Nav: Home

Gentler, safer hair dye based on synthetic melanin

April 30, 2020

EVANSTON, Ill. -- With the coronavirus pandemic temporarily shuttering hair salons, many clients are appreciating -- and missing -- using hair dye to cover up grays or touch up roots. Whether done at a salon or at home, frequent coloring, however, can damage hair and might pose health risks from potentially cancer-causing dye components.

Now Northwestern University researchers have developed a new hair dye process that is much milder than traditional hair dyes. The dye uses synthetic melanin to mimic natural human hair pigmentation.

"We have worked with melanin for several years, focused on how we can capture some of its properties that naturally arise in biology. For example, as a pigment and a color element in all kinds of organisms," said Northwestern's Nathan Gianneschi, who led the research.

"In this study, our postdoctoral fellow Claudia Battistella wondered whether we could use a synthetic process to make a melanin coating on hair that would mimic the appearance of real, melanized hair in the full array of natural hair colors," Gianneschi said. "Such an approach, if done under mild conditions, could be an alternative to other kinds of hair dyes, avoiding some of the toxicity or allergies associated with those chemicals."

The research was published today (April 29) in the journal ACS Central Science.

Gianneschi is the Jacob and Rosalind Cohn Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and associate director of the International Institute of Nanotechnology. Battistella is the paper's first author.

Melanin is a group of natural pigments that give hair and skin their varied colors. With aging, melanin disappears from hair fibers, leading to color loss and graying. Most permanent hair dyes use ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, small-molecule dyes and other ingredients to penetrate the cuticle of the hair and deposit coloring. Along with being damaging to hair, these harsh substances could cause allergic reactions or other health problems in colorists and their clients.

Recently, scientists have explored using synthetic melanin to color human hair, but the process required relatively high concentrations of potentially toxic heavy metals, such as copper and iron, and strong oxidants. Gianneschi's team aimed to find a gentler, safer way to get long-lasting, natural-looking hair color with synthetic melanin.

The researchers tested different dyeing conditions for depositing synthetic melanin on hair and found that they could substitute mild heat and a small amount of ammonium hydroxide for the heavy metals and strong oxidants used in prior methods. They could produce darker hues by increasing the concentration of ammonium hydroxide, or red and gold shades by adding a small amount of hydrogen peroxide.

Overall, the conditions were similar to, or milder than, those used in commercially available hair dyes. And the natural-looking colors deposited on the hair surface, rather than penetrating the cuticle, which is less likely to cause damage. The colored layer persisted for at least 18 washes.
-end-
Gianneschi is a member of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, Simpson Querrey Institute and Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. He also is a professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering.

The study, "Mimicking natural human hair pigmentation with synthetic melanin," was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (award number FA-9550-18-1-0142) and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Northwestern University

Related Heavy Metals Articles:

Semiconductors can behave like metals and even like superconductors
The crystal structure at the surface of semiconductor materials can make them behave like metals and even like superconductors, a joint Swansea/Rostock research team has shown.
Metals could be the link to new antibiotics
Compounds containing metals could hold the key to the next generation of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of global antibiotic resistance.
Instrument may enable mail-in testing to detect heavy metals in water
MIT researchers have developed an approach called SEPSTAT, for solid-phase extraction, preservation, storage, transportation, and analysis of trace contaminants.
A new look at 'strange metals'
'Strange metals' could be the key to finally understanding high-temperature superconductors.
Flame retardants and pesticides overtake heavy metals as biggest contributors to IQ loss
Adverse outcomes from childhood exposures to lead and mercury are on the decline in the United States, likely due to decades of restrictions on the use of heavy metals, a new study finds.
Stellar heavy metals can trace history of galaxies
Astronomers have cataloged signs of nine heavy metals in the infrared light from supergiant and giant stars.
Microwave treatment is an inexpensive way to clean heavy metals from treated sewage
A team of Florida State University researchers studying new methods to remove toxic heavy metals from biosolids -- the solid waste left over after sewage treatment -- found the key is a brief spin through a microwave.
Sunscreens release metals and nutrients into seawater
Beachgoers are becoming increasingly aware of the potentially harmful effects UV filters from sunscreens can have on coral and other marine organisms when the protective lotions wash off their bodies into the ocean.
Bending the rules: A revolutionary new way for metals to be malleable
For nearly 100 years, scientists thought they understood everything there was to know about how metals bend.
How light steers electrons in metals
Researchers in the Department of Physics of ETH Zurich have measured how electrons in so-called transition metals get redistributed within a fraction of an optical oscillation cycle.
More Heavy Metals News and Heavy Metals Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.