How P&G continues to advance its Head & Shoulders formulation

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

How P&G continues to advance its Head & Shoulders formulation

Related tags Dandruff

Procter & Gamble is the undisputed king of anti-dandruff hair care thanks to its Head & Shoulders brand. But the work behind maintaining its reputation is relentless, as the head of research for the brand explains.

In the first of a two-part interview, we spoke to Dr. James Schwartz who is a research fellow at P&G’s Beauty & Grooming division. An integral part of his responsibility is to oversee research for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

For the past 17 years Schwartz and his team have been constantly striving towards the improvement of the Head & Shoulders brand, in an effort to maintain its position as the number one selling anti-dandruff treatment worldwide.

The constant evolution of ZPT

That is a long time to focus on one brand, but Head & Shoulders has been around since 1950, and the ingredient that really helped boost its reputation, zinc pyrithione, (ZPT) is now more than fifty years old.

However, as Schwartz points out, it is the focus on enhancing the ZPT-based Head & Shoulders formulation that has helped to maintain a brand reputation built on its effectiveness.

“The most interesting thing about ZPT is the magnitude of its efficacy and the increasingly effective way in which it can now be delivered to the scalp,”​ said Schwartz, in an exclusive interview with Cosmetics Design.

“ZPT has evolved tremendously over the years, because as a material is it is not very soluble, which is why a lot of the advances we have made have centered on particulate dispersion of ZPT once it is formulated.”

ZPT likely to remain the holy grail of dandruff treatments

P&G has relied on the very latest technologies and thorough clinical testing to ensure Head & Shoulders has stayed ahead of the game.

Dr Schwartz
Dr. James Schwartz, research fellow at P&G’s Beauty & Grooming division

“We mapped the dandruff genome about 8 years ago, which gave us more insight into the condition that any other specialists in the field and enabled us to stay ahead of the competition.”

“ZPT will remain at the very forefront of dandruff hair care treatment, mainly because it is so effective at treating the fungus that causes the condition, but also because the regulatory world makes it very difficult to introduce new ingredients for this kind of treatment,”​ said Schwartz. 

How regulations influence anti-dandruff ingredient development

Schwarts explained how the regulatory situation in the United States means that dandruff products are considered over the counter drugs, with an OTC drug condition, such as acne, athlete’s foot, sunscreen, dandruff, being covered by a dossier called a “Monograph.”  Each Monograph specifies the active materials that are considered safe and effective for that condition.  

"Unfortunately, once the Monograph is finalized, which the dandruff monograph is, there is practically no way to alter it.  While there are regulatory pathways that are different than the Monograph - something called a New Drug Application - they are very undesirable for many reasons.  Net effect is that the active materials that can be used is practically fixed."

But the quest to improve the formula is never done with, as Schwartz says there is still room for improvement.

“Although Head & Shoulders remains at the top of its category, we believe there still remains a gap in the treatment of the condition, which means that we are still searching for ways to improve it,” ​he said.

“Some of the improvement does lie in educating people about the most effective way of using anti-dandruff products. And indeed, one of the most effective is to use the anti-dandruff treatment every day, as this is the best way of controlling the fungus that causes the condition.

Effectiveness lies in using H&S often and sticking with it

One of P&G's most effective tools for strengthening its brands is the claim that effective treatment of dandruff is maintained by sticking with Head & Shoulders, but it is a claim that Schwartz and his says is simple to back up.

“The efficiency of Head & Shoulders is enhanced by sticking with the ZPT-based treatment, as repeated and prolonged use ensures the condition will not return.

“Indeed, there is extensive research to underline that the lower the wash frequency the higher the incidence of dandruff, a fact that does underline our claims.

“Likewise, the fact that dandruff develops from a low hair wash frequency can also be further exacerbated by factors such as living conditions and age.

“And increasingly it is environmental conditions that are playing a part in the incidence of dandruff, with growing evidence pointing to the fact that pollution can exacerbate the condition.”

In the second part of this interview, to be published tomorrow, we will look at the approach to delivery of the formulation and how an effective treatment can win over a consumer for life.

Related topics Formulation & Science Hair Care

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