WHY SO FLAKY?

Build­ing a bet­ter dan­druff sham­poo

ZOOMER Magazine - - ZOOM IN - By Liza Herz

IT’S EASY TO LAUGH at vin­tage Head & Shoul­ders TV com­mer­cials. They tend to fol­low a fa­mil­iar script: hap­less dolt fails at ro­mance be­cause of ill-timed, dan­druff-in­duced head scratch­ing. Wise, shiny-haired friend sug­gests Head & Shoul­ders, and voilà – so­cial suc­cess.

Th­ese sto­ry­lines weren’t en­tirely off base. De­bil­i­tat­ing dan­druff, that con­stant snow­fall of flak­ing skin, can af­flict peo­ple so pro­foundly that “We’ve talked to peo­ple who will choose not to go to work on cer­tain days. They won’t go to par­ties,” says Proc­ter & Gam­ble prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist Rolanda Wilk­er­son.

And while we used to think dan­druff was the re­sult of poor hy­giene or dry skin, it’s ac­tu­ally caused by a fun­gus ex­ist­ing on all our heads, Malassezia glo­bosa, which “feeds off the nat­u­ral scalp oils,” ex­plains Wilk­er­son. For half the pop­u­la­tion, this oc­curs with­out in­ci­dent, but for dan­druff suf­fer­ers, their bod­ies re­spond to this in­va­sive pres­ence by speed­ing up skin cell turnover to pro­tect it­self, re­sult­ing in that snowy shower of dead skin.

Toronto der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr. Ju­lia Car­roll notes that “some­times dan­druff can be con­fused with scalp pso­ri­a­sis, a con­di­tion which peaks at 20 and again at 60” for a va­ri­ety of hor­monal and health rea­sons. Pa­tients will shed large flakes of skin and see red scaly patches and er­ro­neously think it’s dan­druff, so it’s best to see a doc­tor for a proper di­ag­no­sis.

Dan­druff can re­solve it­self later in life, al­though “it may per­sist into old age, (usu­ally) in men more than women,” says Car­roll. It is thought that men have more ac­tive se­ba­ceous glands and there­fore pro­duce more scalp oils.

So pity the suf­fer­ers of se- vere, chronic dan­druff who need the strong­est avail­able anti-dan­druff sham­poos con­tain­ing se­le­nium sul­fide. They had been con­signed to a life of nos­tril-as­sault­ing cleansers that quelled flakes and itch but dried their hair to straw and left them with a sul­phuric fug en­cir­cling their heads.

Se­le­nium lev­els are reg­u­lated by Health Canada, but users needed a sham­poo that felt like sham­poo, not like a pun­ish­ment. “So we re­designed the tech­nol­ogy so it’s more cos­met­i­cally ap­peal­ing,” says Wilk­er­son.

En­ter Proc­ter & Gam­ble’s re­search cen­tre in Blue Ash, Ohio, a sprawl­ing, low build­ing in star­tlingly ver­dant sub­ur­ban Cincin­nati.

Here, for­mu­las are tweaked (any­where up to 100 it­er­a­tions in a week) and then tested in all man­ner of ways.

In one brightly lit room, hair switches, rep­re­sent­ing 40-odd sub­groups ac­count­ing for eth­nic­ity, colour, wave, age and de­grees of dam­age, hang in rows await­ing their turn in the water while a serene woman in a colour­ful dashiki lath­ers and rinses a switch un­der a run­ning tap.

Other tests look like you’ve wan­dered into a mod­ern art mu­seum. A close-up “flow cell mi­croscopy” view of sham­poo bub­bles trav­el­ling down a hair shaft (test­ing sham­poo ef­fi­cacy) is hyp­not­i­cally sooth­ing to watch. Ther­mal imag­ing of glow­ing, scar­let-topped heads is a vis­i­ble re­minder of the dam­age wrought by scratch­ing when el­e­vated his­tamine lev­els caused by dan­druff in­flame the scalp. “In a healthy scalp your his­tamine lev­els are nor­mal. In a dan­druff or ir­ri­tated or flak­ing scalp they are very el­e­vated,” says Wilk­er­son. If you are ag­ing and have thin­ning hair, “scratch­ing may fur­ther dam­age the hair fi­bre re­sult­ing in break­age,” she adds.

An op­ti­mal dan­druff sham­poo needs to “send a lu­bri­cious sig­nal while leav­ing ac­tives be­hind,” says Eric John­son – sci­en­tist-speak for “Your hair should feel mois­tur­ized, while anti-dan­druff ingredients re­main on the scalp to do their job.” Get­ting the ingredients from the sham­poo to dis­perse onto the scalp is a com­pli­cated for­mu­la­tion trick.

The Head & Shoul­ders in­gre­di­ent mix for this new sham­poo con­tains pro­pri­etary se­le­nium sul­fide tech­nol­ogy (the brand’s se­cret sauce, if you will) to­gether with con­di­tion­ers and a sub­tle mask­ing fra­grance to erad­i­cate the dis­tinc­tive smell.

The re­sult, Head & Shoul­ders Clin­i­cal So­lu­tions (from $10) feels and smells like reg­u­lar sham­poo and still re­moves more than 90 per cent of Malassezia ir­ri­tants while re­liev­ing symp­toms. So no one has to feel like they’re liv­ing in the “be­fore” seg­ment of a 1970s dan­druff sham­poo commercial.

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