Is Head & Shoulders bad for you hair? A Cosmetic Chemist's Perspective

Meet Erica Douglas: The Cosmetic Chemist

picture of Erica Douglas cosmetic scientist

Erica Douglas, a cosmetic chemist with over a decade of experience, shares her insights on the ingredients and formulation of Head & Shoulders Classic Clean dandruff shampoo.

Head & Shoulders' Simple Formula: Pyrithione Zinc and Its Role in Fighting Dandruff

The key active ingredient in Head & Shoulders is pyrithione zinc, which is commonly used to combat dandruff. It targets the Malassezia fungus that feeds on oil and causes dandruff. The FDA permits up to 2% of pyrithione zinc in rinse-off products, while the Classic Clean formula uses 1%.

Surfactants and Conditioners: Cleaning and Moisturizing the Scalp

Surfactants are the soapy part of the shampoo that pulls dirt and oil from the hair and scalp. The primary surfactant in Head & Shoulders is sulfate, while cocamidopropyl betaine acts as a secondary surfactant. Foam does not necessarily indicate a shampoo's cleaning ability, as some surfactants create more suds than others.

Sulfates, when used in moderation and formulated with conditioning agents, can effectively clean hair without causing damage. Silicone, such as dimethicone, is used to seal the hair cuticle and maintain moisture content, dispelling the myth that silicones weigh hair down or cause buildup.

Color and Fragrance: Synthetic Colors and Allergens

Head & Shoulders uses Blue 1 and Red 33 synthetic colorants to create its signature light blue color. These dyes are FDA-approved but have some use restrictions due to potential irritation or allergen concerns. The Classic Clean fragrance formulation contains over 20 ingredients, including some considered allergens in the EU. New legislation will require cosmetic products to list fragrance allergens on the label starting in 2024.

Consistency, Preservatives, and pH Adjusters: Ensuring Quality and Safety

Ingredients such as glycol distearate and guar hydroxypropyl trimonium chloride give the shampoo its thick, creamy consistency. Preservatives like sodium benzoate prevent mold, fungus, and bacteria growth in the water-based formula.

Head & Shoulders Classic Clean has a pH of 7.3, which is on the higher end of the normal range for shampoos but still considered acceptable. The brand claims to be America's number one anti-dandruff shampoo with its current moisture levels.

Head & Shoulders' Packaging and Potential Improvements

Head and shoulders back of product ingredients and packaging

The shampoo is paraben-free, a claim that has gained importance due to inconclusive yet concerning links between parabens and cancer. Erica suggests adding more conditioning and moisturizing agents to the formula to provide better hair control and functionality.

In conclusion, discussing dandruff and its treatment is crucial to dispel misconceptions and help people maintain healthy scalps and hair.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.