Scientists create hair dye from Ribena blackcurrants

By Lucia Binding, news reporter
Blackcurrant skins left over in the production of Ribena have been used to create a new type of hair dye.
Scientists at the University of Leeds developed the new technique by extracting natural colouring from the waste skins.
Colour chemist Richard Blackburn said the aim was to create a more natural alternative to existing products."Because of issues and concerns around conventional dyes, we wanted to develop biodegradable alternatives that minimise potential risks to health and offer consumers a different option," he said.Blackcurrant skins contain high concentrations of anthocyanins - pigments that provide colour to many berries, flowers, fruits and vegetables."They are non-toxic, water soluble and responsible for pink, red, purple, violet and blue colours, and are widely used as natural food colourants all over the world," Dr Blackburn said."We knew they bound strongly with proteins - hair is a protein - so we thought if we could find an appropriate source of these natural colours, we might be able to dye hair."Patented technology developed by the scientists enables the pigment to be extracted from the fruit to provide intense red, purple and blue colours on hair.
Further colours can be created - including brown tones - by mixing the blackcurrant pigment with natural yellow.The colours are expected to last for at least 12 washes, similar to other semi-permanent dyes on the market, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.Dr Blackburn said the berries "represent a sustainable supply of raw material because of how much blackcurrant cordial we drink".Researchers are commercialising the groundbreaking technology through a University of Leeds spin-out company, Keracol Limited, under the brand Dr Craft.There have been concerns over whether ingredients in common synthetic hair dyes can cause cancer, and their effects on the environment are unknown.
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Some ingredients found in conventional dyes, such as paraphenylenediamine (PPD), are known irritants that can trigger allergic reactions.The new blackcurrant hair dyes are expected to go on sale by the summer.
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