Forget hair dye. The cosmetics company L'Oreal says it is developing a pill that will prevent manes from going gray in the first place. Here, a brief guide:
What is this miracle pill?
L'Oreal says it's an inexpensive drug that, when taken daily, will prevent hair from turning gray. "People will take it like a dietary supplement," says the company's head of hair biology, Bruno Bernard. "Ideally you would take [the pill] for your whole life, but realistically we'd encourage people to start using it before their hair goes gray because we don't think it can reverse the process once it has started."
How does it work?
The pill uses an extract from an undisclosed fruit that mimics an enzyme known as TRP-2. That enzyme helps make cells that produce pigments, and could prevent hair cells from succumbing to antioxidants that cause hair to turn gray. L'Oreal says it has been developing the pill for more than a decade. "Experts in the field confirm that substances mimicking TRP-2 activity might be of value to fight hair graying," reads a L'Oreal statement, though a company spokesman says the announcement might be "a little premature."
Where can I get this magic pill?
Nowhere... yet. The pill is still in development and won't be available until 2015, or later.
Is there a market for this?
Of course. The global market for hair coloring is reportedly worth upwards of $12 billion, and L'Oreal hopes to be the first out with a magic pill to prevent gray — potentially raking in billions. Increasingly men, not just women, are getting their hair dyed to banish grays. "Lots of men take Propecia tablets to prevent balding, and they take that for the rest of their lives," says dermatologic surgeon Dr. Hillary Johnson. Surely, some will want this medication too, but "they would have to be a highly motivated group of people."
Is it safe?
Doctors are already voicing concern. "It would make me warn patients to be extra careful [about taking it]," says Johnson. "Anything for cosmetic purposes goes with extra caution because it's not something a person has to have, and it's not worth the risk."