Are There Anti-Fungal Shampoos for Scalp Problems?

Updated February 15, 2018

An itchy, flaky, reddened, sore scalp can be annoying and unsightly. Many people try to use regular shampoo, frequent washings and moisturisers to treat it. Unfortunately, such measures may not work for more than just minor dandruff and soreness caused by pulling on the hair or using tight hair accessories. If your symptoms are caused by a fungus, you may need an anti-fungal shampoo to treat it.

Anti-Fungal Shampoos

There are anti-fungal shampoos made to treat fungus that appears on the scalp. For example, according to Medline Plus, seborrheic dermatitis, a type of scalp problem, may be caused by a fungus called malassezia, though other factors may contribute as well. Scalp ringworm---caused by a fungus called dermatophytes---is another type of scalp problem.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Anti-fungal shampoos can be used to treat seborrheic dermatitis, a scalp problem marked by dandruff and scaly, reddened skin that is itchy and sometimes sore. You can purchase these shampoos over the counter. According to the Mayo Clinic, your choice should include ketoconazole, ciclopirox, tar, pyrithione zinc, selenium sulphide or salicylic acid. The Mayo Clinic recommends shampooing with anti-fungal shampoo once a day, then cutting back to a couple of times per week once symptoms start improving.

Scalp Ringworm

According to WebMD, over-the-counter anti-fungal shampoos that contain selenium sulphide or ketoconazole, used two or three times per week, can help to treat scalp ringworm. However, they aren't effective by themselves; see your doctor for a prescription anti-fungal medication.

Other Uses

Besides shampooing the hair and scalp, anti-fungal shampoos may be good for treating seborrheic dermatitis that develops under the eyebrows. They may even be useful for treating jock itch, an itchy rash that forms in the groin area. According to, using a shampoo that contains ketoconazole or selenium sulphide to wash the groin may help in treating some cases of jock itch.

Diagnosis and Help

See your doctor before using an anti-fungal shampoo. This will ensure a fungus is causing your scalp condition. If a fungus is not at fault, your doctor can then treat you appropriately. If you do not experience improvement after several weeks, return to your doctor. You may have a stubborn case that requires a prescription shampoo.

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About the Author

Jordan Meyers has been a writer for 13 years, specializing in businesses, educational and health topics. Meyers holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Maryland and once survived writing 500 health product descriptions in just 24 hours.