12 Best Eczema Shampoos, According to Dermatologists

eczema shampoo

Khadija Horton

I’ll be honest: I used to think scalp eczema was just dandruff or your run-of-the-mill dry skin. Then I actually got eczema, which left my scalp covered in severely itchy, painful, flaky rough patches. That’s when I learned that although scalp eczema can look similar to dandruff and dry scalp, it differs in its intensity and can be triggered by a mix of factors (see: hormones, allergies, medications, health issues), making it difficult to treat with just one product. But a good starting point? Eczema shampoo, says board-certified dermatologist, Michele J. Farber, MD.

Eczema shampoos can help hydrate, exfoliate, and protect your scalp’s moisture barrier and should be free of common irritants, like artificial fragrance and sulfates. A good eczema shampoo can also contain active ingredients, like salicylic acid, to break down rough patches and excess oils during flare-ups, or it can be filled with soothing ingredients, like aloe and colloidal oatmeal, to keep your scalp healthy when you’re not flaring, says Dr. Farber. Sound a little overwhelming? I know. That’s why I chatted with Dr. Farber to find the 12 best eczema shampoos for you.

Here’s a quick look of our favorites:

Our top eczema shampoo picks of 2022:

Now keep scrolling for all the details on the best eczema shampoos, whether you’re in the middle of a flare-up, or you just want to keep your sensitive scalp happy. Then, find answers to all of your scalp questions, including what to look for in a scalp eczema shampoo, how often you should wash your itchy scalp, and the full breakdown on what causes scalp eczema in the first place.

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1

Best Eczema Shampoo Overall

Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo

2

Best Gentle Eczema Shampoo

Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash

3

Best Eczema Shampoo for Dry Hair

Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Shampoo

4

Best Eczema Shampoo for Oily Hair

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo

Now 27% off

5

Best Eczema Shampoo for Flakes

Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo and Conditioner

Now 33% off

6

Best Foaming Eczema Shampoo

Mustela Stelatopia Eczema-Prone Skin Foam Shampoo

7

Best Natural Eczema Shampoo

Wild Naturals Eczema and Psoriasis Shampoo

8

Best Eczema Shampoo for Maintenance

Seen Fragrance-Free Shampoo

9

Best Soothing Eczema Shampoo

Aveeno Farm-Fresh Oat Milk Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Now 22% off

10

Best Eczema Shampoo for Itch Relief

Derma E Scalp Relief Shampoo

11

Best Exfoliating Eczema Shampoo

Never Salty Sugar-Based Scalp Scrub

12

Best Medicated Eczema Shampoo

Head and Shoulders Clinical Strength Intensive Itch Relief Shampoo

What causes eczema in the scalp?

Scalp eczema is caused by many factors, including irritation from an ingredient in a product, hormones, stress, certain medications, sudden temperature drops, and dry air. All of this to say: Scalp eczema could be chocked-up to genetics, or something very out of your control, like the weather. But the fragrances, sulfates, and preservatives in your shampoos and hair products could be causing an allergic reaction (also known as contact dermatitis), says Dr. Farber. If you’ve started using anything new recently, switch to a gentle, fragrance-free shampoo to soothe your scalp and eliminate the new product for two weeks while you determine what caused the reaction.

But before you start any treatments for persistent scalp eczema, get your scalp checked by a dermatologist if you’re able to. You could actually be dealing with psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff—all of which require different treatment methods. Dr. Farber says your doctor can also do patch testing to determine which ingredients might be causing your irritation, AKA less work and money for you on products that’ll just make you itch.

What type of shampoo is best for scalp eczema?

The best shampoo for scalp eczema is “gentle and free of allergens or irritants that are contributing to their eczema,” says Dr. Farber. You should avoid any ingredients that could be irritating and cause the inflammation on your scalp to get worse, like fragrance, harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate, and methylisothiazolinone (a common preservative that can cause contact dermatitis for some people). Dr. Farber also notes that certain ingredients in hair dye, like paraphenylenediamine, can cause rashes for some.

What ingredients should you look for? For dry, compromised scalps, look for hydrating ingredients like “glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid that can help keep your moisture barrier strong,” says Dr. Farber, while itchy, inflamed scalps will do best with soothing aloe, chamomile, and oatmeal. Still, it’s important to note that some eczema cases will need more than just a gentle shampoo to get rid of itchiness and flakes: “More severe eczema will often require a steroid or other prescription medication,” says Dr. Farber, which brings us to…

How do I fix eczema on my scalp?

To treat eczema on your scalp, you have two options: at-home treatments, like the shampoos above, or prescription treatments from your doctor. Eczema shampoo—ideally spiked with salicylic acid to remove build-up and oil, or selenium sulfide to reduce flaking—is the most effective treatment at home. But you can also opt for a gentle, medication-free shampoo if you have a more mild case of scalp eczema or just want to ward off flare-ups.

If your scalp eczema doesn’t go away after a month of using over-the-counter medicated shampoos, your doctor may prescribe steroid treatments in either topical form (via shampoos or creams) or oral form (via a short course of oral steroids). Basically, you’ve got options, and you don’t need to deal with eczema on your own.

How often should you wash your hair with scalp eczema?

How often you wash your hair when you have scalp eczema will depend on how oil-prone your hair is. Generally speaking, Dr. Farber recommends washing one to three times a week if your hair is oily, or once a week if your hair is dry. “With eczema, it is more problematic to over-wash your hair than skip washes, as it can strip the natural oils on your scalp and disrupt your skin’s moisture barrier,” says Dr. Farber.

When you do shampoo your hair, keep the water at a mild temperature, since hot water can irritate your scalp, potentially making eczema drier and itchier. And if you do want to take a hot shower without messing with your hair, slip on a shower cap to keep your hair and scalp away from the water. Looking like a granny is a small price to pay for soothing scalp eczema, right?

Meet the experts:

Why trust ‘Cosmopolitan’?

Beth Gillette is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan with four years of experience researching, writing, and editing skincare stories that range from how to get rid of whiteheads to butt acne. She’s an authority in all skincare categories but is an expert when it comes to eczema shampoos, thanks to years of personally treating her own scalp eczema. She regularly tests and analyzes eczema shampoos for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top dermatologists to assess new formulas and brands.

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