Nanotech

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Dyeing of hair is a basic part of creating a new look. But the process can leave the smooth, silky strands of hair damaged. Researchers at the Northwestern University found a way to solve the damaging after-effects of hair dye.

Hair Dye Process

The process of hair dyeing involves the opening of the outer layer of the hair called cuticle. Harsh chemicals, such ammonia and bleach, in commercial hair dyes pry the cuticle open to allow the coloring molecules to interact inside the hair. Once the coloring molecules and the inner part of the hair make contact, a reaction occurs that produces the vibrant effect of the hair dye. Unfortunately, the process damages the hair and makes it more fragile.

Graphene Improves Hair Dye Process

As an innovative move, the research team at Northwestern used graphene sheets to improve the quality of hair dyes. Compared to the coloring molecules in commercial hair dyes, graphene sheets are soft and flexible that wrap around the hair for an even coating. The graphene sheets are made from edible polymer binders that ensures the coloring effect lasts for at least 30 washes, the standard requirement for permanent hair dye. The sheets are non-toxic, anti-static, and winter-weather resistant to reduce flyaways.

“It’s similar to the difference between a wet paper towel and a tennis ball. The paper towel is going to wrap and stick much better. The ball-like particles are much more easily removed with shampoo,” said Jiaxing Huang, the lead author of the study and a professor of materials science and engineering in McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern.

In addition to having no damaging or toxic effects to the hair, the formulation of Prof. Huang also prevents the particles from being inhaled or from being able to pass the skin barrier. This is because the particles are significantly larger compared to the coloring molecules in standard hair dyes.