Exclusive interview

What’s urban living doing to our hair and scalp?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

What’s urban living doing to our hair and scalp?
At this year’s in-cosmetics Korea 2018, Xin Qu, R&D Lab Manager at Ashland’s Shanghai Technical Centre examined how cosmetics actives and pollution shielding technologies can impact the hair and scalp.

Are you witnessing an increase in the level of concern relating to the impact that environmental factors have on the hair and scalp?

The same consumer concerns of the effects of pollution on skin are driving their concern of what impact pollution may have on their hair and scalp.

This is a global phenomenon, not only restricted to Asia where PMs levels are far above AQI guidelines but also arising in Europe and America.

Based on reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and studies by Mintel, 44% of Chinese consumers are worried about pollution whereas 30% of US consumers worry about the effects of the environment on their hair and skin.

Chemicals in the air (such as car exhaust) have been identified as the second leading cause of skin, scalp and hair problems after lack of sleep so consumers identify pollution as a major source of aggression to the skin/scalp.

Generation Z consumers are the most concerned, and they are looking for anti-pollution claims from their personal care and beauty products.

What is driving the interest in hair and scalp products?

Urbanisation is the main driver with noted population growth in urban environments. By 2050, it is anticipated that 70% of populations will live in urban cities.

With an increase in urbanisation, air quality is directly impacted. Heat waves only exacerbate air quality issues.

We have seen reports where some western cities like Paris reach the same level of pollution as the mean pollution level as seen in cities like Beijing.

The WHO has announced that pollution is the world’s biggest environmental health risk. Contributors such as automobile exhaust and industrial emissions create fine particulate matter (Pm2.5/10) etc. which has been associated with causing health problems.  

Why did you choose to tackle the hair and scalp, in terms of environmentally-protective products?

Consumers are concerned about what damage the environment can cause to their hair and scalp.

They have also become increasingly more aware of the dangers of air pollution; more than 80% of the urban population is exposed to air pollution (Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, developed in 2016 by the WHO).

With this increased awareness, there will be a greater interest in hair care products that offer protection, especially those that highlight specific hair issues associated with pollution damage (source: Mintel).

What are consumers' core needs?

Consumer desire products that can help protect their hair and scalp against pollution; keep hair healthy; create a shield against dust; reduce scalp itchiness; and prevent hair loss/breakage.

Are there any challenges associated with answering these needs?

There were no demonstrated evaluation methods established for pollution protection on hair and scalp, which meant that these methods needed to be developed first. In addition, trying to incorporate pollutants into clinical studies provided a bit of a challenge as well.

The second part of this article will be published on Wednesday 25th July 2018. 

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