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 flakingAKA 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 Budget: Dove DermaCare Scalp Anti Dandruff 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 Drugstore: Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo With Build-Up Control
You're likely used to seeing salicylic acid in skincare (specifically acne- fighting products), but it may 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 Dryness: Kiehl's Amino Acid Shampoo
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins and have a role in virtually all the biological processes that occur in our bodies, including the reparation of skin.
Improving the skin barrier is a key component in helping to address eczema; this shampoo contains amino acids and coconut oil meant to 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
Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for numerous healthy bodily functions, including boosting the immune system, healing wounds, and assisting in DNA/protein synthesis and growth. Applied topically, it's shown to aid in wound healing and regeneration, as well as protect the skin by deflecting UV rays.
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 Set: Wild Naturals Eczema Psoriasis Shampoo
Aloe vera is a naturally derived ingredient known for its soothing and moisturizing properties. The aloe plant's inner gel mucilage (the part that's used in skin care products) is made up of 99.5% water.
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 meant to alleviate 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
Dandruff is a common symptom of scalp eczema. 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.
Eczema is no fun to deal with anyone on your body, but perhaps even more so on your scalp, which is when a good eczema shampoo can make all the difference. The Mustela Stelatopia Foam Shampoo is approved by experts and the National Eczema Association, a formula that's so gentle that its intended use was for babies. At the drugstore, pick up the Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo with Build-Up Control, a good choice if you have scalp eczema, psoriasis, or dandruff. And if flakes are your main complaint, try the DHS ZInc Shampoo, an affordable go-to.
What to Look For In an Eczema Shampoo
A Medicated Formula
More specifically, one that contains zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, or selenium sulfide, active ingredients that can help combat the symptoms of eczema, such as itching and flaking.
A Super-Gentle Formula
On the flip side, if your eczema is milder or you perhaps don't want a medicated option, stick with mild, hypoallergenic formulas that won't irritate your already stressed-out scalp. (Fragrance-free is always one important criterion.)
Why trust ishonest?
ishonest contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Having dealt with eczema since she was a toddler, she has extensive experience with all of the many over-the-counter eczema products, shampoos included, out there.
How we test eczema shampoos
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.
Meet the Experts
- Dr. Kautilya Shaurya is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in New York City. He specializes in both general and cosmetic dermatology.
- Dr. Annie Gonzalez is a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, FL. Her specialties include both adult and pediatric dermatology and chronic skin conditions.