The world's first green hair bleach, developed by Japanese scientists, seems to be free of the unwanted side-effects of such formulations used by millions every year.
Kenzo Koike, a chemist with Kao Corporation's Beauty Research Centre in Tokyo, has isolated an enzyme from a strain of Basidiomycete ceriporiopsis, a type of "white-rot" fungus that has also shown potential to degrade and clean up pollutants in soil.
Traditional hair bleaches rely on hydrogen peroxide. But the bleaching usually has to be repeated. Plus, hydrogen peroxide is a harsh material, whose repeated use can leave hair brittle and lifeless, with almost no sheen. It also can irritate the scalp and other parts of the body.
Those unwanted effects have set scientists on a quest for milder bleaching agents. Koike said that his new "green" hair treatment may be the long-awaited solution.
The enzyme has the added benefit of combating the effects of free radicals, highly reactive agents produced by hydrogen peroxide responsible for making hair brittle, dull, and difficult to manage.
The enzyme could be added to traditional hair bleaches to prevent hair damage, leading to haircare products that use less hydrogen peroxide, the scientist said.