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Salicylic acid is beneficial for all sorts of scalp and skin conditions, from dandruff and psoriasis to acne on or near your scalp, which is why it can be found in so many great shampoos. As long as you’ve got salicylic acid in there, choosing the best salicylic acid shampoo for you is more about the rest of the formula (i.e., the other ingredients in the shampoo), as well as the price, and even the scent (or lack thereof).
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, M.D., who spoke to Elite Daily for this article, salicylic acid is helpful for and well-tolerated by most skin types and is best used about once a week, alternating with another shampoo as needed. However, Dr. King says that if you have sensitive skin or dry hair, you may find the ingredient to be drying to your hair shaft or irritating to your scalp, so if that’s the case, try fitting it into your routine a couple of times a month instead. To keep your hair soft and hydrated, “Be sure to combine [your salicylic acid shampoo] with moisturizing ingredients,” Dr. King advises.
Keep scrolling to shop five of the best salicylic acid shampoos, from under-$10 drugstore finds to surprisingly luxe splurges.
1. The Overall Best Salicylic Acid Shampoo
CLn Health Scalp Shampoo is a fragrance-free exfoliating shampoo with salicylic acid that helps reduce itching, flaking, dandruff, excess oil, and bumps (due to razor burn, for example) on the scalp. According to Dr. King, “Those who experience oily scalp skin may benefit from a cleanser with salicylic acid,” because salicylic acid is “oil-soluble and can penetrate into pores to gently exfoliate and remove excess sebum.” (Dr. King adds that “this can also be helpful for decreasing scalp acne.”) Since this shampoo was created for people with oily scalps in mind, it’s a great option if you fall into that category.
2. The Best Salicylic Acid Shampoo Under $10
In addition to salicylic acid, Yes To Tea Tree Scalp Relief Shampoo contains tea tree, an ingredient with antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. King says, which is why it’s often found in shampoos that treat dandruff and itchy, flakey scalps. Tea tree has an invigorating scent and feel to it, so this budget-friendly shampoo can help leave your scalp feeling more refreshed. And at less than $10, you really can’t beat the price.
3. The Best Luxury Salicylic Acid Shampoo
Shampoos designed to treat dandruff have not historically been the most elegant looking, so this Oribe dandruff shampoo with 2% salicylic acid is worth the splurge for beauty lovers who prioritize aesthetics when shopping for hair care products. Dr. King says that salicylic acid is used to help treat dandruff and scalp acne because “It penetrates into pores to gently exfoliate and remove excess oils, [and] for those with seborrheic dermatitis, it can also be a helpful ingredient for gentle exfoliation to remove flakes and remove sebum on which malassezia feeds.”
This gentle, sulfate-free shampoo is safe for color- and keratin-treated hair, and is full of other high-performing ingredients like caffeine, sugarcane, and the brand's signature complex of watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower to protect and restore damaged hair. And like all Oribe products, it smells absolutely amazing.
4. The Best Salicylic Acid Shampoo For Thinning Hair
Dr. 14 Vital Care Shampoo is the shampoo that basically addresses every single possible concern you might have about your hair or scalp, including hair that’s thinning. That’s because the “14” in the name refers to the 14 active ingredients that work to give hair volume and thickness, like hydrolyzed collagen, centella, biotin, green tea, lemon balm, and spearmint, as well as dandruff-fighting salicylic acid and pyrithione zinc. The “14” also refers to the common additives, like parabens and silicones, that this herbal-scented shampoo is made without.
5. The Best 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner With Salicylic Acid
This Dermarest shampoo and conditioner contains a higher percentage of salicylic acid (3%), so it’s excellent for people experiencing scalp psoriasis or dandruff because of how effectively it reduces scaling. And because it’s a convenient shampoo and conditioner in one, it’s ideal for traveling and keeping in gym and overnight bags. It does a nice job of balancing the exfoliating and oil-controlling power of salicylic acid with other ingredients, like panthenol, zinc PCA, and green tea leaf extract, to further condition and nourish your scalp and leave your hair feeling soft and tangle-free.