The best dandruff shampoo for men controls flakes, oil production, and itchiness without completely drying out your hair.
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Unfortunately, as many men living with this or a related condition find, getting this degree of control and comfort turns into a trial-and-error experience. So, rather than find your scalp inflamed the next day, start with our guide to get your dandruff under control.
What is Dandruff?
Clear signs point to dandruff. For many men, this is a dry, flaky scalp with an oily sensation. The flakes may be visible enough to be seen amongst your hair, or could be spotted on your clothing.
Not every dry, itchy scalp, however, is dandruff. Instead, this condition, which can usually be treated with over-the-counter solutions in its earliest stage, is a mild version of seborrheic dermatitis, characterized by the following symptoms:
- Flakes on your scalp, as well as in your hair, beard, and eyebrows.
- Your scalp feels itchy.
- Oily, irritated skin and oily hair.
Guys may find that these symptoms flare up during times of stress or in colder, dry conditions.
No single source points to the development of dandruff, and the condition may go back to:
- Not shampooing thoroughly or removing product from your hair
- Malassezia, a yeast-like fungus that naturally lives on your scalp. In higher quantities, this fungus causes a buildup of skin cells, which then accumulate and flake off.
- Contact dermatitis, in relation to hair care products.
- Dry, irritated skin
Dry Scalp Isn’t Always Dandruff
Although many use the terms interchangeably, dandruff and dry scalp aren’t the same. Dry scalp can occur when the skin is receiving too little moisture, and it not only feels irritated but starts to flake off. Unlike dandruff, the flakes tend to be smaller in size, and you’ll be experiencing dry skin on your arms, legs, and torso, too.
Causes of a dry scalp go back to cold or dry air or can be a reaction to a product you’re using, be it a shampoo, gel, pomade, or hairspray.
Men experiencing a dry scalp often find some degree of relief when they use a gentle shampoo that won’t strip the skin and follow it with a moisturizing conditioner. Applying a moisturizer to your scalp, just as you would your face, or steaming the scalp skin can deliver hydration to this area and improve symptoms.
An itchy or flaky scalp, meanwhile, may be an indication of psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition that produces itchy, scaly patches all over the body – scalp included. Unlike with dandruff and dry scalp, the patches here look red and inflamed, no matter where they occur on your body.
Men wanting to manage the itchy scalp and patches from psoriasis often have to use a prescription gel to address the inflammation, with Zithranol-RR, Dovonex, Taclonex, Vectical, or Tazorac being a few solutions.
The Best Dandruff Shampoo Types
As the first stage for tackling dandruff, men are recommended to use a medicated shampoo over the counter with one of the following ingredients:
Pyrithione zinc offers both antibacterial and antifungal properties. Several washes targets the fungus growing on your scalp to reduce flaking, while more gentle formulas eliminate potential dryness. Among the popular and recommended pyrithione zinc-based shampoos for men are DermaZinc, Jason Dandruff Relief, and Head & Shoulders products.
Coal tar dandruff shampoos tend to have a darker, thicker formula and strong scent, which can lead to discoloration if you have blonde, gray, or light-colored hair and increased scalp sensitivity in sunlight. These shampoos aren’t antifungal but instead slow the rate of your scalp shedding skin cells, and so controls the pace that dandruff forms. Currently, Neutrogena T/Gel is one of the popular coal tar-based formulas out there.
An ingredient commonly found in over-the-counter acne products, salicylic acid has a similar effect when going after scale and buildup on your scalp, in turn reducing flaking. Yet, just as with acne products, salicylic acid dandruff shampoos can get the job done – or lead to more dryness and flaking. Popular solutions include Neutrogena T/Sal and P&S and may also offer patients living with scalp psoriasis some relief.
Selenium sulfide works as an antifungal agent to control the fungus on your scalp and reduce the buildup of skin cells and subsequent flaking. An ingredient in Head & Shoulders Intensive and Selsun Blue formulas, selenium sulfide shampoo also have potential to discolor light or dyed hair.
Ketoconazole is the active ingredient in Nizoral A-D anti-dandruff shampoo, as well as other over-the-counter and prescription formulas. Ketoconazole is an antifungal agent that kills the fungus living on your scalp to stop the pace at which skin cells build up and flake off.
Tea Tree Oil
Men wanting a more natural alternative may want to seek out a tea tree oil-based shampoo. Tea tree oil acts as an antifungal agent and is less likely to increase scalp sensitivity or discolor your hair. However, some may have an allergic reaction to the ingredient.
How to Get Rid of Dandruff
If you’re a guy living with dandruff, using an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo is often the first step. Realize that it may take a few weeks – to as long as a month – to find a degree of relief. At that point, if you don’t notice a difference, you may need to try a different ingredient.
As well, know how to properly use a medicated shampoo. Some formulas can be lathered in and washed out, and others need to sit in place for a few minutes to have any effect. Also, certain dandruff shampoos may lose their effectiveness with time, and you may need to switch to a different formula, alternate with a traditional shampoo, or reach out to your doctor for help.
In speaking with a doctor or dermatologist, they may give you a prescription for a stronger medicated shampoo or further have you use a steroid lotion on your scalp. Or, with closer examination, you might find you’re not living with dandruff at all, and may be pointed toward a treatment for dry scalp, contact dermatitis, or scalp psoriasis.
As you go about addressing your dandruff, pay attention to particular triggers:
- Make sure you fully wash out all shampoo and product from your hair.
- Stay away from harsh chemicals, including bleaching agents and alcohol, which may make your dry scalp and dandruff worse.
- Try to get some sun – although not too much. Studies have shown that a small amount of exposure to ultraviolet light can help with controlling dandruff.