The hypothesis that the fungal yeast Malassezia globosa releases unsaturated fatty acids, which break the scalp barrier and cause multiple symptoms, including increased cell turnover was confirmed by significant new evidence during the Common Disorders of the Hair and Scalp symposium at the Intercontinental Meeting of Hair Research Societies.
Procter & Gamble research fellow James Schwartz said: "Dandruff is not just flaking. It manifests as a multitude of symptoms that include itchiness, scalp tightness, dry feel, irritation, and flakes."
"Understanding the etiology brings us closer to relieving the physical discomfort, and better treatments may also make it emotionally less stressful," he added.
Schwartz announced at the symposium a unique pharmacological discovery that will improve treatment efficacy and aesthetics.
Researchers at P&G Beauty had a technological breakthrough when they observed that anti-fungal efficacy depends on its bio-availability, rather than on the amount of the ingredient delivered.
By experimenting with more than 300 materials, they discovered that the bio-availability of anti-fungal ingredients was a critically important driver of antidandruff shampoo efficacy.
Dandruff, clinically known as seborrheic dermatitis, is among the most widespread and under-diagnosed scalp problem worldwide, affecting 55 per cent of the global population.
Using advanced molecular methods, such as modern criminal forensic techniques, scientists from P&G Beauty who have been studying dandruff for more than half a century delved deeply into basic scientific research to decode dandruff and understand the microbial cause.
Strategic treatment of hairy areas is challenging and shampoo has been identified as the most efficient delivery system.
"Scalp skin is unique due to hair follicles and the rate of sebum production, which leaves the surface open to different conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff," said Dr Boni Elewski, professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"Since it is more difficult to alter the human parameters involving sebaceous lipid production and composition, the most effective way to treat these conditions is to target the causative fungal organisms with antifungal shampoos."
The causative fungus can only be controlled through persistent, daily treatment, but many therapeutic shampoos discourage daily use by leaving hair looking unattractive and difficult to style.
In a global survey, 88 per cent of women said that hair appearance dictates how they feel about themselves. These data show that poor treatment aesthetics undermines efficacy.
Clinical associate professor Dr Zoe Draelos of the department of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina reported further proof, saying that: "In recent clinical research, we found that 3 out of 4 women suffering from dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis were more likely to use a medicated shampoo that provided excellent conditioning and manageability benefits for their hair versus a medicated shampoo that did not."
Draelos added that the cosmesis, or non-drug aesthetic benefits of hair and skin treatments, heavily influence their successful use for conditions, such as seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, which may have cosmetic and emotional impacts on patient quality of life.