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T Gel vs. T Sal | Pros & Cons, & When to Use Each

Is there a big difference between T Gel and T Sal? Each product differs in significant ways to provide superior treatment for scalp issues. We’ll show you how they are similar, how they’re different, and when to use each one.

T Gel vs. T Sal: A Summary

TGel vs TSal Shampoo Graphic

T Gel is a medicated shampoo used to treat dandruff and the symptoms of other scalp diseases. The active ingredient in T Gel is coal tar. T Gel is made by Neutrogena and is available in ordinary drugstores. 

T Sal is a medicated shampoo, just like T Gel. However, T Sal is the clear version, as its active ingredient is salicylic acid. T Sal is also manufactured by Neutrogena and is used to treat the symptoms of scalp disorders.

If you suffer from a dandruff or an itchy scalp, T Gel and T Sal are great tools to provide relief. Scalp conditions like psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis can be annoying and even painful, depending on their severity. 

T Gel and T Sal do not require a prescription. However, these shampoos should only be used to treat these scalp conditions. T Gel differs from other medicated shampoos like T Sal in a few important ways:

  • Active Ingredient
  • Fragrance
  • Conditions Treated 

Continue reading to learn how to use T Gel and T Sal medicated shampoos appropriately. It matters which option you choose for your specific scalp condition.

What Is T Gel?

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula
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If you’re thinking of using T Gel, you may be tired of sweeping away flakes of dandruff from your clothes. Or you may have intense itching or scratching on your scalp. T Gel may be the best fit to ease your symptoms.

Active Ingredient

The active ingredient of T Gel is coal tar. Coal tar is a type of drug called keratoplastics. These substances work by stripping dead cells away from the top layer of skin. Keratoplastics also slow growth of new skin cells. Finally, coal tar reduces itchy sensations from scalp conditions.

Serious side effects to coal tar are rare. However, the deep brown color of the medicated shampoo can stain. If you have blonde, bleached, gray, or other light hair, you may not want to use T Gel.

Coal tar can also make you sensitive to the sun. Be sure to avoid tanning beds or prolonged sun exposure when using T Gel. This coal tar medicated shampoo should only be used for flare-ups or periods of symptoms. Hair follicle damage can occur if T Gel is used for a long time.


One of the largest differences between T Gel and T Sal is the fragrance. T Gel’s active ingredient supplies an intense, distinctive scent. Coal tar smells like, well, tar. All medicated shampoos will carry a medicine-like scent.

However T Gel’s has a strong, industrial scent that fades quickly. Many T Gel devotees suggest washing with a great-smelling conditioner to mask the smell of the coal tar medicated shampoo.

Conditions Treated

T Gel medicated shampoo treats less severe scalp conditions. If you have dandruff or minor psoriasis, T Gel will provide relief. T Gel is not used to clean your scalp, but will slow down the growth of skin cells. This coal tar shampoo will also soothe an itchy scalp.

What Is T Sal?

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo
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Like T Gel, T Sal is another medicated shampoo from Neutrogena available at any local big box store. However, this product represents a need for a stronger, deeper cleansing option. T Sal takes scalp relief one step further for relief from more severe conditions.

Active Ingredient

The active ingredient in T Sal is salicylic acid, instead of coal tar in T Gel. This makes T Sal a clear color, instead of the deep brown of T Gel. Salicylic acid is also commonly used in acne-fighting products.

This shampoo works effectively to break down and clear away skin cells. Many scalp conditions like dandruff and psoriasis involve the build-up of skin cells. Shampoos like T Sal work by dissolving these cells.

Unlike T Gel, which tries to clear away and slow down cell growth, T Sal is a stronger alternative to strip away residue. T Sal efficiently strips away residue and flakes from hair.

Therefore this medicated shampoo is a fantastic option to prep hair for other medications. Choose T Sal as an initial step before applying steroids or other medication to a clean, unobstructed scalp.


The fragrance for T Sal could not be more different from T Gel. While both are medicinal-smelling, T Sal’s scent is almost imperceptible. T Sal will smell like a very faint rubbing alcohol or other antiseptic fragrance.

Conditions Treated

Some experts claim T Sal is used for only a few specific skin conditions. Before using T Sal, talk to your physician or dermatologist. T Sal is appropriate to use for seasonal flare-ups of dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Or use T Sal year-round, about twice weekly as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use T Gel or T Sal?

Yes. These shampoos are available at most drugstores. However, if your symptoms do not improve after six to eight weeks, consult your dermatologist. A stronger medication may be needed to get your symptoms under control.

Can T Sal help grow my hair?

T Sal or salicylic acid does not grow hair or cause hair to fall out. It is recommended to only use T Sal weekly under the guidance of medical professionals. Thoughtful use of T Sal will prevent any damage to hair.

Can I use T Gel or T Sal daily?

T Gel or T Sal work best when used once or twice each week. Feel free to mix your other non-medicated shampoos in with medicated shampoos. This will prevent your scalp from drying out or becoming damaged.

Is T Gel discontinued?

Some activists want coal tar removed from shampoos for its carcinogenic qualities. However, opinions are mixed. Coal tar medicated shampoos frequently use only trace amounts of the substances. This amount was ruled safe to use for the treatment of dandruff.

Does T Gel or T Sal damage color-treated hair?

No, these medicated shampoos will most likely not damage color-treated hair. T Sal is not too harsh for dyed hair. However, bleached, blonde, or light-colored hair may be stained from the deep brown color of T Gel.

T Gel vs. T Sal: Which Will You Use?

Both of these medicated shampoos are well-known. T Gel and T Sal effectively control the symptoms of specific scalp conditions. Review the active ingredients, fragrance considerations and conditions treated by these shampoos to determine the best choice for your symptoms.