Best Dandruff Shampoo For Colored Hair

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Woman sitting on stairs outside after using the best dandruff shampoo on her colored hair.

At a Glance






Dandruff is a problem that affects almost half the world’s population. (source) Regardless of age, race or gender you will probably suffer from dandruff at some stage in your life. Fortunately dandruff is quite easy to control with a medicated shampoo at home.

If you have colored hair things get a little more complicated; you’ll have to be more careful when choosing a dandruff shampoo as many contain harsh chemicals that damage already weakened locks and strip away the color. Although for many years it was recommended that people who dye their hair should only use natural or herbal dandruff shampoos, nowadays there are many shampoos specially formulated to treat dandruff in colored hair. Who knows, the dandruff may even be caused by the coloring agent or product that you have used?

In this article we’ll take a look at some of the things to look out for when treating dandruff in colored hair and at the end I’ll share my top picks for the best dandruff shampoo for colored hair.

Can Hair Dye Cause Dandruff?

The link between using hair dye and the occurrence of dandruff has often been written about, but can hair dye cause dandruff?

While it is true that many of the chemicals found in dyes can leave your hair dry and brittle, hair dye can also cause the scalp to itch and flake – a set of symptoms which seem very similar to dandruff. However, it’s usually not dandruff, just residue of dry skin or product.

Dandruff like conditions can be caused by many factors, but the dandruff we’ve all come to dread is due to a single factor: a fungus called Malassezia. This microbe lives on your scalp and feeds off the natural oils present. In most cases it doesn’t cause any symptoms but in people who are sensitive to it, the scalp often starts to show signs of dandruff.

Hair dyes on their own may not cause dandruff, but malassezia certainly does! However if you are already susceptible to dandruff problems, using a hair dye can make it flare up.

That’s not just true of hair dyes though, many other hair care and styling products can irritate the scalp too. If you are suffering from an itchy scalp, it’s worth checking all the hair products you use to pinpoint the ones that may be triggering any scalp issues.

How Hair Dyes Can Aggravate Dandruff Problems

Many commercially available hair dyes contain chemicals that reduce protective lipids or oils on your scalp, leaving it more vulnerable to attack from irritants like malassezia. This makes you more likely to develop dandruff.

Other strong chemicals found in hair dyes are irritant themselves, and even moreso if you already have a dandruff problem. Symptoms of dermatitis like stinging and itchy scalp, swollen patches and skin redness= may be caused by these strong chemicals.

Other chemicals often found in hair dyes, like paraphenylenediamine (PPDA) are known sensitizers to which repeated exposure can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Dandruff like symptoms are often a result of these reactions. That said, there is a difference between a dry scalp and dandruff. (source)

The Difference Between Dry Scalp and Dandruff

Dry scalp usually occurs as a result of loss of moisture from the skin and may be caused by the application of soap, hair products (including dyes) which leave build up, cold weather or diet. Like dandruff the first signs of dry scalp are white flakes and itching.

Dandruff is greasy and yellowish white in color; flakes tend to be larger than dry scalp flakes. They also stick to the scalp more, and don’t fall off as easily but in large clumps. These large dandruff flakes are usually accompanied by itching and the scalp may have an odor.

Most of the dandruff-like symptoms you can expect to experience after coloring your hair are more likely to be from dry scalp. Whereas dry scalp can be cured with simple treatments like apple cider vinegar or nourishing conditioners that aim to balance the pH of the scalp, dandruff can only be controlled, not entirely cured.

What to Look for in the Best Dandruff Shampoo for Colored Hair

Many over the counter dandruff shampoos contain antimicrobials like selenium sulfide, sulfur, zinc pyridinethione and ketoconazole as the active ingredients.

Selenium sulfide and sulfur can be too harsh for use on colored hair and shampoos containing these chemicals should be avoided. Sulfites scrub or remove the artificial pigments that are used to color hair. (source)

Coal tar and piroctone olamine in addition to sulfites can stain lighter hair and cause discoloration of dyed hair. Harsh soaps found in most conventional shampoos also dry out the hair and cause colors to fade.

Although there hasn’t been enough scientific research into the effects of these chemicals on color treated hair, a general rule of thumb is that the more gentle the ingredients, the less your color will fade.

There aren’t many dandruff shampoos that are labeled color safe, but you can instead look for the words “sulfate free” often emblazoned in large font on the label of many products. You can check the packaging for other harsh ingredients like parabens, alcohol or any of the previously mentioned antimicrobials. Another alternative is to look at all natural shampoo formulas which use naturally derived plant oils and herbs that are known for their anti dandruff properties.

Our 5 Best Dandruff Shampoos for Colored Hair

We have looked at the top selling dandruff shampoos on the market in an attempt to find the best dandruff shampoo for colored hair. Any one of the top five we have selected should help get rid of that unwanted dandruff while maintaining the shine and color of your locks.




Our Choice for the Best Dandruff Shampoo for Colored Hair

You shouldn’t have to choose between caring for your hair and scalp and protecting your color. There are many anti dandruff shampoos which are designed to be color safe. The best dandruff shampoo for colored hair can help keep your color intact while repairing damage like dryness, brittle hairs and split ends yet still combating dandruff.

Products containing fewer chemicals and more naturally derived ingredients are often just as effective as conventional formulations when it comes to combating the issue of dandruff without damaging your color. For this reason, in our opinion, the best dandruff shampoo for colored hair is Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo with its natural active ingredients.

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