The race against time has moved beyond battling wrinkles on the face or smoothing veiny hands, and is now being fought in previously ignored spaces, such as haircare. Inspired by the latest advances in skin ageing, Rapunzels worldwide are looking at their locks as the latest battleground against the clock.

Issues such as thinning, frizzy, lacklustre hair, are some of the concerns targeted by a new generation of products. The haircare segment is finding ever‑more inspiration from innovations in the skincare industry, including a renewed interest in anti-ageing ingredients and increasingly specialised formulas targeting the scalp, as well as multi-step solutions beyond shampoo  and conditioners. With cosmeceutical brands quickly responding to this shift, physicians should take a leaf out of their book and jump in with a haircare offering matching their skincare ranges.

This move towards more holistic haircare, focused on ingredients and innovation, has pushed global haircare sales up by 6% to total $75 billion in 2012, according to Euromonitor International, and second only to skincare.

Ageing hair is typically defined by common issues such as breakage, frizz, unruly greys, lacklustre colour, dryness, split ends, and thinning. Understanding ageing is high on everyone’s agenda: it is so much more than just the extrinsic cycle of photodamage or chemical processing. Hair also ages intrinsically as we age when it begins discolouring and the number of follicles drops.

Next generation ingredients

Growing numbers of men and women are learning to care for their hair with the same level of attention they pay to their skin, with an ever-increasing number of products targeting anti-ageing, as well as offering solutions for irritated scalps.

While many shampoos and conditioners list silicone high in their formula to add more manageability and lock in hydration (in make-up primers and foundations, it is often used as a re‑texturising agent), customers seeking to improve their hair from within will find usage to be time-limited as it ultimately does not nourish the hair fibre.

Hair primarily consists of a protein called keratin, which is made of 21 different amino acids. Hair becomes drier and brittle as we age, owing to  the sebaceous glands in the scalp producing less oil and the size and abundance of follicles decreasing. Common haircare practices such as blow drying, dying, and even rough brushing may reduce the levels of amino acids in each strand. Recent research has identified three amino acids — histidine, tyrosine, and lysine — that, when added to products like shampoo or conditioners, repair hair by restoring the amino acid balance.

Cue the new-generation of anti-ageing skincare ingredients that are crossing into the haircare space, such as collagen, sunscreens, and peptides. Many of these products penetrate the hair and help increase its moisture. Peptides, for example, provide extra conditioning and make the hair fibre stronger by depositing a shield on the shaft.

The 35-year old Joico, a division of Zotos and part of Shiseido, is currently focused on its new, patent-pending Bio-Advanced Peptide Complex, which targets hair repair by replicating the exact amino acids in the order of the peptides that cause damage. All of Joico’s reformulated series (K-Pak, Color Endure, Smooth Cure, Body Luxe, Moisture Recovery and Daily Care) became available from January 2013 in US salons.

‘By mimicking the exact peptide chain needed to optimally repair and protect hair, Bio-Advanced Peptide Complex goes above and beyond the limits of human hair keratin, not only repairing the exact sites of damage, but also preventing future damage with a molecular shield of protection that lasts up to 25 shampoos,’ said Rushi Tasker, director of research and development.

Anti-ageing ingredients

One of the most widely available ingredients being used to fight ageing include UVA and UVB filters, increasingly present in more hair masks and sprays, and expected to extend throughout the product category. The formulas help prevent photoageing and discolouration, while protecting the scalp from the sun. An example of this is the JF Lazartigue® Daily Protective Cream UVA/UVB.

Antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins are also in vogue, thought to neutralise free radicals. An example is Davines Momo Anti-Aging Hair Cream, which uses lupin extract to moisturise, vitamin E and walnut extract to fight free radicals, and UV filters to block sun damage.

Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A,  is a skin and hair conditioning agent that provides UVB protection, and is a potent antioxidant, providing free-radical protection while nourishing the hair and scalp. Resveratrol, another antioxidant, helps protect hair from free radical damage and stimulates cell regeneration.

Hyaluronic acid, the sought-after anti‑ageing skincare miracle, is also thought to improve hair quality: its small molecular size means it can hydrate deep within the hair fibre. Good examples of this are L’Oréal® Paris Moisture Rush Mask, or john masters™ Organics Honey and Hibiscus Hair Reconstructor.

Used topically on the scalp, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may enhance blood circulation. For example, Nexxus Youth Renewal™ Rejuvenating Elixir has a mix of eight beneficial hair ingredients such as Omega-3 fatty acids, keratin, Argan oil, CoQ10, wheat protein, and vitamin E; all of which target hair repair.

Stem cells are also raising lots of interest, touted for helping maintain a healthy follicle and delaying the effects of ageing, although widespread studies are currently inconclusive. However, French cosmetics giant L’Oréal created media interest when it unveiled trials for its Kérastase Densifique treatment, which claimed to show hair growth promotion of more than 1500 new hairs after 90 days of use. Scientists claim the newly-developed molecule, Stemoxydine, was found to have increased hair density by up to 4% by targeting areas of the scalp prone to hair loss rather than the actual fibres.