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This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

What's new: Advances in hair care

Experts explain the latest advances in shampoos, conditioners and products for thinning hair.

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Hair care seems like it should be simple but, as you age, so does your hair. Over time, your hair becomes less dense, individual strands get thinner and break more easily.

Sunlight, climate and pollution also take their toll. The way you style your hair - blow drying, colouring, overusing gels - can also damage your hair.

Sometimes, the only way to repair the damage is to cut the hair off and wait for healthy hair to grow back. However, if the damage hasn’t progressed too far, there are new hair care products that manufacturers claim will restore glossy, full-bodied hair. Many of these products, according to dermatologists, work at least for a short time and provide subtle benefits.

Shampoos with surfactants and silicones

Shampoos today are not what they used to be. In the past, the cleansing agent was soap, but soap can dry out the scalp and leave a scum that doesn’t rinse away.

Modern shampoos use synthetic detergents known as surfactants for the cleansing agent. Surfactants lather well in all types of water, and the lather lifts dirt and excess oil from your hair and holds it until it’s rinsed away.

In addition, modern shampoos also contain silicones that give hair a soft feel, help it retain moisture and make it easier to comb and manage. As well as cleaning the hair, many modern shampoos contain ingredients that condition the hair and repair damage.

Hair primarily consists of a protein called keratin, which is made of 21 different amino acids. Common hair care practices such as blow drying, colouring and styling cause a reduction in the amino acid level of the hair. Research has identified three amino acids -- histidine, tyrosine and lysine -- that when added to products like shampoo or conditioners help repair hair by restoring the amino acid balance.

Conditioners that use the science of skin care

Among the latest advances in hair care are better conditioning products, which make fragile hair less likely to break or tangle.

“Advances in silicone technology, such as the use of dimethicone and amodimethicone have improved hair conditioning, smoothing the cuticle, temporarily mending split ends, improving the ability of hair to retain colour, and decreasing hair breakage,” says Dr Zoe Draelos, editor of The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

Another major development has been the application of skin care ingredients to hair care. For example, some of the ingredients used in anti- ageing skin care products, such as collagen, peptides and sunscreens, are now found in hair care products. Many of these products penetrate the hair and help increase its moisture. Peptides, for example, provide extra conditioning and make the hair shaft stronger by depositing a shield on the shaft.

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