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Jiaxing Huang

Enough with the toxic hair dyes. We could use graphene instead

Most permanent hair dyes use toxic chemicals to bring about a change in color, oftentimes damaging hair in the process. And the darker the desired mane, the more chemicals needed.

To find a better way to make your blond locks black, scientists turned to graphene, a material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms that’s used in electronic devices and a variety of medical applications. They started by preparing graphene oxide—a form of graphene that involves the addition of some oxygen and hydrogen atoms—and mixing it with a gel. Then they sprayed the darkly colored gel onto samples of blond human hair and waited for the gel to dry, a process that took less than 10 minutes.

The treatment worked: The hair strands were coated in a layer of graphene roughly 2 microns thick (human hair is generally 10 to 200 microns thick)—and it stayed on even after 30 washes, the team reports today in Chem. The researchers think this method could be a safer alternative to conventional hair dyes, although more work is needed to confirm that.

You can’t go to the store and buy graphene-based hair dye today, but the scientists hope that, with more research, you’ll have that opportunity someday. And if that happens you might notice an ancillary benefit: Graphene is good at conducting electricity, so you can say goodbye to static flyaway strands.