Have you ever walked out of a salon with warm, honey-brown hair, only to look in the mirror a month later and find it brassy and coppery-looking? Or had your perfect, vibrant red tresses turn orange? What about gray hairs – are you finding it hard to keep up with them? Coloring them one day and then finding a whole new crop of gray roots the next? Well, a revolution in hair coloring is on the way that could not only solve all the problems with traditional hair dyes but also possibly reverse the growth of gray hairs through the use of nanotechnology.
If you’ve ever faced any struggles when it comes to coloring your hair, you’re not alone. Hair coloring has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry all over the globe, yet for some reason it uses the same technology that’s been used for over 150 years. That’s right – when you get your hair dyed at the salon, your stylist is using the same technology that was used to dye women’s hair when the Civil War was going on! While some might insist that this only proves that the methods are tried-and-true, there is much evidence to the contrary that proves changes are in need.
Permanent hair dyes use a chemical called p-phenylenediamine (PPD), which, when exposed to air, produces a darker, browner shade in the hair. Though effective, the results can be difficult to control – the medium has to be mixed just right to get a specific desired color – and the process can get very messy. Another problem with this approach is that the chemical has a superficial effect, dying the outside of the hair. Eventually, the dye begins to fade, leaving unattractive results. If you’ve ever seen anyone with unnatural-looking hair that has a slight orange tinge, it’s the result of fading hair color.
It’ s definitely time that hair coloring technology evolved a little. Enter nanotechnology, a new technology currently in development may have the solutions women everywhere are searching for. Scientists are studying the use of nano-sized hair colorants. Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on atomic and molecular scale. In this new application of nanotechnology, pigments 1/5000th the width of a single human hair are applied to the hair. They penetrate individual hair shafts and remain trapped in the keratin strands, creating long-lasting color from within the hair itself, rather than chemically altering the hair’s color. Using these nano-sized pigments to color the hair offers a greater variety of hair colors that will be more natural-looking and will not fade like traditional dyes.
The benefits of this new technology go far, far beyond being simply an improvement over traditional hair dyes. The use of nanotechnology could conceivably stop, prevent, or reverse gray hair. Hair turns gray due to the buildup of hydrogen peroxide – a substance naturally produced by hair cells over time. Eventually, the buildup blocks the production of melanin in the hair, the natural pigment that gives our hair its color. The result is essentially “colorless” hairs – the grays we try so hard to hide. Scientists are using nanotechnology to develop substances that might be able to stimulate genes into producing melanin. In the future, a woman with a full head of white hair might be able to start growing hair that is her natural hair color again. Considering how long developments in hair color technology have been at a standstill, the implications of such technology are incredible. Women may never have to worry about gray hair again.
As with everything, nanotechnology has its risks. Since this technology is relatively new in all fields, not just cosmetic, scientists are still uncertain about exactly what the risks entail. More research has to be done to study the long-term effects. Concerns have already been raised. Nano particles are so small that not only can they easily be inhaled, entering the lungs, but they can also be absorbed by the skin. They may enter the blood stream and cause reactions in the immune system. The particles may even be able to pass the blood-brain barrier, and there is no telling what could happen should they reach the brain and central nervous system. Nano particles are small on an atomical and molecular scale, and the smaller particles get, the more likely it is that they develop new chemical properties.
Scientists can’t yet predict what might happen with long-term or widespread use. The public has already shown itself hesitant to embrace the use of nanotechnology, citing the possible health risks as well as the uncertainty scientists still have with the technology. When it comes to the applications of the technology in hair coloring innovation, women are divided. Some are disdainful of what they believe are wild claims made in an attempt to leech more money off of unwitting consumers, and others fear the possible health repercussions.
But others are hopeful at the changes this new technology might be able to bring. As with any new breakthroughs, the issue of how to control it and how to utilize it to bring forth the desired results need to be further explored. Certainly, its potential is promising. Only time will tell whether nanotechnology becomes a viable hair coloring solution in the future.
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