Anyone can experience dandruff occasionally, no matter what your hair type. But curly hair types can be particularly susceptible to this itchy, flaky scalp condition, and choosing the right products to treat dandruff is essential.
Dandruff shampoo for curly hair must treat the underlying cause of your dandruff without making your locks dry and brittle. So, the best dandruff shampoo for curly hair will contain an active ingredient like anti fungal zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, or ketoconazole or exfoliating salicylic acid and coal tar to clear your flaky scalp. It will also contain moisturizing ingredients that will protect and hydrate your curls and skin.
This guide will demystify the causes of dandruff in curly hair and explain what you need to look for in the best dandruff shampoo for curly hair. We’ve also compiled the 11 best anti-dandruff shampoos for curly hair to help you choose the right product.
Can You Use Dandruff Shampoo on Curly Hair?
Most dandruff shampoos are too harsh to use on curly hair. These hair products are highly effective against the causes of dandruff but can also strip the natural oils from your scalp and strands.
This can result in brittle and dry hair, leading to split ends and hair breakage. So, if you choose to use one of these dandruff shampoos, it’s vital to pamper your hair afterward with plenty of conditioning hair treatments and masks.
However, it’s possible to buy an anti-dandruff shampoo that’s less harsh on your hair and scalp. These often contain moisturizing and balancing ingredients like apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, shea butter, or coconut oil and are free from drying ingredients like sulfates. This type of dandruff shampoo will be gentle on curly hair but still treat your dandruff successfully.
Causes of Dandruff In Curly Hair
Although anyone can be affected by scalp conditions, curly girls are more likely to experience dandruff because of the unique characteristics of their hair. Here are some of the main factors that can lead to dandruff:
Curly hair types are generally drier than straight hair because the bends and curves in the hair shaft prevent the scalp’s natural oils from traveling down the hair shaft. This can lead to oily scalp buildup, itchiness, and flaking, so you’ll need to balance the oils on your scalp to prevent the dandruff from reoccurring.
On the other hand, if your scalp is dry and irritated, it will lead to flaky skin that appears as dandruff. If dry skin is the cause of your dandruff, the best shampoo will contain moisturizing ingredients to help prevent further dandruff from developing.
Many cases of dandruff are caused by a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia that lives on most adults’ scalps and feeds on sebum. The warm, moist curls and coils of natural hair create an ideal environment for Malassezia to thrive, and an overgrowth of Malassezia causes redness, itchiness, and dandruff.
An anti fungal shampoo containing an active ingredient like pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole is the best shampoo for dandruff caused by Malassezia.
If you have an allergic reaction or a sensitivity to curly hair products, you will experience redness, itching, and flakey skin. As well as treating the symptoms of your scalp condition, it’s essential to identify the product causing your contact dermatitis so you can stop using it.
Other skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema can also cause similar symptoms to dandruff. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to folliculitis and hair loss, so seeking professional help is vital if self care options don’t clear your condition.
Your dermatologist can recommend the right scalp treatment to soothe and heal your scalp.
11 Best Dandruff Shampoos For Curly Hair
Choosing the best dandruff shampoo for curly hair can be overwhelming. So, to help you choose, we’ve picked out 11 of the best shampoos to treat dandruff in curly hair.
Our list includes sulfate free shampoos, moisturizing options for colored hair, and shampoos that use more natural ingredients. As always, it’s important to do a skin patch test 24 hours before you use a new product for the first time to rule out any allergic reactions.
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
This cult-favorite dandruff shampoo is hugely popular and gets excellent reviews on Amazon. It’s the only over-the-counter dandruff shampoo containing Ketoconazole 1%, a powerful anti fungal clinically proven to clear Malassezia and treat dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis.
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is tough enough to handle severe dandruff, but the formulation is gentle enough to use on chemically processed or color-treated hair. However, it isn’t sulfate free, so always follow up with a rich moisturizing conditioner, leave-in conditioner and scalp treatment to avoid drying your hair out.
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
Neutrogena T/Gel is one of the best anti-dandruff shampoos for curly hair and is recommended by dermatologists. It contains coal tar extract, which has been used to soothe and heal skin conditions for centuries and is highly effective against other scalp conditions like scalp psoriasis.
This highly effective exfoliating shampoo removes dead skin cells and product buildup fairly easily and works for hours after you’ve rinsed it off.
You can find out more in our full Neutrogena T/Gel review.
Leonor Greyl Paris Gentle Dandruff Treatment Shampoo
This luxurious Leonor Greyl Paris dandruff shampoo is an excellent option if you prefer to treat your scalp condition with natural ingredients. It has the gorgeous scent of ylang-ylang, and because it’s free from SLS, it will gently cleanse your hair without drying it out.
Leonor Greyl Paris dandruff shampoo is made with naturally derived ingredients like oat amino acids and chamomile extract to reduce inflammation and help your scalp heal. It also contains bee propolis, a natural antiseptic and antibacterial that can help prevent dandruff and other scalp conditions from developing.
Head & Shoulders Shampoo Royal Oils Sulfate Free Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff
Head & Shoulders Royal Oils paraben and sulfate free shampoo is the best dandruff shampoo with pyrithione zinc for curly hair.
The active ingredient in Head & Shoulders Royal Oils shampoo is pyrithione zinc. This is a highly effective antifungal commonly used for treating dandruff and other scalp conditions like seborrheic dermatitis. Head & Shoulders Royal Oils shampoo also contains Apple Cider Vinegar and coconut oil to help clear, balance, and moisturize your scalp without stripping its natural oils.
Avalon Organics Therapy Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Organic shampoos can be a gentler option for curly hair, and this Avalon Organics Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is the best natural dandruff shampoo for curly hair.
This blend of modern science and nature contains a combination of organic botanical extracts with 2% salicylic acid. It will treat dandruff and clear the itchy scalp and flaking associated with conditions like seborrheic dermatitis. It’s also vegan, cruelty-free, and free from SLS, GMOs, synthetic colors, and artificial fragrances.
Pharmbanner Folliculitis and Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo
Conditions like folliculitis and seborrheic dermatitis need an effective medicated shampoo to soothe symptoms like itchy scalp, burning, and flaking.
Pharmbanner Shampoo is a safe and natural medicated shampoo that contains the active antifungal Piroctone Olamine and a blend of herbal extracts. It has been scientifically formulated to relieve your dandruff symptoms by working right at the root of your hair follicles.
Ouai Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Ouai curly hair products are always popular with curly girls, and Ouai Anti-Dandruff shampoo is the best dandruff shampoo with salicylic acid for curly hair.
The gentle, sulfate free formula contains salicylic acid to dissolve flakes and propanediol caprylate to soothe and hydrate itchy scalps. It’s scented with notes of basil, ginger, and spearmint, ideal for use on natural hair and even safe to use on color-treated hair.
Follow up with one of Ouai’s fabulous moisturizing conditioners to leave your hair clean, soft and manageable.
Botanic Hearth Shampoo and Conditioner Set
Soothe your dry and itchy scalp and fight dandruff with this Botanic Hearth Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner set. The shampoo and conditioner are enriched with natural chamomile extract to soothe a sensitive scalp and antioxidant Vitamin E and Vitamin B5 to hydrate and nourish curly hair while calming and refreshing your scalp.
These cruelty-free products are also paraben and sulfate free and contain no artificial colors.
Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo for Men and Women
If you’re looking for a gentle dandruff shampoo suitable for color-treated hair, this sulfate free shampoo is ideal for your needs. The hydrating formula is vegan and cruelty-free, and it contains pure tea tree oil and rosemary essential oil to cleanse, refresh, and rehydrate thirsty scalps.
Jupiter Balancing Shampoo
Jupiter Medicated Dandruff Balancing Shampoo contains a blend of dermatologist-tested and natural ingredients like coconut oil and algae extract to soothe and revitalize your scalp.
This moisturizing shampoo for curly hair will leave your locks hydrated, healthy, and less prone to breakage. It also smells gorgeous, thanks to natural oils and essences, including mint, rosemary oil, lavender, and vanilla. However, do remember that these essential oils could irritate sensitive skin.
Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
Jason Dandruff Relief Shampoo is an effective blend of active ingredients like sulfur and salicylic acid to treat scalp dermatitis and mild psoriasis and natural jojoba oil, rosemary oil, and olive oil to soothe and moisturize a dry scalp. It’s cruelty-free, sulfate free and contains no phthalates, parabens, or petrolatum.
Factors to Consider in Dandruff Shampoos for Curly Hair
When you’re shopping for dandruff shampoo for curly hair, there are a few different factors you need to consider:
Consider your hair type
Curly hair tends to be dry, so buying a dandruff shampoo enriched with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter or coconut oil is best. It’s also sensible to buy sulfate free hair products, as sulfates will dry your hair out even more.
If you have oily hair, you might want to choose a dandruff shampoo that contains sulfate to help remove the excess oil that causes scalp buildup.
Whichever dandruff shampoo you use, follow up with a rich moisturizing conditioner to keep your hair soft and hydrated.
Look for active ingredients
Be sure to buy a dandruff shampoo that will treat the causes of your dandruff. The best dandruff shampoos contain active antifungal ingredients like selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, and pyrithione zinc or an exfoliating ingredient like salicylic acid that will dissolve oil and dead skin cells before they form flakes.
Beware that shampoos that contain ketoconazole also often contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which might make them too drying for some curly hair types.
Check for natural ingredients
Natural antibacterial and antifungal ingredients like neem, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and tea tree oil can also help deal with the fungi and bacteria that cause dandruff.
Pamper your scalp with soothing ingredients
Ingredients like shea butter, and aloe vera don’t treat your dandruff, but they will soothe a dry, inflamed scalp and reduce irritation.
Avoid harsh chemicals
Many conventional dandruff shampoos contain sulfates, parabens, and synthetic fragrances that can strip the natural oils from your hair and scalp. Depending on how dry your hair is, you might want to avoid these ingredients.
How to Use Dandruff Shampoo for Curly Hair
Adding dandruff shampoo to your hair and scalp care routine is easy, and a few follow-up steps can prevent your hair and scalp from becoming too dry.
Wet your hair thoroughly and gently massage the dandruff shampoo into your scalp. Some shampoos recommend leaving the suds on your scalp for a few minutes to let the active ingredients take effect.
Rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water until the water runs clear.
Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner, being careful not to apply the conditioner to your scalp. You can also use a scalp care treatment or hair mask once or twice a month to deliver even more hydration.
Leave the conditioner or mask on your strands as directed, then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Apply a leave-in conditioner to damp hair, concentrating on the mid-lengths and ends. This will help to make detangling your curls easier and counteract the drying effect of dandruff shampoo.
You can now apply curl cream or any styling products you wish to use and style your hair as usual.
Straighter hair types may be able to use a dandruff shampoo several times a week. However, if you have curly hair, active ingredients like salicylic acid can cause your strands to become dry and brittle.
If you’re unsure how often to use dandruff shampoo on curly hair, contact your stylist or dermatologist for expert advice.
How Can Dandruff Be Reduced and Prevented in Curly Hair?
As well as using a high-quality dandruff shampoo regularly, there are several steps you can take to reduce and prevent dandruff in curly hair and maintain healthy scalp care:
- Keep your hair moisturized with conditioners and hair masks. These will prevent your scalp from becoming dry, which can increase dandruff.
- If you have oily hair, consider using apple cider vinegar rinses to balance the oils on your scalp.
- Avoid excessive use of heat styling tools like blow dryers and hot irons, as these can also dry out your scalp.
- Harsh chemicals like hair dyes and hair products containing alcohol can cause irritation, so it’s best to avoid these if you have dandruff.
- Eat a balanced diet and keep hydrated to promote healthy hair growth and good scalp health.
Dandruff is a common problem for curly hair types. To help you find the solution, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
How Do You Get Rid Of Dandruff Naturally In Curly Hair?
If you prefer to use natural remedies for dandruff in curly hair, you could try using an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse to balance your scalp’s pH. Mix 3 parts water with 1 part ACV (with the mother) and spray the mix onto your scalp after shampooing. Leave for a few minutes, and then rinse off with lukewarm water.
Tea tree oil is another popular natural remedy for scalp care, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil or grapeseed oil. Rub the blended oils into your scalp and leave for up to an hour before shampooing off.
Some people are sensitive to tea tree oil, so always do a patch test before you use it. Essential oils can irritate sensitive scalps, so don’t leave the oil on too long, as this can increase shedding.
Note that these natural remedies do not have much research backing their efficacy, though there is some promising research on some. They may or may not work for you.
How Often Should You Wash Curly Hair With Dandruff?
Washing your hair with dandruff two or three times each week should help reduce your dandruff. You might need to use it more often to treat severe dandruff, but watch out for side effects such as dryness, sensitivity, or irritation.
Once your dandruff is under control, you can use the shampoo less frequently to keep your hair flake-free.
Can Dandruff Shampoo Damage Your Curly Hair?
Many dandruff shampoos can strip the natural oils that moisturize hair. Curly hair tends to be dry, so using conventional dandruff shampoo on curly hair could make it drier, brittle, and more prone to breakage. This is why picking a dandruff shampoo with moisturizing ingredients is essential.
Are There Any Specific Dandruff Shampoos Recommended for Color-Treated Curly Hair?
Color-treated hair also tends to be dry hair, so many anti-dandruff shampoos will be too harsh and drying to use on colored hair.
However, several shampoos are suitable for colored hair, including Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, Ouai Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, and Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo. Choose a sulfate free moisturizing shampoo to avoid making your hair dry and brittle.
How Long Does It Typically Take To See Results With the Best Dandruff Shampoos for Curly Hair?
Assuming you wash your hair twice a week with anti-dandruff shampoo, you should start seeing results within a few weeks.
Anyone can experience the itching and flaking associated with dandruff, and it can usually be treated easily with an anti-dandruff shampoo. However, if your hair is curly or coily, you’ll need to take extra care to avoid drying out your locks with harsh ingredients.
Luckily, there are plenty of gentler options that will protect your hair and scalp while still effectively treating the causes of dandruff.
Now you have all the information you’ll need to choose the best dandruff shampoo to help keep your hair and scalp flake-free and looking great.
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