Hair Color History
Beyond its biological function of keeping the head protected and warm, hair's true value lies in its ability to make a highly personal, visual statement about oneself. Throughout history, hair color has defined cultures, social status, professions, age and self-image; so when humans discovered ways to change hair color, it signified a major step in self-expression. This self expression, however, has always been influenced by innovative science.
The first major breakthrough in hair coloring history came in 1863, when chemist Dr. August Wilhelm von Hofmann reported the dye properties of para-phenylenediamine (PPD). His discovery led to the birth of the synthetic hair dye industry, and PPD still dominates the field today. Hofmann was also known for his studies of organic derivatives of ammonia and for discovering the first unsaturated alcohol and several organic dyes.1
On the heels of Hofmann's discovery, in 1867 London chemist E.H. Thiellay and Parisian hairdresser Leon Hugot demonstrated the advantages of hydrogen peroxide as a better chemical way to lighten hair than alkaline solutions. Their discovery soon became widely recognized, and oxidizing products remain the basis of bleaching preparations today. After the mid 1920s, oxidation dyes were greatly improved and the fashionable use of hair coloring boomed.2 The introduction of salon and then home hair dyes during the same period brought about a revolutionary change worldwide and an explosion of hair color options. Clairol's founder, Lawrence M. Gelb, introduced hair color to salons more than 70 years ago when he discovered a European preparation and brought it to the U.S. When Clairol launched its first salon colors in 1931, millions of women began using them. Instant Clairol Oil Shampoo Tint soon changed the look of Americans.3
In 1950, Clairol introduced Miss Clairol Hair Color Bath, the first real breakthrough that lightened hair without the harshness and complicated handling of bleach. For the first time, hair could be lightened, tinted, conditioned and shampooed in only one step instead of five, in only 20 minutes. Within six months of this watershed discovery, hair coloring mania soared. The number of women going to the salon for permanent hair coloring increased by more than 500 percent.4 Soon after, with the abundance of safe, inexpensive, easy-to-use products, home hair dying quickly grew in popularity.
Fast forward to 2007, where the next hair color breakthrough is currently unfolding, the first in over 50 years. Advances in understanding the molecular structure of hair have allowed scientists to develop improved technologies that minimize the amount of damage in the coloring process, and even create specialized products that restore health and brilliance to colored hair. The new chemistry of hair color is here, making hair color easier, quicker, and more effective than ever.
Today, millions of women color their hair - spanning every age, race, nationality and religion. According to recent surveys, at least 88 percent of all women feel their hair has an effect on their self confidence. Around the globe, the primary reason women color their hair is to look and feel better about themselves, feeling strongly that the products they use are fundamental in achieving this goal. With so many women taking such pride and care in their hair, the market is poised for a new scientific breakthrough. Today's woman demands quick, efficient product results that easily fit into her hectic lifestyle, and hair color is certainly no exception.
Today, hair color manufacturers have sophisticated research and development divisions that develop a broad range of advanced salon and home hair coloring products, addressing the complex needs of their consumers. These advances can only be understood by starting with hair basics.