Itching? Flaking? Stinging? If you’ve noticed an uptick in scalp sensitivity (and residual white flecks) recently, you’re not alone. Even better news: The best dandruff shampoo formulas for every hair type are waiting in the wings to ensure a soft, supple, and flake-free scalp.
While dandruff, which results from the overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast on the skin, is a year-round issue, one common cause is change of season—especially if it’s during the cooler months when dryness is more prominent. “It can have a dramatic effect on your scalp, especially at the early onset,” explains New York trichologist Shab Reslan. “The combination of indoor dry heat and the cold, harsh winters can cause a temporary adjustment for your scalp and create dry flaking until the body balances itself and adapts to the new season.”
Another factor that exacerbates dandruff (and one that rings relevant in the age of the coronavirus) is stress, which can trigger overproduction of sebum and promote excess yeast. In related news, hair loss—which is inextricably linked to scalp health—is a growing concern, says Reslan, citing a study conducted by Wakefield Research for HairClub, which found that nearly two in five Americans (39%) have experienced hair loss as the result of stress from quarantine. “Stress can cause scalp imbalances, and [this moment] is the perfect excuse to show your scalp some extra weekly love.” The first step to a happy scalp? Making sure you’re washing your hair enough. “When you notice flaking on the scalp, that is most commonly a result of improper or infrequent shampooing, which causes buildup of product or sebum on the scalp,” explains Reslan. “It’s important to act fast and prevent damage to your hair growth down the road.”
Just as important as having your regular shampoo is adding a targeted dandruff shampoo into rotation. “It’s essential in clearing your scalp better than your daily shampoo, which typically offers a more gentle cleansing,” says Reslan, instructing patients who wash their hair frequently to use a dandruff shampoo once a week, and others who wash less often to use it between one and two times a month.
Dandruff shampoos haven’t always had the best reputation, but thanks to cutting-edge science and better branding, there are a slew of formulas for all hair types that will provide topical relief. Just be sure to look for the right antifungal ingredients, says New York dermatologist Julie Karen, M.D. “Zinc pyrithione, which inhibits growth of fungus and reduces the tendency for your scalp to get inflamed or react to the fungus with skin sloughing, is a key active ingredient proving to be gentle and effective in fighting dandruff and keeping it at bay,” says Karen, adding that ketoconazole is another one she recommends to her patients.
Here, the best dandruff shampoo formulas for all of your needs.