Ask the Expert: Overcoming Consumer Barriers to Scalp Care

Flakey, itchy scalp symptoms associated with dandruff are common around the world. In fact, studies show that dandruff affects over 50 percent of the global population. Yet loyal usage of anti-dandruff treatment is not common practice. Consumers may not recognize the symptoms of dandruff or they may make excuses for not consistently using an anti-dandruff shampoo. These excuses are usually based on myths.

The reality is that if not treated, dandruff symptoms—itchiness, irritation and a dry or tight-feeling scalp—may lead to scratching the scalp. Scratching can weaken the hair, causing breakage and cuticle damage. It is a scientific fact that as little as five minutes of scratching damages the hair at the root, resulting in dull hair. For the formulator’s best work to shine through, consumers need advice on this sensitive subject.

Here are some of the most common “excuses” consumers may give for not using an anti-dandruff shampoo and reasons why salon professionals need to understand and explain the truth about dandruff and its treatment.

Consumers believe their dandruff condition is actually “dry scalp” and is not serious enough to warrant treatment.

Consumers may confuse the flaking, itching, redness and scalp irritation of dandruff with “dry scalp” because dry skin on their bodies may itch and flake too. Actually, dandruff is an abnormal shedding of loose flakes on the scalp caused by a naturally occurring skin microorganism called Malassezia (mal-uh-SEEZ-ee-uh). Research shows that more than 90% of people who believe they have dry scalp actually have dandruff and would benefit from consistent treatment with an anti-dandruff shampoo.

Consumers think most anti-dandruff shampoos may damage their dry or color-treated hair.

That may have been true in the past but today’s new generation of anti-dandruff shampoos formulated with pyrithione zinc are as mild and gentle on the hair as the best-selling cosmetic shampoos. They are also safe for everyday use, even on color-treated, permed or relaxed hair. Before salon professionals recommend any anti-dandruff shampoo, they should review the ingredient listing—many updated anti-dandruff shampoos contain the same moisturizing and conditioning ingredients as regular shampoos, including dimethicone and cetyl alcohol.

Consumers with sensitive skin believe anti-dandruff shampoos are too harsh to use regularly.

Today there are anti-dandruff shampoos formulated specifically for sensitive skin. Dandruff sufferers with sensitive skin should be given a professional recommendation to use an anti-dandruff shampoo formulated for sensitive skin every time they cleanse their hair. There are even anti-dandruff shampoos formulated to be as mild as children’s shampoo.

Consumers may use an anti-dandruff product for a while then switch to a cosmetic shampoo—and their dandruff symptoms return.

This is common because people do not understand that dandruff shampoos not only treat dandruff but also prevent it from returning. Studies prove that regular, everyday usage of an anti-dandruff shampoo can control dandruff over time. The shampoo attacks the cause of dandruff, a naturally occurring skin microorganism called Malassezia. When consumers stop using the anti-dandruff shampoo it comes back, along with the flakes. With a quality anti-dandruff shampoo—preferably one formulated with pyrithione zinc as well as moisturizing and conditioning ingredients—there is no need to switch between cosmetic and anti-dandruff shampoos.

Consumers think that all anti-dandruff shampoos have a harsh odor and will not use a shampoo that does not smell good.

This myth also is based on old news. The newest pyrithione zinc technology in anti-dandruff shampoos has no odor, unlike old-fashioned sulfur and coal tar shampoos. This means consumers can have a great smelling shampoo that also treats the underlying cause of dandruff. Fragrance is very important in maintaining consumer usage of a product and not everyone likes the same scent every day. Many of today’s anti-dandruff shampoos are offered in a variety of scents. For example, the world’s best selling anti-dandruff shampoo, Head & Shoulders, now offers citrus fresh, refreshing menthol, and ocean lift scents. Now consumers can have great-smelling and dandruff-free hair.

Dianna Kenneally, senior scientist, P&G Beauty

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