Microbiologist discusses 2024 dandruff care trends and innovations

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

“The claim ‘anti-dandruff’ (next to brand awareness) will be a main driver for buying decisions which highlights the importance of the use of trusted, monographed ingredients to convince the consumer to purchase,” said Sabrina Behnke, PhD, Associate Business Director at Tri-K Industries. © vchal Getty Images
“The claim ‘anti-dandruff’ (next to brand awareness) will be a main driver for buying decisions which highlights the importance of the use of trusted, monographed ingredients to convince the consumer to purchase,” said Sabrina Behnke, PhD, Associate Business Director at Tri-K Industries. © vchal Getty Images

Related tags Dandruff Scalp care microbiome Hair care Skin health

Drawing from her extensive background in product formulation and development, Dr. Sabrina Behnke explains how the influential role of the microbiome, the ‘skinification’ of scalp care, and regulatory actions for scalp care ingredients are shaping the sector in 2024.

As reported by Data Bridge Market Research’s report, “Global Dandruff Treatment Market,” research analysis forecasts that the global market “is expected to reach $13.25bn by 2029, registering a CAGR of 6.30% during the forecast period of 2022 to 2029.” Driven by factors including increasing consumer awareness, a high prevalence of symptom sufferers, and obvious cosmetic concerns, the consumer demand for topical solutions for dandruff is clearly on the rise in the hair and scalp care segment of personal care products.

To learn more about recent innovations in dandruff care, including the biggest trends in the market sector, the latest ingredient R&D innovations in this space, and how consumer demand is influencing product development for dandruff care product formulations, CosmeticsDesign spoke to Sabrina Behnke, PhD, Associate Business Director at cosmetics and personal care product supplier Tri-K Industries for her insights.

Dr. Behnke holds her PhD in Microbiology, and her extensive professional experience includes supporting EPA claim substations for disinfectant household products and serving as Global Product Manager for Symrise before she assumed her current role with Tri-K Industries.

2024 dandruff care trend forecast

One of the most compelling trends in the dandruff care space in 2024 is that this year, product formulations “will be all about efficacy minus the harshness,” said Dr. Behnke, and “the basic understanding of the microbiome by the customer plays an important role in this development.” She further explained that a significant driver behind this trend is that “there is a need to protect the natural flora, but simultaneously approach the skin/scalp conditions with an effective treatment.”

She noted that “consumers have a basic understanding of the human microbiome, mostly due to the knowledge around probiotics and the gut microbiome.” As “it is now understood that eradicating all organisms may be detrimental to the individual’s health, and protecting beneficial organisms is a key element of healthy skin and scalp,” she predicted that consumer demand will continue to shift towards preserving the microbiome, particularly when addressing dandruff care.

While Dr. Behnke pointed out that “2023 was the year of ‘the skinification of the scalp,’” and she predicted that “in 2024 we will see a continuation of this activity,” the role of specific ingredient regulations may exert considerable influence in shaping this year’s dandruff care trends.

“The second major influencing factor in the industry is the Zinc Pyrithione (ZPT) ban in Europe, that became effective in March 2022,” she explained. The ingredient is widely used to address dandruff issues, “especially by some of the large MNCs,” and “while the material is allowed for use outside of Europe, we will see growing pressure from consumers, to phase out of ZPT,” she shared.

Recent innovations in dandruff care

The momentum behind the driving force of these trends stems from several recent innovations in the space. Dr. Behnke illustrated one example: “shorter INCI labels on anti-dandruff products.” Because “consumers are looking for simplicity, long INCI labels give the perception of being ‘too chemical,’” and “when consumers understand the function of each ingredient, they are most likely to trust the brand,” she explained.

Considering that “sensitive skin remains a topic of concern, as the majority of consumers perceive their skin to be sensitive,” she added, “when it comes to dandruff care, the consumer is looking for a formulation that is suitable for sensitive skin but simultaneously is not willing to compromise on efficacy.”

Innovations in product claims are also influential in the dandruff care space. “Large multinationals have understood that the consumer is looking for a healthy microbiome,” said Dr. Behnke, “so these claims, along with claims around gentle formulations and soothing properties, have entered the consumer product space more and more.”

She shared that regulatory changes are also driving innovation in the space out of necessity. “Due to the regulatory changes around zinc pyrithione, the material is now starting to be formulated out of consumer products and replaced by other less or non-controversial actives,” she said.

“We see a lot of products based on Piroctone Olamine and Climbazole (a monographed ingredient which is required to make the drug claim ‘anti-dandruff’),” and “these ingredients are more expensive and formulators will look for materials that can help boost the efficacy of these monographed ingredients,” she explained.

As a result, innovation in the space is becoming more prevalent across premium and niche brands, Dr. Behnke added. “Historically, anti-dandruff (AD) care products were offered mainly by a few heritage AD brands in the mass market space,” she stated, and “we are now seeing more premium and niche brands, moving into the AD space (e.g. Oribe, Ouai, Kerastase), highlighting the consumer interest not only in AD care but additional beauty and efficacy benefits.”

Further, “in this premium space, we also see additional formats, becoming more relevant” as a direct result of innovation efforts by these different brands. These formats include “scalp serums [and] scalp scrubs, which align with the ‘skinification of the scalp’ trend,” she said.

The role of the consumer

As innovation drives consumer trends in dandruff care, it is vital for personal care product manufacturers and brands to remember that “we are now in an age where the consumer has more access to ingredient and product information than ever before,” Dr. Behnke advised. This is in part related to the ‘clean beauty movement, which “advocates for transparency in labeling and the exclusion of potentially harmful ingredients from personal care products,” she said.

As a result, “consumers are scrutinizing product labels more closely, opting for formulations free from specific undesirable chemicals,” she explained, “which means “ingredient safety reviews and bans are quickly discovered by the end consumer, and ingredients perceived as harmful can end up on retailers’ “blacklists” due to pressure from the consumer side.” Further, she added, “these decisions are not always made based on scientific or regulatory reasons but can be purely based on not peer-reviewed information or misinterpretation of data by non-scientists.”

Therefore, she clarified, “in the specific case of dandruff, the consumer is educated about available anti-dandruff ingredients.” As a result, she summarized, “the claim ‘anti-dandruff’ (next to brand awareness) will be a main driver for buying decisions which highlights the importance of the use of trusted, monographed ingredients to convince the consumer to purchase.”

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