Article by: Perry Romanowski

Another in our continuing series that endeavors to teach cosmetic chemists how to look at a product label and see what they can determine about the cosmetic ingredients used in the formula.

In this post we will look at Pantene Pro-V Brunette Expressions Daily Color Enhancing Shampoo. Pantene is one of the most successful and popular shampoo products on the market and for good reason, it’s a great formula. Let’s see what in it.

LOI – Brunette Expression

Water, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, Dimethicone, Laureth-4, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Polyquaternium-6, Trihydroxystearin, Mica, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 6, Acid Green 25, Red 4, Benzoic Acid, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.

1% line

The trick to figuring out the primary functional ingredients in a formula is to find the 1% line. This is the line at which the concentration of ingredients is at 1% or lower. In this particular formula, the 1% line is likely after the Dimethicone. In previous versions of this shampoo formula the shampoo patent calls for 1% dimethicone. For most mainstream products fragrance will not be included at a level above 1%.

What the ingredients do

Now that we know the 1% line, here’s what the ingredients do.

Cleansing ingredients
These are the ingredients that make the hair clean.  P&G has optimized their surfactant blend to create an incredibly creamy and rich lather.  One of the best systems in the business (as far as acceptance by consumers goes).

  • Water
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
  • Ammonium Xylenesulfonate – Secondary surfactant to reduce irritation
  • Laureth-4 – Could be to improve creaminess & reduce irritation

Conditioning ingredients
These ingredients are left behind on the hair and give it a conditioned feeling.  While it is not advertised as such this is actually a 2-in-1 shampoo formula (shampoo+conditioner)

  • Dimethicone – Add conditioning
  • Polyquaternium-6 – Cationic conditioner
  • Panthenol – Moisturizer though could just be a claims ingredient
  • Panthenyl Ethyl Ether – Supposed moisturizer but I’m skeptical
  • Trihydroxystearin – Emollient to affect foam feel

Since this is supposed to be for brunettes they wanted to give it a shimmering brown color.  These colors might stain the hair a bit but they are primarily used to make an otherwise white shampoo look brown.

  • Mica – White shimmering color
  • Iron Oxides – Brown coloring
  • Titanium Dioxide – White shimmering color
  • Yellow 6
  • Acid Green 25
  • Red 4
  • Ferric Ferrocyanide

Preservative system
They certainly have a more complicated preservative system and seem to have gone out of their way to avoid Formaldehyde donors like DMDM Hydanotin and Parabens.  I wonder what the reason behind this was.  Most likely to make it a more global formula because those preservatives are not acceptable everywhere.

  • Disodium EDTA – Chealating agent helps preservative
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Sodium Benzoate


  • Fragrance – Signature fragrance of Pantene

Formula adjusters

  • Sodium Chloride – Thickener
  • Citric Acid – pH adjuster to get formula ~pH 5.5

As I said the Pantene formula is one of the best in class in the market and it’s an excellent one for formulators to try and emulate and beat.  It performs very well in blinded consumer testing.  Incidentally, while this formula is marketed as for brunettes there is not much difference between this SKU and the white normal version.  A brunette could use either formula without noticing a performance difference.


  1. Avatar
    Kate M

    Pantene is terrible, so it annoys me it was on here for so many of the options. Its actually a cheap with cheap ingredients. If you really want to preserve your color, and find something that makes your hair look even better, I have tried the Shielo Color Protect Shampoo. I always color my hair just a bit, and this has saved me soooo much money on color jobs at the salon. It keeps the color and you dont see it going down the drain when you shower. The Shielo one is the only one that doesnt bleed color down the drain.

    1. Avatar

      Pantene does not use “cheap” ingredients. I don’t work for P&G and never have but what you say is mistaken. Just take a look at the ingredient list of the Shielo Shampoo that you seem to like.

      Cocamide MEA – used in Pantene
      Cocamidopropyl Betaine – used in Pantene
      Glycol distearate, Disodium EDTA, Dimethicone – all used in Pantene

      I’m certain Shielo makes a perfectly good shampoo but there is nothing inherently wrong with Pantene. On a blinded basis (where people don’t know what they are using) Pantene consistently scores as one of the best shampoo formulas available.

  2. Avatar

    How did you know that the linked patent was for a previous version of this particular shampoo? How can we find the right patents for the products we wish to emulate when the patents do not have brand names listed? What is the best way to search patents in such a case?

    1. Avatar

      I know this because I worked on a project which required me to learn all the patents in this formulation segment. The P&G patent was particularly significant. Often the patents are written right on the bottle. Just get the number and look it up using something like Google Patents.

      1. Avatar

        Excellent! I did not know that patent #’s were at times on the bottles. Thank you so much for your speedy reply, much appreciated!

  3. Avatar

    I find myself enjoying this website more and more every day.

    Thanks for being so interesting!

  4. Avatar
    Diana Lee

    How come Pantene has such a bad rep online? I personally find it leaves a very sticky residue on my hair…

    1. Avatar

      Pantene has a bad rep because it is the #1 selling mass market shampoo brand. So every salon brand is going to spread the idea to stylists that Pantene is awful. They make up thinks like “Pantene is putting plastic on your hair” or “Pantene makes your hair fall out”. Neither of these are true but you’ll find it said on the Internet.

      And since stylists are told this by sales reps for salon brands they are going to tell their clients. Stylists also will ask their clients which brand they use and when they tell them Pantene (because it is the most popular brand) they selectively notice bad hair treated with Pantene.

      One interesting thing to note is that Herbalessence and Head n Shoulders do not have the same negative reputation as Pantene. Why? Look at the LOIs.

      They use exactly the same shampoo and conditioner bases.

      1. Avatar
        Diana Lee

        Ah it makes sense because my friend was a hairdresser and she did tell me many times Pantene is bad for your hair lol.

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