Scalp acne can occur due to several different reasons.
However, one of the most common ones tends to be a condition called malassezia folliculitis, commonly known as fungal acne.
Fungal acne is an inflammatory condition caused by an overgrowth of an oil-loving yeast on the skin.
The main issue with this overgrowth is that it can lead to itchy pimples that can become resistant to regular shampoos and treatments.
Which is why you have to use a shampoo that is specifically designed to treat scalp acne and contains active ingredients that neutralize the yeast by cutting off its food supply instead of just masking the symptoms for some time.
Additionally, and because the scalp is likely inflamed, itchy, and sensitive during this time, you also have to consider opting for something that’s gentle, non-irritating, and contains additional ingredients that will soothe and nourish the scalp instead of making the issue worse and leading to issues such as excessive dandruff and flaking.
Therefore, in this article, I’ve rounded up the nine best shampoos for scalp acne that are gentle enough for sensitive and reactive scalps and pack a powerful punch when it comes to getting rid of this malicious yeast.
Table of Contents
How I Reviewed Each Product
To ensure that the products on this list are as effective as possible, I considered several key factors.
First and foremost, I only considered shampoos containing active ingredients that have been proven effective against the overgrowth of yeast on the skin, such as ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and zinc pyrithione.
Additionally, I also made sure to include products that are gentle enough for sensitive scalps and won’t cause any additional irritation, redness, itchiness, or allergic reactions.
Finally, I also considered what other people had to say about each product by reading the reviews on various websites to make sure that they actually work and aren’t just a waste of money.
And with that said, let’s get into the list.
Best Shampoos for Scalp Acne Summary
Jump to Review
|Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo (Amazon)|
|On a Budget|
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|The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo (Amazon)|
|For Sensitive Skin|
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|dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo (Amazon)|
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|Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (Amazon)|
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|DHS – Clear Shampoo (Amazon)|
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|Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract (Amazon)|
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|John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo (Amazon)|
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|Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo (Amazon)|
|For Curly Hair|
Jump to Review
|Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo (Amazon)|
Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo
This product is formulated with gentle surfactants usually used in cleansers, gels, and shampoos intended for baby skin, meaning they are non-irritating and won’t leave your scalp feeling like it’s on fire in order to treat acne.
Suitable for use on all hair types
Particularly good for those suffering from a dry, itchy, or psoriasis/eczema-prone scalp or dandruff.
Blended with active Salicylic Acid, Panthenol, and Organic Seaweed.
Dairy, gluten, gmos, parabens, pegs, petrochemicals, silicones
Certified organic ingredients
100% vegan and cruelty-free
The Mineral Shampoo by Dead Sea Spa Magic is an excellent option for someone dealing with an excessively oily scalp, dandruff, and scalp acne.
In addition to gentle surfactants that make the shampoo lather nicely and spread across the hair easily, the product also contains beeswax soap, an ingredient that acts as both a soothing agent and cleanser.
Furthermore, beeswax has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help neutralize bacteria overgrowth in problematic areas such as the scalp.
But the main active ingredients in this shampoo are zinc pyrithione and salicylic acid, which will essentially soothe and get rid of scalp acne.
Zinc pyrithione is a gentle, well-tolerated, antifungal agent typically found in anti-dandruff shampoos and used primarily to treat mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis.
Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is used in shampoos, cleansers, toners, and serums mainly for its keratolytic effect, which causes the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface to shed rapidly and prevent the buildup of cellular debris inside the pores.
Once the skin is free from this buildup, the acne-causing bacteria (or yeast) will lose its primary food source and eventually die off.
Salicylic acid and zinc pyrithione complement each other well because salicylic acid can soften the existing buildup on your scalp and help the zinc pyrithione penetrate the scalp more effectively.
Which is why the Mineral Shampoo by Dead Sea Spa Magik is our top pick for the best shampoo for scalp acne.
Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo Pros:
- Gentle surfactants used in the formulation won’t irritate the scalp.
- Beeswax has soothing, antiviral, antibacterial, and cleansing properties.
- Contains zinc pyrithione and salicylic acid, which are effective against scalp acne.
Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo Cons:
- It might be challenging to buy if you live outside the US.
Best on a Budget
The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo
This shampoo is made with over 90% natural ingredients, including tea tree oil that instantly leaves the scalp feeling cleansed, purified, and invigorated.
Visibly repairs hair
Made with Vegan Silk Protein, use this refreshing conditioner to help repair hair from the inside out.
Best budget option
For oily scalp and acne
Made with 97% ingredients of natural origin
Registered by The Vegan Society
Including organically-grown Community Fair Trade tea tree oil from Kenya and Community Fair Trade organic aloe vera from Mexico
The Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo is an excellent budget option for anyone dealing with scalp acne, intense buildup, and dandruff but doesn’t want to try a medicated product or something that contains exfoliating ingredients.
But besides this, the Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo is excellent for the entire strand and not just the scalp, as it contains nourishing silk protein that’s 100% vegan and works to hydrate and protect the hair from environmental aggressors.
Additionally, the shampoo has a pleasant scent that lingers for a long time after washing and leaves the hair smelling clean and fresh.
The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo Pros:
- Made with over 90% natural ingredients.
- Contains tea tree oil, which is excellent for an acne-ridden scalp.
- Nourishing silk protein hydrates and protects the hair.
The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo Cons:
- It’s an all-natural shampoo, so it might not be effective immediately, but it will definitely help soothe acne and inflammation over time.
Best For Sensitive Skin
dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo
The dpHUE ACV Soothing Shampoo is an excellent choice for anyone dealing with acne but also skin that’s ultra-sensitive and reactive to traditional or medicated shampoos. Additionally, the shampoo is specifically formulated for treated and colored hair as it helps protect the color from washing out and looking faded and dull after a short time.
Formulated for all hair colors and types
Best for sensitive and reactive scalp
Seals the hair’s cuticle and rebalances pH to reduce frizz and increase shine and vitality
Soothing and moisturizing
Does not strip natural oils essential to scalp and hair health
Parabens, Sulfates, Phthalates, Gluten, Silicone; Animal-friendly and made in the USA
The dpHUE ACV Soothing Shampoo also contains apple cider vinegar, which has long been used as a folk remedy for treating acne and other skin conditions.
This is because ACV contains acetic acid, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin, reduce redness, and even neutralize acne-causing bacteria and yeast overgrowth.
Additionally, the shampoo also contains ginger root water, an ingredient with antioxidant properties that can help protect the skin from environmental aggressors, pollution, and free radicals, as well as soothing and skin-repairing panthenol.
dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo Pros:
- Formulated for treated and colored hair.
- Apple cider vinegar helps neutralize acne-causing bacteria on the scalp.
- Contains soothing and moisturizing ingredients to protect the sensitive and reactive scalp from damage.
dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo Cons:
Best For Dandruff
Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
The Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a classic when it comes to relieving conditions such as excess dandruff, itchy scalp, as well as scalp acne, or, more particularly, fungal acne caused by an overgrowth of yeast in areas where the skin tends to get excessively oily.
Effective after one wash
Best for fungal acne, itchy scalp, seborrheic dermatitis
Made with Ketoconazole
An effective ingredient that binds to your hair’s natural protein to kill dandruff
Dandruff stays off your head & shoulders with this dandruff treatment shampoo that helps relieve itchy & flaky scalps
Suitable for all hair types especially thick, color-treated or dry hair
The Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is also excellent for anyone struggling with seborrheic dermatitis, as it contains ketoconazole, a powerful antifungal agent that effectively reduces yeast growth on the scalp and controls flaking, scaling, and itching associated with dandruff.
Lastly, the shampoo is also incredibly gentle and suitable for color-treated and chemically processed hair as well as gray or weak hair.
The best way to use the Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is to massage it into the wet scalp and hair, leave it on for 3-5 minutes, and then rinse off.
It also pairs excellently with the Nizoral Shampoo Brush, which has a soft silicone head to provide a gentle scalp massage and deposit the shampoo evenly across the entire area.
Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Pros:
- Reduces yeast growth on the scalp.
- Controls flaking, scaling, and itching associated with dandruff.
- Gentle enough for color-treated and chemically processed hair.
- Can also be used as a face mask to prevent fungal acne.
Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Cons:
DHS – Clear Shampoo
Suitable for sensitive and irritated scalp
Helps maintain your skin’s natural PH balance while giving you clean and conditioned hair.
Gentle everyday shampoo
Leaves your hair and scalp feeling fresh, soft, and clean. No stinging. No flaky buildup. No inflammation.
Fragrances and dyes for sensitive skin users
Quality formulations for decades
Family owned since 1941. Based in California, USA.
The consistency of DHS Clear Shampoo is a clear gel, and as such, it doesn’t contain any colorants, and due to not containing any fragrance or fragrant components, the shampoo also doesn’t have any scent.
It pretty much resembles and acts much like a plain soap, just without that harsh soapy scent.
The shampoo suds quite easily into a white, opaque foam, leaving the scalp feeling fresh and cleansed and the hair looking glossy and healthy.
However, due to not containing many nourishing ingredients either, the DHS Clear Shampoo has the potential to make the hair dry and brittle over time or if you use a lot of products on the strands, which is why following it up with a good conditioner or a deeply moisturizing mask at least once a week is recommended.
DHS – Clear Shampoo Pros:
- Unscented and thus ideal for those with fragrance sensitivities.
- Cleanses the scalp and hair without irritating the skin and making the scalp feel itchy and inflamed.
DHS – Clear Shampoo Cons:
- Can dry out the hair if you use a lot of product on your strands.
Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract
Itchy scalp, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff
Regulates excess of sebum
Makes hair light and shiny
Calms itchiness and is alcohol-free
Permanently eliminates dandruff
Nourishing ingredients strengthen and repair the hair
This high-end product is a real treat in the complete sense of the word. It smells divine, its gel texture helps it spread easily on the hair, and it feels amazing on the scalp.
Additionally, once it’s rinsed off, you will see an immediate difference in your scalp and hair texture – the scalp will feel soothed and less itchy, and your hair will feel incredibly clean, soft, and silky.
The Purifying Shampoo contains jujube bark extract as a main active ingredient, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that helps soothe the skin and relieve any redness, itchiness, or irritation.
Other key ingredients include hydrating and moisture-retaining glycerin, as well as soothing and moisturizing propanediol that helps create a barrier on the scalp to prevent further irritation.
Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract Pros:
- Soothes the scalp and relieves irritation, redness, and itchiness.
- Moisturizes and hydrates the scalp.
Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract Cons:
- Contains fragrance and several fragrant components such as essential oils.
John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo
John Masters Organics is an organic beauty brand that exclusively carries products free of harsh chemicals, synthetics, artificial colorants, and other potentially irritating components. They are also cruelty-free and aim to provide a luxurious experience at a fairly reasonable price.
Protective zinc and purifying sage
help alleviate irritating conditions for a soothed scalp while strengthening wheat amino acids leave hair shiny, manageable and soft
Excellent for sensitive and reactive scalp
Exfoliates dry scalp and reduces sebum build-up
Sulfate Free, Paraben Free, and Silicone Free
70% or more organic content
Vegan and cruelty free
The Zinc & Sage Shampoo specifically is an excellent option for those who are dealing with scalp acne, as it’s formulated with zinc – an ingredient that’s known for its sebum-regulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
This shampoo also contains sage oil, a potent antimicrobial agent that helps keep the scalp clean and free of any buildup that can clog the pores and lead to further breakouts.
Other key ingredients include aloe vera juice, which soothes and calms the skin, as well as wheat amino acids, a blend of conditioning agents to coat the strands in a protective barrier and provide an effortless brush-through, which strengthens the hair and prevents breakage.
To top that off, the Zinc & Sage Shampoo also has a beautiful honey and coconut scent that will make your hair smell divine all day long, alongside neutralizing any scalp buildup and bacteria.
John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo Pros:
- Contains anti-inflammatory zinc and antibacterial sage to help clear scalp acne.
- Wheat amino acids help create a protective barrier around the follicle.
- Has a lovely, sweet scent.
John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo Cons:
Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo
Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Shampoo is an excellent option for those looking for a shampoo that’s also a physical exfoliant to help remove flakes and buildup that’s causing clogs, inflammation, and scalp acne.
This micro-exfoliating shampoo is infused with Binchotan charcoal, which is why it has a dark grey color and a clay-like texture.
Those with a dry, itchy, and flaky scalp or product buildup
An exfoliating, sulfate-free scalp scrub shampoo treatment that lifts away impurities and buildup
Coconut oil, panthenol, and tea tree oil moisturizes and soothes a dry, flaky scalp
Purifying Binchotan charcoal detoxifies and cleanses to help diminish scalp and hair buildup
Color treated, keratin treated, chemically-treated, and relaxed hair
Vegan, cruelty & gluten free
The activated charcoal acts like a magnet to help draw out impurities, toxins, and dirt from the scalp, while the added coconut oil and glycerin work to moisturize, soften, and nourish the skin.
Another interesting thing about the Charcoal + Coconut Oil Shampoo is that it doesn’t lather at all. This is because of the lack of harsh surfactants, sulfates, and other detergents that can further irritate and dry out the skin.
Additionally, a cooling blend of peppermint and spearmint oils reduces scalp itchiness and gives the shampoo a refreshing scent, while the added tea tree oil helps reduce scalp irritation with its anti-septic and healing properties.
And although this is definitely a more high-end product, the Charcoal + Coconut Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo is worth trying if you want a good manual exfoliation of the scalp.
Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo Pros:
- Has a lovely scent that’s a mix between peppermint and coconut.
- Provides an excellent physical exfoliation of the scalp.
- Removes buildup and acne-causing clogs.
Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo Cons:
Best For Curly Hair
Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo
Best for curly hair, oily scalp, and scalp acne
Natural, clarifying shampoo with an instant lather, helps to soothe and calm the scalp
Infused with mineral-rich, nourishing and anti-inflammatory oils and butters.
Non-toxic and naturally-derived.
Vegan and fragrance free
For men, women and children.
The clarifying shampoo has a rich amber color and a thick gel consistency that’s chock-full of skin-loving ingredients like soothing African black soap, aloe vera, and shea butter.
Due to the thickness of the gel, the shampoo is best applied with a shampoo brush, as this will help evenly distribute the product and ensure that every nook and cranny of your scalp is thoroughly cleansed.
Additionally, the African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo also contains a blend of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial oils, including tea tree, black cumin seed, rosemary, and peppermint, which give this product an amazing smell but also help soothe and relieve inflammatory conditions on the scalp.
And last but not least, the inclusion of charcoal powder helps detoxify the scalp and gently exfoliate for a deep cleanse that’s also effective at helping to clear away scalp acne.
Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo Pros:
- Sulfate-free, clarifying formula.
- Gentle exfoliation with charcoal powder.
- Healing and anti-inflammatory oils help soothe inflammation and acne.
Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo Cons: