If you’ve altogether banned dark clothing from your closet as a result of an itchy, flaky scalp, then there’s a good chance you’ve typed “best dandruff shampoo” into a Google search or two. But, you might be surprised to find out you’re not alone.

“Dandruff is a very common, benign condition of the scalp that presents as flaking of your scalp skin,” says Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a Massachusetts-based dermatologist. “It can be highly bothersome. We commonly work with patients to control, rather than cure this condition depending on the specific cause.”

So what exactly are those causes? Hirsch says dandruff can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Seborrheic Dermatitis: Hirsch says dandruff that results from this condition will appear like the underlying skin is greasy with flaking and scaling skin that can be yellowish or white in color. “It tends to affect areas with many oil glands, so we can also see in your eyebrows, on the sides of the nose and the chest (especially for men),” she says.
  • Dryness: Just like the rest of your body, your scalp has the potential to get dry, too. If that’s the case, you’ll notice your skin is simply dry along with fine, whitish flaking as a result.
  • Contact dermatitis: An allergy or sensitivity to certain ingredients in haircare products can cause a reaction that looks like a flaking scalp. If you can pin down the problem-causing product, often all you have to do is discontinue using it to find relief.
  • Yeast (malassezia): While yeast commonly “lives uneventfully on most scalps,” Hirsch says it may cause an immune response and irritation for some people, leading to a flaking scalp.
  • Psoriasis: The skin condition can affect the scalp, as well as the skin, which can result in what looks like a flaking scalp.
  • Unwashed hair: Hirsch says while this cause is not as common as some people might think, ignoring hair care can result in skin cells that exfoliate and scalp oils will build up and shed, which will look a lot like dandruff.

RELATED: Got Dry Scalp? Here’s How to Deal

The various ways in which dandruff can appear means there are also a number of ways to help lessen its appearance, which is why we tapped Hirsch on the best dandruff shampoo for the type of dandruff that’s nagging you.

“With any of these, it is most important to remember that dandruff is not a condition of the hair but rather of the scalp,” she says. “The trick with any of these products is to think of it as a scalp treatment rather than a shampoo.”

That’s why she recommends patients ignore typical wash-and-go shampoo rules and instead leave a shampoo leaving on for 10 to 15 minutes with each use. Hirsh adds: “Washing it out quickly, as is often the case with shampoo, will not adequately address the root of the problem.”

Here are the products you might want to consider for your dandruff-fighting arsenal.

VIDEO: 6 Beauty Products Under $12 You Should Buy from the Drugstore


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