Does Dandruff Shampoo Really Cure Acne? We Asked The Derms


via Giphy

#SkinTok has hit us with some real gems – like slugging and moisture sandwiches – but we’ve also seen some questionable beauty hacks trending on the app, as well. Over the last handful of weeks, influencer Elyse Myers has been making waves for a skincare hack that promises to cure your acne with one very simple and unexpected product: dandruff shampoo.

Yes, as in shampoo intended to cure the little flakes that plague your scalp! Specifically, she uses the Walmart version of Head & Shoulders – Equate Everyday Clean Dandruff Shampoo, $6.

@elysemyersyou ever look at a word so long it starts to look like a made up word? my brain started convincing me ‘zinc’ wasn’t the right spelling by the end of editing this. 😂♬ original sound – Elyse Myers

According to Myers, her dermatologist recommended using dandruff shampoo formulated with zinc back when she was in middle school, which helped keep her skin clear even when other teens were dealing with breakouts. However, when she got TikTok famous, brands started sending her “fancy products” that she was more than happy to give a fair shot. Only, instead of getting the clear complexion and glowy visage she hoped for, she started breaking out.

In the viral video, she says that once she switched back to washing her face with her go-to dandruff shampoo, her skin cleared up within a few days. She was so confident in the hack that she says she threw everything else away.

Can You Really Use Dandruff Shampoo for Acne? 

It all sounds almost too good to be true, right? A $6 product that treats one of the most difficult skin conditions out there. Obviously, we had to investigate. We were curious whether dandruff shampoo could truly help clear breakouts, and if all dermatologists actually recommend this hack.

The verdict is that while it can help with some forms of acne and other skin conditions, it won’t work for all acne types.

“For acneiform lesions that are caused by yeast and fungus, using an anti-fungal shampoo may be helpful,” notes Dr. Rebecca Marcus, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Maei MD. “However, it will not be helpful for typical bacterial acne that is associated with the bacteria p. acnes.”

The ingredients that target fungal or yeast-based skin conditions are zinc pyrithione, sodium sulfacetamide, and sodium sulfacetamide, explains Dr. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist. Each of these helps lower levels of yeast and can reduce inflammation.

Specific scenarios where dandruff shampoo can help clear your skin include:

  • Pityrosporum folliculitis: “This is a condition in which yeast on the skin causes irritation around hair follicles, resulting in acneiform pustules and bumps,” says Dr. Marcus.
  • Rosacea: Rosacea can also manifest clinically as acne, notes Dr. Marcus. The theoretical consensus is that it’s triggered by a yeast called Malassezia, which means that a dandruff shampoo could help.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This is another term for dandruff or flaking, which can actually occur anywhere on your face and body. Using dandruff shampoo anywhere you have seborrheic dermatitis can help clear your skin.

How To Use Dandruff Shampoo for Acne 

If you have one of the above types of fungal or yeast-based skin conditions, then it’s worth giving dandruff shampoo a shot. It only costs $6 after all!

“Dandruff shampoo can be applied to affected areas every other day, and it needs to be allowed to sit on the skin for five to 10 minutes,” says Dr.Libby. “It may take several weeks of consistent use to clear. Once clear, if you’re prone to recurrences, consider using the dandruff shampoo in this fashion one to two times per week to keep it at bay.”

If you don’t notice an improvement in your breakouts, you either don’t have fungal or yeast acne and/or you simply need to try a different approach. After all, the reality is that everyone’s skin is different and your skin might not respond to it.

Another factor to consider is that you can experience multiple types of acne at the same time, says Dr. Anar Mikailov, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skintensive. In this case, you might see a mild improvement when using dandruff shampoo for your acne, but you may not experience a fully clear complexion.

To that end, he says, “Your best bet is to see a board-certified dermatologist to determine the cause of the acne first.” They’ll be able to help you pinpoint the type of acne and get you on a regimen that’ll deliver the best results for you.

All that’s to say that what works for Elyse Myers may not work for you, so don’t toss all your skincare just yet.

Looking for more breakout-busting tips and tricks? Check out these six major hacks that can help keep body acne and breakouts to a minimum.

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