New molecules for beauty and hair care: Interview with The Unseen

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kiran Tutod: Hair Stylist // Photographer: Gabor Szantai
Kiran Tutod: Hair Stylist // Photographer: Gabor Szantai
A company that works with materials in order to create visual representations of data is launching a hair dye that changes colour in keeping with changes in the temperature around it.

The F I R E Dye is responsive to you and your environment by changing colour to passing temperature fluctuations​,” explains The Unseen​, the company behind the new molecules.

The dye product is available in multiple colour ranges, from bright red to subtle pastels, and the application of the dye is currently semi-permanent, lasting for a few washes.

We spoke to The Unseen’s founder, Lauren Bowker, who explains that the product, and the company’s work more broadly, has potential to revolutionise the beauty industry’s ability to respond to consumer demands for personalised, customisable beauty.

We realised everybody has a unique thermal profile, similar to how we have unique thumbprints. What if we have a product that responds to these individual profiles?​” she says.

The Unseen’s dye product is a key example of brands working outside of beauty being able to offer whole new areas of innovation for the industry.

Perfect timing for F I R E Dye

Bowker explains that on initially releasing details of the F I R E Dye last year, she realised The Unseen had tapped into a major consumer trend.

When we launched the F I R E Dye it was the perfect storm - technology was great, story was great and demand was there at the time to make it a huge success​,” she says.

But Bowker also suggests that while social media meant her product could reach a wide audience, she reckons the trend for baring all online may actually begin to shift.

“I think it’s more interesting when a brand doesn’t show everything up front - not see every moment of every day of what’s being created. That to me is more interesting​,” she explains.

In a way, social media has allowed people to share and express and allow people who wouldn’t have a platform to have a platform.

“But for me I’m more of a hermit, and I want to maintain that curiosity and secrecy of what we do in the lab. There should some areas of production that magic that should be unseen.”

How does it work?

Bowker explains what happens within the bonds when an environmental change takes place.

In this case, she says, the environmental change is a change in temperature, which we can tune to minute fluctuations or lengthened ones.

Essentially, the active part of the dye system is a complex carbon based molecule which undergoes a reversible reaction with itself.

Above a certain temperature, one of the molecules forms is more stable than the other, and so a reaction takes place producing a molecule with a slightly different absorption of light, and thus a different colour.

The company is set to launch the dye in partnership with a major brand (they can’t yet confirm who the brand is), and the product should hit the shelves during next year.

Beauty: innovation held back by regulation

Bowker says that beauty is a ‘really interesting place to play’ when innovating with new materials, due to the creativity and fast pace of the industry’s trends.

However, she believes that the pace of trends is not reflected in the pace of innovation that is possible at a chemical level.

Due to regulatory demands, formulators tend to stick to ingredients that are already established, rather than innovating novel products at that level. This though, is the level where there is true potential for innovation.

Lots of people are using ingredients that are already out there - what I want to do is create new molecules that are cool, and create products that people can’t even imagine or can imagine, or don’t yet exist,​” she asserts.

Bowker will be speaking as part of the upcoming in-cosmetics Formulation Summit​, 24-25 October 2018, in London. The theme of the summit is 'Up Close and Personalised'​.

Related topics: Brand Innovation, Hair Care

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