For Head & Shoulders, the key to unlocking more in the dandruff care arena may be using less.
The brand’s newest shampoo, called Bare, contains just nine ingredients — all of which are purposefully displayed on the front of the bottle — and seeks to fulfill consumers’ growing demand for pared-down formulas that don’t compromise efficacy.
“Using just nine ingredients eliminates one of the biggest barriers as to why people don’t use a medicine to solve a problem they have — they don’t want more chemicals in their hair,” said John Brownlee, vice president, Head & Shoulders’ North America hair care portfolio. “We’re in this era of minimalism; if there are fewer ingredients in a product, there’s more that is in [the consumer’s] control.”
Bare retails for $9.97 and is launching at Walmart in May, with plans to roll out to other retailers in the following months. The brand went through more than 100 iterations to land the shampoo’s final formula, which taps zinc pyrithione as its dandruff-fighting active, while other ingredients such as citric acid, acrylates copolymer and polyquaternium-10 work in tandem to foster healthy strands.
“People tend to use dandruff shampoos reactively, but they’re setting themselves up to just have that scalp issue return,” said Jeni Thomas, scientific communications fellow and senior director of global hair care at Head & Shoulders, adding that with this launch, the brand is fixated on bolstering consumers’ understanding of — and commitment to — dandruff prevention.
“Prevention is our next frontier; the SPF category has made great strides in getting people to recognize the importance of prevention, and that is one of the next big moves for the scalp care category,” she said.
Brownlee and Thomas did not comment on sales expectations for Bare, but industry sources estimate the clinically tested shampoo could do $20 million in first-year sales.
The product’s minimalist ethos extends to its packaging, as well.
“The aesthetics we measure the Head & Shoulders brand against are not versus dandruff shampoos, but versus cosmetic shampoos,” said Brownlee, adding that because the FDA does not permit the use of PCR in the packaging of drug products (which dandruff products are classified as), the brand opted to harness 45 percent less virgin plastic than is typical, resulting in a pliable “ecobottle” that can roll up for efficient dispensing.
“Showing people they can address dandruff in a non-aggressive way, or in a way that doesn’t feel chemically harsh — it normalizes scalp care a bit, which is the path Head & Shoulders has been on for a long time,” said Brownlee, adding that the brand recently wrapped a social media partnership with Bill Nye (scientist, educator and Gen Z middle school science classroom linchpin) to educate the masses on misconceptions about dandruff.
“There’s a growing awareness that dandruff is a pretty common thing, so it’s like, why are we being coy or evasive about it? If you can make that education snackable and something of a form of actual cultural currency and prove it’s fun to learn — that’s very effective, and TikTok is a real revelation as a format because it lends itself well to explaining things in a fun and pithy way,” Brownlee said.