Could the next generation of hair color be made with graphene?

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide dispersions and coatings on glass (image via
graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide dispersions and coatings on glass (image via
Researchers at North Western University in Evanston, Illinois, have published work in the peer-reviewed science journal Cell that suggests it’s quite possible.

Chong Luo, Lingye Zhou, Kevin Chiou, and Jiaxing Huang, all at North Western University, collaborated on the article (online now as a press corrected prof) titled, Multifunctional Graphene Hair Dye.

The upshot of their work is that “multifunctional hair dyes that leverage graphene's high surface area, flexibility, electrical and thermal conductivity, and antibacterial and barrier properties can be created to render tunable hair color as well as enhanced human comfort, health, and aesthetics,” ​according to the text.

And the post-consumer lifecycle of such a product makes a good sustainability case for using graphene: “The waste from graphene-coated hair can be recycled and repurposed for the creation of functional materials for other electronic or energy storage devices.”

Alternative formulas

The North Western University scientists conducted hair coloring research, in part, to explore an alternative to conventional hair color formulations.

In the introduction to the published article, they explain that “The majority of hair dye products permanently change the hair color by a series of oxidative, dye-forming chemical reactions under alkaline conditions.” ​And the team goes on to point out that, “Many of these molecular ingredients are toxic, and some are even carcinogenic. If they are absorbed through the skin or inhaled, they could cause allergic reactions or even more severe consequences.”

New application process

The team's proposed water-based graphene hair color product would by sprayed on to the hair, brushed through, and allowed to dry. Basically graphene would be used to coat the hair rather than change the color of the hair.

“Using carbon-particle-based pigments can avoid many problems associated with the organic dyes,” ​believe the researchers. “Ideally,” ​they write, “carbon materials should form a uniform and thin coating on hair that can sustain brushing and washing.”

Additional benefits

Because of graphene’s inherent properties, hair color like the researchers are proposing would have anti-static benefits. “With their electrical conductivity, graphene-based coatings can very effectively dissipate electrostatic charges on hair,” ​reads the article.

The researchers also believe that graphene’s heat conductivity could be a consumer benefit too. They note that “graphene-based sheets have been shown to improve interfacial thermal transport for a number of engineering applications.” ​And this could mean people using graphene-based hair color would regulate their body temperature differently: “Improving the thermal conductivity of hair can improve its thermoregulation performance, such as faster heat dissipation from the head for increased comfort.”

They also explain how durable graphene hair color can be and the fact that it can be used for trendy coloring techniques like ombre too.

To learn more, find the full article here​.



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

Related topics Formulation & Science Hair Care

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