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Inventing Success

By: Rachel L. Grabenhofer
Posted: February 2, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 8

Because hair is only alive at the root, innovation opportunities are somewhat limited in this area. Nonetheless, R&D is making waves in hair—literally and figuratively—and has shown innovative work via a variety of approaches; from hair shine, color, detangling, friction and hold; to lubricity, moisture, smoothness and wetting, among others. Hair care is a major focus at the TRI/Princeton research institute in New Jersey, where areas such as the influence of biological stress on hair growth, environmental effects on hair quality, hair uptake of drugs and nutrients, ethnic hair care, and analysis and quantification of damage are being explored.

Raw material developers in the industry also are exploring concepts for hair care. For example, improving hair strength was a primary focus of Cognis GmbH’s Hans-Martin Haake and team, which developed a micro-wax dispersion to provide conditioning and anti-hair breakage properties to hair. Croda’s Timothy Gao and team sought to preserve the color of hair with a broad-spectrum UV filter, whereas Cognis GmbH’s Matthias Hloucha imparted an eco-friendly aspect to hair care with a “green” microemulsion to improve the conditioning and combing performance of natural shampoos. And work by one company has shown that glycolic acid can be used to enhance the protection and manageability of hair. Others are working to reduce the harshness of hair relaxers, dyes and bleaches, and to develop actives to effectively help re-grow hair; and interestingly, Wiechers has considered hair as a route to deliver actives into the skin via the hair follicle.

Obviously, far more work is under way in these areas of hair and skin care than can be described in just a few paragraphs—although the examples given here are highly impressive. Such a level of invention requires equally advanced means to substantiate the efficacy and ensure the safety of such materials. R&D had a busy year of development in this area as well.

To the Brink

As conceptualization, engineering, formulating and testing continue to unlock secrets, ideas are built on them that take the industry to the brink of what’s next. So, what might that future hold? Following are a few of this author’s best guesses.

Gaining stability: While work has already been under way to stabilize sunscreens, new approaches continually emerge that improve upon the ones before.