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Dandruff Treatment

Dandruff is harmless, so you can treat it at home without a prescription.

Two of the quickest ways to get started are to brush your hair and try a dandruff shampoo.

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Brush your hair from your scalp down with steady, firm strokes. This will carry oil from your scalp, where it can cause dandruff, along the hair strands, where it will keep your hair shiny and healthy.

Dandruff Shampoos

Not all dandruff shampoos are alike. Some have different active ingredients, such as:

  • Coal tar preparations (Denorex Therapeutic Protection, Neutrogena T/Gel, Scytera) 
  • Pyrithione zinc (Selsun Blue for Itchy Dry Scalp, Neutrogena T/Gel Daily Control Dandruff Shampoo, Head & Shoulders) 
  • Salicylic acid and sulfur (Sebex, Sebulex) 
  • Salicylic acid (Neutrogena T/Sal )
  • Selenium sulfide (Dandrex, Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength, Selsun)
  • Ketoconazole (Extina, Nizoral A-D, Xolegel)

You may need to switch between types of shampoos if one type controls the dandruff at first but later loses its effectiveness.

How often you should use dandruff shampoo varies from daily to a couple of times a week. Check the directions on the bottle.

When shampooing your hair, rub the shampoo into your scalp well. Leave the shampoo on your head for 5 minutes, or as directed, before you rinse.

Rinse thoroughly. Any leftover shampoo may irritate your skin.

Once your dandruff is under control, you may be able to use the dandruff shampoo less frequently.

When to See a Doctor

If you're still scratching and shedding after trying over-the-counter preparations, see your doctor. For really stubborn dandruff cases, you may need to use a prescription shampoo.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 14, 2014

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