Therapeutic efficacy of anti-dandruff shampoos: a randomized clinical trial comparing products based on potentiated zinc pyrithione and zinc pyrithione/climbazole

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Aug;35(4):381-7. doi: 10.1111/ics.12055. Epub 2013 May 24.


Objectives: Dandruff is a chronic, relapsing scalp condition that negatively impacts the quality of life of sufferers. Regular use of anti-fungal shampoos represents a proven therapeutic strategy to improve the most common symptoms of flakes and itch. Two recent approaches for enhancing the efficacy of anti-fungal shampoos are maximizing bio-availability of the active material or the addition of a second active material. Our aim is to compare the therapeutic efficacy of these two approaches - maximization of bio-availability of the zinc pyrithione (ZPT) active material or the combination of ZPT with a secondary active material.

Methods: The anti-fungal potency of shampoos representing each of these approaches was evaluated in vitro using a standard microbiology method. Spatial delivery of ZPT particles in the follicular infundibulum was assessed in vivo using a novel confocal microscopy methodology. Clinical efficacy was assessed in a randomized, double-blind trial involving 620 male and female subjects using scalp flaking and epidermal histamine level as endpoints.

Results: The shampoo formula with maximized ZPT bio-availability known as the Potentiated ZPT formula exhibited greater anti-fungal potency than the Dual Active shampoo containing both ZPT and climbazole. The Potentiated ZPT formula also delivered more ZPT to the lower infundibulum than the Dual Active shampoo. A 4-week treatment with the Potentiated ZPT formula resulted in superior clinical efficacy compared with the Dual Active product at all 4 weekly time points for both flaking and epidermal histamine endpoints.

Conclusion: These results highlight the critical role that the shampoo vehicle plays in realizing full potency of active materials. By optimizing the delivery vehicle, the enhanced anti-fungal potency and the maximized spatial delivery of active materials result in greater symptomatic improvement than a product with two active materials. The therapeutic efficacy of a product based on a complex delivery vehicle such as a shampoo must be considered from a full-product perspective rather than just the active system as the non-active components of the composition will often play a significant role in the overall product pharmacology and resultant efficacy.

Keywords: anti-dandruff shampoo; anti-fungal activity; delivery; infundibular delivery; skin barrier; skin physiology/structure.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Hair Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Hair Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Organometallic Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Organometallic Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Pyridines / administration & dosage
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use*


  • Hair Preparations
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Pyridines
  • pyrithione zinc