Ingredients to look for in your anti-dandruff shampoo

No one likes having dandruff. Constantly sweeping away white flakes from your black shirt can be embarrassing, no matter how subtle the attempt.

The good news for those with dandruff is that it is treatable. In fact, all you need is the right shampoo and you can be well on your way, bidding this pesky problem goodbye.

What causes dandruff?

The formation of dandruff is linked to a yeast called Malassezia and the secretion of sebum, an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands that helps moisturize hair.

Malassezia yeast thrives in sebum-rich areas. It breaks sebum down into free fatty acids, consumes the saturated fatty acids and leaves behind the unsaturated fatty acids.

The unsaturated fatty acids then penetrate the skin’s surface. In susceptible individuals, such penetration damages the skin’s barrier function, causing scalp irritation and subsequent flaking.

What should I look for in a dandruff shampoo?

To help you find an effective dandruff shampoo, we have put together a list of active ingredients that should be on the ingredients label.

Salicylic acid

Dandruff involves an excessive proliferation of cells. On the outermost layer of the skin, these cells clump together, forming large flakes of skin. Salicylic acid increases the moisture level in skin cells and reduces adhesion between cells.

By softening a skin protein called keratin, salicylic acid loosens the attachment between the cells. Together, these effects allow easier shedding of the flakes. Using a shampoo formulated with salicylic acid will allow the dead skin cells to be easily washed off. It also decreases scaling and dryness.

Zinc pyrithione

Normally, when new skin cells form at the outermost skin layer, they do not contain nuclei (the cell component that contains most of the genetic material). However, in individuals with dandruff, the skin cells behave abnormally as the nuclei is retained. Zinc pyrithione helps to reduce such abnormalities.

Zinc pyrithione also helps to stabilize sebum production and the rate that skin cells are produced. Its antifungal properties help control dandruff by reducing yeast production.

Finally, zinc pyrithione reduces an enzyme called lipase that breaks down fats into smaller molecules of fatty acids. As yeast feeds on fatty acids, reducing lipase levels can kill off the yeast population.


It is recommended to that you use a shampoo with a pH value close to the natural pH of your scalp and hair, which is a pH of lower than 5.5.

Shampoos with a higher pH value or are alkaline will remove more sebum from the scalp. This may temporarily refresh oily scalps but ultimately encourage your oil glands to produce more sebum. Using alkaline shampoo can also promote friction, cause frizz and tangling and irritate the scalp.

Copper peptide

While copper peptide does not fight against dandruff directly, it helps to promote healthy hair growth. With its regenerative properties, copper peptide works to increase the size of hair follicles and reduce hair loss.

Copper peptide is preferred over the traditional 5% minoxidil, an over-the-counter treatment for hair loss and regrowth. Minoxidil may cause irritation or scalp dryness while copper peptide provides the same effects with safer results. Copper peptide also promotes the formation of new blood vessels around your hair follicles. With a greater flow of nutrients delivered, the rate of hair growth increases.

A shampoo with it all

For a degreasing and soothing shampoo, go for Dr. TWL’s Deep Cleanse™ Shampoo. This formulation fuses high-quality ingredients of zinc pyrithione, copper peptide and salicylic acid to provide an effective solution for dandruff and itchy scalps.

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