewhere.
How Well Do Tea Tree Oil Shampoos Work
The active ingredient in Paul Mitchells shampoo, tea tree oil, does not appear on the FDA’s list of approved agents for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis, it does remain popular as an altnearitve all natural option. And it’s efficacy is cited in a number of peer reviewed journals.
Research studies evaluating the effectiveness of tea tree oil shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis show good potential:
- A lab study evaluating tea tree oil’s anti-fungal potential against malassezia showed significant suppression and noted tea tree oil may be “useful in the treatment of conditions involving M. furfur” .
- A real-world single-blind study with 126 participants over the age of 14 years showed a 41% improvement rate (just under half of the people showed good progress). Though the scaliness component was noted to have the least improvements, the study concluded that 5% tea tree oil is an “effective and well tolerated” treatment of dandruff .
My Personal Experience with Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Oil Special Shampoo
The effectiveness of this particular shampoo for me remains unclear. I’ve read about people getting results, but after regular usage, I saw little (if not none) change in my seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.
On the plus side, the smell of the shampoo was amazing and the product did have a premium feel to it, which made usage more pleasant.
- Tea tree remains a popular natural alternative to commercial anti-fungal agents
- Mild to moderate cases may benefit, but effeciciency in more aggressive cases remains questionable
- Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Special formula may not be the most natural tea tree oil based shampoo formula, yet, it’s popularity among professional salon operators gives it a solid foundation
Summary and Conclusion
Here are the takeaways from this article:
- Seborrheic dermatitis is considered a chronic skin condition, requiring ongoing treatment for symptom relief
- Accurate diagnosis should be the first thing to focus on, as you may be fighting a visually similar condition that required a different approach – consultation with a doctor recommended
- The main understanding is that the Malassezia yeast are responsible for the majority of symptoms; accordingly, anti-fungal agents are the most recommended treatment approach
- Zinc pyrithione is the most commonly used anti-fungal agent and Head & Shoulders is the most popular formula across the world today
- Coal tar based shampoos have been around for longer and have a proven track record of safety, their biggest downfall is the strong smell and variable outcomes
- Ketoconazole and selenium sulfide appear to be some of the most effective anti-fungal agents used for seborrheic dermatitis and can be worth trying in aggressive cases
- Salicylic acid and tea tree oil may not be effective for everyone, but solely based on their natural original they are worth trying as part of a more mild treatment strategy
- Sulfurs popularity remains limited and it does not have as much discussion for its use in seborrheic dermatitis, but it is approved by the FDA for its treatment
- The skin is a complex component of the immune system and various microorganism live on its surface; future approaches may focus on the ecosystem as a whole instead of isolating single members
In the end, there are many popular shampoos currently available for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis and most of them are quite effective. Yet, everyone is different and seborrheic dermatitis is a complex condition that the medical community still struggles fully understand.
Personally, I strongly believe the best thing you can do right now, is to take the time to fully understand the condition. By understanding the condition at its fundamental level you become more empowered to take control and make more informed treatment choices.
Food for thought:
How much do you think the companies selling the stuff benefit/profit from your ongoing problem? What else have you been doing to control your condition?
If you have any experience with any of the seborrheic dermatitis shampoos described above or a different shampoo which worked for you, leave your feedback in the comments below.
I am a bit confused. You state at the end how none of these shampoos helped you but you dont mention that till the end. And you also dont mention what helped you during the two month period when you just stayed at home. Was it the honey treatment?Reply Permalink
Sorry for the confusion. The shampoos did help greatly in controlling my seborrheic dermatitis, but my skin seemed to become overly dependent on it. Additional most of them made my skin overly sensitive (particularly to UV rays). Neutrogena Coal tar was probably my favourite as it seemed to be a little more gentle.
The two month period was when I abruptly stopped using all anti dandruff shampoos and solutions. For about a month I tried not doing anything at all, but found skin quite oily after exercise. Then I started my own regimen and its been quite effective ever since.
The honey was very good as well. But, its quite a time consuming treatment though. Also it lost some effectiveness over time, but this was probably due to my laziness and lack of consistency.
Hope that helps. Best of luck.Reply Permalink
In my opinion the Holy Grail of medicall shampoos for very bad breakouts is: Kertyol by Ducray, this was prescribed by a dermatologist when I had an extremely horrible breakout of SD (my head was full of wounds and dry flakes, and my hair was falling in patches from the worst affected areas).
I used this one http://aptekaslonik.pl/images/prod/6154/ducray-kertyol-szampon-125.jpg
It worked like magic, so from a head full of scales and wounds, to an extremely happy clear skin that felt great, my hair had a nice herbal smell and the overall feeling was amazing. After few weeks the skin normalized so I was able to switch back to a normal Zink Pirithione shampoo for maintenance (head and shoulders or Syoss).
I would have liked to continue with Kertyol but it was too expensive for me for long term use.
Warning: There are many types of Ducray products for different types of SD or for Psoriazis, so it is good if a doctor is familiar with it and will prescribe it according to your condition. Or do your research first http://www.ducray.com/en-gb/hair-care
Selenium Sulfide Shampoos are also effective for me, but it took a long time to become effective_ 2-3 weeks until clearing up 100% of the dandruff.
Zink pirithione shampoos as Syoss or Head and Shoulders are effective from first uses but only for long term maintenance, not for treating a breakout. If you have a horrible breakout, these might not cut it, you might need a strong medical one like Kertyol for a while.
Nizoral is one of the worst ones, don’t try it, waste of money. It clears the skin but the skin does not feel good afterwards, Also it is only working for a very short amount of time, and then the problem is back in full force. My doctor said that he would not recommend it because it looses effectiveness very quickly and patients usually don’t like it.Reply Permalink
Fantastic write up. I have red sores on my scalp for the last few years and switched from head and shoulders when I learned about the nasty ingredients used. I tried Jasons shampoo which definitely helped a little but then I found Reviive Organics, not sure if you have heard of them but my sores on my scalp have completely gone. I no longer need to wash my hair every single day and would recommend for you to do a writeup on this also ! www.reviive.com/enReply Permalink
Thanks for the update. Look’s interesting, but it seems like it has very limited availability. Have been actually quite interested in the active ingredient in this (which appears to be a combination of ichthyol and crotamiton.
Itchyol has quite a good track record and is similar to coal tar, but a more natural version. It is also known as sulfonated shale oil. Unfortunately it’s availability in the North American market is fairly limited and I believe this is due to some issues with FDA approval. However, I strongly believe that this is a much better and safer alternative to coal tar (based on all the research that I’ve seen). Personally, I think it’s simply not being allowed on to the market due to competitor interests. Regardless, I was able to get pure itchyol from a personal friend in Russia. It worked very well at getting rid of the seborrheic dermatitis, but I wasn’t quite able to find a way to integrate it into a easy to follow routine (it’s basically a tar -> stick, black, and smells like resin).
The one shampoo I did find that contained itchyol was this one:
Morrocco Method Pine Shale Shampoo
Worked well for me. However, it was really expensive and went bad before I could finish the bottle.
Completely agree regarding the other points. Except, personally I never attempted any selenium sulfide products, at this time I had already found that natural products can be just as effective.
Thanks again for the detailed comment and adding on to the discussion.Reply Permalink
All the best.
Thanks for the feedback and your input. Took a quick look at the Reviive products and they seem fairly good. But I believe they are priced way to high. There are many other natural/organic products on the market with very similar ingredients that are much cheaper. The ingredients used for both their shampoo and conditioner are fairly standard among the natural product offerings from other companies.
All the best.Reply Permalink
Hi, I have just recently found out that I have seb derm, never knew until then. But only on my scalp, but problem now is hairloss. I used to have tons of hair but now they become thinner and thinner , and I think it’s due to seb derm . Now I use selsun once a week and Head&shoulder Classic Clean daily, to keep my hair away from flakes. I just wonder, do you and the others, who also have seb derm, have the same issue like me ?Reply Permalink
Jack, I am interested in your complaint of noticing red sores on your scalp after using Head and Shoulders. While, out of all if the med shampoos I have used, the zinc pirythione seems to be the one med that actually impacts my seb term (temporarily) , I too often notice sores on my scalp…i figured it may be due to the heavy sudsing ingredients…are you aware of a particular ingredient in H and S that causes these sores? I am looking into other ways to use zinc pyrithicone on my scalp besides H and SReply Permalink
After first use of Nizoral, the seborrhea has increase and itching has increased 2 times it was before.
Is this normal. Should I continue using it.Reply Permalink
Hi , I am pretty sure it did not contain Itchyol, that ingredient is only in their shampoos for Psoriazis.
The shampoo that I used in the past is now called Squanorm, but I am not sure if they changed the recipe. http://www.ducray.com/en-gb/node/66917
Now I am using a new one called Kelual DS for Seborrheic Dermatitis which is quite expensive but really effective.
I also started to use the Kelual DS cream (http://www.ducray.com/en-gb/node/66915) for face and ears combined with Biom8.Reply Permalink
The combination is really good: Kelual DS cream stops the flaking but sometimes the itchiness comes back, and Biom8 reduces the itchiness and increases the effectiveness of the treatment. I am not cured completely but my skin looks and feels quite normal when I apply this combination.
In the majority of the research I’ve came across, hair loss typically accompanies seborrheic dermatitis. This is because the malassezia fungus likes to invade the hair follicules and this can get in the way of healthy hair growth. The second edition of Seborrheic Dermatitis - The Owners ManualeBook will contain a section devoted to explained the hair loss associated with SD and potential ways to resolve the issue.
Overall though, once the seborrheic dermatitis is controlled, hair loss usually returns to normal. Both Ketoconazole (Nizoral) and Pyrithione Zinc (Head and Shoulders) have been shown to help improve hair growth in a significant number of studies. Some individuals who have issues solely with hair loss even use Ketoconazole.
Hope that helps.Reply Permalink
All the best!
This isn’t normal and it seems your skin isn’t agreeing with it.
Personally, I would stop usage and attempt something else.
Let me know if you have any updates.Reply Permalink
Best of luck!
Thanks for the response. Will look into these in more detail and potentially add them into the main post as well.
How exactly have you been combining the two? Would be interesting to hear. Potentially, a good idea would be for me to add a section to the Biom8 website for users to provide details on their own unique approaches to using it (get some pretty creative ideas through email). Also, have you attempted solely Biom8 usage?
Thanks again and best of luck!Reply Permalink
Hope things continue indefinitely.
Thanks michel for this review its realy helped , im newly diagnosed with SD and i use triderma shampoo containing salicylic acid its just work for one day doesnt help so much , i just wonder about the safest product in pre pregnancy and during preg and breast feeding???Reply Permalink
Thanks for the positive feedback. And sorry to hear about your results with that shampoo.
A more natural approach is likely best in this situation. My current regimen (My Seborrheic Dermatitis Skin Regimen 2.0) uses all natural fatty acids to control my facial seborrheic dermatitis and some people use it with great results on their scalp as well.
Personally, simply using this shampoo: Andalou Naturals Moisture Rich Shampoo, seemed to clear by scalp issues.
A medicated shampoo you may want to consider is this: Kertyol P.S.O.
It uses a supposedly more natural alternative to coal tar and is considered to have a better safety profile (and is much more popular in Europe).
Hope that helps and look forward to any updates.Reply Permalink
I used Neutregena T-gel every time I washed my hair for a number of years and suspect that it caused ongoing hairloss for me. I stopped using it and with each passing month my hair grew back to its normal fullness.Reply Permalink
Hi everyone. My scalp is literally a snow storm and itchy with dried lumps of skin, that come away when picked. Sometime these very itchy bits then break and become sore. I’ve tried so many shampoos from my GP over the last year and nothing has cleared it. I’ve turned to pure organic products,containing burdock and Neem, for irritated scalps…no improvement. I’ve soaked my head in cider vinegar, which took the redness away from my hair line, and rubbed tea tree oil in. Nothing has touched the snow storm . I’ve noted various other shampoos that have been mentioned, and if I can purchase them , I’ll try them. Coal tar made my scalp go mental!! I’m into natural products where possible, but my scalp is now just getting me down. Nice page here though exchanging ideas. Thank you.Reply Permalink
head and shoulders does NOT WORK AT ALL, actually makes the problem worseReply Permalink
this must be seriously sponsored
I recently knew that I have Seborrhic Dramatics on my scalp. I was using “f-biwash+” shampoo(http://www.fluencepharma.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Combined-BrochureQ.png) with Apple Cider Vinegar for about a year.
Apple Cider Vinegar may have reduced my red spot but I found that my scalp is not improving. There is still lots dandruff in the roots of my hair, which cause lot hair fall.
I also used Head and Shoulders Anti-hair fall shampoo (Zink Pirithione Shampoo) for about a week. But that does not seem to work well. After using this shampoo, there is always a soft white layer of wet dandruff on my whole scalp. If I try to remove them ,then there is lots of hair fall.
Which of these Shampoos will be best for me?
Should I use http://aptekaslonik.pl/images/prod/6154/ducray-kertyol-szampon-125.jpg??
I don’t want to use “f-biwash” anymore. It is totally waste of money !!Reply Permalink
Thank you so much for writing this! I thought I was going to go crazy trying to figure out what kind of shampoo to use to get rid of this mess on my scalp, but I found your review and it definitely saved me a huge headache! It also makes me feel better knowing that I am not the only one who has to deal with seborrheic dermatitis. It’s made me feel so insecure lately, but thanks to your review, I feel less alone, less embarrassed, and know what to look for when I go to the store!Reply Permalink
Shortly after we were married, my husband developed an awful case of seborrheic dermatitis, and even the prescription shampoos did little to abate the mess. His scalp was oily, smelly and the flakes came off in huge greasy patches. I remembered having something similar as a child and my grandmother using apple cider vinegar directly on my scalp and thoroughly coming off as much of the scaling as she could. She then took a bar of coal tar soap, scrubbed my scalp and hair and then took a huge glop of mayonnaise, worked it into my hair and covered it with a hot towel. After about 30 minutes, she rinsed out all the mayonnaise and let my hair air dry. She did this three times in total over the span of a month and I had no more flakes, no more itching ever again.
I did this regimen to my husband and it kept the whole mess away for over 7 years. Then, he developed chronic asthma from a moldy duplex we were living in and I had to go thru the whole procedure again.
Unfortunately, when he has to take certain asthma meds, the gnasty mess comes back - but so far using organic apple cider vinegar, coal tar shampoo and a good hot oil treatment afterwards seems to do the trick. I honestly believe that the apple cider vinegar is the keystone to controlling the fungus. You might smell like a salad for a bit, but it’s worth it not to have the greasy flakes gracing your wardrobe!Reply Permalink
Hey so I’m 13 I’ve been struggling with SD for two years now,Reply Permalink
I had it as a child and it went away for a while and it’s not back I’m assuming due to
Puberty. I’ve been using sebcur t for the past few months as it has been prescribed by my dermatologist and it seems to have really worked but it’s only perscribed to be used 2-3 times a week and then gradually use it less and less. I’m unaware of what to use in between cause I’m only using that shampoo 2-3 time per week and soaking my head in Dead Sea salt to dry the scalp. I need a gentle refractive shampoo to use in between do u know of any??
I have this condition on my scalp only (thank God!). I used Selsum Blue twice a week as instructed and it did wonders for me. My sensitivity also went away after a few uses and as long as I used it like that, I had no problems. Over the past six months or so, I stopped it because…I foolishly thought it was fine. But holy crow, my dandruff, the itching, and sensitivity are back with a vengeance! I also used Head & Shoulders for a while and I liked it too but it wasn’t as strong as Selsum Blue. Though I still use both for face wash once a week and my skin is super clear. I have a very sensitive body in terms of maintenance so to find two products that cheap that both work for me was a treasure. Now my Selsum is not working as well but I haven’t used it a while, which means the expiration date has passed. So both H&S and SB worked very well and I never noticed any long term effects from them; however, I now pay attention to the dates because they do actually matter. I use Clear conditioner and that helps soothe any of the itching. Great post! Very insightful.Reply Permalink
I wanted to comment on Selsun Blue. During college I broke out in sweat related Tinea (a fungus) on my sides and back. After research online and going through expensive prescription creams, I tried the Selsun Blue. Due to the color, I used to call it “Smurfing Myself”. I would put a thin layer over the effected area and sit shirtless for about 30 minutes, then wash it off in the shower. In about a week my Tinea was gone.
Post college I decided to grow a beard and discovered I have dermatitis. Once again, I did some research, and found out that smurfing my face this time might be the answer. Sure enough, it works very well. I had to shave my beard to keep it at bay, but the Selsun Blue works wonders and I swear by it. I use the Selsun Blue on my face at night, shave in the morning after my shower, moisturize, and I’m good to go.
I hope this helps!Reply Permalink
I have been living with SD for quite a long time. It first started showing up when I was 12 years old ( 19 years before), my pillow used to be full of flakes, where ever I sit and touch my hair always leaves traces, itching and irritation …God!!! very bad experience. I tried anything which family and friends were recomdending applied egg yolk, ginger, aleo vera, lemon, orange peel, lot of types of grasses, a lot types of shampoos with anti dundruff written on them, you name it… But one day in 2004 a friend of mine brough for me a shampoo named CLEAR. I can’t forget that day. It worked wonders for me. I washed with it the first time, it was itching to the extreme. The next wash itching was moderate and the skin irritation subsided. Third, fourth and so on. No irritation no dundraff at all. But that time the brand was new and their product was so effective in short time but this time its is a bit weaker I donno why( or may be I got used to it i cant figure out). That time i used to put a small amount on my hand and wash with it and faom it on my scalp and face wait like 3 mins and rinse. This time I have to put as it is thick on my face and and with little water on my scalp for 3 to 5 mins to be effective. 13 years I am using it as my regular hair shampoo and have never had any issues with it. It even made my hair more softer and better looking. I came up to this site to look for a long time and permanent solution for dundruff on my way I am also sharing my experience. ThanksReply Permalink
Hey, I’ve been experiencing SD for like 6-7 years. I just knew that I’ve been diagnosed with SD for like 6 months ago when i went to see a dermatologist. From the beginning i thought it was only a normal dandruff but then after a year and another year passes by it became worst. I got a very flaky, itchiness, redness around my scalp. Trust me I’ve been using a lot of anti-dandruff shampoos but nothing worked. I even used selsun blue but the effect wasn’t really good. When i did a research, I thought it was psoriasis or eczema but when i went to dermatologist he told my diagnosis was SD. So far he prescribed me with Pinetar shampoo, u-closone cream ( i have it on my face as well but just a mild) and cetrizine to reduce the itchiness. For the 3 months I’ve been using that products and i have to say it works but the problem is that it goes on and off i mean i only got this SD when some factors trigger me like stress, climate changes. I felt very frustrated because i want it to be resolve. Right now the only method i have to do is get rid of the trigger factors. Is there any suggestions that i could try other methods?I really hope it helps me very much.Reply Permalink
I have the same problem the white layer that looks like dead skin and if a rubbed it my hair comes off so easily and my hair is falling a lot for more that a year. Have you doing now ? Are you getting better ?Reply Permalink
Reading your story it sounds like mine exactly the same , have you found anything that has help you with the hair loss ? I will be so happy to hear from you .Reply Permalink
Your article is very well written.I want to know the frequency of using the ‘Andalou…’ shampoo? do i have to use it daily?
So I’ve had this for a year now but it gets worst in the snowy winter months especially. I used up almost an entire bottle of Head and Shoulders but it literally did nothing for me. We then bought Nizorial and I thought it worked slightly but then I just realized it was super strong and intense because I scratch my hair every hour so I have irritated skin everywhere on my scalp. Now my husband helps me put tea tree oil on my scalp (it’s on my lower half which is weird), but I don’t think we’re making huge progress. It’s hard because I have curly hair and I’m not supposed to wash it every day because it’s bad for it. Do you suggest I just deal with it and wash it every day? Is that my problem? I have it in my ears too and I just can’t stop itching everywhere. I don’t know what to do.Reply Permalink
I shall be trying Argan Oil shampoo and conditioner as nothing else, including Cortisone creams and cortisoneshampoo has helped.Reply Permalink
I appreciate this write up. I was diagnosed with SD about 10 years ago. I had a huge white flaky patch in the back of my head that inched incessantly. I went to the dermatologist and they diagnosed it. I was prescribed Loprox shampoo and Olux foam which worked wonders but is too expensive. I’ve used Neutrogena T-Sal for years when it flares upeople but I have a very mild case that doesn’t require constant treatment. Today I purchasedon’t Dermarest shampoo as my scalp has been a little itchy lately. Hoping it works as well as Neutrogena but at a more reasonable price.
Also, I’ve noticed my hair doesn’t grow as well on the side and or in the area of my head that gets the flare up. It has grown but it’s much slower and not as full.Reply Permalink
I lost all my hair a few years back due to the worst case of SB. The only thing that grew my hair back (After extensive treatment of the SB which took about 2 months) was JAMAICAN BLACK CASTOR OIL. Cheap and saved my hairline!Reply Permalink
I have serborrheic dermatitis… Having been using alot of African medicines but not going off… Some of the medicines you listed are not on Ghana marketsReply Permalink
My dermatologist advised me Betnovate Lotion to apply on my scalp and it amazingly works within 24 to 48 hours. Also Advanton creame for skin. I never used shampoo for SD treatment.Reply Permalink
I have had Dermitits for about two years. I have seen 3 M Ds& two allergy Dr. Never been told to use anything but a cortzone cream. It doesn’t work. The itchy rash has move down my neck and started down upper part of my arm. I use Prednsone for relief. I worry this is going to destroy my bones. I just ordered BIMO8 . I only found out about this last week. THANK YOU JOHN GRIFFINReply Permalink
Are you still using the Andalou organics shampoo? Recent reviews on Amazon say that the formulation has changed and it now contains more irritating ingredients. I am looking for a super sensitive zinc based shampoo. I have sebopsoriasis that reacts with almost everything that touches it. The only shampoos I can use currently are kerytol pso and body shop ginger scalp remedy. These shampoos don’t prevent the scalp condition from happening, just keep it at Bay. Still having scale buildup, pain and hair loss (breaking at root). Would love to not wash my hair but it gets greasy within one day and if I don’t wash, the build up/hair loss gets out of control.Reply Permalink
The safety of these shampoos is a huge issue. The chemicals present, when applied to our skin, may be toxic or carcinogenic. Just because a company makes a product doesn’t mean that it is safe. Regarding the coal tar shampoo T-Gel, I can’t believe that the author would state thus: “Neutrogena and other manufacturers have likely done their duty and conducted a fair amount of safety research (at-least I would hope they have).” Right. Companies with a vested interest in selling us their product would never obfuscate or mislead the public, perform the minimal amount of research required to get a product on the shelf, or downright lie as to the safety of their product.
My point: The descriptions in this list are nothing but one person’s personal experiences with a small dash of research. Use the advice herein with a grain of salt and be wary of the sections describing the safety of these chemical products.Reply Permalink
how do u use the lotion? do you put it on before a hair wash or after? whats the process?Reply Permalink
Thr first 5 shampoos listed will turn one’s head of hair into a nasty, dried out, broken off mess. All of the ingredients in them are poison for the health of your hair. I have been through most of them and suffered the disastrous results. Please do more research, there are many organic shampoos and scalp treatments which will successfully treat your SD and leave you with your beautiful head of hair.Reply Permalink
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the problem is not usually well treated from the exterior of the body. According to Chinese medicine, diet plays an important role in controlling seborrheic dermatitis. Foods that produce dampness and heat, such as spicy and greasy foods, sweets, and meats such as lamb, chicken, capon, duck, and shrimp, should be avoided during the course of treatment. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol should also be discontinued or limited. I know this is the hardest part, but will bring the greatest relief.Reply Permalink
If you have the opportunity to see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, or acupuncturist, you may find help from a direction you did not expect. I hope this helps! We’re all in this together!
Hi Emily,Reply Permalink
Have tried tea tree oil too…just made it worse actually and saw more flakes than ever…they say tea tree oil can cause skin / scalp reactions…
The kerytol psi site doesn’t work right. It cuts off parts of sentences and switches to other products when you’re trying to read. Too messed up to bother with.Reply Permalink
I will buy head & shoulders today. What helped for your facial skin? I have the red spots by my nostrils, middle of my forehead and chin. I hate it. Thx for all your info!Reply Permalink
Can you clarify please: was coal tar shampoo or bar of coal tar soap what you used?Reply Permalink
I’ve used just about all the shampoos, prescription and over the counter, mentioned in the article over the years, with mixed results. I finally read some testimonials about Selsun Blue shampoo, extolling the great results. I though this was hard to believe, as this shampoo has been around for many years, and I never heard that it was so effective for Seborrheic Dermatitis. I purchased a bottle and began to use it, with incredible results!!! My face has cleared up, as well as my scalp. I use it every three or four days to maintain the effect. I wish I had known about this treatment many years ago. I’m now 78 years old.Reply Permalink
Those organic shampoos & scalp treatment are?Reply Permalink
Why does my SD crank up at night? it wakes me up the itching is either so sharp or so strong. Is it my head creating a heat source with the pillow or does the M yeast prefer the dark .Reply Permalink
I would like to say sesun blue shampoo works but it made my head burn when I’d put it on not sure what caused this. I recently bought Jason and have used only once but did not have the burning.Reply Permalink
After trying every shampoo under the sun (including all that were mentioned in this article), I finally decided to go back to Head and Shoulders (hadn’t used it in about 30 years!) because they have one now that is ok for color treated hair. It is called Head and Shoulders selenium sulfide dandruff & seborrheic dermatitis shampoo clinical strength. I am dandruff free for the first time in years and it does not dry my hair out. It is a weird orange color, but other than that it is fine. You can buy it on Amazon.Reply Permalink
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