You’ve tried Head & Shoulders, Selsun, Nizoral and other anti-dandruff shampoos. You may even have used tea tree oil or gone the no-poo way. And now there’s another shampoo on the market. It’s afffordable, it sounds cool and you recognize the brand Neutrogena. Should you try it?
Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo is an anti-dandruff shampoo that utilizes NEUTAR® Solubilised Coal Tar Extract 2.0%. While coal tar has some effect on dandruff, research shows that coal tar shampoos are not as effective as other medicated shampoos like ketoconazole and ciclopirox shampoos.
Let’s take a deep dive:
What is T/Gel Shampoo?
T/Gel shampoo is a therapeutic shampoo containing NEUTAR® Solubilised Coal Tar Extract 2.0%. It’s marketed as a treatment for scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.
It’s a clear amber liquid that you massage into the scalp and rinse off like any other shampoo. But it supposedly continues working for hours after, keeping your scalp itch and flake-free, and your leaving your hair healthy and manageable.
It sounds too good to be true to me. Let’s check out the science behind these claims.
How does T/Gel shampoo work?
Neutrogena chose to use coal tar as the active ingredient in T/Gel Shampoo. Coal tar is a keratoplastic. In other words, it causes the skin to shed dead cells from its top layer (like an exfoliant) and even slows down the growth of new skin cells.
Further reading: Is coal tar good for seborrheic dermatitis?
This results in a less scaling and dryness, leading to decreased itch. Coal tar shampoos are routinely recommended for psoriasis of the scalp because it works. But is it overkill for dandruff?
Is Neutrogena T/Gel shampoo (coal tar) good for dandruff and scalp seborrheic dermatitis?
A systematic review looking at the effects of topical treatments for scalp seborrheic dermatitis found that ketoconazole and ciclopirox shampoos have the most evidence for seborrheic dermatitis. Coal tar shampoos may reduce scalp dandruff.
A small randomized double-blind study compared a non-tar shampoo (2% salicylic acid, 0.75% piroctone o,amine, 0.5% elubiol) and a 0.5% coal tar shampoo. The researchers found that the non-tar shampoo was more effective in reducing Malasezzia counts and scaling than coal tar.
Two larger double-blind studies compared 4% coal tar, 4% coal tar and 1% ciclopirox olamine, and 2% ketoconazole shampoo. They found that in general, coal tar shampoo was less effective than ketoconazole and the combined coal tar/ciclopirox shampoo.
Other studies have tested combination tar shampoos and found them effective. For example, an Indian study found that polytar 1% and zinc pyrithione shampoo was a safe and effective option for dandruff.
Based on evidence, it looks like coal tar shampoo can be an effective treatment for scalp seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff but other medicated shampoos like ciclopirox and ketoconazole shampoos are more effective. Do you agree?
Potential side effects of T/Gel Shampoo
T/Gel shampoo can cause skin irritation and dryness if it’s used too often or if you have sensitive skin. It can also cause hair loss if you’re unlucky.
There is a small chance T/Gel shampoo can irritate and worsen seborrheic dermatitis.
Can T/Gel Shampoo be used on children?
Neutrogena says that you can use T/Gel Shampoo on the scalps of children more than 2 years old. However, we are talking about a medicated shampoo. Most children don’t have severe dandruff and I’ve hardly seen any child with full-blown scalp seborrheic dermatitis. Think long and hard before you decide to put coal tar on your child’s sensitive skin.
If you have a child with cradle cap or dandruff, use a gentle shampoo that utilizes natural ingredients instead:
To wrap up
Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo is another anti-dandruff shampoo you can try for scalp seborrheic dermatitis. However, evidence shows coal tar shampoos are not as effective as other medicated shampoos. If your dandruff or scalp seborrheic dermatitis is difficult to control with medicated shampoos, have you ever thought that maybe you need to change your lifestyle and eliminate triggers like stress that can make SD and dandruff worse?