Flakes are no fun.

Executives at the OUAI beauty brand were well aware of that and all of the stigma that comes with having dandruff.

“We always joke that dandruff goes down in the DMs,” says Hannah Beals, Vice President of Marketing at OUAI, explaining that since they launched their Detox Shampoo a few years ago, thousands of customers have privately asked the brand via DM if it helps with dandruff.

“We realized pretty quickly that we had a big opportunity there,” Hannah said. “This was obviously a concern that a lot of our customers were suffering from, but also something that they were trying to keep low-key — they didn’t want to put it on the comments and they wanted to ask about it offline. There’s a fair bit of shame tied up with conditions like dandruff and acne.”

After surveying the OUAI community on Instagram, the brand, which is owned by P&G Beauty, received more than 3,000 requests within a matter of minutes for an anti-dandruff shampoo. Next, they dug into market insights and research on dandruff.

“When we saw that dandruff affects one out of every five people and that 80% of people suffer from scalp issues, we felt we had a problem we could solve,” Hannah says. “Something that’s so special about OUAI is that we make a lot of problems relatable, fun, and approachable. If there was any brand that could take the shame out of dandruff and make the conversation a little more humorous and open, and make people feel like they’re not alone, we could do that — and have a unique point of view on dandruff and the formula itself, too. That was how we got inspired to bring OUAI Anti-Dandruff Shampoo to life.”

Bottles of Ouai Anti Dandruff Shampoo

To market it, OUAI leaned into the stats about the commonality of dandruff, showing that more people suffer from it than others likely realize. They used taglines like “one out of your five friends is flaky” and “stop flaking on your plans.” OUAI hopes that by being humorous and approachable, more people would be inspired to share their stories about dandruff.

“We leaned really heavily into a user-generated content strategy for the launch, and so instead of showing models in our assets, we leaned into the community that helped us develop the products across all different genders, races, and hair types so we could tell their story on how dandruff affects them to help erase the stigma,” Hannah says.

Formulas spotlight 2% salicylic acid as the active ingredient, which is very effective for relieving symptoms of dandruff. It isn’t as thick or chalky as zinc can sometimes be, another active used to fight dandruff, Hannah notes. The formula also includes propanediol caprylate.

“It’s a really cool ingredient; it almost works as a catfish for dandruff,” Hannah says. “It imitates the dandruff-causing bacteria to create a diversion and have the bad bacteria get attracted to that and then allow the salicylic acid to break it down and leave the scalp feeling relieved and refreshed. The two together make it effective from a performance standpoint.”

OUAI conducted clinical testing to ensure the product’s performance, with 100% of participants agreeing they saw fewer flakes, and it helped reduce irritation after 20 days of use.

“There are certain conditions like dandruff where when they’re stigmatized they don’t get the right treatment from the beauty industry,” Hannah says. “There’s not a lot of options that are super attractive, so we wanted to change that conversation and offer a new kind of shampoo.”

Packaging has always been important to OUAI, and the new anti-dandruff shampoo was no exception.

“Minimal, chic, very premium packaging is something you expect from OUAI but it’s not something you often see in the dandruff category,” Hannah said. “A lot of us — when we think of dandruff shampoo — we think of our dad’s dandruff shampoo, those noisy (looking) drugstore bottles. We wanted to create something chic and beautiful, so when you have it in your shower it doesn’t scream, ‘I have dandruff.’”

Another differentiator is the fragrance. OUAI used their Cape Town fragrance, which features notes of ginger, basil, and spearmint.

“It’s really invigorating, a premium earthy fragrance,” Hannah says. “We wanted to bring a fragrance experience to a category that isn’t often known for its fragrance. It has an incredible lather, so the whole sensorial experience is more than you would typically get from a dandruff shampoo.”