What is the Best Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo in 2019?

Attractive blond woman browsing through a shelf, looking for the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo in the store.

Sulfates in shampoos are often credited as being a major cause of dandruff. The drying effects of sulfates can strip the scalp and hair of the natural oils and proteins they need to remain healthy.

Sulfates can also be found in engine degreaser, floor cleaners and laundry detergents as well as products used for the body like soaps, bubble baths, conditioners and of course many shampoos. It’s highly unlikely that your hair will ever get so dirty that it needs the same ingredients used in an engine degreaser or floor cleaner!

So why on earth are sulfites added to so many shampoos? Sulfates are powerful cleaning agents that were first added to a shampoo by Procter and Gamble in 1930, in Royal Drene Shampoo that is even housed in the Smithsonian Collection for the important role it played in how we care for our hair.

Most anti-dandruff shampoos have always been sulfate free due to the drying effect contributing to increased dandruff, but recently sulfates have become a major topic of discussion for the safety of shampoos in general. In this article we’ll look at some of the options without sulfates and at the end I’ll reveal my picks for the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo on the market.

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Our #1 Rated

Maple Holistics

Pure Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

Pure Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
Pure tea tree oil is enhanced with botanical keratin and other essential oils in a sulfate free shampoo.
Our #1 Rated

Maple Holistics

Pure Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

Pure tea tree oil is enhanced with botanical keratin and other essential oils in a sulfate free shampoo.

Mineral Fusion

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Anti dandruff shampoo which promotes thickness with keratin protein, plus marula and peppermint oils. 100 % Vegan.

Mineral Fusion

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Anti dandruff shampoo which promotes thickness with keratin protein, plus marula and peppermint oils. 100 % Vegan.

Maple Holistics

Sage Shampoo for Anti-Dandruff

Sage Shampoo for Anti-Dandruff
Maple Holistics use sage for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties to combat dermatitis and dandruff.

Maple Holistics

Sage Shampoo for Anti-Dandruff

Maple Holistics use sage for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties to combat dermatitis and dandruff.

Dead Sea Spa Magik

Mineral Shampoo

Mineral Shampoo
Dead Sea minerals with essential oils, the formula of Spa Magick shampoo soothes irritated, dry or flaky scalps.

Dead Sea Spa Magik

Mineral Shampoo

Dead Sea minerals with essential oils, the formula of Spa Magick shampoo soothes irritated, dry or flaky scalps.

Denorex

Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner

Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner
2-in-1 shampoo & conditioner formula with provitamin B5. For moderate dandruff, use at least 2 times a week.

Denorex

Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner

2-in-1 shampoo & conditioner formula with provitamin B5. For moderate dandruff, use at least 2 times a week.

What Are Sulfates?

Sulfates are a surfactant that shampoos use to remove sebum and dirt from the hair and they also create the foam or lather. They basically bind with the dirt and oil, so they are flushed away, when you rinse the foam from your hair.

Popular sulfates used in shampoos are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Unless your shampoo is specifically marked “sulfate free”, chances are that it will contain one, if not both of these sulfates.

What Are The Potential Risks Of Sulfates?

The US Food and Drug Administration found SLS to be safe and not harmful if used briefly and rinsed away from the skin in use of shampoos and soaps. Although the same research showed sulfates can cause mild irritation when left on the skin in animal studies. (source) There have been rumors of a cancer causing effect, but most studies find no link between use of sulfates and cancer; the American Cancer Society states sulfates do not cause cancer. (source)

The largest risk of using products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate tends to be irritation to the skin, especially the scalp, eyes, mouth and lungs. The longer the product stays in contact with the skin or eyes, the worse the irritation will be. If you have sensitive skin, using a shampoo with sulfates may cause stinging, burning or redness.

Sulfate based shampoos can be safe to use but you should be careful to avoid getting any into the eyes which causes severe stinging. A sulfate free shampoo will generally be more gentle on the skin, hair and eyes. For individuals with dandruff, a sulfate free formula is a must as the residue from sulfates can still be a scalp irritant even after being rinsed away.

Sulfate Free for Dandruff Protection

Originally sulfate free shampoos were solely used for dandruff shampoos and treatments. It was ironically Procter and Gamble again that introduced a sulfate free shampoo in response to many customers wanting a milder shampoo than they produced at the time. Dandruff shampoos were a big hit as an effective way of treating dandruff with Head and Shoulders being the most well known medicated shampoo of all time.

Sulfates actually strip your hair and scalp of natural nutrients that are needed to stop the flaking. If you have experienced a dry scalp, itchiness or redness and dandruff then a sulfate free formula is an ideal choice to follow. Many people who don’t have dandruff also choose sulfate free shampoos as a way of cutting down the harsh chemicals we encounter in everyday life.

Sulfates in shampoos are used to remove the dirt and oil to clean your hair which is the primary purpose of your shampoo. Any sulfate free option should contain alternative ingredients to ensure washing your hair still means getting a good “wash”. Natural alternatives include essential oils like tea tree oil or jojoba oil that can attract other oils and help to keep the hair and scalp clean. As an added bonus, many of these oils moisturize and nourish both the hair and scalp at the same time.

The Best Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo

There are many sulfate free dandruff shampoos available that are very effective in reducing dandruff and can be used by people with sensitive scalps too. We have looked at some of the best selling formulas to bring you the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo.

Our #1 Rated
Our pick our #1 rated

Maple Holistics

Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

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Another product from Maple Holistics ranks as our favorite sulfate free dandruff shampoo. This is one of their best selling formulas which uses botanicals hydrate the scalp and clean the follicles to invigorate the hair and scalp. Antifungal and antibacterial properties of this formula prevent flaking from returning.

Tea tree oil has been shown in laboratory tests to be effective at controlling the malassezia yeast that causes the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. Antimicrobial and moisturizing properties help to relieve itching and can benefit a dry scalp. Rosemary, lavender, argan and jojoba oils work together to soothe the scalp, boost circulation and lift off dry flakes or dead skin cells.

Pros
Pro A gentle yet effective dandruff shampoo
Pro No parabens
Pro artificial coloring or fragrances.
Pro Tea tree oil is very effective against the growth of yeasts that cause dandruff.
Pro Essential oils condition the hair and make it stronger.
Pro Soothes the scalp and locks in moisture which benefits those with dry scalps.
Pro Suitable for people with very sensitive skin.
Pro Uses a combination of over six gentle surfactants and foam boosters to provide a rich foam.
Pro Can also be used to prevent head lice or thinning hair.
Cons
Con Essential oils have a strong smell.
Con People with excessively dry scalps may need to use a conditioner too.
Con Can leave the hair feeling slightly oily.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #2 Rated
Our pick our #2 rated

Mineral Fusion

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

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Mineral Fusion’s sulfate free shampoo uses a unique blend of essential minerals that promote a healthy scalp and condition the hair. Active ingredient salicylic acid eliminates build up of flakes and mineral rich clay absorbs excess oils which may be adding to scalp problems. Malachite and smithsonite extracts both have antioxidant properties with rhodochrosite being a skin conditioning agent that helps protect the scalp.

Added essential oils, tea tree and oregano oil both have proven abilities to fight seborrheic dermatitis and other scalp conditions. Keratin protein with marula and peppermint oils help reinforce the hair and promote thickness. Another added mineral extract even promotes collagen production.

Pros
Pro Gentle 2% salicylic acid helps shed dandruff and dead skin flakes.
Pro Mineral clay can significantly reduce excess sebum on the scalp.
Pro Improves thickness of hair and boosts collagen.
Pro Mineral effects can be beneficial to many psoriasis sufferers too.
Pro Added panthenol leaves hair feeling soft.
Pro Sulfate and paraben free. No artificial color or synthetic fragrances.
Pro Subtle natural smell.
Cons
Con Salicylic acid can dry out the skin with prolonged use.
Con Contains five known allergens.
 
 
 
 
 

Our #3 Rated
Our pick our #3 rated

Maple Holistics

Sage Shampoo

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This dandruff shampoo from Maple Holistic is advertised as a sage shampoo but contains many other essential oils too. Sage oil is one of nature’s most effective anti-inflammatory and antiseptic agents used to combat dermatitis and scalp irritation. Tea tree oil helps clear out the dead skin cells and reduce flaking while improving circulation to the scalp. Other oils including argan oil and jojoba are known to have anti-dandruff properties and promote scalp smoothness and overall health.

Rosemary stimulates cell renewal of hair follicles and stimulates new hair growth with added keratin playing a key role in restoring healthy stronger hair. The antifungal properties of tea tree oil and sage oil both attack the yeasts that cause dandruff. These natural botanics also give the formula a spicy aroma.

Pros
Pro Gentle hypoallergenic shampoo that is free of sulfates
Pro parabens and other harsh ingredients.
Pro Vegan-friendly
Pro not tested on animals
Pro Safe for color treated hair.
Pro Sage
Pro jojoba and rosemary oils have powerful anti-dandruff properties.
Pro Can also be used to reduce thinning hair
Pro Spikenard extract works to restore pigmentation to the hair.
Pro Lathers well despite lack of foaming sulfates.
Cons
Con Essential oils have a strong fragrance.
Con Some found it dried out their hair.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #4 Rated
Our pick our #4 rated

Dead Sea Spa Magik

Mineral Shampoo

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This shampoo from Dead Sea Spa Magik is a combination shampoo that contains both salicylic acid and zinc pyrithione. Salicylic acid exfoliates or sheds any existing build up of dandruff or flakiness and the zinc pyrithione helps prevent new dandruff buildup from occurring.

Dead sea minerals along with other botanicals including chamomile, lemon balm, linden blossom and coconut oil moisturize the scalp and condition the hair. This is a mild and gentle shampoo that can both eradicate dandruff and revitalize damaged hair. It only contains one known contact allergen – cocamidopropyl betaine – and can be effective for scalp conditions like psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and dry scalp.

Pros
Pro Salicylic acid and zinc pyrithione are two of the most effective active ingredients against dandruff.
Pro Can also be very beneficial to those who have psoriasis.
Pro Dead sea minerals and essential oils leave hair feeling extremely soft.
Pro Helps prevent the return of flakiness.
Pro Pleasant lemon scent.
Pro Excellent price.
Cons
Con Some found the formula watery meaning you often go through the bottle very quickly.
Con May require two applications to avoid a build up and flaking.
Con Some people can be allergic to the synthetic perfumes used which can cause scalp irritation.
 
 
 

Our #5 Rated
Our pick our #5 rated

Denorex

Dandruff Shampoo

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This extra strong formula from Denorex uses a 3% salicylic solution – the maximum allowed in an over the counter product in the US. This exfoliates the scalp and removes a crusty build up you find with chronic cases of dandruff. This is probably one of the strongest sulfate free dandruff formulas you will find and should only be used for severe outbreaks. It can also be used to reduce the flakiness of psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.

With a thick brown texture, this shampoo has a strong minty scent with herby undertones. This particular shampoo features conditioning agents which can leave the hair feeling sleek and soft while adding volume to thinner hair.

Pros
Pro Maximum allowed amount of salicylic acid is very effective at removing large quantities of dandruff.
Pro Conditioning agents can improve the health of both scalp and hair.
Pro Menthol after effect is pleasant and clean smelling.
 
 
Cons
Con Seriously strong. Of the 17 ingredients five of them are known allergens.
Con Although it won’t dry the scalp in the same ways as sulfates
Con some sensitive scalps can react and worsen the flaking.
Con Menthol tingling can be intense and may feel like stinging or burning.
Con May eliminate dead skin cells and flaking from surface but does little to limit the reproduction of skin cells.

Our Choice for the Best Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo

Choosing a sulfate free shampoo can greatly reduce the risk of a dandruff problem getting worse. Many of the medicated shampoos we have used in the past have harsh chemicals or sulfates that strip oils and moisture from the scalp contributing to many scalp conditions including dandruff. Choosing a sulfate free shampoo can be beneficial for all, but if you suffer with dandruff it can be crucial.

In our opinion, the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo is the Pure Tea Tree Oil anti-dandruff Shampoo by Maple Holistics. If you suffer from mild dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis Maple Holistics have created a quality product that can also make your hair look better too!

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