How To Create a Spectrum of Natural-looking Hair Colors
We’ve long been warned of the risks of dyeing hair at home and in salons. Products used can cause allergies and skin irritation — an estimated one percent of people have an allergy to dye. Furthermore, repeated use of some dyes has been linked to cancer. But there soon may be a solution for the growing list of salons and hair color enthusiasts searching for natural alternatives to dyes and cosmetics.
Northwestern University researchers have developed a new way to create a spectrum of natural-looking hair colors, ranging from blond to black, by using enzymes to catalyze synthetic melanin. Melanin is an enigmatic and ubiquitous material often found in the form of brown or black pigment. Northwestern’s Nathan Gianneschi, the research lead and associate director for the International Institute for Nanotechnology, said every type of organism produces melanin, making it a readily available and versatile material to use in the lab.
Synthetic melanin can create colors ranging from blond to black
“In humans, it’s in the back of our eye to help with vision, it’s in our skin to help with protecting skin cells from UV damage,” Gianneschi said. “But birds also use it as a spectacular color display — peacock feathers are made of melanin entirely.”
Gianneschi is Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering in Northwestern Engineering. Claudia Battistella, a postdoctoral fellow in Gianneschi’s lab, is the paper’s first author.
The research was published in the journal Chemistry of Materials.