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If you’re battling eczema, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone; it affects an estimated 31.6 million people in the U.S. “Eczema is a condition where a genetic variation affects the skin’s ability to protect itself from outside factors, such as irritants and allergens, and the skin becomes red and itchy,” explains dermatologist Dr. Kautilya Shaurya, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. This redness and inflammation can crop up anywhere on the face or body, including the scalp.
“The most common type of scalp eczema is known as seborrheic dermatitis,” adds dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez, of Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. It manifests as scaly patches, red, inflamed, itchy skin, and even flaking—AKA all things that are no fun to deal with.
Here’s where choosing the right shampoo comes into play. You basically have one of two options. You can seek out medicated formulas with ingredients such as zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, and selenium sulfide, all of which can help address those unwanted symptoms. Or, you can stick with ultra-mild, hypoallergenic options that will be very gentle on the compromised skin so as to not irritate it any further. (You can also try alternating between the two.)
Ahead, the best eczema shampoos sure to bring sweet relief to your stressed-out scalp.
Best Overall: Mustela Stelatopia Foam Shampoo
“This shampoo was originally formulated for babies and is extremely gentle,” says Shaurya. Containing only very mild ingredients, it’s a great pick to use when your scalp eczema is flaring, he adds. To the point of being gentle and mild, it’s even approved by the National Eczema Association and is both hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. Also nice: The weightless, mousse-like consistency.
Best Drugstore: Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo Scalp Build-Up Control
You’re likely used to seeing salicylic acid in skincare (specifically acne-fighting products), but it can be equally beneficial in an eczema shampoo. The beta-hydroxy acid is choice for dissolving excess oil, making this formula a good pick for those dealing not only with seborrheic dermatitis but also dandruff or psoriasis. It’s one of Gonzalez’s picks, who points out that it also has the added benefit of being fragrance-free.
Best for Sensitive Scalps: Exederm Eczema and Dermatitis Shampoo
Yes, it’s fair to say that anyone dealing with scalp eczema has sensitive skin, but if any little thing seems to trigger a flair, this pick is for you. Another crazy gentle formula, Shaurya calls this, “one of the most hypoallergenic shampoos on the market, with minimal ingredients that will cause irritation.” It too boasts the National Eczema Association’s seal of approval and is good not only for eczema but any kind of scalp dermatitis.
Best for Dryness: Kiehl's Amino Acid Shampoo
Improving the skin barrier is a key component in helping to address eczema; this shampoo contains amino acids and coconut oil which will do just that, while also moisturizing the scalp, points out Shaurya. It’s also a very mild cleanser, and leaves your strands soft and shiny, always important.
Best Fragrance-Free: Vanicream Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
This straddles the line between the medicated and mild eczema shampoo categories. While it does contain 2% pyrithione zinc, it’s still free of common chemical irritants, including fragrance, which can worsen scalp eczema, notes Gonzalez. Also on that ‘free-of’ list: parabens, dyes, and sulfates.
Best Budget: Dove Scalp Dryness and Itch Relief Shampoo
Gonzalez recommends this affordable option: “It’s gentle and nourishing for the hair, and can be used almost daily if needed,” she says. Still, because it does contain pyrithione zinc, it’s great for helping to target the flaking and itchiness often associated with scalp eczema.
When you are using a medicated shampoo, such as this one, make sure to let it sit on your scalp for a few minutes before rinsing, in order to give the active ingredients enough time to do their thing, Gonzalez says.
Best Set: Wild Naturals Eczema & Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner
This duo is specially formulated at a pH of 5.5 in order to ensure a healthy moisture balance on your scalp. It’s hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, both attributes that Shaurya says are important to look for in an eczema shampoo. Also noteworthy: There’s no water added in the shampoo. Instead, the first ingredient is skin-soothing, organic aloe vera, and it also boasts healing manuka honey.
Best for Flakes: DHS Zinc Shampoo
To address scaliness, reach for this flake-fighter. “It contains zinc pyrithione, an ingredient that has both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that help treat and prevent eczema,” explains Shaurya. It’s a fan-favorite on Amazon, too, with many satisfied reviewers commenting on how well it works to combat not only flakes but itchiness, too.
Best for Itching: Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo
Is there anything more annoying than an itchy scalp? We think not. Gonzalez says this shampoo can help you stop scratching, thanks to the addition of piroctone olamine, an anti-microbial that alleviates both itch and flaking. She also lauds it for being safe even on color-treated hair, though FYI, it does contain added fragrance.
Best for Curly Hair: Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisture Boost Shampoo
Addressing scalp eczema when you have curls can be a bit more problematic; curly hair is naturally prone to be drier than straight hair because the oils your scalp produces have a harder time making their way down the hair shaft. Gonzalez recommends this sudser for those with coarse, coiled hair because it imparts plenty of moisture and isn’t stripping, yet still has pyrithione zinc to treat the scalp.
Best for Eczema and Dandruff: Bodewell Shampoo
While they’re not technically the same condition—and you can have one without the other—scalp eczema and dandruff often go hand-in-hand, not to mention have many of the same symptoms. This sudser addresses both, thanks to the addition of pyrithione zinc to reduce itching and flaking, an active ingredient both derms we spoke with recommend. It’s also specially formulated to restore much-needed moisture to the scalp.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She knows and understands eczema well, having dealt with it since she was four.
Meet the Expert
Kautilya Shaurya, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. He specializes in general and cosmetic dermatology.
Meet the Expert
Annie Gonzalez, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. She has a variety of specialties, including chronic skin conditions such as eczema.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any eczema shampoos from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.