6 Best Shampoos For Smelly Scalp (Top Picks Reviewed)

Hi, darlings; in today’s article, I’m going to talk about the best shampoo for smelly scalp. 

Does your scalp smell bad?

Ugghh… I know the feeling and for the longest time, I suffered from smelly hair that just didn’t seem to budge. 

But,  this is no more, since I discovered the best shampoo for stinky scalp, every day is a good hair day, so let’s all get rid of unwanted odors then, shall we?

 This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Top Shampoo for Smelly Scalp at a Glance

Don’t have time? Here is a quick comparison of our favorites!

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6 Best Shampoos For Smelly Scalp & Hair Reviews

Before I talk about the best shampoo for smelly hair syndrome, I just want to point out that it is completely normal to have scalp odor. 

Much like body odor, we all have a particular hair smell. This may be due to something manageable such as excess sebum, or fungal growth. 

Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic says, “If you wouldn’t wash your body for a few days, the sweat and oil would build up and the bacteria on you would start to break down and cause a stench.†(1) 

But, in some cases, it may be due to hormonal imbalance in which case you will have to see a doctor about your scalp conditions. (2)

Now that that’s done, let’s get started with the best shampoo for smelly scalp. But while you’re at it, also check out Olaplex for thin fine hair reviews if you have fine hair!  

#1 (OVERALL WINNER) Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo 

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Head & Shoulders provides users with this medicated shampoo enriched with 1% selenium sulfide to get rid of the toughest dandruff. 

 Seborrheic dermatitis is a fungal infection that causes red patchy skin on the scalp and a bad odour. (3) I actually have a whole article on how dandruff can cause a smelly scalp. (insert anchor link)

This best shampoo for smelly hair is effective against hair flaking and removing excess sebum. While doing so, it also helps moisturize your strands. 

Most users felt a noticeable difference in their hair odor in the first wash itself. Over time, their smelly hair days were over. 

The shampoo is gentle enough for daily use but I would only recommend using it twice or three times a week so as not to dry out your hair. 

Features & Attributes

  •  1% selenium
  • Removes excess sebum
  • Peppermint and lemon scent
  • Gentle


  • The product is available in a 3.5 Fl Oz pack that lasts about three months depending on your usage. 

Benefits Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo

  • Medicated shampoo with 1% selenium sulfide 
  • Pleasant smell
  • Fights dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and flaky skin. 
  • Works from the first wash itself. 
  • Safe to use on color-treated, curly, or textured hair. 

Drawbacks Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo

  • May be harsh on sensitive skin.  
  • Smell may be too strong. 

How it Compares to Others

Most users compare this product with Selsun, a medicated shampoo with 1% selenium sulfide that has been prescribed by doctors for a long time. 

Compared to that shampoo, this H&S shampoo has other wholesome ingredients such as tea tree oil, lemon extract, and peppermint. 

Expert Tips

If you’re using the shampoo on bleached, permed, or colored hair, make sure to rinse it off for about five minutes. 

What Influencers Say About This

Here’s what Dr. Daniel Sugai aka drspf has to say on the Clinical strength Head & Shoulders Shampoo. 

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Get the facts on whether shampoo bars can damage your hair and learn how to use them safely in our informative article ‘Can Shampoo Bars Damage Hair‘!

#2 Best Budget Buy  – Neutrogena Exfoliating Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo

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Think of this as a scrub for your scalp. Just as you need to exfoliate your face and body to get rid of dead skin cells, you need to exfoliate and clarify your scalp too. 

Most times, product and sebum build-up causes your scalp to smell. While most scalp type is prone to bad odor, this is particularly prominent in oily hair types. 

This smelly scalp shampoo is enriched with pink grapefruit that works deep in your scalp and washes away all the smell-causing debris. 

Features & Attributes

  • Contains pink grapefruit
  • Paraben-free
  • Exfoliates


The bottle comes in a 12 Fl oz pack that lasts almost six months depending on usage. 

Benefits Neutrogena Exfoliating Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo

  • Great for removing flaky skin and product buildup. 
  • Free of parabens, phthalates, and ph-balanced. 
  • Safe for color-treated hair. 
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Drawbacks Neutrogena Exfoliating Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo

  • Can be harsh on dry hair. 
  • Strong grapefruit smell. 

How it Compares to Others

This budget buy works just as well as other expensive counterparts. Users claim the shampoo has been effective in removing all product buildup and sebum. 

How the Product Evolved

This product is a replacement for the Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo which has since been discontinued. 

What Influencers Say About This

Several influencers recommend the Neutrogena clarifying shampoo including @mattloveshair. Here are his top picks on hair products: 


You don’t need to spend a full paycheck check to get great hair products 🤯 #shampoo #hairoil #curlygirlmethod

♬ Joro – WizKid

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RELATED: How to Make Your Scalp Smell Good

#3 Best Vegan Shampoo – John Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

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The John Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo is formulated with all the goodness of Tea Tree oil that is known to treat and cure a smelly scalp naturally. 

Along with tea tree oil, you also get the goodness of lavender oil and peppermint extracts that keep your hair healthy and smell-free. 

Features & Attributes

  • Contains tea tree
  • Contains peppermint
  • Lavender oil
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Tea Tree Special Shampoo is available in different sizes of 2.5 fl oz, 10.14 fl oz, 16.9 fl oz, and even a jumbo size of 33.8 fl. Oz. 

Benefits John Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

  • Vegan
  • Safe for colored hair 
  • Paraben free
  • Cruelty-free brand 

Drawbacks John Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

  • Harsh on dry scalp. 
  • Possible hair loss 

How it Compares to Others

Users love this top-rated shampoo that packs quite a punch for its price. It is one of the cheapest options for those with a tighter budget.

What Influencers Say About This

Sophia Emmanuel, a trichologist, says, “It has an invigorating, herbaceous scent and gave my fine hair a much-needed deep clean. I think it’s a great formula for normal to oily strands.†(4) 

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#4 Best Natural Ingredient Shampoo – Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo

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Why use chemicals when you can use all-natural ingredients to get rid of scalp buildup and odor? 

Maple Holistics presents an all-natural shampoo that is sulfate-free and parabens free and loaded with the goodness of pure essential oils. 

You can enrich your hair with incredible ingredients such as Rosemary oil, lemon oil, and cypress oil while using the degrease shampoo. 

Features & Attributes

  • Sulfate-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Essential oils


The product is available in an 8 oz. bottle. 

Benefits Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo

  • All-natural ingredients with real results. 
  • Great for oily hair

Drawbacks Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo

  • Can be drying on the hair. 
  • Strong lemon scent 

Expert Tip

Use the shampoo as needed at first and progressively decrease use to maintain hair health. 

How it Compares to Others

The shampoo works just as well at getting rid of scalp odor as those formulated with chemicals. 

What Influencers Say About This

Check out this user review.

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#5  Best Cooling Shampoo – Matrix Biolage Cooling Mint ScalpSync Shampoo 

Not only will you be rid of scalp smell after using this shampoo but will also be left with a cooling sensation. Perfect for summer! 

I always feel incredibly fresh after using the shampoo because of how the mint feels on my scalp. So cooling. I love it.

Yes, and it fights scalp fungus and dandruff too. 

Features & Attributes

  • Healing botanicals
  • Peppermint scent
  • Alcohol-free


Comes in a bottle with 33.8 fl oz of product. 

Benefits Matrix Biolage Cooling Mint ScalpSync Shampoo

  • Super cooling on the scalp 
  • Vegan 
  • Works well on oily hair
  • Works on dry hair types 

Drawbacks Matrix Biolage Cooling Mint ScalpSync Shampoo

  • Mostly chemical ingredients 
  • Harsh on sensitive scalp 

How it Compares to Others

This shampoo is a little on the expensive side but users love its cooling and soothing effects.

What Influencers Say About This

Check out this user’s review of the shampoo and conditioner.

#6 Best Daily Clarifying – Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo

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This shampoo is great for an oily scalp and will bring out your hair’s shine. The apple cider vinegar helps remove smells and build-up. 

It is also great for those that have hair that needs some volume.

Features & Attributes

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Contains oat
  • Spicey apple, pear, and saffron scent


Comes in a bottle with 33.8 fl oz of product. 

Benefits Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo

  • No sulfates
  • Not overly expensive
  • Works well on oily hair
  • Smells lovely

Drawbacks Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo

  • Might not work well on dry hair
  • Not the best for itchy scalps

How it Compares to Others

This is one of the cheaper options, so worth trying if you don’t want to spend too much. Some people love the smell, while others don’t.

What Influencers Say About This

 See what this user thought about this shampoo in the following video.

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READ MORE: How Does Volumizing Shampoo Work?

Things To Consider When Buying Best Shampoo For Smelly Scalp & Hair

Now that you know what shampoo is good for smelly scalp, let’s talk about what to keep in mind before investing in your next shampoo. 

1. Formula: 

It is best to use products that don’t have harmful ingredients such as phthalates and parabens. 

Several options are available that do not contain such harmful chemicals. 

2. Your Hair Type: 

If you have dry hair, shampoos with drying ingredients such as tea tree oil may rid your hair of all moisture. 

You will inevitably be left with limp, lifeless hair. Do make sure to get products that work on your individual hair type. 

3. How Often You Shower: 

If you shower 2 or 3 times a week, using medicated shampoos may be fine. But if you wash your hair regularly, you may find such shampoos quite harsh. 

back of the lady taking shower

If you must wash your hair every day, be sure to find a gentle shampoo that won’t rid your scalp of moisture. 

READ MORE: Why does my hair smell like mildew?


What is a natural way to get rid of a stinky scalp?

Natural ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, teaspoons of lemon juice, baking soda, and lemongrass oil can get rid of hair odor. 

Do head and shoulders help with smelly scalp?

Yes. Head and Shoulders clinical strength shampoo is particularly effective in getting rid of the stinky smell from the scalp while removing dandruff. 

What does it mean if my scalp is smelly?

The scalp is just skin and like body odor, a scalp smell is natural. But, the smell can be managed with anti-fungal hair care products. 

Does apple cider vinegar cure scalp fungus? 

Yes. Using Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties that get rid of fungus and treat bad odours. 


Use any one of these best shampoo for smelly scalp and you will bid goodbye to any foul odor. 

If the pungent smell still lingers, you may suffer from scalp psoriasis or smelly scalp syndrome. You may have to visit your doctor to manage the unpleasant smell. 

I hope your bad hair days are now a thing of the past and your scalp smells like a fresh garden! See you in the next article. 

Final recommendation

Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo is my top pick, especially if you are just starting to tackle smelly hair.

Its ingredients do a great job of removing flakes, and smells, and it soothes the scalp.

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lady taking a shower and using an anti-dandruff shampoo

Do you have a shampoo that you love that I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments.


  • 1. Cardellino C. How to Combat Hair Odor [Internet]. Cosmopolitan. 2013. Available from: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/how-to/a16091/how-to-combat-hair-odor/
  • 2. Grymowicz M, Rudnicka E, Podfigurna A, Napierala P, Smolarczyk R, Smolarczyk K, et al. Hormonal Effects on Hair Follicles. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020;21:5342.
  • 3. Borda LJ, Wikramanayake TC. Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of clinical and investigative dermatology [Internet]. 2015;3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852869/
  • 4. Reviewed: Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Shampoo Is the Ultimate Deep Clean [Internet]. Byrdie. [cited 2022 Aug 3]. Available from: https://www.byrdie.com/paul-mitchell-tea-tree-special-shampoo-review-5224770
About Edith Russo

Edith is a self-made entrepreneur with a keen business sense that others admire and a total “can-do” attitude. She’s always coming up with new ideas to anticipate her readers’ needs and help solve all their toughest beauty and skincare problems. READ HER LATEST ARTICLES. FOLLOW HER on Linkedin and Twitter. Learn more about her HERE.