Pantene Pro-V's Color-Treated Hair Solutions line. Courtesy Photo

Pantene plans to change the way we think about our hair.

The brand has just announced its biggest breakthrough in ten years. And their secret isn't a miracle ingredient or a pretty new face. Rather, it's thinking about hair in 3-D.

The way we currently define our hair is by thickness -- you either have fine, medium or thick hair-- and by texture -- curly, coarse, wavy or straight. And most products address the hair at the follicular level -- strand by strand -- or on an overall level, i.e. how the hair looks after styling.

But after six years of research, more than 500 technical tests and feedback from 20,000 women (which StyleList got to preview, here) Pantene has found that it's the way actual strands of hair react with each other that can determine how your hair behaves. Understanding and addressing these 3-dimensional interactions, which they're calling the "inter-fiber relationships" is key caring for our hair.

Confusing? Just a smidge. Think of it this way: If you're studying a rain forest, you can look at each different species living in the forest, or the ecosystem of the rain forest as a whole. But those two factors are not the only thing determining the goings on of the forest. There are also microsystems that consist of interactions between all of the different organisms in the area. It's those relationships -- between the strands of hair themselves -- that Pantene has determined makes a huge impact on the overall look and feel of your hair.

"We looked to other industries for insight," explained P&G senior scientist Dr. Jeni Thomas at a recent launch event in New York City. "We took tools that NASA uses to study the moon's surface, along with methods that the medical industry used to determine bone density, and applied it to helping us understand the physical and chemical properties of hair structure, including their unique patterns of multi-fiber arrangement."

Pantene's new range of Pro-V products for Fine, Medium-Thick, Curly and Color Treated hair types. Courtesy Photo



With this new understanding of hair at three critical levels - single fiber, bulk, and multi-fiber arrangements, Thomas and team identified four distinct hair structures – Fine, Medium/Thick, Curly and Color-Treated – and changed Pantene's entire approach to product design and formulation.

Fine hair has up to 50% less protein than thicker hair and needs reinforcement between each strand to keep hair from falling flat. It also has the least amount of fiber-to-fiber interactions, and the straightest formation, with a highly parallel 3-D structure. "From a formulation standpoint, that means we need to help the hair be able to grab ingredients," said Thomas. But on the flipside, fine hair is most affected by product deposits and oils, meaning that it can fall flat, fast.

Medium/thick hair absorbs 40% more moisture from the environment than other hair types, making it extremely frizz prone. "It has more interactions between hair fibers than fine hair," said Thomas, "So we aim to minimize this friction with smoothing ingredients."

Not surprisingly, curly hair has the most intricate hair fiber network, made even more complex because each individual fiber has its own curl pattern. "Where the curls kink, the hair is weaker and moisture seeps out," said Thomas. "So we need products that patch up the moisture loss without disrupting the curl pattern." The coiled curls also create a tough path for our hair's natural oils to follow, making hair even dryer.

Color treated hair behaves very differently than all of the above, since when you color your hair you're altering its chemical structure. It absorbs water three times faster than other hair types, and does not interact well with traditional conditioners made for non color-treated hair. "The aim of our new line is to bring hair back to it's 'virgin' behavior, back before it was ever colored," said Thomas.

So how do you know which formula's for you?

"Color trumps all," explained Thomas. If you have color treated hair, then opt for the Color-Treated Shampoo and Conditioner, and then choose styling products depending on if you've got fine, thick or curly hair. Next up, "degree of curvature trumps diameter," said Thomas, meaning if you have curly hair that's not color treated, opt for the Curly line. If your hair is straight or wavy, choose by texture -- either Fine or Medium/Thick.

"98% of the women we surveyed fit into these four hair categories," said Thomas. "When we talked to them about their hair, they have a clear priority."

Of the 20,000 women the line was reviewed by, the most recent testers are celebrities.

"I used it on a star who has really fine hair," explained Pantene's celebrity stylist Danilo, a 30 year veteran of the industry who was most recently styling celebrity hair at the Tribeca Film Festival. "And in the paparazzi pictures, it ended up looking like she had a hairpiece in," he said, after finishing the starlet's hair with the Fine line.

"It's the first time in awhile I've seen a category change," he went on to explain, lauding it because "It's the way hairdressers think -- we determine hair type and condition and then move on from there."

To celebrate this brand reinvention -- which hits shelves in the next few weeks -- Pantene is embarking on a mission to find the world's first reality hair star to represent the brand in a commercial campaign. The winner will star in an ad spot alongside What Not to Wear host Stacy London in late May.

For more details, click here!