When I was 15 years old, my aunt told me to never dye my hair. "It'll never be the same again," she said. "You'll damage it beyond repair." Although her scare tactic wasn't entirely sound, there is some truth in it. Permanently dyeing your hair often involves harsh chemical components — like ammonia, peroxide, or paraphenylenediamine — that can make your hair weak and brittle, changing the structure of your strands in the process; it could even cause allergic reactions. The more you dye it, the more damage you create. This is just a necessary evil most of us who color our hair accept... but we might not have to.
A research team at Northwestern University recently discovered an alternative to the damaging dyes of yore, and it could mean a very bright future for hair color innovation. Materials scientist Jiaxing Huang and his research team recently published a study in the journal Chem hypothesizing that a naturally black carbon material, graphene, can be used as a successful hair dyeing agent. Their experiment included spritzing a platinum blond hair sample with a graphene and water-based solution, brushing it, then letting it dry (either by air or blowdryer). The result: natural-looking black hair.
Huang and his team found that the new color, which coats strands rather than penetrating them, can last up to 30 washes, which technically qualifies it as a permanent dye alternative. But what's even more intriguing is that this dyeing dupe is pretty magical for more than the one damage-free reason. This nontoxic substance is also anti-static, antibacterial — so you shouldn't have to wash your hair as often as you're used to — and can regulate heat on your head. And just as a very extra bonus: The carbon coating carries an electric current, which means that somewhere in the near future, you'll be able to wear color-changing hair accessories controlled by an LED source.
Of course, there's a catch and that is that at the moment, this graphene dye only works for dyeing your hair black or brown. Also, don't rush to your local Ulta to search for a box of this stuff already on the shelf. Huang told Co.Design that he's "optimistic" about the graphene solution eventually being sold in stores — but until then, we'll have to keep those standing six-week salon appointments intact. In the meantime, stock up on some Olaplex, do your research, and cross your fingers for this innovation to find its way to your scalp sooner rather than later.