The Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner Is Worth the Hype

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Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner

Bryan Levandowski/Design by Cristina Cianci

What We Like
  • Works up a nice and emollient lather

  • Results in soft, conditioned hair without leftover grease or residue

  • Significantly reduces dandruff by treating the cause

  • Affordable price point

What We Don't Like
  • Fragrance is better than most anti-dandruff options, but still could improve

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner is one of the most popular drugstore options out there, and for good reason. The product fights dandruff at the source, and its gentle yet effective lather results in a soft and clean result that works well alongside post-shower products.


Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner

Bryan Levandowski/Design by Cristina Cianci

We purchased the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.

Dandruff is a common experience, with a significant proportion of people experiencing its trademark flakes and figuring out how to balance the condition of their scalps. Because of this, there’s no shortage of anti-dandruff shampoos out there today, and one of the best is likely sitting on the shelf of your local drugstore.

What makes Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner stand out for me comes down to three things it doesn’t do: smell gross and medicinal (coal tar may be effective, but is a known carcinogen and the smell isn’t going to make you any new friends), weigh down your hair, or leave it feeling dry and brittle (and therefore a nightmare for styling products). What it does do is leave your hair feeling clean, soft, and certifiably flake-free.

Keep reading to see how this classic dandruff shampoo became my daily go-to.

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner

Best for: All hair types experiencing mild to moderate dandruff.

Uses: Shampoos and conditions while addressing the root cause of dandruff, leaving hair feeling clean and soft.

Potential allergens: Contains a few ingredients, including sulfates, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone, that may cause skin irritation.

Active ingredients: Pyrithione Zinc 1%

Price: $6 for 13.5 oz.

About the Brand: Head & Shoulders is a haircare staple when it comes to managing dandruff. Famous for their shampoo and conditioner combo formulas, this research-driven brand has led the way in easy yet effective haircare for over 50 years.

About My Hair: Thick, oily in summer, dry in winter, and occasionally prone to dandruff

I’ve always been told how “thick” my hair is, but what they really meant was “you have so much of it.” Volume-wise, there’s plenty, but each strand is quite fine, so I avoid products that could weigh it down.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to haircare. I wash my hair every other day at most, sometimes going as long as three days, depending on how “dirty” it feels. As I typically don a choppy, texture-heavy style, the presence of natural hair oil works in my favor. I tend not to condition, and use only two styling products: a clay-based paste with a matte finish, then a light hairspray to lock in the look. 

I don’t experience full-time dandruff, per se, but when the weather gets cold and dry, after a few days’ worth of swimming, or in the dead of summer, when the heat and humidity are at their worst, I find myself brushing off my shoulder more often than I’d like. And every year I do the same thing: consider it a seasonal affliction and put off doing anything about it… until the inevitable day rolls around when someone else notices and says something. Then I’m forced to admit I get dandruff and begin a week of hat wearing while the smelly, moisture-sapping treatment I end up opting for does its thing. 

But this year, I took a different route. The thought of smelling like a freshly paved road for a week was not an option, so I took to Google for some advice and was surprised at the number of times Head and Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner came up. Sure, I’d noticed it at the drugstore before, but the fact that I now had thousands of positive reviews right in front of my face pushed me to buy it for the first time.

The Ingredients: Treating dandruff at the source

When it comes to treating dandruff, products take one of two approaches: addressing the symptoms or treating the cause. The active ingredient in Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner is pyrithione zinc which, according to the brand, is a better long-term solution to treating dandruff because it helps alleviate the root cause. 

Speaking of, what causes dandruff? The most common answer you might hear is “a dry scalp,” which is actually a symptom, rather than the cause. That title goes to Malassezia globosa, a microbe that naturally occurs on our scalp. While half the world never has to think of Malassezia globosa, for the other dandruff-experiencing half of us, it's all too apparent. For us, the microbe feeds on scalp sebum, which sets off a chain reaction: the oleic acid causes scalp irritation in the form of inflammation, itching, and redness, which then causes the body to shed skin cells more rapidly as a measure against the irritant, resulting in dandruff.

Pyrithione zinc acts as a shield against the potentially irritating oleic acid, essentially treating dandruff symptoms while addressing the underlying cause. In this way, it differs from the two other most common ingredients: coal tar, which moderates the skin’s reaction to the scalp irritants, and salicylic acid, which only makes the dead skin cells easier to wash off.

The Feel: Killer lather that leaves hair surprisingly soft afterwards

Head and Shoulders Classic Shampoo and Conditioner has an opaque, slightly green color, like liquid jade, and forms a lively lather that feels sort of emollient. The fragrance is what you’d expect from a drugstore shampoo: a floral, soapy blend that lingers for a bit, but definitely an improvement over the other options in the dandruff category. I left it on for a minute or so while gently massaging my scalp, then rinsed it out. Afterwards, my hair felt great: soft, definitely conditioned, but not greasy or laden with residue.

The Results: Healthy, lightweight, and flake-free hair

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner Results on Bryan Levandowski

Bryan Levandowski/Design by Cristina Cianci

I was concerned the conditioning aspect would leave my hair feeling too heavy for any product to take hold, but as I ran my usual clay through, I actually think it may have worked better (which I could take to mean that I should’ve been conditioning all along, but that’s a topic best saved for another article). 

As for the dandruff, I noticed a significant improvement almost immediately. At first, I was eager to put the kibosh on the flakes, so I used it for five days in a row before going back to my usual washing routine of every two to three. After the first wash, I noticed significantly less flakes. I tried to comb some upwards for the sake of a photo, but I couldn’t get any that were big enough to notice, which I took as a good sign. 

The Value: A high-quality bargain

At $6 for 13.5 oz, this stuff is definitely a bargain. It does what it says, and without any kind of inconvenient side effects. But the real value of it came to me a few days in, when I realized I could pretty much use Head & Shoulders Classic Shampoo and Conditioner all the time. No need to go back to my useless-on-dandruff and considerably more expensive brand. Now, I can nip that dandruff right in the bud and save some bucks in the process. 

Similar Products: You've got options

DHS Zinc Shampoo: Packed with 2% pyrithione zinc, this heavy duty treatment by DHS ($14) goes to work on dry, flaky scalps to wash away irritation and restore natural balance. It’s ultra-gentle, so you can use it everyday if your routine requires. 

Matrix Biolage Scalpsync Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Yep, the same Matrix Biolage that made you feel important back in high school also touts a version specifically for the flake-afflicted ($20). In addition to pyrithione zinc, it contains anti-bacterial and skin-calming mint leaf. 

Final Verdict

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo and Conditioner holds true on its promise to fight flakes while improving scalp health. While it’s far from prestigious, I’m more than happy to spend a bit less for a product that actually does what it says. 


  • Product Name Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Product Brand Head & Shoulders
  • Price $6.00
  • Weight 13.5 oz.
  • Full Ingredient List Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Zinc Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Dimethicone, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Blue 1, Red 33.
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. NTP (National Toxicology Program). Coal Tars and Coal-Tar Pitches, Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.

  2. Dawson TL. Malassezia globosa and restricta: breakthrough understanding of the etiology and treatment of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis through whole-genome analysisJournal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. 2007;12(2):15-19. doi: 10.1038/sj.jidsymp.5650049

  3. Ranganathan S, Mukhopadhyay T. Dandruff: The most commercially exploited skin diseaseIndian J Dermatol. 2010;55(2):130. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.62734

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