8 Best Sulfate-free Dandruff Shampoos for Keratin Treated Hair
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Dandruff on keratin-treated hair often causes confusion.
Many mistake scalp flaking after a keratin treatment (including Brazilian straightening and Brazilian blowout) as dandruff, but it’s not straightforward.
A study published in the Brazilian Society of Dermatology showed no direct link between keratin treatments and dandruff. Still, it concluded that keratin treatments can cause scalp issues like inflammation and eczema. 
Dandruff, marked by white or yellowish flakes, arises from oily scalp, overgrowth of yeast fungus, or scalp conditions like psoriasis. Keratin treatments, on the other hand, dries out the scalp, causing flakes and shedding that mimicks dandruff symptoms. Their chemicals may irritate the scalp or disrupt sebum production, causing dryness.
Choosing the right shampoo is crucial.
Using strong medicated shampoos on a misidentified dry scalp can irritate your scalp and compromise your keratin treatment. These shampoos often contain potent ingredients like zinc pyrithione, tea tree oil, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, or coal tar.
This article guides you in selecting the right shampoo for your needs, whether it’s tackling dryness or managing dandruff safely.
Table of Contents
- Identify If You Have Dandruff or Dry Scalp
- 1. GK HAIR Anti Dandruff Shampoo With Zinc Pyrithione
- 2. Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
- 3. Puriya Tea Tree Ph Balancing Shampoo
- 4. Keranique Shampoo with Salicylic Acid
- 5. Selsun Daily Shampoo with Selenium Sulfide
- 6. Regenepure Ketoconazole Shampoo
- 7. ArtNatural Scalp 18 Coal Tar Shampoo
- 8. Arista Ayurvedic Anti-Pelliculaire Shampoo Bar
- How to Use Dandruff Shampoo After Keratin Treatment
- Consult With a Professional Before Making a Choice
Identify If You Have Dandruff or Dry Scalp
When dealing with dandruff on keratin-treated hair, it’s crucial to first determine whether you’re experiencing dandruff or if it’s a case of a dry, flaky scalp. These two conditions, while similar in appearance, have different causes and treatments.
Using the wrong products or treatments could strip away the keratin, diminish the smoothness and straightness achieved, and even irritate the scalp further. Therefore, correctly identifying your scalp condition is the first step in ensuring that your hair remains healthy and your keratin treatment is effective.
I recommend you read this article before deciding on which shampoo to use.Dandruff and Dry Flaky Scalp After Keratin Treatment.
Once you determine whether you have dandruff or dry scalp, you can proceed with the selection of shampoos listed below.
These shampoos have been carefully curated for use with keratin-treated hair. They are sulfate-free, sodium chloride-free, and contain low levels of Zinc Pyrithione, Salicylic Acid, Selenium Sulfide, and Ketoconazole to maintain the integrity of your treatment.
1. GK HAIR Anti Dandruff Shampoo With Zinc Pyrithione
GK Hair’s anti-dandruff shampoo contains less than 1% zinc pyrithione, targeting flaking and itching from dandruff. It’s sodium and sulfate-free, suitable for color and keratin-treated hair, and pH-balanced.
Zinc Pyrithione combats dandruff by targeting the Malassezia fungus and regulating sebum production, which is essential for scalp health. It inhibits fungal growth and balances the scalp’s microbiome, preventing dryness and excessive oiliness that leads to dandruff. It also slows scalp cell turnover, reducing flakes.
GK Hair’s anti-dandruff shampoo with zinc pyrithione has shown positive results, with 95% of users reporting reduced dandruff.
Its low zinc pyrithione concentration, combined with a sulfate-free and sodium chloride-free formula, makes it an excellent anti-dandruff shampoo for keratin-treated hair.
- Less than 1% zinc pyrithione
- 95% customer satisfaction
- Plant-based ingredients
- Long lasting relief from itching and flaking
- Safe for keratin-treated hair
- Not cheap
2. Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Shampoo combines tea tree oil with other key ingredients to combat fungal growth on the scalp. This blend addresses the causes and symptoms of dandruff, providing a holistic approach to scalp health.
Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, is the primary active ingredient. It targets the Malassezia fungus, a common dandruff cause, and soothes the scalp with its anti-inflammatory properties, addressing both dandruff causes and symptoms.
Tea tree oil’s regulation of sebum production is crucial after keratin treatment. It balances scalp oils, preventing the excessive oiliness that can worsen dandruff and maintaining a scalp environment less conducive to fungal growth.
The shampoo also contains argan oil, jojoba oil, and panthenol, offering extra hydration, nourishment, and relief to the scalp.
Its sulfate-free formula makes it suitable for dandruff control in keratin-treated hair.Update: Maple Holistics has introduced a new formula with sodium PCA (a humectant, not sodium chloride). Conduct a patch test before use.
- Contains argan oil and tea tree oil
- You may find the same product with different formulas
3. Puriya Tea Tree Ph Balancing Shampoo
The Puriya Tea Tree Oil pH Balancing Shampoo is formulated to match the natural pH of the scalp and restore its natural acidity. Maintaining scalp acidity and the correct pH balance is essential for inhibiting fungi growth that can cause dandruff.
By rebalancing pH, this shampoo helps to recover the scalp’s acid mantle, a thin, acidic film on the skin’s surface, to prevent inflammatory conditions like eczema and dandruff.
pH balance of the scalp and hair is crucial, especially in hair that has undergone keratin treatment. Keratin treatments, designed to smooth and enhance the appearance of hair, involve the use of chemicals that can alter the hair’s natural pH balance.
The natural pH of hair and scalp is slightly acidic, typically around 4.5 to 5.5. This acidity helps to keep the cuticle layer of the hair closed and maintains the acid mantle on the scalp.
This Puriya shampoo is also:
- Sulfate-free and sodium chloride-free
- 100% organic
- Clinically tested to be gentle on the skin
- Allergens and irritants free
It can be used for the following conditions:
- Psoriasis scalp
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Itchy scalp
- Flaky scalp
- Dry scalp
- Scalp with scabs
The Puriya tea tree shampoo is also reviewed by Dermatologists and awarded the “Family Tested. Family Approved” seal of approval.
4. Keranique Shampoo with Salicylic Acid
Keranique anti-dandruff shampoo, with 3% salicylic acid, offers relief for dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis symptoms. Its formula is mild yet effective.
Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, is renowned for treating various skin conditions, including dandruff. Salicylic acid acts as a keratolytic agent to break down keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. It helps remove the outer layer of the skin, where dandruff flakes form.
Salicylic acid gently exfoliates the scalp, removing dead skin cells to provide dandruff relief.
However, it is important to consider is maintaining the right moisture balance in the scalp and hair, especially post-keratin treatment. While salicylic acid is effective in exfoliating and reducing flakiness, it must be followed with nourishing and hydrating treatment like conditioner to ensure the scalp does not become too dry.
The shampoo contains jojoba oil and aloe vera for conditioning, but it’s one of the most drying shampoos amongst the list. It’s recommended for severe dandruff cases due to its high salicylic acid concentration of 3%.
As salicylic acid exfoliates and reduces dandruff, it’s important to use it sparingly to avoid stripping the keratin coating from your hair.
- Highly moisturizing
- Relieves itching, redness, scaling, and flaking
- Effective for dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis
- Can be too strong for regular use
5. Selsun Daily Shampoo with Selenium Sulfide
Selsun shampoo contains a low 1% concentration of selenium disulfide.
Selenium disulfide, also known as selenium sulfide, is a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos, effective against dandruff marked by scalp flaking and irritation. It reduces scalp sebum production, addressing a key factor contributing to dandruff.
It is also an antifungal agent that combats malassezia fungus, often responsible for dandruff.
Selsun is a leading brand of shampoo with selenium sulfide as the active ingredient, targeting dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Selenium sulfide shampoos are available in two concentrations:
- 1% – For regular treatment of dandruff and scalp conditions
- 2.5% – A stronger formulation, typically for severe cases of dandruff or dermatitis, often prescribed by healthcare professionals.
Avoid 2.5% selenium sulfide shampoos for keratin-treated hair unless advised by a healthcare professional. Due to its potency, it may accelerate keratin layer degradation if used excessively or in high concentrations.
- Works for sooth dry scalps
6. Regenepure Ketoconazole Shampoo
Regenepure shampoo contains 1% ketoconazole, targeting scalp itchiness, flakes, and dandruff.
Ketoconazole, an antifungal agent in anti-dandruff shampoos, neutralizes fungal growth on the scalp. It is a mild and targeted treatment for dandruff considered safe for use on keratin-treated hair. It helps maintain scalp health without stripping away the benefits of the keratin treatment.
While ketoconazole targets the fungal aspect of dandruff, it may not be effective against dandruff from other causes like eczema or psoriasis.
Use the Regenepure ketoconazole shampoo on keratin-treated hair once or twice a week. Gently apply to the scalp, lather, and leave for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Follow with a keratin-friendly conditioner to maintain hydration and smoothness.
- Improves scalp health
- Includes ingredients like aloe vera, saw palmetto, jojoba oil, emu oil, niacin, and vitamins B3 and B6
- Formulated without sulfates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Formula changes: long-term users have noticed changes in the formula
7. ArtNatural Scalp 18 Coal Tar Shampoo
ArtNaturals Scalp 18 is a therapeutic shampoo with natural and organic coal tar designed to alleviate psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff symptoms.
Coal tar, a coal processing byproduct, offers a keratolytic effect, slowing down the rapid growth of scalp skin cells that can lead to flaking and dandruff. It effectively aids in shedding the outer skin layer.
While coal tar shampoo is effective for dandruff in keratin-treated hair, balancing its use with the hair’s need for moisture and preservation of the keratin treatment is crucial. You will have to monitor and adjust the treatment based on your hair and scalp’s response.
The ArtNaturals Scalp 18 shampoo is alcohol-free and paraben-free, it contains mild sulfates, such as sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate.
- Removes buildup
- Good for moderate to severe flaking
- Relieves persistent itchiness
- Not for colored hair
- Medicated smell
8. Arista Ayurvedic Anti-Pelliculaire Shampoo Bar
The Arista anti-dandruff shampoo bar features ayurvedic ingredients like tea tree oil, arnica flower extract, and neem leaf extract, targeting yeast growth, soothing inflammation and itching, and calming flaky scalps.
Arnica flower soothes the scalp, reducing inflammation and irritation, especially after keratin treatments, thus addressing a root cause of dandruff linked to scalp irritation.
As previously mentioned, tea tree oil reduces yeast growth on the scalp.
Neem, known in ayurveda for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties, helps control dandruff and maintain the scalp’s natural pH balance. pH balance is especially beneficial after keratin treatments as the scalp can become too alkaline.
This shampoo bar suits those with chemical sensitivity or allergies to strong anti-dandruff ingredients like salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, and selenium sulfide. It offers a more organic and gentle approach to treating dandruff and flaky scalps after keratin treatments.
- All hair types
- Ideal for people with chemical sensitivities to mediated shampoo ingredients
- Eco-friendly and zero-waste products
- The bar wears out quickly
How to Use Dandruff Shampoo After Keratin Treatment
Here’s a simple set of instructions on how to use an anti-dandruff shampoo on keratin-treated hair:
- Patch Test: Perform a patch test 48 hours before you start using the shampoo.
- Rinse Scalp With Warm Water: Warm water makes your scalp more receptive to the shampoo’s active ingredients.
- Apply a Small Amount: Use only a small amount of dandruff shampoo. Since it’s potent, a little goes a long way.
- Focus on your Scalp: Focus on applying it to the scalp rather than the lengths of the hair to minimize the impact on the keratin treatment.
- Leave-In Time: Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle for how long to leave it in.
- Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. Ensure all shampoo is washed out to prevent residue build-up.
- Follow-up With Sulfate-Free Shampoo: After rinsing out the dandruff shampoo, follow up with a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo. This helps to cleanse any remaining medicated shampoo and is gentler on your keratin-treated hair.
- Use a Hair Conditioner: Use a sulfate-free conditioner, focusing on the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. Avoid applying conditioner directly to the scalp, especially if you have dandruff.
- Drying and Styling: Pat your hair gently with a towel to remove excess water. Avoid rubbing. If you need to use a hairdryer, use a low heat setting.
You must not use an anti-dandruff shampoo as a replacement for your regular shampoo.
Because dandruff shampoos have potent medicated ingredients, it is recommended to use them less frequently and alternate with a gentle sulfate-free shampoo.
Alternate With A Gentle Keratin-Safe Shampoo
Sulfate-free shampoos are considered safe for keratin-treated hair due to their mild cleansing agents that clean without stripping the hair, thereby preserving the integrity of your keratin treatment.
Recommended: Best keratin-safe shampoos.
Consult With a Professional Before Making a Choice
If you’re dealing with dry, flaky scalp or dandruff after a keratin treatment, it would be prudent to consult with a hair care professional or dermatologist for personalized advice. They can recommend products that are effective yet gentle enough to not compromise your keratin treatment.
- Sanchez-Duenas, Luis Enrique; Ruiz-Dueñas, Angelica1,; Guevara-Gutiérrez, Elizabeth2; Tlacuilo-Parra, Alberto3.
Psoriasiform skin reaction due to Brazilian keratin treatment: A clinical-dermatoscopic study of 43 patients. International Journal of Trichology 14(3):p 103-108, May–Jun 2022. | DOI: 10.4103/ijt.ijt_62_21
About the Author
Shehnaz Shirazi has been writing in the beauty and cosmetics industry for over 8 years, sharing her expansive hair care and beauty knowledge. Shehnaz researches and tests new hair care trends and publishes her insights here.