March 30, 2009 It's not the first area that springs to mind when you think "green research", but a natural alternative to regular hair bleach may have been discovered. For everyone who consistently bleaches their hair with hydrogen peroxide, risking the healthy sheen of the hair is just part and parcel. However, Japanese scientists have come up with a possible alternative that could achieve the same result without the damage.
For the sake of beauty, people lighten their hair with hydrogen-peroxide based products even though it can be extremely damaging. Repeated use seems to be the worst problem. Signs of damage can include hair loss, split ends and a number of ‘fly-aways’ caused by brittle hair that has been snapped off. Regular bleach, usually a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, has also been reported as a cause of grey hair. There has been much debate and news about the negative side-effects of hair dyes that use ingredients with both of these chemicals with no real alternative yet.
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Peroxide has strong oxidization properties that are effective in breaking down melanin, the black pigment that gives hair its darker color. The new “green” bleach is made with an isolated enzyme from a strain of white rot (Basidiomycete Ceriporiopsis) that actually has the benefit of fighting free radical damage from hydrogen peroxide.
“I think this is the first enzyme found that degrades melanin,” said Kenzo Koike, Ph.D, from the Kao Corporation’s Beauty Research Center in Tokyo. "It could be added to traditional hair bleaches to prevent hair damage, leading to hair care products that use less hydrogen peroxide.
Most alternative ‘natural’ hair dyes are henna or henna-based. They contain no ammonia or peroxides, so do not have the capability of lightening hair. Other natural answers to lightening hair include home brews of lemon and chamomile tea and then lying in the sun. The new “green” bleach would still contain a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to “complete the chemical reaction”.
At this time, the research is slow because of access to only small amounts of the enzyme needed. More testing will be done to examine the mechanism of the reaction the enzyme has on melanin. The researchers soon hope to be doing clinical trials on humans and eventually it may usher in safer hair dye products.
The findings were presented by Kenzo Koike, Ph.D. at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.