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What is the Difference Between Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and "Regular" Shampoo?

Every shampoo has one job: To make your hair clean and fresh. The formula breaks up and washes away product buildup and, depending upon hair type, may remove oils or moisturize dry locks.... Read More

What is the Difference Between Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and "Regular" Shampoo?

Every shampoo has one job: To make your hair clean and fresh. The formula breaks up and washes away product buildup and, depending upon hair type, may remove oils or moisturize dry locks.

Yet, an anti-dandruff shampoo does all this and more. Specifically, manufacturers formulate these shampoos with a medicated component to inhibit fungal growth as well as lessen the growth of excess skin cells and wash them away.

To know whether you need a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo, you need to understand how and why dandruff forms. Skin naturally renews itself, with cells regularly regenerating. Dandruff appears when this process happens too quickly. As a result, the accumulated skin cells get pushed up and then flake off. Yeast (malassezia globosa), commonly found on the skin, worsens the condition, as the scalp becomes greasy and causes “clumps” to form.

To address one or both factors, an anti-dandruff shampoo contains one of the following active ingredients:

  • Zinc Pyrithione – Added to decrease yeast production.
  • Selenium Sulfide – Reduces oil production from the scalp’s glands.
  • Coal Tar – Added as a natural antifungal agent.
  • Ketoconazole – Added as an antifungal agent to stronger OTC or prescription-level products.
  • Salicylic Acid – Helps get rid of existing skin cells, but it doesn’t stop production. Using it over an extended period may make the skin flake more.
  • Tea Tree Oil – Added as a naturally-occurring antifungal agent.
  • Green Tea – Included as a natural substance for treating dandruff and psoriasis.

For regular shampoos to make a change to your hair or scalp, you need to use it regularly for six to eight weeks. However, with dandruff-targeting formulations, everyday use or long-term use isn’t recommended. For maximum effectiveness, use the product two to three times weekly and leave it on your scalp for no more than two to five minutes at a time. Because of this process, you may go through multiple anti-dandruff shampoos before finding one that works best.

Remember, many anti-dandruff shampoos are developed to treat rather than cure the condition. If your dandruff issues persist despite medicated shampoos, you may wish to contact your doctor. He or she may recommend lifestyle changes or write a prescription for a stronger product.