The Big Mistake You're Probably Making With Dandruff Shampoo

Dandruff can be an embarrassing and annoying occurrence. You may even wonder if the flakes showing up on your shoulder are a medical concern. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), "Dandruff is a common scalp condition in which small pieces of dry skin flake off of the scalp." With nearly 50% of people across the globe affected by the condition, health experts explain that dandruff is not due to unclean hair but rather the result of a certain type of bacteria found on the scalp's surface, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Public Library of Science One.

To effectively manage dandruff, dermatologists suggest using medicated dandruff shampoo (via AAD). Shampoo ingredients such as ciclopirox, salicylic acid, and coal tar can hinder fungal growth, prevent clumping, and minimize scaling, among other things, according to Healthline. While dandruff shampoos can be an effective ongoing treatment for the condition, they are not designed to work the same way as standard shampoos. Fortunately, there are some best practices to keep in mind to minimize hair damage when using these products.

The number one tip for using dandruff shampoo

Dermatologist Angelo Landriscina tells Mind Body Green about the effects of dandruff shampoo ingredients on hair, stating, "[They] can be pretty drying, stripping, and not great for all hair textures. You're not really meant to wash your hair with these." But wait — if this kind of shampoo isn't meant to be put on your hair, then where exactly is it supposed to go? The answer: your scalp.

Rather than lathering dandruff shampoo into the strands of your hair, you want to wash with two different products. Dr. Landriscina goes on to elaborate, saying, "The next time you use dandruff shampoo, do this: Massage it onto the scalp, leave it on for two to three minutes, then wash the rest of your hair with whatever shampoo you like," (via Mind Body Green).

In terms of how often you should wash with a dandruff shampoo, experts at the University of Michigan say that it will ultimately depend on the severity of the condition. Those with moderate dandruff may only need to use medicated shampoo twice per week, while those with severe dandruff may want to use it daily. As symptoms begin to lessen, you may be able to use the medicated shampoo less frequently.