Non-Toxic Beauty

How to Find the Best Natural Dandruff Shampoo + Our Top Picks

If you’ve ever felt the familiar itch of a dry, flaky scalp – you’re not alone. Approximately 20% of Americans struggle with dandruff. Unfortunately, many of the traditional products on the market to treat dandruff are toxic and harmful to more than just the yeast that causes dandruff on your head!

So how can you control dandruff naturally without the use of harsh chemicals? Read on for our top picks and general recommendations for finding natural dandruff shampoo.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may be compensated if you decide to make a purchase. You can read my full disclosure here.

What’s Wrong with Dandruff Shampoo?

Most conventional anti-dandruff products on the market today contain carcinogenic ingredients. Mice who were exposed to selenium sulfide, a common ingredient in dandruff shampoos, developed cancerous tumors after just a few weeks. Other studies link methylisothiazolinone to neurological damage and effects on the nervous system. 

Fragrances, dyes, and other ingredients also contribute to the toxicity of these products.

These harsh chemical ingredients most commonly cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. Some active ingredients, such as selenium sulfide, can even discolor your hair! 

Many dandruff shampoos also include ingredients that can cause harm to marine life by entering the water supply. When you rinse your hair, the shampoo goes into the water supply and then into the ocean. Many of the ingredients are classified as EPA Hazardous Air Pollutants or as hazardous under California’s Prop 65 warning.

itchy scalp in need of natural dandruff shampoo

What Causes Dandruff?

Most of the time, dandruff is caused by a certain type of yeast that lives in the skin, called Malassezia. Malassezia naturally exists on the scalp, but sometimes it can get out of balance and overgrow. Researchers believe that dandruff may be an overreactive immune response to this overgrowth. Dandruff can become worse during times of illness or stress and during pregnancy.

It’s important to note that not all instances of dry scalp or flakiness are due to dandruff. Sometimes flakes are just dry skin! It could also be other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, or contact dermatitis. Sometimes leave-in hair products dry out and look like dandruff too.

Most commercial dandruff products work by targeting and killing the yeast that causes dandruff. Thankfully, there are many natural ingredients that can achieve the same (if not better) effects.

coconut oil can help get rid of dandruff

Natural Ingredients that Help Fight Dandruff

In addition to active ingredients that kill yeast such as tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar, you’ll want to look for natural ingredients that nourish your hair and scalp such as aloe vera, shea butter and coconut oil. Below are some of the most popular natural dandruff shampoo ingredients.

Coconut Oil

In addition to being naturally hydrating, coconut oil is antifungal and antimicrobial, making it a perfect option for natural dandruff shampoos. Coconut oil is thick enough that it may also help “smother” the yeast that causes dandruff.

Tea Tree Oil

Like coconut oil, tea tree oil has both antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found that tea tree oil is very effective at getting rid of dandruff because it kills Malassezia.

Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV is very acidic, which makes it effective at killing organisms like Malassezia. Apple cider vinegar also helps balance the pH levels of your skin which can prevent dandruff.

Aloe Vera

Like the other ingredients listed above, aloe vera has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and it’s also very good at healing many other skin conditions. Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory which can help reduce dandruff.

Lemongrass Oil

Studies have shown lemongrass oil to be highly effective against the fungus that causes dandruff. Lemongrass oil also helps reduce inflammation and can calm the skin.

natural dandruff shampoo

What Ingredients Should You Avoid When Looking for Natural Dandruff Shampoo?

So what are the most harmful ingredients that should be avoided when shopping for a new dandruff shampoo? We’ve listed some of the worst offenders below.


Artificial and synthetic fragrances are never a good idea to have in any of your personal care products. The FDA labels fragrances as a “trade secret,” so companies don’t have to disclose what’s in them. This means that unhealthy ingredients like phthalates and parabens can be lurking in fragrances (which companies also label as parfum).

Selenium Sulfide

Selenium Sulfide is a known carcinogen, and research has linked it to liver and lung cancers in animals. When you’re exposed to this chemical for long periods of time, it can cause headaches, nausea, and vomiting.


Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative found in various beauty products. Preservatives are great because they keep your products shelf-stable for longer periods of time and keep them from growing mold and bacteria. However, research has linked this particular preservative to allergic reactions, lung damage, and even neurological damage.

Benzyl Alcohol

Benzyl Alcohol can be very toxic to our bodies, but you can find it in many beauty and hair care products, like dandruff shampoo, hair gel, and hairspray.. Long-term exposure to benzyl alcohol can cause respiratory issues as well as skin and eye irritations. Research also shows that it may lead to reproductive issues.

Potassium Hydroxide

Potassium hydroxide can be harsh on the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, and it may also contribute to organ system toxicity.

Zinc Pyriothione

This is an active ingredient in many dandruff shampoos, but some research shows that it can cause skin irritation, organ toxicity, and even hair loss. Contact and ingestion can trigger an allergic response, and it can even cause DNA damage in skin cells.

Coal Tar

Research suggests that coal tar can cause skin cancer and may be contaminated with various heavy metals. It is also a known environmental toxin, and it is actually banned in Europe.


These artificial preservatives have the ability to mimic hormones, making them endocrine disrupters that can cause reproductive harm. They may also be listed on shampoo bottle labels as benzoate.


A common lathering ingredient in almost all shampoos, sulfates such as SLS and SLES are moderately toxic but are extremely common. Sulfates can cause cell damage as well as skin irritation and itching.

The Best Organic & Natural Dandruff Shampoos

More and more natural shampoo brands are coming out with dandruff control product lines to offer their health-conscious customers. Below are some of our favorites.

Avalon Organics Scalp Treatment Tea Tree Shampoo

Tea tree oil is extremely effective on dandruff without the use of harsh chemicals. Harnessing the natural power of tea tree oil, rosemary oil, orange peel oil, aloe leaf juice and a plethora of other plant-based ingredients, this formula by Avalon Organics works to fight dandruff with mostly certified organic ingredients. No sulfates, parabens or GMO ingredients are used in this product, and the company is committed to vegan and cruelty-free practices.

Carina Organics Sweet Pea Dandruff Shampoo

Made with all-natural, plant-based ingredients, this sweet-smelling dandruff shampoo removes flakes while hydrating and nourishing your scalp. In addition to offering hypoallergenic, non-toxic ingredients, Carina Organics is also committed to vegan and cruelty-free practices. In addition, all ingredients are 100% biodegradable and safe for rivers, lakes, and oceans.

JASON Dandruff Relief Shampoo

As a very popular natural dandruff shampoo, this formula contains a few active ingredients (salicylic acid and sulfur) to help control dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Various oils including rosemary, olive and jojoba work to nourish the scalp and ward off flakiness. In addition to being committed to natural ingredients, the company is cruelty-free and vegan. 

SheaMoisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo

While not specifically marketed as a dandruff shampoo, the natural ingredients of this powerful shampoo target the scalp and help ward off dandruff. Tea tree oil works as the active ingredient for the purposes of fighting dandruff, and the additional ingredients in this sulfate-free shampoo work to sooth your scalp and fight excess oil or flakes. It also smells amazing!

Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

The use of tea tree oil in this naturally-formulated shampoo helps to rid your scalp of the Malassezia yeast while the product’s other oils like Argan and Jojoba help nourish and hydrate your scalp. In addition to smelling amazing, this shampoo is highly effective and highly rated. It is completely sulfate-free and a fantastic natural option for any health-conscious consumer.

Maple Holistics Cedarwood Dandruff Shampoo

Another product by Maple Holistics, this formula uses cedarwood in addition to tea tree oil to fight off the dandruff-causing Malassezia yeast. Cedarwood oil helps to cleanse and clarify your hair and works in addition to the formula’s other ingredients to rebalance your hair’s natural oils. As an added bonus to its dandruff-fighting power, this shampoo is formulated to help hair appear thicker and healthier. 

Ethique Eco-Friendly Solid Shampoo Bar

As a unique, natural, and eco-friendly option, you can trust that this shampoo bar only contains the best ingredients. The formula is pH-balanced for a healthy scalp, fortified with coconut oil for hydration, and supplemented with oatmeal for its skin-soothing properties. The product’s neem oil and Karanja oils help fight itchy and inflamed scalp issues. In addition to offering many amazing non-toxic products, Ethique is also committed to sustainable and zero-waste business practices. Consider a purchase of this shampoo bar for a truly natural dandruff shampoo!

Bella B Naturals Bee Gone Cradle Cap Baby Shampoo

Looking for an option to help combat your child’s dandruff or your baby’s cradle cap? Give this organic product a try. This shampoo’s formula uses all-natural plant-based ingredients like shea butter, tea tree oil, aloe vera, and oatmeal to soothe and moisturize your child’s scalp while effectively fighting off yeast-based skin conditions like dandruff and cradle cap.

If you’re not keen on the idea of putting both the environment and your own health at risk just to eliminate the annoyance of a dry and flaky scalp, give one of these natural dandruff shampoos a try! You might even be pleasantly surprised at how much more effective natural ingredients can be at controlling dandruff than their toxic counterparts.

natural dandruff shampoo options

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