Scientists discover seaweed-based hair dyes

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Hair dyes Cosmetics

Scientists in the UK have discovered a seaweed growing off that Shetland Island that could be used to create natural-based hair dyes.

Scientists from the University of Leeds say they have started a project with the aim of extracting chemical compounds from different species of seaweed, which will ultimately be used to create a range of different hair dyes.

The natural compounds will be used to replace synthetic compounds, which have in the past been linked to allergic reactions and even some forms of cancer.

Alternative to synthetic compounds

“We are hoping to be able to offer people a real alternative to hair dyes that contain chemicals which are known to be very bad for you,”​ said project leader Dr Richard Blackburn.

Blackburn underlined his hopes to create a full spectrum of hair dye colors, thanks to the fact that the wide range of British seaweed species is so diverse, ultimatley leading to shades of brown, blond, red, and even black dyes.

As the project develops it is also expected to give way to a range of other personal care products, including other hair care treatments and skin care formulations.

Seaweed for protective properties

“Seaweed is especially suited to being used in cosmetics because it has evolved very clever techniques to protect itself from weathering. And cosmetics are all about aging and the elements.”​ said Dr. Blackburn.

The project will run over a course of two years at a cost of £500k ($825k) and is thought to be one of the most significant of its kind in the race to find a natural alternative to synthetic hair dye compounds.

Most noteable of these is p-phenylendiamine (PPD), which scientific research has linked to a host of health risks, most prominently allergic reactions in up to one in ten users.

Potential for big growth

The negative reputation of PPDs in hair dyes amongst consumers.combined with the growing natural trend means that cosmetics companies have pinpointed natural hair dyes as a significant area for potential growth.

Only last week American cosmetics company, Advanced Cosmetic Technologies, was awarded a patent in the US for a range of natural hair dyes which are PPD, resorcinol and ammonia free.

The company’s thirteen hair dyes are permanent, lasting up to fifty washes. Their formulation differs from the permanent hair dyes currently on the market, since a number of common ingredients have been replaced with natural plant extracts.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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