Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Head & Shoulders review

A while back, I bought a Head and Shoulders shampoo to help with my seasonal dandruff. I've been putting off writing a review because I wasn't so impressed. 

I used it twice and... It was okay, I guess?
It removed the flakes, but not more than any other shampoo or CO wash. And the flakes returned at the same speed as usual.

Now looking into the ingredient list, I found something weird: My Head & Shoulders Classic Clean has a completely different ingredient list than any other Head & Shoulders Classic Clean ingredient lists I found online. I found one list at an Aussie blogger, some US webshop sites, a Canadian webshop site and of course a list at Korean COSDNA. None were identical. They started off pretty similar, with the first 5-7 ingredients being the same, but then differed. COSDNA didn't even recognize it as a Head and Shoulders product. Odd. Euro zone regulations for the ingredients maybe?

Here is the US version:
It has Zinc Carbonate listed as ingredient #5. 

Here is my ingredient list for comparison:
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Citrate, Parfum, Dimethiconol, Piroctone Olamine, Sodium Benzoate, Dimethicone, Citric Acid, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Trideceth-10, Sodium Salicylate, Triethylene glycol, Propylene Glycol, CL42090, CL 17200

But wait. It get's weirder.
The active ingredient according to Head and Shoulders themselves is Pyrithione zinc and the shampoo is supposed to contain 1 % of it. 
Now, I've been staring at this ingredient list for longer than I'd like to admit, but I just don't find it. In fact, find nothing even related to zinc in it.

Nope, the dandruff-fighting ingredient is just not there.

So what's my takeaway from this?
Simple: The Eurozone Head and Shoulders Classic Clean shampoo is not an anti dandruff shampoo. 

Going to take a closer look at the ingredient list:
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Citrate, Parfum, Dimethiconol, Piroctone Olamine, Sodium Benzoate, Dimethicone, Citric Acid, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Trideceth-10, Sodium Salicylate, Triethylene glycol, Propylene Glycol, CL42090, CL 17200

COSDNA analysis says:

26 ingredients in total
For acne-triggers, we have one 5, one 3 and two 1´s. The 3 and 5 are ingredient number 2 and 3. And I'm tempted not to include water here, which would make it ingredients one and two!
For potential irritants, the same two ingredients score a 2 each. Also not good.
Safety is fairly decent though: 16 greens, 8 in yellow and 2 in green to yellow.

But the main problem is in the Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
This is not even a nice ingredient list for a normal shampoo. This is harsh and irritating.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is the first cleansing agent on the list, and milder than the Lauryl-version. Common abbreviation is SLES.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the infamous harsh cleanser that can be used to de-grease engines. It's a detergent and foaming agent and often abbreviated as SLS. It is simply unnecessary in a shampoo, when there are so many gentler ingredient options.
Sodium Chloride is good old table salt to thicken the formula.
Sodium Xylenesulfonate is a surfactant stabiliser. 
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a surfactant, hydrophilic thickener, cleaning agent and foam booster, which seems really unnecessary after SLS and SLES?
Glycol Distearate is an emollient and emulsifier. 
Sodium Citrate is a pH adjuster and the antioxidant they advertise for on the bottle.
Parfum is fragrance.
Dimethiconol is an emollient.
Piroctone Olamine is a preservative.
Sodium Benzoate is a preservative.
Dimethicone is an emollient.
Citric Acid  is a pH adjuster.
Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride is an antistatic.
TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate is a surfactant.
Hexyl Cinnamal is a synthetic fragrance linked to allergic reactions.
Linalool is a synthetic fragrance linked to allergic reactions. Unfortunately this ingredient is really common in hair products!
Tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative.
Sodium Hydroxide is a pH adjuster. 
Trideceth-10 is an emulsifier.
Sodium Salicylate is a preservative.
Triethylene glycol is a solvent.
Propylene Glycol is a solvent.
CL42090 is a pigment.
CL 17200 is a pigment.

So on the ingredient list we have:
4 preservatives
3 fragrances
2 pigments
Yea... This seems necessary?! 

In conclusion: The Head & Shoulders Classic Clean shampoo found in the Euro zone is not an anti dandruff shampoo. It's simply a rather harsh and irritating cleansing shampoo.
Be aware. Everyone in the Eurozone, check your ingredient list. You might not get what you paid for.


  1. Now that made me curious and triggered my investigative genes! Especially as I was one of those recommending it.

    I've a mini bottle of H&S, as my go-to dandruff/SD fighting shampoo is something else, but I've found that after a particularly bad break-out H&S usually helped in calming it down faster.

    I also have the ClassicClean version and on the bottle is doesn't say anything about zinc, but it is supposed to be an anti-dandruff shampoo and doesn't specify whether it's for dry or oily dandruff. Ingredients are identical to your bottle. Wikipedia says that "Piroctone olamine is often used in anti-dandruff shampoo as a replacement for the commonly used compound zinc pyrithione.
    So... we Euro-zoneys get Piroctone olamine instead of zinc (or at least without it), which acts as a fungicide and antibacterial agent. The German Wikipedia is a bit more informative and says that it is good in fighting Malassezia furfur. My medical pet theory now is that it actually works for me because I do have seborrhoeic eczema which is commonly caused by the Malassezia furfur. Add to that that it generally gets better if the scalp is as oil-free as possible, as the fungus thrives on oily skin, it does seem reasonable to me why it would work.

    That being said, I don't agree with the advertising on your product. This wouldn't work on dry dandruff and in fact make it worse. The fragrances are probably not necessary and the pigments too (who care what color the shampoo is?). Especially the Linalool is bugging me, as you wrote too, it's often been linked already to allergic reactions and I suspect that I'm somewhat sensitive to it.

    So, yeah. I'd probably not be happy if I had bought it for any other reason than seborrhoeic eczema.

    Btw, here's a link to how my bottle looks:

    HOWEVER *drumroll* dm, a German drugstore, as two "Classic clean" bottles listed and the other ones does have zinc in it:
    That bottle contains 200ml more product and looks a lot like the US version. What a scam! I'm working for a company that is officially "customer obsessed". If I would suggest scamming our customers like this and selling two different formulas in a bottle where the only directly visible distinction is size, they'd probably fire me.

    1. What the...?!
      Okay, so now I'm even more confused!
      I thought this was some sort of Euro regulation (Not that I could see what the problem with applying zinc externally could be) but this makes no sense. So maybe I can also find a classic clean in the zinc variation somewhere?
      Although I'm not 100% sure if I have some sort of special dandruff, mine seems kind of dry, this would explain why it did very little for me (Nothing that a good CO wash couldn't domanyways) and why it did work for you.
      Honestly thos shampoo just really pisses me off!
      I feel like this was advertised as "If your scalp is icky and ouchy we can help you with this nice and hair/skin friendly product... now with anti oxidants too!" And in reality it's just formulated as "lol, up yours" or something. Ugh. If there is a difference to what ingredient works for what type of dandruff, they are really setting customers up to faip with their products and lack of explanations!
      I guess I'm off to stalk the drugstores until I find one with zinc in it like you did :)

  2. you have WalMart in your area? Here in the US they sell a generic of Head and Shoulders at half price or less...called "Equate" brand.

    1. Hm, no, I can't say I've ever seen one in Europe. I know we have a dollar store (No clue if it's "authentic" or not) in the neighbor city though. Maybe they have it there?

  3. That is the weirdest thing I've ever seen! I would contact Head and Shoulders (procter and gamble I believe), because that is false advertising. If the zinc is missing, then that's not head and shoulders and likely a fake. ALL H&S products have zinc pyrothine in it---and what soothes the itch! I"m shocked tbh! Good post!!

    1. I actually wrote it off as a "Okay, different regulations from different countries", but seeing your reaction I'm taking it more serious. Especially knowing how much knowledge and experience you have dealing with dandruff, I will take this very serious. This is weird indeed!

  4. I know I am incredibly late to the party here, but just in case you have never gotten a satisfactory answer on this, Piroctone Olamine is the anti-dandruff ingredient in your shampoo...AND it is been found to help hair growth/hair loss in some studies. Honestly, I wished we got it here, because pyrithione zinc is CRAP in my humble opinion. The olamine is supposed to work much, much better. :)

    1. A little bit, yes XD I only saw your comment by random chance!
      Hmm, but why don't they advertise with that instead? I know very little about the shampoo ingredients and anti dandruff functions, so the whole thing leaves me confused. Especially because I got a super condescending, actual-information-free reply from Head&Shoulders when I contacted them. I mean, if the Piroctone Olamine is a better ingredient than pyrithione zinc, wouldn't that be a good time to inform me of this? Like, this is the official statement from the firm-thing? =/