Scalp conditions are common. You’re not an exception. Many people suffer from flaking, itchy scalp, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff at some point in life.
A flaky scalp could be because of dryness. Still, prolonged flaking could be a symptom of dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis – a type of eczema that causes itching, redness and makes your scalp vulnerable to allergens, irritants, and harmful sun rays.
An itchy, flaky scalp can deny you peace and reduce your productivity at work. The solution? Medicated shampoos.
So, what is medicated shampoo?
It’s a shampoo that contains medicinal ingredients for treating scalp conditions. Most scalp problems like dandruff and dermatitis are caused by a fungal infection, while few are bacterial infections.
The medicated shampoos contain antifungal or antibacterial compounds as the main ingredients. Apart from that, the shampoo contains nourishing ingredients that care for your hair.
The shampoos are available in drug stores and beauty stores for self-medication, but some require a prescription. Below, find a list of the best-medicated shampoos available over the counter.
The 5 Best Medicated Shampoos:
Best overall medicated shampoo
Active ingredients: 3% salicylic acid, Zinc, 1% hydrocortisone
With a formula of 3% salicylic acid and zinc complex, this medicated shampoo will help you eliminate the itching and flakes that have been a nuisance. The shampoo also addresses the root cause of your itching and flaking.
It clears dandruff and manages psoriasis by removing the abnormal buildup of skin cells. The shampoo moisturizes your dry, brittle hair and scalp to promote healthy growth.
It has a rich lather reaching every strand and part of your scalp to ensure no fungus survives on your scalp afterward. The shampoo is made with green tea extract, kukui nut oil, and sallow extract; the shampoo nourishes your hair with ingredients for healthy hair growth.
It’s free from fragrance, color and is safe for sensitive skin.
Best medicated shampoo for stubborn dandruff
Active ingredient:1% ketoconazole.
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is popular for its effectiveness in eliminating stubborn dandruff. It’s a best seller on Amazon with a 4.6 out of 5 stars from over 50 000 reviewers.
The shampoo is clinically proven to control itching, flaking, and dandruff. The shampoo eliminates fungus that causes dandruff and eczema leaving your scalp healthy thanks to the 1% ketoconazole.
The fresh scent of this shampoo will leave your hair smelling pleasant and feeling clean. The shampoo is suitable for color-treated, chemically processed, and greying hair too.
It leaves your hair soft and tangle-free because it’s a two in one: shampoo and conditioner.
Best medicated shampoo for dandruff and psoriasis
Active ingredient: 3% salicylic acid
Developed by a dermatologist, this medicated shampoo might finally give you the relief you’ve been looking for from itching. With this anti-psoriasis shampoo is available over the counter.
The shampoo promises to eliminate flakes, layers of dead skin cells and relieve itchy scalp. It also manages symptoms of dandruff, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Although it’s recommended for use twice a week, it will continue to work even after washing it off.
Plus, the shampoo is safe for sensitive skin because it’s free from irritants like dyes and fragrances. It’s also safe for color-treated and chemically processed hair.
Best medicated shampoo for psoriasis
Active ingredient: 1% coal tar
If you have chronic psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff characterized by redness, itching, and flaky scalp, this medicated shampoo can help you. It clears the symptoms and manages the condition effectively.
It’s dermatologist-recommended and recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Psoriasis is a challenging scalp condition that’s hard to treat, but coal tar has been proven to manage it effectively. This shampoo contains 1% coal tar that relieves you of dandruff and symptoms of psoriasis.
This shampoo can be used once a week for a mild case, but if your itching is persistent, you can use it twice a week. The coal tar continues to work even after you’ve rinsed off the shampoo.
Best medicated shampoo for sensitive skin
Active ingredient: Pyrithione Zinc 2%
With 2% pyrithione zinc, Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo is ideal for sensitive skin. This over-the-counter shampoo does not contain chemical irritants like dyes, fragrances, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, gluten, phosphate, and other additives. Plus, it’s dermatologist tested.
Unlike most anti-dandruff shampoos, this one does not contain sulfates. Sulfates can dry your hair and make seborrheic dermatitis worse.
It might not lather well like you expect since it’s sulfate-free, but it’s effective at treating dandruff, eliminating flakes, and itching. This shampoo is also excellent at getting rid of dry scalp patches that resemble ringworms and the rashes triggered by sensitivity to scents and additives in most hair products. It’s suitable for all hair types.
Choosing the Best Medicated Shampoo
Scalp conditions caused by yeast, a type of fungus, are best treated using an antifungal shampoo, cream, or other product. Else the problem might disappear temporarily only to come back worse than it was.
You can use over-the-counter medicated shampoos containing antifungal properties like ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, coal tar, and selenium sulfide.
The concentration of medicinal ingredients
The medicinal ingredients like ketoconazole and salicylic acid are measured in percentages. The higher the rate, the more the concentration. A severe infection needs a higher concentration of about 1 or 2% of ketoconazole or 3% salicylic acid.
Take note to follow instructions because highly concentrated medicated shampoos could pose a hazard if used more than two times a week. Like all medications and acids, use the medicated shampoos in moderation.
Mild cases need lower concentrations of about 0.5%. If you intend to use the medicated shampoo daily, then look for a concentration of about 0.1%.
If you’re suffering from dandruff, dermatitis, and your skin is flaky, chances are your skin is dry. Yet medicated shampoos can strip your scalp and hair of its oils, making the dryness worse.
The shampoos can also make your hair brittle, leading to breakage. To prevent that, it’s prudent to buy a medicated shampoo with moisture-infusing ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter or follow up the shampoo with an ultra-hydrating medicated shampoo.
Apart from getting rid of the fungus, which causes infections on your scalp, a medicated shampoo nourishes your hair too and promotes healthy hair growth. If your scalp and hair have a specific nutrient deficiency, a medicated shampoo comes in to provide that nutrient.
Caffeine, biotin, aloe vera, green tea extract, chamomile, and shea butter are some of the beneficial ingredients for your hair. Caffeine increases blood flow for healthy hair growth, while biotin makes your hair strong.
Aloe vera and chamomile soothe your scalp providing relief from itching.
Besides moisturizing and locking in moisture, essential oils contain vitamins that hydrate and repair your hair and scalp.
Medicated shampoos need to meet your hair needs besides treating infections. Your hair still needs to be strengthened, and if it’s thinning, it needs more volume. The shampoo should prevent breakage, make your hair soft and give it a radiant sheen.
Your hair type
Due to the nature of antifungals, not each medicated shampoo will be compatible with your hair type. It’s best to get a shampoo that’s compatible with your hair type.
Dry and curly hair needs a medicated shampoo infused with hydrating oils, but if your hair is thick and oily, it’s best to avoid a shampoo containing biotin or oils. Color-treated hair and sensitive skin need a gentle shampoo that’s free of chemicals like fragrances, paraben, sulfates, and synthetic additives.
Types of Medicated Shampoos
They are one of the strongest medicated shampoos for treating skin conditions. Over-the-counter ketoconazole shampoos have a 1% concentration of ketoconazole to treat dandruff caused by the fungus Malassezia.
For severe dermatitis, you need a prescription of 2% ketoconazole shampoo.
Pyrithione Zinc Shampoos
They are available over the counter to treat dandruff since it contains antifungal and antibiotic properties.
Salicylic Acid Shampoos
Salicylic is an excellent exfoliator that eliminates dead skin cells and flakes caused by dandruff or dermatitis. However, ensure to use it in recommended amounts of between 1.8-3%. It’s available over the counter.
Coal Tar Shampoos
This medicated shampoo is used to treat dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis
and manage psoriasis. Psoriasis is an incurable skin condition in which your skin cells multiply quickly. The result is a buildup of scales, redness, dry patches, and an itchy scalp.
The coal tar shampoo helps manage the condition by slowing down the rapid multiplication of your skin cells, relieving itching, treating inflammation, and making your skin smooth.
Selenium Sulfide Shampoos
These shampoos are used to treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. It helps ease itching, redness, and
flaking. It can also help treat skin discoloration conditions.
Are medicated shampoos safe to use?
Do medicated shampoos prevent hair loss?
Do medicated shampoos eliminate dandruff effectively?
How do I use medicated shampoo?
Use it for the period instructed (a month on average) to ensure total healing, but you might see an improvement in about two weeks.
The above medicated shampoos are some of the best for treating your scalp infections. If your condition doesn’t improve in some months of regular use of medicated shampoos, it’s best to see your dermatologist for prescription medication.
This article was last updated on February 4, 2022 .