How Do I Choose the Best Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo?

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  • Originally Written By: Kesha Ward
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Choosing the best seborrheic dermatitis shampoo is usually a matter of knowing what’s available and understanding the specifics of your condition. Seborrheic dermatitis is different than regular dandruff; it’s more severe, for one thing, and it often has a different cause. Regular dandruff shampoo won’t usually work. Some of the best options are medicated and available only by prescription. Over-the-counter options usually include zinc oxide treatments and antifungal compounds, and depending on the severity of your suffering you might also be able to get good results with home remedies, particularly tea tree oil. It’s almost always a good idea to discuss your condition with a qualified health care provider first, though, since an expert will be able to both assess your situation and offer personalized recommendations.

Understanding the Condition

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition that affects oily areas of the skin, including the scalp, the inner ears, and some parts of the face. The condition causes scaling and crusting of the skin, and common symptoms include white or yellow flakes on the scalp, eyebrows, and hair. Itching and soreness are also noticed in most cases.


Shampoos can’t usually cure the condition outright, but they’re often one of the most effective treatments because of how well soap bubbles are able to penetrate to the very root of hair follicles and can carry medication closer to the skin of the scalp than most other topical treatments. When you find a shampoo that works for you you’ll ideally see a decrease in your symptoms, but it’s usually the case that the dermatitis will come back as soon as you stop. Your doctor may have other ideas about medications and treatments to try if you feel that shampoo isn’t providing an adequate solution.

Importance of Medical Advice

If possible, individuals who suspect they are suffering from seborrheic dermatitis should contact their doctors for treatment advice. The condition can be problematic if it results in the loss of sleep or is a distraction from daily routines, or if it leads to profound discomfort. Although its exact cause has not been determined, many experts believe that the condition could be a reaction to fungus or bacteria. Without treatment, affected areas often continue to peel, and microorganisms can cause the condition to worsen.

Learn About the Available Options

The first thing you’ll want to do once you have a diagnosis is to research the options that are available to you. If you don’t have or don’t want to get a doctor’s prescription for medicated products, understanding the different shampoos for sale can help you determine the best treatment for you personally. It’s important to remember here that this determination is entirely subjective, and depends more on what works to alleviate your symptoms than anything else. As such, what’s best for you may not be best for someone else, and vice versa.

Zinc Oxide Products

Shampoos that include the chemical compound zinc oxide are often some of the most popular because they can help restore acidic balance, or pH balance, to the skin. A physician can prescribe a seborrheic dermatitis shampoo with high concentrations of zinc oxide, often alongside other medications. There are many available commercially, too, some of which may be covered by your medical insurance's prescription drug program and may also be eligible for purchase with any health savings accounts you have. Usually, gently massaging the shampoo into the scalp twice daily for up to two weeks will help clear up the condition.

Antifungal Shampoos

Seborrheic dermatitis shampoos that contain antifungal agents such as ketoconazole can also be effective. A medical professional may recommend these shampoos for individuals who have allergies or sensitivities to ingredients in zinc oxide formulas. They may also be appropriate for people whose conditions do not respond to treatment with zinc oxide.

Home Remedies

In addition to medicated seborrheic dermatitis shampoo, home remedies can be helpful. Some people have success with mixing a few drops of tea tree essential oil to a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo. This can help soothe the scalp and eliminate flaking. When the condition impacts babies and young children, rubbing a bit of warmed olive oil into the patchy, irritated skin can also be effective.

Relieving the Condition Generally

There are some lifestyle modifications that can also improve seborrheic dermatitis. Suffers often notice that flaking of the scalp worsens in the winter when air quality changes and humidity may drop. Styling regimens may have to be adapted to reduce the likelihood of recurring symptoms, too; products with high alcohol contents often must be avoided altogether. The condition can also be exacerbated by stress and fatigue. Stressful situations may trigger an episode or make the condition worse.

Managing these triggers can be a good way to help make sure the shampoo you choose has the best possible chance of being effective. If your condition doesn’t get better after regular use of a shampoo, try a different formulation — and make an appointment with your doctor anytime things seem to be getting worse.


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Discuss this Article

Post 5

I'm not a doctor or anything, but from my experience with this scalp condition, I think there are various different causes of seborrheic dermatitis one of which is allergies.

Commercial shampoos are actually full of unnecessary ingredients and additives. They have chemicals, lots of fragrance and even alcohol. Some people have very sensitive scalp that reacts to these ingredients.

Before trying medicated shampoos for this condition, I think that it's a good idea to first try a very basic, natural shampoo without fragrance or chemicals. If this doesn't work, then a doctor can be seen about using a medicated shampoo.

Post 4

@stoneMason-- Have you tried any herbal shampoos with ingredients like hemp or nettle?

My sister uses a herbal shampoo for her seborrheic dermatitis. I believe she's using nettle now but also used a hemp shampoo for some time. This is the only type of shampoo that has helped with the itching and the scales. She says that it's very gentle and balances oil production in her scalp. She is using a European brand now but there are quite a few brands online if you want to give this a try.

Post 3

I tried an over the counter zinc oxide shampoo for my seborrheic dermatitis but it wasn't much of a help. In fact, it seemed to make my symptoms worse. I still haven't found a shampoo that works for me. Does anyone have a suggestion for me? I'm looking for something gentle as harsh shampoos don't work for me at all.

Post 2

@talentryto- Tell your brother to avoid shampoos that contain heavy oils, because they can make the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis worse.

Many shampoos that are formulated for dry hair usually contain different types of oils for their moisturizing benefits. Because of these ingredients in this type of shampoo, your brother should look for a formula that is for normal hair.

You should also encourage your bother to seek medical attention. The treatment he gets from a doctor may help his symptoms significantly.

Post 1

Is there any shampoo ingredients that should be avoided by people with seborrheic dermatitis? My brother has this problem, and he is trying to treat it with a good shampoo before resorting to a visit to his doctor.

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