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Dandruff Treatment Developments


Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are among the most widespread and under-diagnosed scalp problems worldwide, affecting 55 percent of the global population. Previously, P&G Beauty scientists advanced scientific understanding of dandruff by accurately identifying the exact organism that causes dandruff and prizing out the etiological mechanism through which dandruff inflammation occurs. “Dandruff is not just flaking,” said Tom Dawson, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, P&G Beauty. “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 providing better treatments.”



Image, left: Disconnected zinc and PTZ molecules which are unable to penetrate the Malassezia cells. Image, right: New technology that enables the zinc and PTZ to remain intact to penetrate and kill the Malessezia cells, eradicating dandruff.
Image, left: Disconnected zinc and PTZ molecules which are unable to penetrate the Malassezia cells. Image, right: New technology that enables the zinc and PTZ to remain intact to penetrate and kill the Malessezia cells, eradicating dandruff.


Utilizing this groundbreaking information, P&G Beauty scientists have now formulated their first major advancement in dandruff treatment in nearly 40 years. This treatment is the culmination of breakthrough research conducted by P&G Beauty scientists who identified the exact fungal cause of dandruff – and then used those findings to engineer a new advanced potentiated pyrithione zinc (PTZ) formulation.

Leveraging the Power of Zinc

“For a condition that affects more than half of the world’s population, there have been surprisingly few definitive answers about what causes dandruff and its symptoms,” says Steven Shiel, Ph.D., Principle Researcher, P&G Beauty. “Having a fuller picture enabled us to actively research more than 300 substances to finally find that zinc compounds, ingredients with age-old health and beauty properties, hold the key to making antidandruff shampoo even more effective.”

Zinc compounds have long been known for having wound healing, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties that make them ideal for battling skin conditions such as dandruff. Some of the most effective over-the-counter dandruff treatments have been shampoos containing pyrithione zinc. With a goal to improve dandruff treatment, P&G Beauty scientists re-engineered the shampoo to make the PTZ molecules more effective at eradicating the primary cause of dandruff, Malassezia, through enhancing its bioavailability in use. The scientists at P&G Beauty found that, as expected by LeChatelier’s principle, some PTZ molecules will naturally dissociate in solution into free Zn and PT. These dissociated ions have been shown to lose their potency against Malassezia. The new breakthrough technology uses the addition of excess excipient zinc in the form of zinc carbonate to suppress the dissociation of PTZ molecules to less active forms in the formulation, thus preserving the deposited PTZ in its most active and bioavailable form, and leaving it better able to penetrate and attack the Malassezia cells.

Superior Clinical Antidandruff Results

In vitro studies show the enhanced bioavailability of the new formulation is now two times more effective against the cause of dandruff. In human clinical studies this translates into significantly improved dermatologist-assessed flake reduction vs. traditional PTZ shampoos. Not only were significant improvements in flake reduction seen, but also the zinc-enhanced PTZ treatment works faster – reducing the time to eliminate flakes by 35 percent. The new breakthrough formula provides better relief from scalp irritation than the leading antidandruff shampoo.

“Our newest dandruff shampoo is the only shampoo to incorporate advanced zinc compound technologies that make it maximally effective against dandruff,” says James Schwartz, Ph.D., Research Fellow for P&G Beauty, who conducted much of the research on the new zinc formulations. “The benefits of enhancing the antidandruff activity of the shampoo involve the alleviation of all the symptoms associated with dandruff, not just flaking, but also the itching and irritation that are common with the condition.”


James Schwartz, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at P&G. His research focus is on identification of formulations to provide hair care benefits, resulting in new and highly effective dandruff shampoo. Meet Dr. James Schwartz »
James Schwartz, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at P&G
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