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You’ve seen the flakes in their hair, and now you’re wondering how to get rid of your child’s dandruff.
Is there a baby shampoo for dandruff?
Can children use Head & Shoulders?
These are crucial questions that will have answers in the reviews below.
Today, we’re going to look at the best dandruff shampoos for kids.
- How do kids get dandruff?
- The different kinds of anti-dandruff shampoo for children
- Top Dandruff Shampoos for Kids
- Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for Children
- Sulfur8 Kids Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Head and Shoulders Shampoo, Anti-Dandruff Treatment, Royal Oils Collection
- Pantene Pro-V Hair Shampoo, Hydra Scalp Care Dandruff
- BIOLAGE Scalpsync Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Dove Dermacare Scalp – Anti-Dandruff 2 in 1 Shampoo + Conditioner – Invigorating Mint
- Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner
- Denorex Daily Strength Medicated Dandruff Shampoo
- Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Selsun Blue Moisturizing with Aloe Dandruff Shampoo
- Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo
- Head and Shoulders Shampoo, Clinical Strength Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment
- Packer’s Pine Tar Shampoo
- Neutrogena T/Gel Extra Strength Therapeutic Shampoo with 1% Coal Tar
- Denorex MENTAR Therapeutic Maximum Itch Relief Dandruff Shampoo & Conditioner
- Solimo Therapeutic Dandruff Shampoo
- Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
- Denorex Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner with Salicylic Acid
- Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
How do kids get dandruff?
To be honest, doctors don’t know exactly why anyone gets dandruff.
It’s not contagious. It’s also not caused by poor hygiene.
Another name for dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis, and it affects children just as often as it does adults (1).
Besides dry white flakes, you might see yellow, crusty patches on the scalp. That’s because the oil glands have gone into overdrive, and they produce too much sebum.
One of the causes might be a fungus called malassezia that grows in sebum.
Also, psoriasis and eczema and overly dry skin can cause dandruff.
Thankfully, dandruff is straightforward to treat at home.
In most cases, the child will need to use a dandruff shampoo every day for a few days to get things under control (2).
You might need to help them wash their hair to keep the shampoo out of their eyes.
Then, it’s a matter of using the anti-dandruff shampoo once a week and washing with regular shampoo the rest of the time.
If the dandruff spreads to other parts of the body, causes hair loss, or if the skin looks infected and red, you need to call the doctor.
The different kinds of anti-dandruff shampoo for children
There’s more than one type of dandruff shampoo, so you may need to experiment to find what works best for your child.
One expert recommends medicated shampoo with selenium sulfide to treat greasy flakes or a red and irritated scalp (3).
Selenium sulfide is the active ingredient in Selsun Blue. It fights fungus but may discolor light-colored hair (4).
Next, there are many anti-dandruff products with zinc pyrithione. This active ingredient is anti-fungal and antibacterial.
After that, tar-based dandruff shampoo doesn’t kill the fungus but does slow down the flaking. One example is Neutrogena T/Gel. But they may darken blonde hair.
Meanwhile, salicylic acid shampoo removes dead skin from the scalp. Sometimes you’ll see anti-dandruff shampoo with salicylic acid and sulfur to kill bacteria, too.
Finally, the strongest dandruff shampoo contains ketoconazole. It’s a potent anti-fungal agent that’s available over-the-counter or by prescription, depending on the strength.
Now, let’s start with dandruff shampoos made especially for kids.
Top Dandruff Shampoos for Kids
Dr. Eddie’s Happy Cappy Medicated Shampoo for Children
This medicated shampoo uses pyrithione zinc to clear up dandruff and cradle cap. It’s an FDA-approved ingredient that’s safe for kids.
The formula removes scaling and flakes, plus it calms irritation with licorice root.
Even better, it does so anywhere on the body because this is bath soap, not just a shampoo. That’s convenient as a fungal infection like dandruff may affect the skin behind the ears and the folds of the neck.
If your child has sensitive skin, give this product a try. It’s free of artificial fragrances, dyes, alcohol, sulfates, and parabens. As such, it’s unlikely to trigger allergies or eczema.
Also, the packaging is BPA-free.
Wash with it daily for three to seven days in a row. Leave it on the scalp for at least a couple of minutes before you rinse.
Once the dandruff is gone, the child only needs to use it a couple of times a week.
The same company makes a non-medicated shampoo/body wash for kids, too. Alternate with it to maintain a healthy scalp and skin.
Sulfur8 Kids Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Here’s another American-made kid’s shampoo that battles dandruff with pyrithione zinc.
It’s mild enough to use every day.
Although it contains sulfates, they are milder than what’s typically in adult shampoos. But be aware that it has an artificial dye and fragrance.
Head and Shoulders Shampoo, Anti-Dandruff Treatment, Royal Oils Collection
This dandruff shampoo was designed specifically to care for coily and kinky hair.
It’s not a children’s product, but it can be used on a child. It’s best for young kids to have adult supervision to ensure they don’t get it in their eyes.
The active ingredient is pyrithione zinc in a 1% concentration. That’s the typical amount for most anti-dandruff shampoos.
But what makes this product stand out is the fact that it is non-drying for textured hair. Use it with a conditioner for even more hydration.
It has a pleasant coconut scent and makes a nice amount of lather. It’s also free of dyes and parabens.
Pantene Pro-V Hair Shampoo, Hydra Scalp Care Dandruff
Pantene’s dandruff shampoo relies on pyrithione zinc to stop the itching and flaking.
Reviewers say that it doesn’t smell medicinal and leaves their hair soft, not dried out.
Again, it’s not a children’s product, but it has an anti-dandruff formula that’s proven to work.
Young children may need help washing their hair with it to keep it out of their eyes.
BIOLAGE Scalpsync Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
At the salon, your stylist might use this shampoo on your child. It features pyrithione zinc and mint leaf.
The mint calms scalp irritation and fights bacteria. Not only does it stop the itching to prevent scratching, but it also helps prevent infection.
Some users say that just one wash works miracles on their scalp.
Dove Dermacare Scalp – Anti-Dandruff 2 in 1 Shampoo + Conditioner – Invigorating Mint
Dove makes two versions of their anti-dandruff shampoo. One smells like coconut and the other like mint. Both rely on pyrithione zinc.
The mint formula soothes the skin as it washes away flakes and scales. The cooling sensation relieves itchiness.
Moreover, it’s pH-balanced and packed with moisturizers. It should leave your little one’s hair soft and manageable.
Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Anti-Dandruff 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner
Head & Shoulders combines conditioner with shampoo to ensure that the treatment doesn’t aggravate the dryness.
The anti-dandruff ingredient is pyrithione zinc.
The product is safe for all hair types, including color-treated hair and curls. That means one bottle is suitable for the whole family.
It smells like mint and eucalyptus.
Denorex Daily Strength Medicated Dandruff Shampoo
Denorex makes three different types of anti-dandruff shampoo. This one uses 1% pyrithione zinc. It’s made to be used daily.
The clean scent is gender-neutral.
Although the shampoo conditions somewhat, it might not hurt to use a standalone conditioner to keep the hair and scalp moisturized.
Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Our last pick for dandruff shampoo with pyrithione zinc is made by Free & Clear (also known as Vanicream).
It’s ideal if you’re worried about eczema or allergies.
Since it has no fragrance or masking fragrance, it has a slight odor that fades after you rinse the hair.
It’s also free of sulfates, artificial dyes, parabens, and a whole slew of unnecessary chemicals.
Selsun Blue Moisturizing with Aloe Dandruff Shampoo
Let’s switch gears and look at anti-dandruff shampoos with selenium sulfide 1%.
Remember, there’s a reason why this is called Selsun Blue. It’s actually blue. And it may alter your child’s hair color slightly.
Don’t worry, the change isn’t permanent. It’s a side effect of selenium sulfide, not the blue dye.
I personally prefer this version with aloe over the original formula because it smells a little better and feels a little more moisturizing.
Selsun Blue Medicated Maximum Strength Dandruff Shampoo
Maximum Strength Selsun Blue features selenium sulfide and menthol. I wouldn’t recommend this for young children, but rather for school-age kids and up.
On the bright side, it provides instant relief for an itchy scalp. But be careful to not use it on broken skin as the cooling sensation will feel like burning instead.
You can also use it on permed hair as long as the hair has been washed at least once since it was processed.
Head and Shoulders Shampoo, Clinical Strength Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment
Head and Shoulders also makes an anti-dandruff shampoo with selenium sulfide. They call it “clinical strength,” but you don’t need a prescription to buy it.
Interestingly, they claim that selenium sulfide is better at reducing flaky dandruff then ketoconazole.
If you use it as directed, it keeps dandruff away for up to a week.
Packer’s Pine Tar Shampoo
Instead of toxic petrochemicals in coal tar, try pine tar shampoo. This particular brand has been made in the USA for more than 150 years.
It’s a natural treatment for seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. It helps clear up redness, scaling, itching, and flaking.
Furthermore, it’s safe for children and pregnant women alike. You can also use it on color-treated hair.
The manufacturer challenges you to compare it to products like Neutrogena T/Gel. They offer a satisfaction guarantee.
Neutrogena T/Gel Extra Strength Therapeutic Shampoo with 1% Coal Tar
Speaking of Neutrogena T/Gel, it’s based on 1% coal tar extract. It’s a treatment recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation.
For something so strong, it’s also mild enough to use every day. It’s not sticky, and won’t leave a residue. Instead, it rinses clean and leaves the hair shiny.
Just one wash may be enough to keep dandruff at bay for 7 days.
Denorex MENTAR Therapeutic Maximum Itch Relief Dandruff Shampoo & Conditioner
Denorex blends 1.8% coal tar with 1.5% menthol to create this soothing shampoo. It stamps out itching and washes away flaking and scales.
It’s actually a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner that leaves the hair shiny and hydrated.
The cooling tingle is pleasant, but might be a little strong for small children.
Solimo Therapeutic Dandruff Shampoo
Solimo points out an essential bit of information on their label. They explain that this shampoo has 2.5% coal tar solution, which translates to a total of 0.5% coal tar for the whole bottle.
It’s similar to Neutrogena’s T/Gel, but is usually priced less.
It comes with a satisfaction guarantee and the promise of a full refund if you’re not pleased with the product.
Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
Let’s leave coal tar behind in favor of another dandruff solution.
The Jason shampoo relies on sulfur and salicylic acid to eliminate seborrheic dermatitis. You’ll need to use it at least three times per week.
So how do these ingredients get rid of the itching and flaking?
For one, sulfur is antimicrobial. Then, salicylic acid is an exfoliant. Together, they can treat dandruff or psoriasis.
The healing formula also has olive, jojoba, and rosemary to soften the skin and hair and rebalance the scalp.
Be careful to keep this out of your child’s eyes as it will cause irritation. Never leave them unattended with the bottle as you’ll need to call Poison Control if they consume it.
Denorex Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner with Salicylic Acid
Denorex’s third option has salicylic acid to remove dead skin and scales. It doesn’t directly treat dandruff, but rather the effects.
Also, it’s a conditioning formula infused with provitamin B5 to keep hair healthy.
Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
The final pick is the only shampoo on the market with 1% ketoconazole. It’s an anti-fungal treatment that’s clinically proven to get rid of dandruff. It kills the fungus that causes the problem.
For something so powerful, it actually smells pretty good.
Help your child wash your hair with it two times a week to stop the flaking and itching. On other days, you can use her regular favorite shampoo and conditioner.
Dandruff isn’t a reflection of bad parenting. Any child can end up with a flaky, itchy scalp matter how often they take a bath.
Fortunately, there are many effective anti-dandruff shampoos available. While only a few are designed specifically for children, they can benefit from others with adult supervision.
Since dandruff tends to run in the family, you can save money by getting a family-sized bottle that everyone can enjoy.
Keep in mind that finding the right dandruff shampoo can be trial-and-error. Shampoos with pyrithione zinc are the most common and often the most gentle.
Choose one, then use it for a couple weeks to see if your child’s scalp clears up. If not, you might need to switch to a different active ingredient.
If you found a hair care product today that solved your problem, please come back and tell us about it in the comments below.
1. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/dandruff.html published August 2014, accessed May 14, 2020
2. https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Dandruff accessed May 14, 2020
3. https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_1fnw1yi8 by Dr. Cindy Gellner, accessed May 14, 2020
4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dandruff/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353854 accessed May 14, 2020