I’ve had a difficult scalp for most of my life. My first experience with Head & Shoulders was at the tender age of 11 when I had my first solid attack of dandruff. Back then, Head & Shoulders only came in a 2-in-1 shampoo-and-conditioner combo, and I was too naive to realise that 2-in-1 shampoo-and-conditioners were not designed for people with long hair. It got my dandruff under control, but my hair was a rough and tangled mess. Since then, I’ve only used my boyfriend’s Head & Shoulders shampoo sporadically when I forgot to bring my own hair products, and never even looked at their range when I went shampoo shopping.
Well, it turns out that they make separate shampoos and conditioners now – and they’ve come a long way since the 2-in-1 worst-of-both-worlds product! I’ve been trying out the Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky 3 Action Formula Shampoo and Conditioner ($12.49 AUD for 400 mL) for the past week and a bit, and I’ve been very impressed.
How Dandruff Happens and How to Fix It
First, a look at the anti-dandruff part. Dandruff is accumulated dead skin flakes on your scalp, and occurs in almost half the population. The causes of dandruff aren’t entirely clear, but it’s believed to involve an imbalance in the populations of Malassezia yeast and Propionibacterium and Staphylococcus bacteria on the scalp, and excessive sebum production.
Head & Shoulders uses zinc pyrithione as the anti-dandruff active ingredient in their products, and actually has been using it since 1961. It stops the growth of bacteria and yeast, and appears in both the shampoo and the conditioner.
Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Shampoo
Here’s the ingredients list for Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Shampoo:
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamide MEA, Zinc Carbonate, Dimethicone, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Pyrithione, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Fragrance, Cetyl Alcohol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Sodium Benzoate, Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide, Benzyl Alcohol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.
The main cleaning agents are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Sulfates are the harshest surfactants for hair (apart from maybe straight-up soap), and although there’s less of the harsher SLS, I’d still recommend that people with dry, brittle or coloured hair only use this a couple of times a week.
The shampoo is opaque white in colour, and is on the thick side but foams up easily in wet hair. It has a strong artificial berry/melon scent, which I liked – the fragrance is quite strong in the shower, but after it’s rinsed out there’s just a mild pleasant smell left. I found that even if I just used the shampoo without conditioner, my hair still felt very soft – I’m guessing it’s the dimethicone further down the ingredients giving this effect. Dimethicone is a non-volatile (non-evaporating) silicone that softens your hair but can also accumulate as buildup, making it limp and lifeless. I haven’t had this problem yet though!
My scalp is generally pretty fussy. It’s oily and prone to flaking, and most shampoos will either give me an oily scalp after less than a day, or dry it out, making it itchy and flaky. I’m happy to say that Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky performs great on this front (unsurprising, since they’re a scalp-focused brand, but I’ve tried a lot of shampoos made for people with scalp issues that left me underwhelmed).
Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Conditioner
Here’s the ingredients list for Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Conditioner:
Water, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Glutamic Acid, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Zinc Pyrithione, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.
My hair loves silicones, so I’m wary of any conditioner that doesn’t have silicones near the top of the ingredients list. Dimethicone is the 6th ingredient in Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Conditioner so I wasn’t expecting much, but my hair was impressively soft afterwards. The fatty alcohols (stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol) give the softness, along with stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, a cationic surfactant. These ingredients stick onto hair to form a smooth coat, but they’re easier to wash out than silicones so they won’t cause as much buildup. The last few damaged inches of my bra-strap-length hair worked better with a silicone serum added, though the conditioner worked great alone for the rest of my hair. If your hair is a bit shorter, finer or just doesn’t play well with silicones this conditioner should work fantastically, but if you’re a silicone fiend you’ll need a second product.
With an oily scalp, I’ve always conditioned below the ears only. Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Conditioner contains zinc pyrithione though, so the instructions tell you to massage it into your scalp as well. For the sake of a thorough review, I tried it once, but it made my roots go greasy before the end of the day. If you don’t have an oily scalp it might work well, but it’s not for me.
Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Shampoo kept my dandruff at bay without irritating my scalp, causing oily roots or drying out my scalp, so I’m very impressed. The conditioner left my hair soft, but since it’s a fair bit pricier than a regular drugstore conditioner (almost twice the price) and it’s too rich to use on my oily scalp, I wouldn’t rush to buy it. If your scalp can handle conditioner though, it might be worth it for an extra boost of dandruff-blitzing zinc pyrithione.
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