Skip to Content

What shampoo does not strip hair color for dandruff?

Many people deal with the frustrating problem of having both color-treated hair and dandruff. It can seem like an impossible balancing act to find a shampoo that effectively treats dandruff without stripping expensive hair color. But with the right information and product choices, you can maintain beautiful, healthy hair and a flake-free scalp.

Understanding Dandruff

Dandruff is a common scalp condition characterized by itchy, flaking skin on the head. It affects up to half of all adults. Dandruff is caused by the rapid growth and die-off of skin cells on the scalp. Dead skin cells normally fall from the scalp in tiny flakes that are not visible to the naked eye. But in people with dandruff, the skin cells mature and shed much faster, resulting in visible flaking of the skin.

Dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene, although it may be worsened by infrequent shampooing. It is also not contagious. The exact cause is still debated, but contributing factors can include:

  • Oily skin
  • Fungal infections like malassezia
  • Harsh shampoos stripping natural oils
  • Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Cold, dry weather

There are many effective over-the-counter shampoos available to treat dandruff. But some of the most common anti-dandruff ingredients can be harsh and drying, which poses a problem for color-treated hair.

How Anti-Dandruff Ingredients May Affect Hair Color

Common anti-dandruff shampoo ingredients like sulfates, selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, and ketoconazole can help reduce flakes. But they also tend to be very stripping on hair and may cause hair color to fade faster. Here’s a breakdown of how some key ingredients impact hair:


Sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are harsh detergents commonly found in regular, anti-dandruff, and clarifying shampoos. They are powerful cleansers that can disrupt the cuticle layer of hair and strip away natural oils. This can cause color-treated hair to become dry and faded.

Selenium Sulfide

Selenium sulfide reduces dandruff by slowing the growth and turnover of skin cells. But it can be very drying to both hair and scalp. This drying effect can increase fade from color-treated hair.

Pyrithione Zinc

Pyrithione zinc is an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial ingredient that helps control scalp infections linked to dandruff. But it is also very drying and can leach color from hair.


Ketoconazole treats dandruff by reducing fungal growth on the scalp. It is gentler than selenium sulfide and pyrithione zinc. But overuse can dry out hair and scalp, leading to increased color fade.

So how can you effectively treat dandruff without ruining your expensive hair color? The key is choosing a shampoo with more gentle cleansers andscalp-soothing ingredients.

What to Look for in a Dandruff Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair

To keep your hair color vibrant and minimize fading, look for these qualities when choosing an anti-dandruff shampoo:

Gentle, Sulfate-Free Cleansing Agents

Avoid harsh sulfates and choose shampoos with mild coconut- or plant-derived cleansers. These will gently wash away flakes without stripping hair.

Scalp Soothers

Seeking ingredients like honey, tea tree oil, aloe vera, ginger extract, or salicylic acid can help calm inflammation and itchiness while treating dandruff.

Moisturizing Oils and Botanical Extracts

Nourishing oils like argan, coconut, or marula oil can offset the drying effects of anti-dandruff actives. Botanical extracts like goat milk, shea butter, and quinoa protein also boost moisture.

UV Filters

Look for shampoos containing UV filters like benzophenone-4. These help guard hair from color-fading rays of sunlight.

Reduced Frequency of Use

Only use your anti-dandruff shampoo twice a week at most, and alternate with a more gentle, color-safe shampoo on other days.

With the right approach, you can have dandruff-free hair that maintains maximum color vibrancy. Now let’s look at some of the best shampoo options for colored hair with dandruff.

Reviews of the Best Anti-Dandruff Shampoos for Color-Treated Hair

Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo

Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Sulfate-free and gentle cleansers
  • Clinically proven to reduce dandruff
  • Includes sage oil to soothe scalp
  • PH balanced and safe for color-treated hair
  • Cruelty-free and made in the USA

This shampoo relies on the antifungal powers of sage oil to combat dandruff without stripping hair. It has a robust but soothing herbal scent. The sulfate-free formula is gentle enough for daily use without fading hair color. It leaves hair feeling clean and flake-free.

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Uses coal tar extract to reduce dandruff
  • Also available in an extra strength formula
  • Leaves hair clean and flake-free
  • Dermatologist tested for safety
  • Can use every other day for best results

This dermatologist-recommended shampoo uses coal tar extract to reduce redness, itching, and flaking caused by dandruff and other scalp conditions like psoriasis. It has a strong medicinal smell and should not be used daily or it may fade hair color. Use just 2-3 times a week for best results.

Maple Holistics Honey Moisturizing Shampoo

Maple Holistics Honey Moisturizing Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Sulfate-free and paraben-free
  • Contains pure honey to moisturize hair
  • Tea tree oil helps reduce dandruff flakes
  • Nourishing for dry, damaged hair
  • Safe for color-treated hair

This shampoo relies on antibacterial tea tree oil and nourishing honey to gently moisturize hair, reduce dandruff flakes, and prevent color fade all at once. It leaves hair feeling soft and clean without buildup. The honey helps seal in moisture to keep color vivid.

Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisture Boost Shampoo

Head & Shoulders Royal Oils Moisture Boost Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Rich lather perfect for massage
  • Includes pyrithione zinc to reduce flakes
  • Infused with argan, almond, and coconut oils
  • Moisturizes hair and scalp
  • Safe for color-treated hair when used properly

This shampoo from the iconic Head & Shoulders brand harnesses the anti-dandruff power of pyrithione zinc. But it balances it out with the nourishing effects of oils and antioxidants to protect hair and color vibrancy. Massage into scalp and rinse thoroughly.

Redken Scalp Relief Dandruff Control Shampoo

Redken Scalp Relief Dandruff Control Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Contains pyrithione zinc and salicylic acid
  • Fights dandruff while soothing scalp
  • Leaves hair shiny and clean
  • Balances hydration levels
  • Safe for frequently colored hair

This shampoo is a great choice for people who color their hair frequently. It uses a 1% concentration of pyrithione zinc along with salicylic acid to reduce dandruff without stripping color. It has a nice minty scent and leaves hair shiny and bouncy.

SheaMoisture African Black Soap Dandruff Control Shampoo

SheaMoisture African Black Soap Dandruff Control Shampoo

Key Features:

  • Sulfate-free and color safe
  • Contains African black soap
  • Includes tea tree oil and willow bark
  • Nourishes hair while soothing scalp
  • Leaves hair clean and conditioned

This natural shampoo harnesses the power of African black soap and tea tree oil to eliminate flakes without stripping color. It has a pleasant light scent and leaves hair feeling clean, not stripped. Use 2-3 times a week for best anti-dandruff results.

Tips for Using Anti-Dandruff Shampoo on Color-Treated Hair

When using anti-dandruff shampoos on color-treated hair, follow these tips to help maintain vibrant hair color:

Don’t Use Every Day

Only use anti-dandruff shampoos 2-3 times per week at most. Use a gentler, color-safe shampoo on other days to avoid fade.

Rinse Thoroughly

Make sure to rinse all shampoo out completely, as leftover residue can be drying and cause color to fade faster.

Follow with Conditioner

Always follow shampoo with a hydrating conditioner to replenish moisture and protect your color.

Use a Leave-In Treatment

Using a weekly leave-in conditioning hair mask or treatment can help counteract the drying effects of anti-dandruff shampoos.

Protect Hair from Sun

Use a hat or UV-protecting products to shield your colored hair from fading sun exposure.

With the right maintenance regimen, you can successfully treat dandruff while keeping your hair color vibrant and beautiful. Experiment to find the anti-dandruff shampoos and conditioners that work best for your hair. And be sure to follow up with an experienced colorist for touch-ups as needed.

The Bottom Line

Dealing with both dandruff and color-treated hair can be frustrating, but it is possible. Look for shampoos that contain gentle cleansers and hair-soothing ingredients like tea tree oil, honey, aloe, or oils. Avoid harsh sulfates and shampoos with strong dandruff fighting actives like selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione. Use anti-dandruff shampoos no more than 2-3 times per week and alternate with a hydrating, color-safe shampoo. With some trial and error, you’ll find products that help minimize flakes while keeping your hair color vibrant.