This week I examine the dandruff category and how the scalp care space bore a renewed focus on this particular scalp condition. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
Despite the uncomfortable and unsavory thought of dandruff, the hair condition has new, significant appeal among those in the hair-care industry.
Since 2020, Unilever’s BHS brand, The Inkey List, Philip Kingsley and Harry’s have all launched anti-dandruff collections or products. Most recently, on Dec. 12, prestige hair-care brand Ouai launched an anti-dandruff shampoo that will be sold exclusively via its DTC e-commerce and Sephora. Sephora already sells anti-dandruff products from First Aid Beauty, Brigeo and The Inkey list. With the advent of scalp care as a bonafide sub-category of hair care, the category is now at a point of maturity where it can fragment into specific niches such as scalp-focused hair growth and rejuvenation, and dandruff. With the help of these brands and products, the global hair-care market is expected to grow at an annual rate of over 3%, reaching $211 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. And these new brands and innovative formulas are likely to nip at the heels of dominating brands like Head & Shoulders or Selsun.
“We don’t use the ‘skinification of hair’ phrase anymore,” said Alexa Adler, head of customer experience and co-founder of dandruff brand Jupiter. “When we were first starting the brand, we did. But now scalp care is commonplace and something the modern consumer is thinking about as part of their personal care routine.”
Jupiter, launched in June 2020, sells six products including shampoo, conditioner, a hair serum and a scalp scrub brush. In December, Jupiter launched supplements to address nutritional deficiencies that can lead to scalp and hair issues. It is sold via DTC e-commerce, as well as Bergdorf Goodman. The Jupiter team considers itself a scalp health brand, even though zinc pyrithione, the active ingredient in its shampoo, treats dandruff. Robbie Salter, CEO and co-founder of Jupiter, said that “scalp health” encompasses the brand’s efforts to address root causes of hair and scalp issues, while “scalp care” is more concerned with cosmetic ingredients than OTC ones.
Loyal customers were sent a marketing email 48 hours before the supplements’ general launch, granting them access to purchase beforehand. Salter said Jupiter’s most effective strategies for new customer acquisition are organic word of mouth and product reviews in the form of testimonials and influencers. Jupiter earned approximately $2 million in its first 12 months in business, according to previous Glossy reporting. Salter declined to share updated figures.
“We saw an opportunity for improvement [upon] the existing products that were on the market. The existing incumbent brands weren’t addressing the needs of a modern consumer,” he said.
Women have historically been unrepresented and underserved in the dandruff category. According to Mintel, 33% of U.S. men use dandruff shampoo, compared to 18% of U.S. women. Furthermore, 29% of U.S. women ages 18-34 use dandruff shampoo, compared to 35% of U.S. men ages 18-34.
“Many hair-care brands are making scalp care the center of their marketing efforts and treating it as an extension of the facial-care routine,” said Lauren Goodsitt, director of global beauty and personal care at Mintel. “Women are more interested in customizable hair-care formats that address changing hair and scalp needs. While men gravitate toward dandruff-specific products, holistic scalp-health products attract women looking to achieve overarching hair wellness goals.”
In the case of Ouai’s new anti-dandruff shampoo, there was an opportunity to make it more appealing by downplaying the stigma and playing up its commonality. A large-scale campaign across TikTok, Instagram, direct mail, connect TV and OOH in New York and Texas corresponded with the dandruff shampoo launch. It will run for at least 90 days, driving people to Sephora.com and stores, and TheOuai.com. The idea is to bring humor and cheekiness to the subject of dandruff, with ads stating, “Are you the flaky friend? One out of five people experiences dandruff. Nobody likes a flake.”
Diana Pratasiewicz Barnao, director of education for Ouai, said that promoting the product’s ingredient profile and its hero scent Cape Town is also a strategy. Ouai has become well known for its fragrances and even launched candles in August 2021.
“Dandruff is similar to hair loss in the sense that hair loss was associated with men, and products were [therefore] targeted at men. But now we know that hair loss and dandruff affect men and women pretty equally,” said Hannah Beals, vp of brand marketing for Ouai.
The majority of Ouai customers are female, and there is an opportunity to convert more male consumers into customers. The launch campaign features the brand’s first male model. Procter & Gamble acquired Ouai in Dec. 2021, signifying the conglomerate was building out its prestige hair-care division after acquiring prestige skin-care brand Tula in January 2021. Ouai was founded in 2016 by hair stylist Jen Atkin, alongside SOS Beauty, the team behind ayurvedic hair-care brand Fable & Mane and Jupiter. P&G notably owns Head & Shoulders. Head & Shoulders appears to have received the industry memo on more innovative dandruff brands and plans to launch seven new products in 2023, including a shea-infused shampoo and conditioner formula. According to Euromonitor, the top five medicated shampoo brands by sales volume in the U.S. are Selsun, with nearly 23% market share; Neutrogena, with 19%; and dandruff treatment brands Nizoral, Denorex and Scalpicin, which together make up 19% market share.
There’s no sign that the scalp care sub-category will slow down the development of more niche hair-care focuses. Under P&G’s ownership, Ouai has had access to more research and development resources, which could fuel more clinically-backed products in the future. For its part, in 2023, Jupiter plans to launch an undisclosed number of products addressing hair and scalp types, such as dry and oily, while maintaining its fundamental anti-dandruff focus.
“You will see us show up more in specialty hair with performance claims and testing on our products. We launched a scalp serum earlier this year for fuller and thicker hair, which has been a massive success for the brand,” said Beals. “That was our first product, alongside our supplements, that was clinically tested.”
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