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A study of the photolightening mechanism of red hair with visible and ultraviolet light: comparison with blond hair

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Abstract:

The photolightening behavior of red hair was investigated. Red hair was found to lighten to a similar extent by irradiation from both ultraviolet (UV) and visible (VIS) light. Under the same irradiating conditions, blond hair was lightened by VIS light but did not lighten by UV light until it was washed after irradiation. These different photolightening behaviors of red and blond hair are supposed to be due to differences in their melanin compositions. The dominant type of melanin in red hair is pheomelanin; while blond hair investigated in the previous work contained both eumelanin and pheomelanin, with mainly eumelanin. Consequently, in this investigation, the photolightening behaviors of red and blond hair were compared to clarify the differences in photosensitivity between the two types of melanin. It has been proven that chemically intact melanin in red hair is considerably more photolabile to UV light than VIS light. Also, it is much more easily decomposed by UV light than melanin granules in blond hair, although they are both similarly decomposed by VIS light. This indicates that pheomelanin is far more sensitive to UV light than eumelanin, while these two types of melanin are similarly sensitive to VIS light. This leads to the following hypothetical photolightening mechanism of red hair: When UV light is irradiated on red hair, the light is absorbed by hair protein and attenuated before it reaches the melanin granules. However, since pheomelanin is highly sensitive to UV light, even the attenuated UV light decomposes the pheomelanin to some extent. As a result, UV light lightens red hair without the need for subsequent washing, in contrast to blond hair, which consists of mainly eumelanin.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0142-5463.2005.00265_4.x

Publication date: 2005-06-01

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