Dandruff can be such a confidence killer, but luckily there are some great cruelty free dandruff shampoos on the market today which contain active ingredients that help to banish those pesky flakes.
Dandruff affects up to half of the world’s adult population, making it a very common complaint.
Nevertheless, it’s a common complaint that nobody wants. Not only are the white flakes embarrassing but you can also get a really itchy scalp with dandruff too.
While dandruff is not a serious medical condition, it can be unsightly and uncomfortable.
The good news is that you can treat dandruff effectively by using the right shampoos. Switch from regular shampoos to those targeted at treating dandruff and you’ll see a big difference in just a few washes.
Below I’ve listed the best cruelty free dandruff shampoos on the market, with plenty of vegan options included too.
What is the main ingredient in dandruff shampoo?
There are some common ingredients in anti-dandruff shampoos that actively fight the causes of dandruff.
The best dandruff shampoos contain any of these ingredients:
- pyrithione zinc: works by killing the fungus that causes dandruff, Malassezia
- salicylic acid: a beta-hydroxy acid that helps to exfoliate the scalp and remove dead skin cells which in turn reduces dandruff flakes
- selenium sulfide: slows the growth of Malassezia and the turnover of skin cells resulting in less shedding
- ketoconazole: a strong anti-fungal ingredient that inhibits the growth of Malassezia and relieves itching
- coal tar: reduces inflammation to reduce shedding of skin cells and calms irritation
Some shampoos may contain only one active ingredient, while others may contain a combination of ingredients.
Is Head and Shoulders cruelty free?
The most famous anti-dandruff shampoo out there, Head & Shoulders, is not cruelty free.
The company itself says it does not test its products on animals. However, Head & Shoulders products are sold in countries where animal testing is required by law so they cannot be considered cruelty-free products.
Here’s the list of the best cruelty free dandruff shampoos to suit your own needs and your budget. Many of these are also suitable for vegans, and this is noted where applicable.
Shop these cruelty free dandruff shampoos by clicking the images below:
Kamedis Dandruff Therapy Shampoo $19.99
This is one of the best cruelty-free dandruff shampoos because it contains both pyrithione zinc (the active ingredient in Head & Shoulders) and salicylic acid.
- Pyrithione zinc and salicylic acid work to fight the yeast that causes dandruff and destroy any flakes the scalp produces
- Contains soapberry (also known as soap nut) which is a natural anti-fungal and a hair conditioner that leaves hair soft and shiny
- Not sulfate free: although it is sodium laureth sulfate free it does contains ammonium laureth sulfate which some people can experience irritation from
- Has a strong menthol fragrance which not everyone likes
DermaHarmony 2% Pyrithione Zinc Shampoo Bar $11.99
Shampoo bars are one of the best ways to reduce plastic packaging in your hair care routine. If this is important to you and you have dandruff too then this is a fantastic cruelty-free shampoo to go for.
It’s recommended that you store shampoo bars with one of these shampoo bar storage containers.
- Contains pyrithione zinc, one of the best anti-fungal ingredients you can use in the fight against dandruff
- Free from sulfates, MPG, PEG, parabens and preservatives
- Has argan oil to help counteract the drying effects of the zinc on your hair and skin
- Contains peppermint oil for fragrance which can make the scalp tingle (a sensation not everyone likes)
JASON Anti-Dandruff Scalp Care Shampoo $14.99
The brand JASON is a champion of cruelty free and eco-friendly beauty products, and this dandruff shampoo is one of the most popular Head & Shoulders alternatives on the market.
- Contains sulphur and salicylic acid
- Vegetarian, vegan, cruelty-free & paraben, sulfate and phthalate-free
- Soothes the scalp with rosemary, olive and jojoba oils
- Has a strong menthol fragrance which not everyone likes
- It is a thick shampoo which does not lather well (as it is sulfate free) so can take some effort to work it through the hair
Avalon Organics Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo $19.99
This is one of the best vegan anti dandruff shampoos if you also suffer from mild scalp psoriasis as well as dandruff.
- Contains 2% salicylic acid to break down dandruff flakes and reduce shedding
- Vegan, cruelty-free, biodegradable formula without phthalates or parabens
- Additional organic ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile soothe scalp irritation and give the shampoo a pleasant scent
- Fairly expensive
- Salicylic acid is a really good ingredient but if you have more severe dandruff you might need a shampoo with other active ingredients too
Vacoheal Selsul Tropical Shampoo $26.99
Selenium sulfide is often recommended to treat seborrheic dermatitis, a more severe condition than common dandruff which also results in a flaky scalp. If this affects you then give this cruelty free dandruff shampoo a try.
- Contains 2.5% selenium sulfide to inhibit the growth of Malassezia fungus, slow down skin cell turnover, and reduce inflammation and itching on the scalp
- Smells like coconuts
- Cruelty free, vegan friendly and paraben free
- Fairly expensive
- Does contain ALS to help the shampoo lather up, which some people can find slightly irritating or drying
DERMA-E Scalp Relief Shampoo $11.75
This popular option for a cruelty free and vegan shampoo for dandruff is ideal if you’re looking for a gentle shampoo that you can use every day.
- Salicylic acid is combined with calming tea tree oil, panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), willow bark extract, glycerin and aloe vera so it’s gentle enough for regular use
- Contains no parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, petrolatum, lanolin, gluten, soy or GMOs
- A more affordable price than other anti-dandruff shampoos
- The packaging lets this shampoo down as it’s hard to squeeze the bottle when you’re in the shower. Store it upside down for best results
Yes To Tea Tree Scalp Relief Shampoo $11.49
This is a fantastic itch relief anti-dandruff shampoo that really helps to soothe and relax a super itchy scalp, while eliminating dandruff flakes at the same time.
- Tea tree is combined with sage extract which has anti-inflammatory properties so it soothes an irritated scalp and calms down any redness. You’ve also got salicylic acid to fight the flakes
- Suitable for color-treated hair
- Very affordable
- This is the best shampoo for itchiness but if you have very severe dandruff you may want to try a different option with a stronger anti-dandruff ingredient in it
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SheaMoisture Apple Cider Vinegar Anti-Dandruff Shampoo $13.99
This brand uses Fair Trade Shea Butter in all its products which makes them really beneficial for skin. Combined with ACV you have a really good shampoo for all hair types.
- 3% Salicylic acid is coupled with the wonder ingredient apple cider vinegar (AVC) which balances the pH of the scalp and removes product buildup that can clog hair follicles
- Shea butter is very hydrating so it will add moisture to a dry scalp
- Contains no sulfates, no parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil and no petrolatum
- It contains menthol which can make the scalp tingle and may be too strong for very sensitive skin
Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo $12.99
This is primarily aimed at children with cradle cap (another name for seborrheic dermatitis) but is one of the best vegan dandruff shampoos for adults too.
- Formulated with the effective anti-dandruff ingredient zinc pyrithione plus licorice root extract which reduces redness
- Fragrance free and suitable for vegans
- Effective as a body wash as well as a shampoo
- Thick and creamy consistency which may be hard to wash out if you have very thick hair
Briogeo Scalp Revival MegaStrength+ Dandruff Control Shampoo $42
Luxury hair care brand Briogeo know a thing or two about shampoo and this is the best vegan anti-dandruff shampoo if you love high end products.
- Formulated with 3% salicylic acid to quickly clear away dead skin flakes on the scalp and tea tree oil to soothe itchiness away
- Another chemical exfoliant, lactic acid, works to gently remove skin debris from the scalp and binchotan charcoal calms and removes excess oil from greasy hair
- It smells incredible (the brand describes this fragrance as ‘whipped cream infused with fresh mint and a warm vanilla finish’)
- Very expensive
It’s difficult to find a cruelty free anti dandruff shampoo containing ketoconazole as the active ingredient. Nizoral is the best known dandruff shampoo that uses ketoconazole, but they are not a cruelty free brand unfortunately.
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Dandruff is a common problem that can be treated with a variety of methods. If you are looking for a cruelty-free dandruff shampoo, there are a number of options available. Be sure to choose a shampoo that is appropriate for your type of dandruff and your hair type.
It can take a little trial and error to find the perfect ingredient to treat your personal skin condition, whether this is regular dandruff, mild psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis.
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Frequently asked questions
Malassezia, a yeast-like fungus naturally present on the scalp, can cause dandruff when it overgrows and disrupts the scalp’s balance. Factors like excessive sebum production, metabolic byproducts of the fungus, scalp pH imbalance, and immune responses contribute to the development of dandruff. Other factors like dry scalp, sensitivity to hair care products, and skin conditions can also contribute to dandruff.
To help get rid of dandruff quickly, use anti-dandruff shampoos containing ingredients like ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, or coal tar, following the instructions for use. Maintain scalp hygiene by regularly washing your hair with gentle products, manage stress levels, and maintain a balanced diet to promote a healthy scalp. If dandruff persists or worsens, seek advice from a dermatologist for further evaluation and specialized treatment options.
The effectiveness of dandruff shampoo ingredients can vary depending on the individual and underlying causes of dandruff. Some commonly effective ingredients include ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, and coal tar. Finding the best ingredient often requires trying different shampoos to see what works best for you.
You should wash your hair at least two to three times a week if you have dandruff. Regular cleansing of the scalp will ensure you consistently remove excess oil, dead skin cells, and dandruff flakes. Over-washing, however, can potentially strip the scalp of its natural oils which can exacerbate dandruff. If in doubt check the instructions on your anti-dandruff shampoo.
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