So, you've decided you want to try one of Neutrogena's best-selling anti-dandruff shampoos, but you can't quite figure out what the differences are? We've all been there, don't worry!
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T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo vs T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
First and foremost, it's worth establishing the fact that both shampoos are intended to "control the symptoms of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis". What mainly sets them apart, though, is the difference between their active ingredients (with the T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo containing Salicylic Acid and the T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo instead containing Coal Tar). In essence, this comparison boils down to the 'non-tar vs tar shampoo for dandruff' debate, but there are a couple of other differences to explore first.
Diving into their formulas, we discover that the T/Sal Shampoo is completely sulfate-free (swapping out the usual SLS/SLES with the much gentler Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate) as well as fragrance-free and preservative-free—and actually boasts really quite a minimal ingredients list for a shampoo, which is pleasant to see. The T/Gel Shampoo is also fragrance-free, but it is neither sulfate- nor preservative-free (which isn't that egregious, but certainly worth pointing out as a key difference).
Returning to the topic of their active ingredients, it's worth noting that they work in completely opposite ways to achieve the same effect. Salicylic Acid works by breaking down scalp build-up and flakes to be more easily washed away; in other words it *accelerates* the flaking process. Coal Tar instead *slows* how quickly the skin cells on your scalp proliferate and flake off. Both methods ultimately yield a flake-free scalp, but they do each have their pros and cons that make them better suited to slightly different purposes.
Neutrogena themselves summarized it well: "While they're both going to help with dandruff, T/Gel is for those who want long-lasting relief [from] itching and flaking, and T/Sal is for those who want to help with build-up."
Results-wise, they are both equally impressive in their own domains. A 4-week, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical study found that of ~40 participants using T/Gel Shampoo, subjects saw a dramatic 43% reduction in the overall signs of dandruff when used once weekly for 4 weeks—14% after just a single use. A similar study for the T/Sal Shampoo found subjects reporting ~35% less scaling/flaking after just 4 weeks of use.
Synopsis: if you're looking for a shampoo to reduce flakiness/scaling, the T/Sal Shampoo is definitely the one for you. If you're looking for a shampoo to provide long-lasting relief from itchiness in particular (as well as flaking to a lesser extent) then the T/Gel Shampoo will be far better suited.
Looking for a shampoo for an itchy scalp?
Try the Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo
Looking for a shampoo for a flaky/scaly scalp?
Try the Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo
T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo by Neutrogena
Our rating: ★★★★★
Anti-dandruff shampoo (with Salicylic Acid).
What makes it special? Neutrogena's therapeutic scalp shampoo is a dermatologist recommended formula designed to clear crusty scalp build-up while relieving itching and flaking associated with severe scalp conditions, like dandruff and psoriasis. This effective formula contains 3% Salicylic Acid, a clinically proven, active ingredient that can be used as the first step in any scalp routine. Its clear formula is free of added color, preservatives and fragrance.
T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo by Neutrogena
Our rating: ★★★★★
Anti-dandruff shampoo (with Coal Tar Extract).
What makes it special? Neutrogena's dermatologist-recommended shampoo effectively controls the most resistant scalp conditions, like dandruff, with twice the amount of active ingredient as T/Gel® Original Formula. This formula contains Neutar® (1% Coal Tar), proven to control your flaky, itchy scalp for hours after it’s rinsed out. Its rich, amber formula gently cleanses, and the added conditioners leave hair manageable and soft.