how Does Dandruff Shampoo Work

The frustration is unbearable. You itch, you scratch, but the telltale signs are there: flaky skin that you strive to hide no matter how often it lands on your shirt or accumulates around your hairline. It’s awful, but 50% of Americans are afflicted with it so it’s also common. Dandruff. It’s embarrassing and your regular shampoo just isn’t cutting it–no matter how often you wash. So what’s the solution? You’ve heard of medicated shampoo, but how does dandruff shampoo work? Is it the best choice?

Fortunately, there’s plenty of help to rid your scalp of those pesky and unsightly flakes.

How does dandruff shampoo work? Dandruff shampoo attempts to kill the fungus responsible for dandruff or slow shedding skin cells by using medicated ingredients that control dandruff production.

So what makes dandruff shampoo actually work?

Here’s a bit of good and bad news. The bad news is that as awful as dandruff is, it’s not curable. the good news? It can be controlled with some know-how. The first step is reaching for a dandruff shampoo.

Dandruff shampoo strives to control malassezia globosa, a yeast-like fungus that feeds on sebum and dead skin cells. Dandruff shampoo contains ingredients that either kill the fungus and bacteria or decrease and slow the shedding of dead skin cells which the fungus feeds on. Is your skin crawling yet?

Currently, there are tons of dandruff shampoos on the market, and they either contain ingredients that are a bit challenging to pronounce like ketoconazole and pyrithione zinc, or they contain more natural ingredients like tea tree oil with powerful yet gentle antibacterial and anti-fungus properties.

How long does dandruff shampoo take to work?

We all want a quick fix when it come to any problem–especially skin problems, but sometimes patience and persistence are key.

There isn’t a universal time for dandruff to be cleared up by a dandruff shampoo. Some people have more or less dandruff and medicated shampoos use different ingredients to combat it, so it can be hard to really pinpoint how long it will take to get results. Most experts suggest giving dandruff shampoo at least a few weeks to really get to the root of problem–literally.

It’s not easy to get rid of dandruff, so you have to be persistent. Sometimes it could take up to a month to truly see results, so be patient!

How often should you wash your hair if you have dandruff?

When you think about fungus accumulating on your scalp and feeding off of its general nastiness, you might be tempted to work medicated shampoo into your scalp with your nails as rigorously and as often as possible, but this may not be the best decision.

First and foremost, read the label. It may tell you not only how often you should leave the shampoo on your hair, but also for what duration of time.

Most experts will suggest using a dandruff shampoo daily to start. You should also make sure to follow directions and rinse completely. Any excess shampoo left on the skin can irritate it and cause dryness–something you don’t want to mix with dandruff.

Once you begin seeing results, you can tailor down the dandruff shampoo to once or twice a week and begin using your regular shampoo again. Unfortunately, because there is no cure for dandruff, you probably don’t want to stop the use of dandruff shampoo completely. Your goal is to control the issue.

Which shampoos are best to use if you have dandruff?

The good news is that if you have dandruff, you don’t necessarily need to visit a doctor to get it under control. Most over the counter shampoos work just fine and contain the same ingredients you’d see in a prescription; however, if you don’t see results, you may want to check in with your dermatologist to make certain that what you are battling is in fact dandruff.

So while OTC shampoos usually work well, where do you start? Dandruff shampoos are plentiful and while that’s a good thing, it might be hard to figure out what you want for your specific scalp and hair.

Although ingredients found in dandruff shampoos are plentiful, experts agree that there are some great ones to start with if you’re overwhelmed perusing the vast array of options available.

For instance, dandruff shampoos containing ketoconazale are powerhouses at not only attacking dandruff, but they are also prescribed for other skin conditions like psoriasis.

in addition, products containing zinc pyrithione are effective because they kill both the fungus that causes dandruff as well as any other bacteria reigning on the scalp. Eventually, once dandruff subsides, you can begin to gradually reintroduce your original shampoo.

Another effective ingredient includes coal tar. It sounds strange, but this tar actually slows down the shedding of dead skin cells so the fungus has less to feed on. The only caveat is that it could darken your hair, so if you have lighter hair, you may want to steer clear of this ingredient.

Finally, depending on your hair, you may also want to opt for a dandruff conditioner–yes they also exist! If you have damaged hair from styling tools, chemical treatment, or color, conditioners may help keep your hair soft and manageable since dandruff shampoo can be a bit harsh for these hair types.

What causes dandruff and why do I have so much?

Remember that 50% of people are afflicted with dandruff, and if you’re not, you’re still not immune. The fungus that causes dandruff exists on everyone’s head, but for some, this fungus can get out of control.

Dandruff is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast malassezia globosa. Although you might find it unsightly, it’s absolutely harmless. If you are someone who produces excess sebum and dead skin cells, you are simply providing more food for the fungus and therefore it has potential to increase.

Besides shampoo, what other ways can I get rid of dandruff?

Again, while there’s no cure for dandruff, there’s control, and it doesn’t always have to come in the form of shampoo. There are plenty of DIY methods of control, so it’s best to find what works for you if you’re leery about medicated shampoo.

Sometimes, the best ways to combat a skin issue is from within. Many claim that probiotics–those little critters in your yogurt–are great at attacking dandruff. They can also be taken as a supplement. Furthermore, simply eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be helpful.

Other methods include external use. Scalp exfoliators can help rid dead skin cells. If you don’t want to purchase an exfoliator, you can make your own either using baking soda or brown sugar–really anything that has a gritty texture would work. Just make sure to be gentle and rinse well.

Hot oil masks are also effective since they help draw oil from the skin–oil attracts oil so it’s an easy way to combat it. You can even use natural oils in your pantry like coconut oil. Just carefully heat before applying.

Finally, don’t scratch it. Simply reading this can begin to make your scalp itch just knowing that fungus is lurking, but you’ll end up simply making things worse, or you could even cause an infection.

So yes, it’s gross when you get down to the science of your flaky skin and start thinking about some creature feasting on grease and flakes, but it’s also controllable like most other skin ailments out there. On the upside, it’s also harmless. You may find your dandruff subside only to see it come back later. Yes, it’s annoying. The trick is to be persistent and have the knowledge to control it when those flakes rear their ugly head around.

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Joy-Lee Founder and writer of


Hi, my name is Joy-Lee and I'm the owner of As you might've noticed, I'm a true beauty lover, and made it my passion, my work and my hobby. I love sharing my thoughts and feelings on a variety of beauty aspects and want to thank you for reading!