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What are Medicated Shampoos?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 21, 2024
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Medicated shampoos are shampoos that are intended to treat certain ailments and problems that affect that hair or the scalp. Some medicated shampoos target problems related to both the hair and the scalp. The most common types are shampoos that treat dandruff, seborrhea, and lice.

Shampoos that treat dandruff are intended to slough away the dead skin cells that make up the dandruff while also treating the skin beneath these cells. By improving the condition of the skin beneath the dead skin cells, the scalp produces less dandruff. There are a number of shampoos that can be purchased at local drugstores and pharmacies. For very severe conditions, however, a prescription-strength shampoo may be required. Prescriptions for medicated shampoos are usually written by doctors or dermatologists.

In order to remove lice and lice eggs from the hair, medicated shampoos are often required. It is common for school-aged children to be exposed to lice. While a treatment with the proper shampoo may kill the lice on the child's head, it is advisable for all household members to use the shampoo as well. Furthermore, if is advisable to wash all clothing and bedding that household members have recently come into contact with. It is best to wash these items in hot water with plenty of detergent.

Unfortunately, lice does not only affect the hair on our heads. Pubic lice can usually be treated with the same shampoos that are used on the head. For serious lice cases, either on the head or in the pubic hair, prescription-strength medication may be necessary. Furthermore, in such serious cases, it is especially important to wash all fabrics that may have become infested and even consider disinfecting carpeting and any furniture that is covered in textiles made of natural or synthetic fibers.

The ingredients that are used in some medicated shampoos are not necessarily hypo-allergenic. If one is prone to allergies, especially allergies that effect the skin, it is best to review the ingredients in the formula with a physician or pharmacist before using any medicated shampoo. In fact, those with sensitive skin may try a spot test before using this type of shampoo on their heads. A spot test is quite simple. By taking a bit of the shampoo and rubbing onto a small patch of skin, such as the inside of the forearm, with warm water, one can determine if the skin will react poorly to the shampoo.

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By anon260578 — On Apr 11, 2012

Is the purpose of a medicated shampoo to treat dandruff or head lice or both? As an example, let's use a famous brand that everyone has heard of: Vosene medicated shampoo.

What is the purpose of this shampoo? Is it for treating dandruff, treating head lice and nits, or is it just for maintaining a healthy scalp? Could someone please answer this question for me?

By Charmagne — On Jun 03, 2011

@mantra- I color my hair, too, and sometimes have problems with dandruff. I use Denorex medicated shampoo. It is considered safe for color treated hair. I have not had any problems using it, and it gets rid of the dry, itchy scalp, too.

Denorex even contains conditioners. I like to follow with additional conditioner, but I like that Denorex doesn’t dry out my hair. You should be able to find it at your local pharmacy or at a bigger retail store.

Denorex is also safe for permed hair. It doesn’t turn cause any yellowing on gray or silver hair. Hope it works for you!

By mantra — On Jun 02, 2011

I seem to get a dry scalp in the winter and end up with dandruff. The problem is, I color my hair. Is there a medicated dandruff shampoo considered safe for dyed hair?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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