Are you tired of dealing with a smelly scalp that just won't go away no matter how often you wash your hair? You're not alone, many people struggle with this issue, but the good news is that there are many shampoos on the market specifically designed to combat this issue. However, with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know which ones are actually worth trying. That's where we come in.

In this article, we’ll compile a list of the best shampoos for a smelly scalp, discuss what to look for when choosing the right shampoo, and provide some tips on how to keep your scalp smelling fresh and clean. Let’s get started!

7 Best Shampoos for Smelly Scalp on The Market in 2023

What Causes Smelly Scalp & Hair?

Here are the possible causes of smelly hair.

Over or Under Washing Your Hair

If you've been opting for dry shampoo instead of washing your hair regularly, you may be creating a problem for yourself. Despite giving your hair a neat and shiny appearance, the buildup of sweat, product residues, dead skin cells, and sebum can result in an unpleasant odor. 

On the other hand, washing your hair too frequently can strip it of its natural oils, leading to a dry scalp. As a result, your scalp may produce extra oil to compensate, which can nourish bacteria and cause your hair to have an unpleasant smell.

Excessive Sweating

The accumulation of sweat on the scalp can combine with bacteria, leading to the development of an unpleasant odor. If you are the type who sweats excessively, this smell could be even more pronounced.

Fungal Infection

A fungal infection may also develop a smelly scalp, and other reactions such as eczema, folliculitis, and dandruff.

Hormonal Imbalances

The body experiences significant fluctuations in hormone production during different life stages, such as puberty, menopause, and pregnancy, which can result in the overproduction of sebum. 

Likewise, stress can lead to a hormonal imbalance, leading to excessive sebum production and ultimately causing an unpleasant smell in your hair.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by the excessive growth of natural yeast in the body. This condition can cause the scalp to develop yellow, scaly patches and become dry, which can also lead to an unpleasant odor.

Excessive Use of Hair Products

Hair products can leave oils on the scalp, which, if not washed out thoroughly, can result in an unpleasant smell in the hair.


Air pollutants attach to different surfaces, including the scalp and the hair. A study conducted in 2017(1) found that these pollutants tend to stick to hair fibers, causing them to lose their shine and smell.

7 Best Shampoos for Smelly Scalp in 2023

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo best shampoo for smelly scalp
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  • Natural ingredients.
  • Fresh scent.
  • Suitable for all hair types.
  • Provides a lasting shine.
  • Keep your hair hydrated and moisturized.


  • Contains sulfates
  • May cause irritation to individuals with sensitive scalps.

The Tea Tree Special Shampoo is suitable for all hair types, it contains tea tree oil(2), peppermint(3), and lavender(4), which work together to wash away impurities and leave hair looking healthy and shiny.

The use of tea tree oil in shampoo can help in treating dandruff and fungal infections like psoriasis due to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. 

Moreover, the shampoo is composed of natural ingredients, eliminating concerns about stripping off natural oils from the hair. Moreover, the shampoo is fortified with glycerin and vitamin B5, which help to keep the hair hydrated and moisturized.

Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo

Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo best shampoo for smelly scalp
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  • From the dermatologist-recommended brand.
  • Paraben-free, and sulfate-free.
  • Safe for color-treated hair.
  • Gentle, non-medicated, non-drying formula.
  • Suitable for all hair types.


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

The Neutrogena Healthy Scalp Clarify & Shine Shampoo helps clarify and exfoliate the scalp while promoting healthy-looking and shiny hair. The shampoo is infused with pink grapefruit, which acts as a gentle and natural exfoliant to help remove residue and build-up from the scalp. 

The formula is pH-balanced, clinically proven, and safe for color-treated hair. The product is paraben-free and made with sulfate-free surfactants, making it a gentle and non-drying formula suitable for all hair types.

The product is one of the best shampoos for oily smelly scalps. It is particularly recommended for people with oily hair and scalp prone to bad odor due to product and sebum build-up. The pink grapefruit infusion wipes away all the smell-causing debris, leaving the scalp feeling clean and refreshed.

The product is from a dermatologist-recommended brand, adding credibility to its effectiveness and safety. The gentle, non-medicated formula makes it suitable for daily use, helping maintain the scalp's natural barrier and promoting healthy-looking hair with regular use.

Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo

Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo best shampoo for smelly scalp
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  • Deeply cleanses the scalp and hair.
  • Removes excess oil.
  • Suitable for both women and men.
  • Plant-based.
  • Free of parabens, synthetic fragrances, petroleum, and alcohol.


  • Can cause hair and scalp dryness.

Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo is a perfect option for those seeking a deep cleanse for their oily hair. This product boasts a unique blend of botanical extracts, including Cyprus, Basil, Jojoba, Rosemary, and others, which work together to remove buildup and impurities from the scalp and hair. It adds vibrancy and luster to the locks while nourishing the strands and providing moisture for days.

The product helps to achieve a healthy scalp for healthy-looking hair, and the formula is designed to help achieve that. It claims to be a powerhouse of hair maintenance that packs a gentle punch, making it suitable for those with oily hair. The product is plant-based, and it emphasizes using essential oils to cleanse the scalp and hair and leave them clean and beautiful in the long term.

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo best shampoo for smelly scalp
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  • Removing dead skin cells, and excess oil.
  • Safe for all hair types, including color-treated hair.
  • Paraben-free, dye-free, and sulfates-free.
  • Contain natural ingredients.


  • May not be suitable for itchy scalps.

The Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo helps provide comfort and clarity to the scalp while enhancing hair's natural beauty. The shampoo is formulated with colloidal oat extract as the primary ingredient, which helps soothe the scalp and nourish hair from root to tip. The addition of apple cider vinegar to the blend clarifies the scalp, removes buildup, and adds shine and volume to dull hair.

The shampoo has a lightweight gel texture and is free from sulfates, dyes, and parabens, making it suitable for all hair types, including color-treated hair. The formula is designed to cleanse the scalp thoroughly, removing excess oil, dead skin cells, and other products that could contribute to an unpleasant smell. Additionally, the shampoo leaves hair with a fresh and delightful aroma.

OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Teatree Mint Shampoo

OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp best shampoo for smelly scalp + Teatree Mint Shampoo
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  • Deeply cleanses hair and invigorates the scalp.
  • Suitable for all hair types.
  • Natural ingredients like tea tree oil, peppermint extract, and witch hazel.
  • Paraben-free and sulfate-free.
  • Long-lasting clean and fresh scent for extended periods.


  • May make the scalp feel itchy.
  • May leave residue on the hair.

OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Teatree Mint Shampoo helps invigorate the scalp and deeply cleanse the hair while providing nourishment. The lightweight formula is suitable for all hair types and is infused with natural ingredients, including tea tree oil(2), peppermint(3) extract, and witch hazel.

The shampoo effectively removes residue and buildup without stripping the natural oils from the hair, leaving it healthy and nourished. Its minty-tingly sensation provides a refreshing and invigorating experience, leaving the scalp feeling revitalized.

The natural formula of the shampoo contains tea tree oil, known for its nourishing properties for the scalp, peppermint extract, which gives the product a fresh scent, and witch hazel, a natural astringent that removes buildup and nourishes the scalp.

RYO Hair Loss Care Shampoo For Oily Scalp

RYO Hair Loss Care Shampoo For Oily Scalp best shampoo for smelly scalp
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  • Contains ginseng root to strengthen hair roots and follicles while nourishing the scalp
  • Reduces itching, flaking, and dandruff.
  • Has volumizing effects.
  • Minimizes excess sebum.


  • Overpowering ginseng scent.
  • Contains sulfates.

RYO Hair Loss Care Shampoo For Oily Scalp is an ideal option for individuals with smelly and delicate hair types. The product claims to restore a healthy glow, volume, and luster to the hair. The formula includes ginseng root, which stimulates blood circulation to strengthen hair roots and follicles while nourishing the scalp. This helps prevent hair breakage and weakening.

The shampoo aids in reducing flaking, itching, and dandruff, while also cleansing the scalp of excess oil. After using the shampoo, your hair will look fuller, feel soft, and smell fresh.

One of the most notable features of this shampoo is its use of ginseng root extract. This ingredient is known for its ability to make hair feel soft, and reduce hair odor.

Head and Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Shampoo

Head and Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Shampoo best shampoo for smelly scalp
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  • Specially formulated for smelly hair.
  • Contains selenium sulfide for removing dandruff and providing flake protection.
  • Effective for those with scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.
  • Clinically proven to protect against dandruff and flakes.


  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin.
  • Can cause hair breakage in delicate hair.

Head and Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Shampoo is specially formulated for smelly hair. The shampoo contains selenium sulfide which removes dandruff and provides flake protection for the scalp. It is effective for individuals with scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, providing instant relief. The shampoo has a pleasant citrusy scent that keeps the hair smelling fresh for an extended period of time.

The formula is designed for advanced oil control and has 35% more dandruff-fighting power than ordinary anti-dandruff shampoos. It provides up to 100% dandruff protection with regular use and removes oil and flakes to relieve dandruff symptoms. The shampoo is clinically proven to protect against flakes and dandruff, making it an excellent remedy for an oily scalp.

How to Choose The Best Smelly Scalp Shampoo

It could be hard to select the most effective shampoo for smelly scalp since there are a lot of hair shampoos on the market. You need to choose a shampoo containing specialized ingredients to eliminate bacteria, oil buildup, and other substances causing the hair to smell. Here are essential factors to take into account when choosing a shampoo for smelly hair.


When searching for shampoos, consider those that contain mint, lemon oil, apple cider vinegar, citric acid, and zinc pyrithione as these ingredients serve as clarifying agents and have a pleasant scent that can eliminate bad odors. Here are other ingredients to look out for

  • Lavender oil(4): contains antimicrobial agents like linalyl acetate and linalool that inhibit the growth of fungi and promote hair growth.
  • Cedarwood oil: has unique properties that can treat infections that cause foul odor and balance the activity of the scalp's oil glands.
  • Peppermint oil(5): has limonene, menthone, and methyl acetate that work with other cleansing agents to purify the scalp. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties are responsible for relieving dandruff, burning, and itching.

Using all-natural shampoos can be beneficial since they don't contain harsh chemicals that may damage your hair or worsen your condition. Some chemicals can be so severe that they may cause hair loss, increase oil production, and lead to dryness.

Hair Type

The type of shampoo you should buy is dependent on your hair type. Those with thick hair should opt for shampoos containing moisturizing ingredients, while individuals with brittle or colored hair should choose products enriched with proteins to enhance hair strength.

Skin Health

The type of product you can use is also determined by the health of your scalp. If you have a skin condition such as eczema, dandruff, or psoriasis, you may need to steer clear of shampoos with potent formulas as they may cause further complications. Likewise, individuals with sensitive skin should use shampoos with a mild formula.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Smelly Scalp

In addition to utilizing a shampoo specifically to get rid of a smelly scalp, you can try these natural remedies.

Essential Oils

Essential oils can help with soothing itchy and dry scalps and even combat fungal growth. Some of the best essential oils for smelly scalps include tea tree oil(2), peppermint(3), and lemongrass.

You can use these oils separately or make a mix for a soothing and refreshing blend. Then massage the mixture into the scalp and rinse, from that it can immediate relief from itching and irritation can be achieved.

Baking Soda

To eliminate unpleasant odors in your hair, baking soda is a useful solution due to its ability to absorb excess oils and buildup caused by hair products. 

Simply mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with ½ cup of water until the baking soda dissolves. Pour the mixture onto your scalp, ensuring that it is evenly distributed, and leave it on for 15 minutes before rinsing it off with cold water.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a potent natural antimicrobial agent that effectively combats unpleasant odors. However, it should be used judiciously when treating a smelly scalp since it can dry out the skin. If the odor persists despite using ACV, it's advisable to seek medical attention. Use ACV only for temporary relief.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is an effective solution for minimizing odors and eradicating microbial growth due to its high acidity. However, it's important to use it sparingly, similar to apple cider vinegar, limiting its use to once or twice a week to avoid drying out the skin and exacerbating irritation.

Final Thought

We hope you've found the best shampoo for smelly scalp. Additionally, we trust that you've acquired all the information necessary to address your smelly scalp and feel more confident. You don't have to live with a smelly scalp, and these shampoos will help ensure your scalp smells fresh going forward.

Before rushing out to purchase a shampoo for smelly scalp, it's important to identify the root cause, such as a dry, itchy scalp or another underlying issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my scalp smell bad even after I wash and shower?

A smelly scalp after showering could be due to various reasons such as over or under-washing your hair, excessive sweating fungal infection, hormonal imbalances, seborrheic dermatitis, excessive use of hair products, and pollution. It’s recommended to see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What shampoo is good for my smelly scalp?

Shampoos containing active ingredients such as tea tree oil, peppermint oil, salicylic acid, and ketoconazole can help alleviate scalp odor. It's important to choose a shampoo that addresses the underlying cause of the odor, such as excess oil or fungal growth.

Does apple cider vinegar help with smelly scalp?

es, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a natural remedy that helps eliminate scalp odor by balancing the scalp's pH, reducing excess oil, and combating fungal growth. However, it should be used judiciously to avoid drying out the scalp.

What should I do to keep hair smelling fresh between washes?

To keep hair smelling fresh between washes, you can use dry shampoo, which helps absorb excess oil and sweat, apply a few drops of essential oils like lavender or peppermint to your hairbrush, or use a leave-in conditioner that contains odor-fighting ingredients. Additionally, maintaining good hygiene practices and avoiding harsh chemicals can help prevent scalp odor.


1. Galliano, A., Ye, C., Su, F., Wang, C., Wang, Y., Liu, C., Wagle, A., Guerin, M., Flament, F. and Steel, A. (2017). Particulate matter adheres to human hair exposed to severe aerial pollution: consequences for certain hair surface properties. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, {online} 39(6), pp.610–616. doi:

2. Satchell, A.C., Saurajen, A., Bell, C. and Barnetson, R.StC. (2002). Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, {online} 47(6), pp.852–855. doi:

‌3. Oh, J.Y., Park, M.A. and Kim, Y.C. (2014). Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs. Toxicological Research, {online} 30(4), pp.297–304. doi:

‌4. Lee, B.H., Lee, J.S. and Kim, Y.C. (2016). Hair Growth-Promoting Effects of Lavender Oil in C57BL/6 Mice. Toxicological Research, {online} 32(2), pp.103–108. doi: