Better hair care products in the offing

August 18th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 18 (IANS) The first detailed microscopic analysis of the changes in individual strands of hair when they interact with one another, will be the key to developing improved shampoos, conditioners, and other products for repairing damaged hair, according to researchers. Despite the increasing availability of new hair care products, with a market of $60 billion, many products are inadequate for tackling today’s rigorous hair treatments, researchers said.

“Given all the new hair treatments out there, there’s a growing need to make hair feel more natural, especially for women,” said study co-author Eva Max, a doctoral student in chemistry at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

She noted, however, that researchers still are scrambling to put hair care on a firm scientific basis. The research involves “haptics”, the science of touch - how the subjective perception of touch connects to objective surface properties of hair and other materials

“For the first time, we present an experimental setup that allows measuring the subtle forces, both physical and chemical, that arise when single hairs slide past each other or are pressed against each other,” Max said. “The findings will help provide clearer strategies for optimising hair care products.”

Max points out that conventional methods for testing the effectiveness of hair care products involve measuring the forces required to comb hair under standardised lab conditions. Test volunteers are also asked to assess hair feel, but this approach is largely subjective. A more scientific way to study hair conditioning is needed, the researchers say.

In the new study, the researchers invented a unique technology for analysing hair that involves mounting individual hair fibres on a cantilever tip of an atomic force microscope and measuring their interactions as they touch each other.

“The system will allow scientists to explore how different hair care products affect hair-to-hair interactions so that these products can be optimised in a more systematic fashion,” Max says.

The researchers used this new technique to analyse hair samples collected from volunteers. The samples, which were previously bleached, ranged from light blond to dark blonde in colour.

These findings were presented Sunday at the American Chemical Society’s 236th National Meeting.

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