What is a Dandruff Conditioner?

Erin J. Hill

Dandruff conditioner is a hair moisturizing agent which helps to treat or prevent the formation of flakes and dryness, commonly referred to as dandruff. Many varieties are medicated or contain ingredients like sulfur to repair damaged skin. Others are designed to soothe the skin, or to simply not damage the scalp so that a dandruff shampoo can work more effectively. Dandruff conditioner is most often combined with the shampoo in the same product.

Dandruff shampoo is recommended for individuals who have dry scalps.
Dandruff shampoo is recommended for individuals who have dry scalps.

Many dandruff shampoos leave the hair feeling dry and brittle, so manufacturers developed dandruff conditioner to alleviate this problem. Some options contain medications similar to those found in the corresponding shampoo. Sulfur is one popular option, although tea tree oil, coal tar, nizoral, and some other ingredients may also be added. These are meant to soothe the scalp and/or alleviate dry skin, redness, itchiness, and flaking.

Dandruff conditioner attempts to prevent flakes.
Dandruff conditioner attempts to prevent flakes.

Some dandruff conditioners do not contain added medications, but are designed to rinse clean without leaving behind buildup or film. Many conditioners can make itching and other problematic symptoms worse and may contain harsh ingredients that can damage sensitive skin. Dandruff conditioner usually contains ingredients that do not irritate the skin and allow shampoo to work more effectively.

Dandruff conditioners soothe the scalp and may alleviate itchiness.
Dandruff conditioners soothe the scalp and may alleviate itchiness.

Many times, conditioner will be added directly into the dandruff shampoo. These two in one items are designed to help treat dandruff without the typical dryness and brittleness that sometimes results from conventional shampoos. Newer varieties may also contain ingredients tailored to certain hair types, such as extra dry hair or curly hair. Specialized formulas are also available for men. They are now available in more pleasant scents than were previously offered, as traditional dandruff shampoo is notorious for featuring a strong or medicinal scent.

Visible white flakes of dry dead skin on the scalp are a sign of dandruff.
Visible white flakes of dry dead skin on the scalp are a sign of dandruff.

Prices vary greatly for dandruff conditioner, but generic varieties are now available to make them more affordable. These generally work just as well as more expensive options. Specialized formulas often cost more, but even these are becoming more widely available and reasonably priced.

Any severe irritation, itching, or scabbing of the scalp should be reported to a health care provider for evaluation. Sometimes these symptoms are not caused by dandruff. Another skin condition may be to blame, and specialized treatment could be needed. One common skin problem is psoriasis, which has many of the same symptoms as dandruff. In some cases a dandruff shampoo or conditioner may cause an allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. If the condition worsens or new symptoms develop after using a dandruff product, the item should be discontinued and a doctor should be notified.

Dandruff is a scalp condition characterized by itching and scaling of the skin.
Dandruff is a scalp condition characterized by itching and scaling of the skin.

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