I’ve been asked a few times recently for suggestions for anti-dandruff shampoos safe for those with isothiazolinone allergies.
Note that many (but not all) varieties of perhaps the most famous anti-dandruff haircare products — Head & Shoulders — do contain MI / MCI. I think it’s worth avoiding even the MI-free ones to eliminate any risk of confusion between products.
Here is a small selection of safe options, then, although some of the medicated options may not be suited to younger children. Recommendations for others in the comments are most welcome, and like all other product listings, I’ll continue to add to these over time.
CLINERAL PSO Scalp Shampoo (US)
A zinc-containing dandruff shampoo, which uses a rare sulfate (sodium tridiceth) which may be more suitable for those avoiding sodium lauryl or laureth. The product is rich in sunflower oil. Free of synthetic fragrances and parabens, it is said to be suitable for psoriasis and sensitive skin ‘approved’. Available from SkinStore.
Derma E Scalp Relief Shampoo (US) / Derma E Scalp Relief Shampoo (UK)
Uses a “proprietary Therapeutic Psorzema® Herbal Blend plus healthful vitamins and botanicals” to calm dandruff-prone, itchy, irritated scalp. Vegan, soy free, gluten free, and also free of sulphates, parabens and mineral oils. Whole brand of products is MI/MCI-free too.
Ecostore Dandruff Control Shampoo (Aus) / Ecostore Dandruff Control Shampoo (NZ)
This is a well-known ‘down under’ MI-free brand, with a wide range of products as well as this dandruff shampoo. Ecostore also has a dandruff control conditioner. Free from cocomide DEA/MEA, dimethicone, parabens, cocomidopropyl betaine, SLS, synthetic colours as well as the isothiazolinoes.
Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (US)
This is perhaps the best allergy-friendly version of dandruff shampoo available, as it is also fragrance free and free of all other main sensitisers and triggers, so is easily one of the best for those suffering multiple sensitivities and with highly reactive skin.
Honeydew Anti Dandruff Shampoo for Kids (US)
Tear-free and sulfate-free natural option for children, which contains tea tree, rosemary and lavender.
JASON Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo (US) / JASON Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo (UK)
Salicylate based dandruff shampoo from popular and affordable MI-free cosmetic brand. Also helps tackle flaking and itch. Contains menthol, rosemary, olive and jojoba. Claims to help prevent seborrheic eczema.
Kamedis SEBO Dandruff Shampoo (US)
This is a recommendation from Dana, who administrates the excellent Allergy to Isothiazolinone, Methylishothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone Facebook page. It uses ALES / ALS as foaming agents — they’re gentler and SLES / SLS — and is preserved with sodium benzoate and TEA. Fragranced, and said to purify and cleanse scalp.
Neutrogena T/Gel Daily 2-in-1 Dandruff Shampoo (UK) / Neutrogena T/Gel Daily Control(R) 2-in-1 Dandruff Shampoo (US)
These look like completely different formulations on either side of the Atlantic but both appear safely MI / MCI-free. The UK version is preserved with parabens, and is fragranced, but is free of the 26 declarable fragrance allergens so *may* be suited to someone with common fragrance allergies but still likes a pleasant scent (experiment cautiously though). The US version has gluten and SLS, and contains pyrithione zinc as the active dandruff-countering ingredient.
Nivea Men Dandruff Shampoo (UK)
Affordable, high-street option for men, which won’t win any ‘natural’ awards or credentials, but is MI-free and widely available at high street chemists and supermarkets. I’m not sure whether available in North America.
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (UK) / Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (US)
This one contains SLES and no fragrance. Its active ingredient is ketoconazole, which is an anti-fungal that can be effective against dandruff as it is helpful against sebarrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp. Widely available.
Pura D’Or Scalp Therapy Shampoo for Dandruff and Itchy Scalp (US)
This one has argan oil and tea tree, and has a good list of free from attributes — no SLS, parabens, phthalates, artificial colours, petroleum, synthetic fragrances, propylene glycol, formaldehyde, triclosan and gluten.
For plenty of other suggestions for hair products, including conditioners and detanglers as well as other types of shampoos, see this collection of link and safe brands.