When I started this project, I wasn't sure what caused dandruff and I also didn't think much science would go into making a shampoo like Head & Shoulders. So what I learned really surprised me:
There are hundreds of scientists working on this shampoo. They run crazy-sounding experiments like hanging hair near Tokyo highways to understand how real-world environments deposit dirt on hair. They use sophisticated scientific techniques like electron microscopes, nuclear magnetic resonance and gene sequencing to study dandruff on the molecular level.
In fact they sequenced the entire genome of Malassezia globosa in 2002, one year after the human genome project. Their findings are published in international refereed journals. What they have found is that the Malassezia fungi create free fatty acids as byproducts of their digestion, which for some people create irritation and lead to hyper-proliferation of skin cells, flaking, histamines, inflammatory cytokines, and blood proteins reaching the surface of the skin. These findings indicate the unhealthiness of dandruff scalp and suggest a possible remedy - controlling the metabolism of the Malassezia fungi. This is achieved using different active ingredients in different products and different parts of the world, including zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and piroctone olamine. With the reduction of irritants, the scalp actually expresses different genes, producing a signature more similar to a non-dandruff baseline scalp.