4 Steps to Using Products to Control Dandruff

Once you have dandruff, you'll always be prone to it. But you can calm it and prevent future outbreaks with these tips.

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1. Choose the right product.

There are so many dandruff shampoos out there — how on earth do you choose the right one?

It may take some trial and error. "Some people find that their scalp responds differently to various ingredients," says Amy McMichael, MD, a professor and chair of the department of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Most dermatologists suggest starting with a product that contains zinc pyrithione. It's antifungal and can also regulate oil production without being harsh on your hair or color, says Tosti.

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If the dandruff doesn't disappear after a couple of weeks, try a shampoo with salicylic acid, like Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo ($29, aveda.com),which works by sloughing away stubborn scales and reducing oil. Or get one with coal tar or selenium sulfide, both of which slow down overactive skin cell turnover. We like Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original ($13.86, amazon.com). Still no luck? "A dermatologist can prescribe a stronger antifungal or salicylic acid treatment," Piliang adds.

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2. Step up the shampooing.

"Stretching out the time between washes can aggravate dandruff since a buildup of oil causes more inflammation and scaling," says Piliang. When you're flaking, wash your hair daily or every other day with a dandruff shampoo. Because it can be dehydrating, apply it to the scalp only, so you don't dry out all your strands. Use a moisturizing formula on the length of your hair, says McMichael. Try emollient-rich Suave Professionals Coconut Milk Infusion Deep Moisture Shampoo ($4.59, amazon.com).

3. Massage or leave in.

A medicated formula may penetrate better if you massage it onto your scalp before getting in the shower, suggests Piliang. You can also apply it once you're in there and let it sit on your scalp for three to five minutes before rinsing. There are anti-dandruff conditioners, too; some dermatologists say shampoo alone should do the trick, but getting a double dose of the active ingredients can't hurt. Once the flakes are gone, use the medicated products only every two or three weeks.

4. Skip the masks and oils.

Oil-based deep treatments and hair masks might sound soothing when your scalp is itchy and inflamed, but most dermatologists say to hold off. "Nonmedicated oil products may cover the scales temporarily so they seem better, but putting oil on a dandruff-prone scalp really won't help the long-term problem," says McMichael.

Other options to try: Head & Shoulders Nourishing Hair and Scalp Care Dandruff Shampoo, Lavender Essence ($9.49, drugstore.com) and Clear Complete Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff ($4.99, amazon.com).

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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