Zinc Pyrithione: The Dandruff-Fighting Superstar You Need in Your Shower

Here's what experts want you to know.

Itching on your head with what seems like no end in sight can be exhausting, especially when you’re not sure how to get to the bottom of it. Dandruff can be an extremely persistent issue, and if the flakes keep coming, it’s time to rethink your haircare routine. Enter zinc pyrithione, an ingredient commonly found in hair products to alleviate an itchy scalp and dandruff.

To understand what zinc pryithione is and how to use it, we tapped dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., beauty scientist Rolanda Wilkerson, Ph.D., and hairstylists Levi Monarch and Sean Godard. Here’s what they had to say about the benefits behind this active ingredient

What is zinc pyrithione?

“Zinc pyrithione is a compound that works by lowering levels of yeast on the skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. It has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, and its chemical properties tackle scalp inflammation and flakes which tackle scalp inflammation and dandruff, explains Monarch.

What are the benefits of zinc pyrithione?

Everyone has yeast on their scalp, but when its production levels go into overdrive, Dr. Zeichner says the skin experiences an adverse reaction to this sudden change in yeast levels. As a result, dandruff pays an unkindly visit. By using a haircare product with zinc pyrithione, Goddard explains that yeast’s production levels begin to slow down. “Think of [adding zinc pyrithione] like cutting the fuel line. Without the fuel, there’s no fire,” says Dr. Zeichner

Now that you know what zinc pyrithione can do for your scalp, here are some of the best hair products with this dandruff-fighting ingredient.

Best scalp treatment: Head & Shoulders

zinc pyrithione dandruff benefits

Head & Shoulders Clinical Dandruff + Itch Relief Mist

Shop it Target

For mild cases of dandruff, Dr. Wilkerson recommends trying the Head and Shoulders Supreme Collection. She says leave-in treatments such as the Clinical Moisturizing Scalp Cream and the Clinical Itch Relief Scalp Mist can be used on non-wash days to relieve scalp itchiness and dryness. 

Best hydrating shampoo for dandruff control: Redken

Redken Scalp Relief Dandruff Control Shampoo

Shop it Amazon

Godard credits this shampoo for its ability to treat dandruff while giving the hair a “silky smooth” finish. To reap all its benefits, Godard says to use it regularly. “Once you’ve worked in the product, let it sit for about five minutes. Then, if you have longer hair, don’t forget to follow with a conditioner of your choice,” he explains.

Best anti-itch shampoo for dandruff control: Dove

zinc pyrithione dandruff benefits

Dove DermaCare Scalp Shampoo

Shop it Amazon

Dr. Zeichner says this shampoo uses hero ingredients zinc pyrithione, panthenol, and aloe to calm scalp irritation and dandruff. When using scalp treatments, he recommends rubbing the product into the scalp with your fingers and letting it sit there for a few minutes. “I tell my patients to sing the alphabet to themselves (or out loud if nobody is listening) to give the product enough contact time on the skin,” he says. 

Best 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner: Head & Shoulders 

zinc dandruff benefits

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1

Shop it Amazon

If you’re experiencing a moderate or severe case of dandruff, Dr. Wilkerson advises trying the Classic Clean Collection. If you prefer to minimize the number of products in your shower, we suggest using the 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner from the line. Dr. Wilkerson says it can be used twice a week to combat flakes, dryness, and itchiness.

Filed Under