Cracking idea to thicken hair with windscreen fixer

The Sunday Times 12 January 2014

SCIENTISTS working for one of the world’s biggest cosmetics companies claim to have developed a shampoo that thickens hair by using technology devised to repair chipped car windscreens.

Experts at L’Oréal say filloxane, a new ingredient in a forthcoming range of hair products, works like the silica gel particles injected into chips in windscreens by getting inside individual strands of hair before bulking them up.

The “sol-gel” technology, which L’Oréal says causes strands of hair to become more rigid and therefore to feel thicker, was unveiled at the Interactive Materials Research conference in Lübeck, Germany, in the autumn and has drawn a guarded welcome from hair experts.

“I would say it is a breakthrough,” said Franz Wortmann, professor of fibre and textile technology at Manchester University, who runs a hair cosmetic research group that works for some of L’Oréal’s rivals.

“What makes it interesting from a chemical point of view is that they have produced this glass-like three-dimensional structure that gets into the hair because it is positively charged and hair is negatively charged, so it sticks there.”

The first products incorporating filloxane, branded as Elvive Fibrology, will arrive in the shops this month.

The National Health Service says about 8m women in the UK are affected by hair loss, most as a result of hormonal changes or ageing. One study of 1,008 women found hair loss in about a sixth of those aged 30-49, in a quarter of those between 50 and 69 and in 28% of those aged 70-79.

The popularity of hair extensions has also taken a toll. Celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, the actress, and the socialite Nancy Dell’Olio have publicly complained of thinning hair as a result of such extensions.

L’Oréal expects to publish details of its latest research into filloxane this year.

Hair strands are made up of bundles of filaments called microfibrils, which are cemented together into a macrofibril. L’Oréal says filloxane interacts with the proteins in microfibrils to form a bulkier matrix.

The data presented at Lübeck suggested that a shampoo containing a 10% concentration of filloxane could expand each hair strand by more than 60% and the product remained in the hair for up to 10 washes.

Elisabeth Bouhadana, a L’Oréal scientist involved in the project, said: “The integration of stabilised filloxane into a shampoo, conditioner and hair booster suitable for home use was a major challenge for us, which is why it has taken so long to develop.”

Des Tobin, head of the centre for skin sciences at Bradford University, said: “It would be difficult to see how the highly compact nature of hair cortex could tolerate an expansion equal to 62%.

“A key measure would be to see a side-by-side comparison of the same hair fibre before and after treatment.”