Whether you want to reduce dandruff flakes or treat your scalp to a soothing deep treatment, a sulfate-free shampoo can be a great addition to your hair care routine. The best sulfate-free dandruff shampoos will gently remove flakes and address the root causes of your dandruff without irritating your scalp.
Sulfates are common chemicals found in products like detergent, soap, and shampoo, and are responsible for creating a bubbly lather to help clean your skin or hair. While sulfates aren’t harmful to most people, they can cause reactions like dermatitis in people with sulfate sensitivities.
To learn more about choosing the best shampoos for dandruff, I got input from two board-certified dermatologists. In order to find the best sulfate-free dandruff shampoo for your haircare routine, you’ll need to figure out the root cause of your dandruff (pun intended). Of course, the best way to do this is to visit your dermatologist.
Dr. Michele Green is a board-certified dermatologist who runs her self-named practice in NYC. She graduated from Yale University, with an MD from Mount Sinai Medical School in NYC. Dr. Green treats some of the most discerning, demanding women and men in the world, with issues ranging from premature skin aging to hyperpigmentation, rosacea, acne, and skin cancer.
Dr. Kathleen Viscusi of Dermatology & Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta is a board-certified dermatologist and ACGME-accredited, fellowship-trained Mohs micrographic surgeon. She earned her medical degree from the Emory University School of Medicine and then completed her internship at Emory University and her dermatology residency training at the University of North Carolina. She then pursued a highly competitive Procedural Dermatology/(Mohs) Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology fellowship program at the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana.
“While causes are still being studied, common culprits include dry skin, allergies, genetic predisposition, psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis (a chronic inflammatory skin condition) and more!” notes Dr. Viscusi — and different types of dandruff will likely require different shampoos.
Both dermatologists advise regular washing as soon as you start to notice flakes as a good first step to taking care of your scalp. Learning more about your unique scalp conditions will also impact what kind of shampoo you choose.
“Though excess oil can cause dandruff, a dry scalp may be prone to dandruff, too,” advises Dr. Green. “Dry scalp is an incredibly common cause of dandruff, which can be exacerbated in colder seasons. If this is the root cause of your dandruff, it’s important to use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners in order to maintain a proper hydration balance and prevent itching and flaking.”
Ingredients To Look For
Whenever you’re looking for a dandruff shampoo, ingredients are key. Pyrithione zinc is one of the most common active ingredients, as is tea tree oil.
“Tea tree oil is a naturally antifungal and antibacterial ingredient that can help to manage dandruff. Tea tree oil has the power to kill yeast and in turn limit the dandruff caused by yeast overgrowth,” Dr. Green notes.
Shop The Best Sulfate-Free Dandruff Shampoos
In a hurry? These are the best sulfate-free dandruff shampoos on Amazon:
- The Dandruff Shampoo That’s Super Moisturizing: Jupiter Premium Medicated Dandruff Shampoo
- The Best Budget Dandruff Shampoo: OGX Hydrating + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
- The Best Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo: MAJESTIC PURE Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
- The Best For Natural Hair: tgin Moisture Rich Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Natural Hair
- The Best For Oily Scalps: Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
- The Best Shampoo Bar: The Yellow Bird Peppermint Shampoo Bar
With all that in mind, these are the best sulfate-free dandruff shampoos you can buy right now, all conveniently available on Amazon.
1. The Dandruff Shampoo That’s Super Moisturizing
This moisturizing dandruff shampoo from Jupiter is designed to deeply nourish your hair and gently hydrate your scalp to help reduce dandruff that results from a dry scalp. The formula includes 1% pyrithione zinc as well as colloidal oatmeal and vitamin E, and the color-safe and sulfate-free treatment has a lovely mint, vanilla, and rosemary scent. It not only helps hydrate dry, itchy scalps but also leaves your hair soft without weighing it down. Jupiter’s shampoo is additionally cruelty-free and vegan, and it earns points for super aesthetic packaging.
One reviewer wrote: “This is the best dandruff shampoo that I’ve tried! Much better than the typical head and shoulders which always made things worse. My scalp is flake free, my hair is super soft, and I love the coconut smell.”
Helpful Ingredients: Pyrithione zinc (1%) | Scent: Mint, vanilla, rosemary, sage, tangerine, and lavender | Recommended Hair Types: All hair types
2. The Best Budget Dandruff Shampoo
This sulfate-free shampoo from OGX has tea tree oil, milk proteins, and peppermint oil for a formula that not only smells great, but also helps moisturize and nourish your scalp. While this shampoo is not medicated to treat dandruff, reviewers noted that adding this shampoo to their hair care routine helped reduce flakes and itchiness from a dry scalp. Morning shower people will also love the refreshing mint and tea tree oil scent. If you want to round out your hair care routine, OGX also has a sulfate-free mint and tea tree conditioner.
One reviewer wrote: “I tend to use this shampoo along with its conditioner every winter due to dry scalp/dandruff. It works amazingly well, treats my dry scalp and it doesn't make my hair fall out (sulfate-free, yay!) It doesn't smell like flowers or anything, but for its purpose it's perfect. I would describe the smell to sweet peppermint. Great buy. I recommend it.”
Helpful Ingredients: Tea tree oil | Scent: Tea tree and mint | Recommended Hair Types: All hair types
3. The Best Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
This apple cider vinegar shampoo is great for those who want to treat their dandruff, but don’t love the smell or effects of tea tree oil. It uses apple cider vinegar to deeply cleanse your scalp without stripping it of its natural oils. It’s also sold in a set with a matching conditioner, which contains hydrating ingredients like coconut and avocado oils.
One reviewer wrote: “Finally found a natural shampoo for dandruff. I was so fed up with dove or head and shoulders being the only options for dandruff relief. They are both full of chemicals. I refuse to let someone I love use such awful products. This product works and is free of nonsense. It's a win win.”
Helpful Ingredients: Tea tree oil | Scent: Coconut | Recommended Hair Types: Oily, dry, normal
4. The Best For Natural Hair
This sulfate-free shampoo for natural hair is specifically formulated to hydrate natural hair and help reduce dandruff and itchiness. The coconut and amla oil in this shampoo help hydrate and moisturize your hair and scalp to reduce flakes, while still keeping your hair feeling clean and soft. The shampoo also has vitamin B5, which may help reduce breakage while adding an additional layer of hydration. Reviewers wrote that this shampoo works wonders when it comes to deeply hydrating type 4 hair, as well as other curly textures.
One reviewer wrote: “I can’t exactly remember how long I first purchased this but it’s definitely been years and I just can’t get away from it. It has to be the most perfect moisturizing shampoo I’ve ever used; my hair feels clean but also soft and it’s great to use after a clarifying shampoo. She’s a classic and I always stock up.”
Helpful Ingredients: Coconut and amla oil | Scent: Apple, according to reviewers | Recommended Hair Types: Dry hair, curly hair
5. The Best For Oily Scalps
This deep-cleaning shampoo from Maple Holistics is great for those who have dandruff due to an oily scalp and it has over 9,600 five-star reviews to back up the brand’s claims. The shampoo has tea tree oil to help cleanse your hair while still keeping your scalp hydrated, and the lavender and rosemary oils give it a gentle, calming scent. Reviewers attested that this product is their holy grail for reducing dandruff.
One reviewer wrote: “I suffer from mild/moderate dandruff. Many years ago my stylist recommended I use tea tree shampoo to alleviate my problem. It worked! However, tea tree shampoos can be pricey! And if you do manage to get a lower price, it has so little tea tree in it, it was of little help. I came upon this shampoo while searching, yet again, for affordable QUALITY tea tree shampoo and decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did! As soon as I apply it to my scalp, I can feel the coolness of the tea tree in action and it’s soothes the itchiness that accompanies dandruff. That coolness lingers even after rinsing and I could tell right away that this was worth the money! I highly recommend you give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!!”
Helpful Ingredients: Tea tree oil | Scent: Tea tree | Recommended Hair Types: Normal hair, dry hair, oily hair, color-treated hair
6. The Best Shampoo Bar
This all-natural shampoo bar can not only help combat dandruff but also helps reduce your carbon footprint. The bar boasts ingredients like eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oils to help clean your scalp without stripping it of its natural oils, plus it’ll leave your hair with a fresh, clean scent. This shampoo bar also has ingredients like kaolin clay and sea salt that will gently exfoliate your scalp to help remove buildup without further irritating or damaging sensitive skin. The solid bar travels well, and it can also be used to wash your body or face if you’re a minimalist.
One reviewer wrote: “I loooooove this! I don't even need to wash my hair as much, and that's amazing! Going through life with a busy schedule, unfortunately I can't take a shower or even relax regularly everyday. So when I got this I was a little skeptical. I have tried other organic products but now I actually have found something perfect for me! [...] No signs of dandruff even after a few days, and the smell is amazing! Thanks for a sweet simple product!”
Helpful Ingredients: Tea tree oil | Scent: Peppermint | Recommended Hair Types: Oily, dry, curly, normal, textured
Dr. Michele Green, Board-Certified Cosmetic Dermatologist
Dr. Kathleen Viscusi, Board-Certified Dermatologist