Folliculitis, an inflammatory skin condition of the scalp, is usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, and symptoms can typically be managed at home by using the right shampoo. The best shampoos for folliculitis contain medicated ingredients like salicylic acid, ketoconazole and tar, or natural antifungals like apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, grapeseed extract, or rosemary, neem, and geranium oils, dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades explains to Bustle.
Dr. Alexiades says to avoid “any and all” hair products that contain fruit extracts, pectin, or sugars if you have folliculitis. “These are the nutrients that yeast and fungal organisms feast upon. Such carbohydrates have no business on your scalp or hair. Stick with hair products with herbal extracts, mint, tea tree, or biotin.”
Minor symptoms of folliculitis, such as small red bumps and pimples at the hair follicles, or an itchy, burning scalp, generally resolve quickly with an over-the-counter shampoo, and putting a warm compress on the affected area can also help. But if you find that your scalp is feeling worse and the symptoms aren’t clearing up, speak with your doctor to see if you need a prescription.
Below are the best shampoos for folliculitis, including a few picks from the dermatologist.
1. The Doctor’s Top Pick
CLn Healthy Scalp Shampoo is the expert’s top pick for the best shampoo for folliculitis. The fragrance-free formula uses sodium hypochlorite and salicylic acid to kill bacteria, shed dead skin cells, and help with itching on the scalp. Reviewers on Amazon with folliculitis report that it works incredibly well, even when other topical treatments haven’t. Use this one to three times per week, then follow up with a moisturizing conditioner (on your hair, not your scalp) as it can be a bit drying.
Relevant review: “This is the greatest product I've used on my scalp yet. I've suffered from folliculitis for over a decade and nothing has compared to this shampoo. It works better than the topical solution I received from my dermatologist. It barely has a scent, lathers well, stops the itching/inflammation, and worked quickly. I will definitely continue to buy this product. I suggest doing a really good lather and leaving it on the hair with a shower cap for an hour to really help it soak in.”
2. Another (Less Expensive) Doctor-Approved Pick
“For scalp folliculitis and dandruff due to yeast, Nizoral A-D shampoo, which contains ketoconazole, is like a prescription-level product that works well,” says Dr. Alexiades. It’s a number-one best-seller on Amazon and a popular product with both derms and consumers for all sorts of scalp conditions. The antifungal formula creates a rich lather and leaves your scalp feeling clean and refreshed, while helping to reduce symptoms like itching, flaking, and scaling. At $15 for a 7-ounce bottle, it’s a pretty great value, too.
Relevant review: “My husband got this for severe folliculitis and it cleared it all up within a week. In past he'd tried everything- creams and lotions from doctor, tea tree oil, hydrocortisone cream but nothing helped until I researched treatment for folliculitis and came across the main ingredient in this shampoo and ordered it. So glad I did.”
3. The Best Non-Medicated Shampoo For Folliculitis
This shampoo contains two botanicals Dr. Alexiades suggests for alleviating the symptoms of follicultis: apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil. “Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, kills both fungus and pseudomonas [infections],” she says, and, “tea tree oil has antiseptic and antibacterial properties.” The formula has the added benefit of being made without silicones, sulfates, parabens, or synthetic fragrances, so it’s a gentle choice for those with sensitive skin or scalps.
Relevant review: “My scalp is super sensitive where a single day of use of the wrong shampoo can set off a storm of dandruff. This shampoo hit it out of the park from day one. It's become my go-to daily shampoo in just a couple of days. Highly recommended!”
A homemade remedy suggested by the dermatologist is to mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per cup of water and apply it to the scalp. “There is some evidence suggesting it may help rid the scalp of pathogens and reset the microbiome,” she says. With this purchase, you get two giant bottles of Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, so you can use it on your scalp and for all the other beauty-related purposes people swear by.
Relevant review: “I have used this product as conditioner to reduce the effects of psoriasis. It definitely reduces itch and build-up. I put the product in [an] old ketchup bottle which helps to use the product in the shower. Since it is a lot more natural than many pharmacist recommended products I feel more comfortable using it on my scalp.”