Anyone who has experienced athlete’s foot knows firsthand just how unpleasant a fungal infection can be. But did you know that fungal infection can manifest just about anywhere – including the top of your head?
Fungi are microscopic organisms that can infect the nails, skin, and yes, the scalp. Fungal infections are highly contagious and are most often spread via the sharing of things like hats, towels, and combs, although they can even spread simply from physical contact with an infected person’s skin. Just in case you needed another reason to keep your distance from strangers on public transportation.
If you do catch a fungal infection of the scalp, it can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, the most common of which are itching, and flaking skin at the site of the infection. In extreme cases, it can even result in hair loss.
But don’t start panic-buying hats and wigs just yet! There is a simple way to nip those nasty fungi in the bud: antifungal shampoos. We’ve compiled a list of the eight best antifungal shampoos so that you can start feeling some relief right away.
Best Antifungal Shampoos Reviewed
1. Healthy Hair Plus Antifungal Shampoo
This shampoo is formulated with all-natural ingredients to gently soothe an itchy scalp. Coconut oil and emu oil fight off the fungus, glycerin moisturizes the skin, and jojoba oil promotes the growth of healthy hair.
Grapeseed extract works to prevent further hair loss, and may even promote the regrowth of hair at a faster rate. All that in one bottle! It’s no wonder this is a popular choice of antifungal shampoo. Perhaps best of all, it’s safe to continue using even after your fungal infection has cleared up, and may help prevent future infections from taking hold.
One word of caution: we’ve seen differing opinions on whether or not this product is suitable for sensitive skin, so tread with caution. Additionally, it has not been clinically proven to completely cure scalp irritations.
However, that hasn’t stopped hundreds of happy customers on Amazon from sharing their success stories with it. Ultimately, we leave it to you to judge whether this is the right product for you.
2. Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
The next product on our list has the active ingredient ketoconazole, which is a powerful compound that has an effect for each syllable of its name. It is effective against dandruff, fungal acne, eczema, ringworm, and may even counteract hair loss!
It does all this by binding to your hair’s proteins and fighting off the fungus that is causing your discomfort. Nizoral comes in two strengths – 1% ketoconazole, which is available over the counter and sufficient for mild to moderate infections, and 2% ketoconazole for more severe cases, which requires a doctor’s prescription.
Because this is a medicated shampoo, there are a few precautions you need to take when using it. First, make sure you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients, as itching, dryness, and even headaches have been reported as side effects.
If you experience any of these side effects while using the shampoo, stop using it immediately and go to your doctor. Second, do not use this product on children under 12 years old, or elderly people, unless cleared to do so by a doctor. And of course, if you go with the prescription strength, always use it as directed by the prescribing doctor.
All that said, this is one of the most highly recommended antifungal shampoos available today. As long as you use it as directed, we’re confident that you’ll see results.
3. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
Neutrogena is a well-known and trusted skincare brand, and this product absolutely lives up to its reputation. The active ingredient here is coal tar extract which, on top of being an anti-inflammatory, also slows the production of skin cells that can cause flaking skin, as well as breaking down the skin “scales” caused by psoriasis.
It also contains menthol to soothe irritated skin. And the best part is, these ingredients keep on working, even after your hair has been thoroughly rinsed. So you only have to use this shampoo once a week – although it is suitable for daily use.
A few drawbacks to be aware of: although this shampoo is advertised as safe for color-treated hair, there is a danger of the coal tar extract staining your hair. So bleach blonds and pastel-haired babes, be careful.
Many buyers do also report a strong smell to this product, which can be combatted by using a leave-in conditioner with a more pleasant smell.
4. ProBlivia Fungus Shampoo for Hair & Scalp
Another naturally-formulated brand, ProBlivia uses ingredients that should be familiar to you from earlier on in this list. Emu oil kills bacteria and fungus while encouraging the growth of healthy hair.
Jojoba oil reduces sebaceous (oily) secretions from overactive sebaceous glands. And grapeseed extract encourages natural regrowth of any hair that may have been lost due to a fungal infection.
Meanwhile, these ingredients work together to soothe any itching and inflammation present on your scalp. If you’re looking for an all-natural antifungal shampoo that works, look no further.
ProBlivia is even formulated without sulfates, so it will be gentle on color-treated hair as well. Simply lather up, wait between 1-3 minutes to let the ingredients work their magic, and you’re on your way to a healthy, fungus-free head.
5. Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Special Formula Shampoo
Another favorite natural antifungal ingredient, tea tree oil, is the star of this formula. It reduces itching, flaking, and irritation while moisturizing the hair and scalp for a boost in shine and volume.
Rosemary and lavender oils are not only gentle on even the most sensitive skin, but they can also help prevent lice. Aloe vera soothes the skin, and Moroccan argan oil moisturizes and nourishes the hair. And because the formula is hypoallergenic and free of harsh parabens and sulfates, it’s safe for use on children, as well as chemically-treated hair.
The only precaution we could find was that this shampoo may leave your hair a bit tangled, but that’s nothing a good condition and detangler can’t handle. And we think it’s worth a little extra work for shiny, healthy, irritation-free hair.
6. Brooklyn Botany Tea Tree Shampoo
Another option for those who favor tea tree oil is this shampoo from Brooklyn Botany. It is sufficiently gentle that it can be used daily if desired, and is formulated with several natural oils to nourish the scalp and hair.
Tea tree oil, aloe vera, avocado oil, almond oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil are all included in the mix to help kill fungus, soothe scalp irritation, and prevent flaking and dandruff. Additionally, all these essential oils combine into a scent that many buyers find quite pleasant.
As with the other natural shampoos on this list, it is free of harsh chemicals. So, it’s bound to be gentle on your skin. However, it’s always important to do your research if you have any allergies and make sure none of the ingredients are going to cause a reaction.
7. Zatural Naked Neem Therapeutic Hair & Scalp Shampoo
Neem oil is another option for a natural antifungal. The oil is pressed from the seeds and leaves of the neem tree, which is native to India, and it prevents damage to the scalp while promoting the healthy growth of hair.
The formulation also includes several fatty acids that encourage a healthy scalp and returns luster to your hair. But this isn’t just one of the best antifungal shampoos on the market. It also helps combat aging and sun damage to your scalp, promotes the growth of thicker hair, and even kills lice thanks to the inclusion of azadirachtin extract.
It helps balance the amount of oil produced on your scalp so that it’s suitable for both oily and dry skin types. And of course, it’s paraben-free and safe for use on chemically-treated hair. This shampoo truly does it all!
8. DHS Zinc Shampoo
This last item on our list is formulated with 2% zinc pyrithione, which is a powerful antifungal and antibacterial agent. As such, it is suitable for treating a variety of scalp conditions, including dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis, in addition to fungal infections.
It is highly recommended by dermatologists for treating just about any condition that may cause itching and flaking scalp skin. While this shampoo is gentle on all skin types, it does contain TEA-lauryl sulfate. Meaning it is not entirely suitable for color-treated hair.
Additionally, in rare cases it has been known to cause blistering of the skin, so doing a patch test is highly recommended before use. Apply a small amount of the product to an easily concealed patch of skin. Behind the ear is a good place to start. Wait an hour to make sure no adverse reaction occurs. If no irritation is present at that time, you’re good to go!
Symptoms of a scalp fungal infection
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, symptoms of fungal infection can vary from person to person. And, of course, it also depends on which particular fungus is affecting you. Common symptoms are itching on the scalp; dry, flaking skin; redness, and inflammation.
Symptoms may also include pus-filled sores on the scalp; scaly patches that may be red or inflamed; small dots of discoloration; and hair loss that may result in bald patches. This is of course not a comprehensive list, so we always recommend consulting a doctor or dermatologist if you have any concerns about your hair or scalp.
Treatment of a fungal infection
So if you do have the misfortune to contract a fungal infection, what can you do? Well, antifungal shampoos – like the ones on this list – are of course a great tool in the fight against these bothersome infections. In the case of a mild to moderate infection, the shampoo alone may be enough to clear up symptoms completely. However, in some cases, a stronger approach may be necessary. A doctor can prescribe you a stronger shampoo, or an oral antifungal medication to take either instead of or along with, use of the shampoo. And in the meantime, cortisone creams can be used to soothe any itching.
What to look for in an antifungal shampoo
In addition to avoiding any ingredients that may be allergens, there are some key ingredients that a good antifungal shampoo should include. These may be medical or chemical compounds in medicated shampoos, or natural antifungals, such as in the herbal shampoos we mentioned above. Here are some ingredients to look out for when trying to find the best antifungal shampoo for you.
Medical compounds may include ketoconazole, econazol, miconazole, terbinafine, oxiconazole, clotrimazole, or naftifine.
Natural ingredients may include coconut oil, emu oil, tea tree oil, coal tar extract, neem oil, or zinc pyrithione.
Preventing fungal infections of the scalp
If all this sounds extremely unpleasant (and honestly, it should) and you’re wondering what you can do to avoid fungal infections altogether, here are a few pointers that should help keep your scalp healthy.
Good hygiene is perhaps the easiest way to avoid fungal infections because hopefully, you’re already practicing it. Wash your hair regularly, and be sure to thoroughly remove the buildup of sweat or hair products from your hair. Keep things like brushes, combs, styling tools, and clips clean, or throw them away. Buy new ones periodically if you don’t think you can clean them entirely.
Fungi can survive for long periods of time on objects. Wash bedsheets and pillowcases regularly, using hot water and a high heat setting on the dryer to make sure you’re killing any fungi that may be living there.
Be cautious about sharing things like hats, towels, combs, or anything that may come in contact with other people’s heads and hair. Make sure to teach your children good practices around sharing these items as well. You never know who might have a fungal infection and may not even know it yet! And you certainly don’t want them inadvertently passing it on to you.
We’ve collated this list of some of the best antifungal shampoos, and we hope it helps you find the one that is just right for you! The itching, flaking, and inflammation that comes with a fungal infection is no fun. But there are a variety of products available to bring you relief, whether you prefer a prescription-strength medicated shampoo or an all-natural herbal formulation.
Of course, the ideal situation is just to avoid fungal infections altogether. But if you do happen to contract one, we hope we’ve helped you recognize the symptoms so you can get to a dermatologist early and get relief quickly.