Characterization of Hair Structure and Damage at the Molecular Level through Protein Loss and Proteomics

Speaker: Mike Davis, Principal Scientist, Hair Biology Group, Beauty Technology Division, Procter & Gamble

Thursday, June 26 11:45am–12:30pm

Overall protein integrity is an important hallmark of healthy hair and has a great impact on the cosmetic value of the hair shaft. Hair is comprised of ~80% protein (predominantly α-keratin) and is not regenerative after it exits the scalp. Therefore, protection of the native hair structure on the protein and fiber levels is critical to ensure good cosmetic properties of the hair. Consumer practices such as chemical treatments and heat styling, combined with environmental factors such as UV, can impact the structural integrity of the hair. The accumulation of damage from these factors ultimately weakens the hair fibers and leads to consumer-noticeable changes such as breakage or split ends.

At the molecular level, damage to the hair shaft can lead to the breakdown and/or release of proteins from the hair, which can provide an early diagnostic for damage before it is manifested at the macro-structural level. We have deployed the use of 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2DGE) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) to evaluate the integrity of hair shaft proteins after different types of styling/grooming insults. In addition, we have developed a protein loss method that allows us to quantify the relative amount of hair damage across different hair substrates and insult types, and have demonstrated a correlation between protein loss and consumer perception of hair damage from root-to-tip.

Examining hair health with proteomics allowed us to localize the damage to particular regions of the fiber (cuticle/cortex) that goes beyond what the consumer can see. Understanding how the hair shaft is damaged at the proteome level provides new insights into hair structure and the how protein changes impact the mechanical and cosmetic value of the hair shaft.

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