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Crazy new color-changing hair dye responds to shifts in temperature

Colour-changing hair dye reacts to the world around you
Remember Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and her constantly changing hair color?

How cool would it be to have hair that could also change from black to red to blue to blonde — only instead of requiring hours in the bathroom with industrial quantities of hair dye, your hair could transition from one color to another based on environmental factors?

That is what U.K.-based chemist Lauren Bowker created with her firm The Unseen’s “reactive fashion.” Bowker created various examples of color-change tech, but her latest hair dye concept — named Fire– really gets to the roots of the issue, so to speak.

“Internally we have begun longevity testing to create a permanent dye alongside our semi permanent one and have coloured a number of successful samples both on and off the body, in various colours for various seasons and bodily temperatures,” Bowker said. “For examples, blue outdoors and blonde indoors, and a black to red dye which changes colour as the user warms up to highlight emotion or blushing through the hair.”

According to Bowker, the changes in color are triggered by alterations in temperature, which can be fine-tuned by the dye’s creators to minute fluctuations or longer, more gradual transitions.

In essence, the active part of the dye system is a complex-carbon based molecule which undergoes a reversible reaction with itself. Above a certain temperature, one of the molecule forms is more stable than the other, thereby producing a molecule with a slightly different absorption of light, and thereby a different color.

Enough with the chemistry, though — is it dangerous?

“Because of how we’ve formulated the dye, we’re confident there will be no damage to the scalp, and no significant effect on the hair fibers themselves,” Bowker said, describing the damage to hair as about the same as typical semi-permanent dyes. “That said, we still have work to do in optimizing the recipe, and assessing its toxicology before we commercialize.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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