Protecting Hair with Natural Keratin Biopolymers

Consumers are becoming ever more conscious of the damaging effects of environmental insults such as pollution and sunlight. Such concerns have helped to establish key trends within skin care and now are fueling innovation within the hair care arena where antiaging and antipollution technology is becoming increasingly relevant.

Hair is a complex biological system that has been designed by nature to perform specific functions. The intricate structure of hair is being discussed more than ever in articles and scientific meetings involving cosmetic chemists. Increasingly, attention is directed to the relationship between the structure and function of hair and how this impacts on ensuring the delivery of effective and innovative ingredients.

Hair consists principally of keratin protein and a small amount of lipid. The chemistry of hair can be modified by aging, by lengthening and by environmental insults such as pollution and sunlight. When the hair chemistry is modified, some of the natural properties of hair are compromised. The mechanism by which this damage occurs is understood now more than ever. For example, UV radiation photo-oxidizes proteins. Protein photo-oxidation leads to cleavage of disulfide bonds, cross-linking of proteins, and breaking of thioester bonds, resulting in the release of bound surface lipids. These reactions lead to a deterioration of the hair properties, noticeable to consumers in the form of poor manageability, dryness and brittleness, loss of shine and, in extreme cases, decreased strength (fiber breakage). Actives that can address these negative issues and prevent them from occurring clearly have antiaging efficacy and have the potential to maintain youthful hair.

This article discusses two strategies to counter the damaging effects of age and pollution on hair: UV protection and the implementation of sacrificial target components. Both strategies are employed in a biopolymer made from intact keratin proteins and keratin peptides from the wool of New Zealand sheep.

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