Head and Shoulders and Selsun Blue are best known for their anti-dandruff shampoos, but which brand is better?
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Head & Shoulders vs Selsun Blue Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
First and foremost, it's worth establishing the fact that both shampoos are intended to "control the symptoms of dandruff". What mainly sets them apart, though, is the difference between their active ingredients (with the Head & Shoulders Shampoo containing Zinc Pyrithione—or Piroctone Olamine in Europe—and the Selsun Blue Shampoo instead containing Selenium Sulfide). In essence, this comparison boils down to a question of "which anti-fungal ingredient works best against dandruff?", but there are a couple of other differences to explore first.
Diving into their formulas, we discover that the Head & Shoulders Shampoo contains SLS + SLES (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate) and the Selsun Blue Shampoo contains ALS + ALES (Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate). These are known as 'surfactants' and they give shampoo that thick lather that we associate with cleansing hair, but with them being Sulfates they are known for not being particularly gentle to the scalp. ALS is *much* less irritating than SLS, though, due to its larger molecular size, so the Selsun Blue Shampoo definitely pulls ahead in this regard.
Returning to the topic of their active ingredients, there's no real contest between the two in terms of strength or efficacy since Selenium Sulfide (present in the Selsun Blue Shampoo) is far more potent than Zinc Pyrithione. This still leaves us with a bit of a decision, though, because Selenium Sulfide is overkill for mild cases of dandruff, to the point where it can actually cause irritation due to its strength if left on for too long (so much for that ALS vs SLS point!). Our recommendation would be to only opt for the Selsun Blue Shampoo if your dandruff looks or feels *severe*—in which case, it's also worth knowing that the alternative Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength range includes Selenium Sulfide.
The Head & Shoulders Classic Clean would almost certainly be the better choice to keep *mild* flakiness and dandruff at bay (due to its weaker—but still effective—active ingredient), and for most people this will be the case. It offers 72 hour protection from flakes, dryness, and itchiness, and is suitable for regular use. Head & Shoulders also happens to be the #1 shampoo brand in the world (*according to P&G), so you know that you're in safe hands whenever you invest in their hair care products.
In summary: if you're looking for a shampoo to treat mild dandruff, the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo is definitely the one for you. If you're looking for a shampoo to provide intensive treatment for severe dandruff, then the Selsun Blue Anti-Dandruff Shampoo will be far better suited.
Looking for a shampoo for mild dandruff?
Try the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo
Looking for a shampoo for severe dandruff?
Try the Selsun Blue Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Classic Clean Shampoo by Head and Shoulders
Our rating: ★★★★★
Anti-dandruff shampoo (with Zinc Pyrithione).
What makes it special? Head & Shoulders anti dandruff Shampoo targets the root cause of dandruff, for up to 72h protection from flakes dryness and itch (visible flakes, with regular use; itch due to dandruff). Its advanced formula is dermatologically tested, pH balanced and boosted with antioxidants for gentle care of hair and scalp and gives up to 100% flake free, clinically proven (with regular use).
Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo by Selsun Blue
Our rating: ★★★★★
Anti-dandruff shampoo (with Selenium Sulfide).
What makes it special? Help relieve dandruff symptoms with Selsun Blue Medicated Antidandruff Shampoo. This medicated dandruff shampoo contains cooling menthol to provide a soothing and invigorating sensation to your scalp and 1% selenium sulfide for maximum strength dandruff control.
This article was originally published on July 13th 2022, but it has been reviewed and updated with the latest available information on February 12th 2024 by Sara Mckay, MA.
Calum Torrington is the founder of FemmeNordic. He has worked as a beauty editor since 2020 and employs his analytical background in mathematics to thoroughly scrutinize complex INCI lists. Now, he helps over 1 million people per year to find the best beauty products.