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Hair's fountain of youth

A newly developed Keratin-based anti-ageing hair care product may be a winning ticket for New Zealand-based company Keratec, promoting healthier, shinier hair that is protected against sunlight and other environmental hazards that can damage and prematurely age the hair.

Keratec IFP is derived from a unique keratin protein fraction which the company claims is highly effective at maintaining the youthful structure and condition of hair, from the root – where hair is generally in the best condition – to the tip. It forms a protective shield around the hair, rebuffing UV radiation and pollution and thus keeping the underlying hair healthy and youthful.

To test the ingredient against UVB radiation, Keratec contracted the research provider Canesis Network Ltd. to conduct experiments involving tensile testing on human hair and tryptophan analysis by fluorescence spectroscopy (The amino acid tryptophan is destroyed by UV light, so a decrease in tryptophan is a recognized indicator of hair damage). Treated and untreated hair was tested both in natural sunlight and in simulated UV conditions.

Results showed that untreated hair fibers were progressively damaged by exposure to UV radiation, evidenced by a decrease in the tensile strength of the hair and an observed depletion of tryptophan on the surface of the hair. However, when hair was treated with the Keratec IFP conditioner (with a rinse-off protocol), the tensile strength was not adversely affected following exposure to UV radiation. Furthermore, tryptophan levels on the hair surface were unchanged, indicating that the Keratec IFP treatment protected the hair from UV damage.

While Keratec is not unique in claiming to provide hair with comprehensive protection against UV rays, it is the first to link that protection to anti-ageing, an area that might prove highly lucrative in the hair cosmetics current market.

Though the hair care segment remains the largest in the global beauty industry in terms of value, anti-ageing products have represented the industry’s biggest growth category for some years. In 2003, Euromonitor estimated that the global market for anti-ageing skin care treatments was $6.9 billion, a figure that was growing at 11.4 percent a year.

With the baby boomer generation having more spending power than any other generation, and the growing fixation on youthful looks, many industry experts believe that the demand for anti-ageing products looks sustainable for the foreseeable future.

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