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Benefit Cosmetics LLC

For any woman who has sighed with exasperation over her grey hairs,
it is a thought that really makes the mind boggle. What if you could
ditch the dye and regain the hair colour that you grew up with?

Surely, you might think, this is the stuff of science fiction. But
according to the experts at Centre Charles Zviak, L'Oreal's research
and development HQ, it is science, but by no means fiction. If the
company's plans come good, going grey will one day be a thing of the

The research centre at Clichy, in the northern suburbs of
Paris, is smart and modern, though otherwise unexceptional. British
journalists have never been invited here before, but last week I was
welcomed into the light and sunny conference room to hear the
extraordinary story of the latest advances in hair colour.

L'Oreal says a treatment that turns your grey locks back to their original hue will be available within 10 years

Colourful claim: L'Oreal says a treatment that
turns your grey locks back to their original hue will be available
within 10 years

'Hair is an enigma,' says Patricia Pineau, L'OrĂˆal's Research
Communications Director. 'It is a fibre, a material with physical
properties. It is also a living organ that grows, greys and falls out.
How can we fight this? Do we need a physical approach or a biological

This is a topic with which their scientists have grappled for
some time. It's 100 years since Eugene Schueller first established
L'Oreal on the Rue Royale in Paris, and the intricacies of hair colour
have always been the company's overriding concern. It puts a huge
amount of money - some £581 million last year - into research, double
that of its competitors.

Pineau explains further. Hair, like skin, contains
melanocytes, pigment cells that give it colour. 'When hair goes grey,
there is a progressive disappearance of the melanocytes from the hair.
While there are still melanocytes in the hair, there is still hope that
it could be re-pigmented.' It is tantalising, but that is all she will
say for the time being. The treatment should be available within ten
years, and is likely to comprise an oral element, backed up by a range
of haircare products.

But won't L'Oreal be shooting themselves in the foot by developing
this new technology? If women no longer need to have their hair
coloured regularly, what's the future for their huge global
hair-colouring business? They won't say. Perhaps, given the astonishing
nature of the new discovery, it will be worth it.

In the meantime, L'Oreal has made another scientific breakthrough, to tackle
damage to hair caused by dyeing, which leaves it rougher and more
susceptible to snagging and breaking.

Hair dye has traditionally relied on ammonia to remove colour
from hair, before the dye pigments get to work, explains Jean-Marc
Ascione, L'Oreal's dapper Research International Hair Colour Director.

Ammonia does a great job, but it smells and stings. The company has invented a
new hair colourant called INOA [ Innovation No Ammonia] that is far
gentler on the hair, to the extent that it improves its condition with
every use and can - almost - return hair to its virgin, pre-dyed
condition. The first batch recently became available to salons and sold
out in a flash.

The darker dyes still contain PPD [paraphenylenediamine], the
contentious if effective hair-dye chemical that can cause allergic
dermatitis, but in other ways, INOA is a seen as a major advance.

'This is exciting because it's revolutionary,' says celebrity
hair colourist Jo Hansford, who has been trialling INOA at her Mayfair
salon. 'It is much less aggressive and there is far less fade, which is
a huge bonus for the customer, especially for women with fine hair.'

To find a salon offering INOA, call 0800 072 6699, or visit


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