Grey hair could soon be a passe, thanks to scientists who claim to have created a pill from a fruit extract that prevents the inevitable, and most apparent, sign of ageing.
After more than a decade of trials, the daily drug --developed by a team at global cosmetics giant L'Oreal -- is expected to go on sale within four years, the 'Daily Express' newspaper reported.
L'Oreal hopes it will lead it to victory in the race for the world's eight billion pounds hair colour market, in which both sexes reach for bottles of dye.Bruno Bernard, head of hair biology at the company, said: "We think it will have a market among men as well as women. We intend people to take it in the same way as a dietary supplement. It won't be expensive."
The drug uses a compound from an unidentified fruit that mimics tyrosinase-related protein 2, an enzyme that protects pigmentation production; it aims to prevent a process called oxidative stress, when hair cells succumb to harmful anti-oxidants and go grey, say the scientists.
Bernard added: "Ideally you would take it for your whole life but realistically we would encourage people to start using it before their hair goes grey because we don't think it can reverse the process once it has started."
Hundreds of volunteers have been helping to test the safety of the pill. But, the team says it will only be able to demonstrate its true effectiveness after it has been on the market for at least a decade.
The formula is expected to be unveiled at a science conference in May 2013 but it is already sparking interest among experts.
Prof Mike Philpott of the Centre for Cutaneous Research at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said there was "a very strong market for new ways to stop hair greying" but he was unsure if this drug would prove popular.
Prof Des Tobin of Bradford University's Centre for Skin Science, who was the first to grow human hair pigment cells in a laboratory, said: "It's not clear if replacing the enzyme really is the answer. But Bernard's team are one of the largest groups in the world looking at this and they have a very good knowledge of how the hair follicle works."