Wednesday 4 September Seminars

10:00 - 10:30

KEYNOTE: Strands of Knowledge: Unravelling the Science of Hair – From Structure to Cosmetic Innovations

Hair is one of the most complex & versatile structures in nature. It is composed largely of keratin, a protein that also forms our nails and skin. Keratin is arranged in a complex fractal array of filaments called microfibrils, which are further organized into macrofibrils and then into fibres which give hair its strength and flexibility.

The structure of hair can, however be impacted via  various factors, such as chemical treatments, heat styling, environmental exposure, mechanical stress, and even genetic predisposition which result in reduced hair strength, elasticity, shine, and moisture, as well as increased hair breakage, split ends, frizz, and tangling. Hair damage can also affect the psychological well-being and self-esteem of individuals who suffer from it.

The main causes of hair damage can be classified into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic causes are related to the internal structure and composition of the hair, such as the keratin, melanin, and lipids that form the hair shaft and the cuticle. Extrinsic causes are related to the external factors that affect the hair, such as the chemical, thermal, and mechanical agents that alter the hair structure and integrity. Some of the most common extrinsic causes of hair damage are:

  • Bleaching, dyeing, perming, and relaxing: These chemical processes can weaken the hair bonds, disrupt the cuticle layer, and reduce the hair moisture content, leading to dry, brittle, and porous hair.
  • Blow-drying, curling, straightening, and brushing: These thermal and mechanical processes can generate high temperatures and friction that can damage the hair cuticle and cortex, resulting in hair breakage, split ends, and loss of shine.
  • Ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and chlorine: These environmental factors can oxidize the hair pigments, proteins, and lipids, causing hair colour fading, protein degradation, and lipid depletion, resulting in dull, weak, and dry hair.

The effects of hair damage can be observed at different levels of the hair structure, from the cuticle to the cortex. Some of the most common effects of hair damage are:

  • Cuticle damage: The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair that protects the inner layers from external damage. Cuticle damage can manifest as lifted, cracked, or missing cuticle scales, which expose the cortex and make the hair more vulnerable to further damage. Cuticle damage can also affect the hair appearance, making it rough, dull, & prone to frizz / tangling.
  • Cortex damage: The cortex is the middle layer of the hair that provides the hair strength, elasticity, and colour. Cortex damage can occur when the hair bonds are broken, the hair proteins are degraded, or the hair pigments are oxidized. Cortex damage can result in reduced hair strength, elasticity, and colour, as well as increased hair porosity and water absorption.
  • Lipid damage: The lipids are the fatty substances that coat the hair surface and fill the spaces between the cuticle scales. Lipid damage can occur when the lipids are depleted or oxidized by chemical, thermal, or environmental factors. Lipid damage can affect the hair moisture, shine, and smoothness, as well as increase the hair static and friction.

Consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their hair needs and are looking for products that counteract the damage to  hair, nourishing, protecting, and repairing hair in addition to enhancing appearance. This presentation will cover Unilever’s approach to the measurement and alleviation of damage at the level of both the cuticle and the cortex, how we deploy technology to repair damaged proteins, to replace lost surface oils and protect colour, and how the technology is validated with consumers.


10:30 - 11:00

Innovate UK Business Connect: Linking the innovation support landscape

Have you ever wondered where to start when it comes to innovation support for businesses and business collaborations in the UK?

Innovate UK Business Connect’s mission is to link ideas, people and communities to respond to the ever-changing societal, environmental and economic challenges we face, and to drive positive change through innovation.  We’re here to help you make sense of the ecosystem of expertise and funding, connecting innovators with new partners and opportunities, accelerating ambitious ideas into real-world solutions. Our diverse connections span business, government, funders, research and the third sector.  Find out how you can work with us and how innovators in the cosmetic science sector can benefit from innovation support in the UK.


  • Karen Wilkinson Knowledge Transfer Manager - Health - Innovate UK Business Connect
11:00 - 11:30

Cosmetics Cluster UK: Bridges, networks and knowledge exchange in the UK Cosmetics Industry

A cluster is defined as a geographical network of interconnected businesses, suppliers and associated institutions within an industry sector. With 1 in 50 jobs in the UK being in the beauty industry, we and others are highlighting the myriad of employment opportunities, especially upstream from retail, in an industry directly contributing £12b to the UK economy. Established in 2020, the mission of CCUK is to be the bridge that connects companies along the whole value chain in the cosmetics industry, from research to raw materials to retail. CCUK has four pillars of activity embracing education & skills; sustainability; international networks and research & innovation. We support best practices, foster collaborations & help solve industry challenges. For example we have introduced new suppliers in the bio-economy with existing cosmetic ingredient manufacturers who can help to establish a validated market for a novel class of biomaterials for use by product manufacturers. We are delighted to celebrate UK cosmetic science and support research activities with our industry knowledge and connections.


11:30 - 12:00

Futureproofing the British Beauty Industry – how we can use talent and innovation to secure a sustainable future for beauty and beyond

What does the average person think of when imagining a career in the beauty industry? How can the beauty industry help tackle some of the biggest challenges our planet faces? How can we get more people to be part of this change?

As an industry that touches everyone’s lives multiple times every day, beauty and the role of science within it is key to driving innovation and much needed change in consumer behaviour. From the products we offer, to the packaging they come in and what happens to them at end of use – the beauty industry must address the role it plays in contributing to the climate crisis and work together to find solutions.

The British Beauty Council is addressing this two-fold - with the Future Talent Programme, an initiative to drive new talent into much needed science, sustainability and innovation roles in the beauty industry and the Sustainable Beauty Coalition, an alliance of thought leaders, experts, businesses and brands from all sectors of the beauty industry to working together to accelerate collaboration, knowledge and bolder collective efforts.

This session will cover the challenges we face and how the beauty industry can and is meeting these head on, with plenty of opportunities for attendees to get involved and become part of the charge for positive change.


12:00 - 12:30

Panel Debate


13:30 - 14:00

KEYNOTE: Non-invasive and Minimally Invasive Skin Technologies are Setting the Framework for a Digital Skin Twin

This presentation will explore the evolving landscape of clinical skin research, highlighting the pivotal role of advanced imaging and data science while addressing the critical gap in understanding the molecular mechanisms of skin biology. Current methodologies heavily rely on sophisticated imaging techniques that provide detailed visualizations of skin structure and pathology, complemented by novel data analysis approaches that interpret these complex datasets to reveal unprecedented patterns and insights.

However, a significant aspect remains underexplored—the molecular mechanisms underpinning skin functions and disorders which explain the morphological features present in imaging. This presentation delves into how integrating molecular biology into the existing imaging framework can enrich our understanding, leading to more targeted and effective interventions.

The discussion will cover the latest advancements in imaging technologies and data analytics, showcasing their potential to uncover not just structural and phenotypic data but also guide the discovery of underlying molecular processes. Examples include using high-resolution imaging to track cellular-level changes and applying machine learning models to predict skin disease progression from large-scale datasets.

Progress in emerging approaches in skin microsampling, a less invasive method for obtaining skin cells and biomarkers without disrupting skin integrity, will be discussed. This technique is poised to revolutionize skin sample collection for molecular analysis, offering a more detailed molecular landscape of the skin in health and disease.

Concluding the presentation, the development of a digital twin for skin—a comprehensive digital model replicating the skin's physical and biochemical properties—is discussed. This groundbreaking tool will serve research, industry, and regulation, offering a step-change improvement in developing, testing, and approving skin care products and pharmaceuticals. By bridging technological and methodological advancements, the digital twin will enhance our fundamental understanding of skin biology and pave the way for personalized and precision dermatology.


14:00 - 14:30

The Impact of Emulsifiers on Skin Barrier Integrity

Emulsifiers were considered inactive ingredients in the past, and little or no attention was paid to their interaction with the skin barrier. However, in recent years, it has become evident that these ingredients can significantly impact skin physiology. Certain formulations have been found to reduce the thickness of the stratum corneum, which has been attributed to the choice of emulsifier. This means that the benefits provided by active and emollient ingredients in these formulations are mitigated.  Therefore, formulators must select an emulsification system that has no detrimental effect and preferably has a positive effect on the skin barrier. This presentation will discuss the interaction between emulsifiers and the skin, highlighting the importance of selecting the right emulsifier system for effective skincare products.


14:30 - 15:00

Discovery in Dermatology and its Translation for the Skin Care Industry

Most successful business academic partnerships have a shared purpose that benefits society, focuses on the long term and values outputs that go beyond scientific publications and new technology. Research collaborations in dermatology are no exception and a fostering of an entrepreneurial and translational mindset within the team are essential to truly leverage all the expertise and talent available, providing maximum value for both the business and the university.
Research translation in dermatology has been the catalyst for much progress in the cosmetics industry and leads not only to new products for consumers, but has also been important in pushing on new claims territories and providing education to members of the public. Retinol, peptides and other products in skincare can directly trace their origins back to research programs. In addition, research has helped us to better understand the changes in skin over time, helping us to make more relevant and meaningful claims to our consumers. This is not only in ageing-related changes to skin appearance, but also in UV protection. Further to this, it is important for us to use and disseminate dermatology research to increase the knowledge the public have about their skin and how different factors can impact its health, helping them to make the best choices for their skin.
Dermatological research has been and continues to be the bed rock of the cosmetic industry and if we manage to ask the right questions and translate with excellence the answers, then we can make an important contribution, helping people achieve healthy skin for them, for life.


15:30 - 16:00

KEYNOTE – Virtual Screening of the Tribology of Hair Care Formulations

Shampoos and conditioners form part of many people’s daily routine. These complex formulated products aim to cleanse and repair the hair surface to maintain a satisfactory look and feel. Huge volumes of these products are sold every year and the global hair care market is valued at close to $100B. There is currently a industry-wide drive to improve the environmental credentials (e.g. biodegradability, biocompatibility, and sustainability) of hair care products, without compromising their performance. Molecular simulations are seen as an important tool with which to reduce the cost and increase the speed of R&D towards more eco-friendly products compared to laboratory-based methods and panel testing. In this talk, I will present a coarse-grained molecular dynamics framework to study adsorption, wettability [1], and friction [2] of hair care ingredients on biomimetic hair surfaces. I will present results for simple surfactants [3], polymers, and polymer-surfactant complexes [4]. Ongoing work to generalise the methodology to enable virtual screening of the performance of potential new hair care ingredients and formulations will also be discussed.


[1] Weiand et al., Soft Matter, 2022, 18, 1779 (
[2] Weiand et al., Nanoscale, 2023, 15, 7086 (
[3] Weiand et al., PCCP, 2023, 25, 21916 (
[4] Weiand et al., ChemRxiv, 2023 (


16:00 - 16:30

The Human Hair Follicle Cycle Exogen Phase

Hair is closely linked to feeling of health, wellbeing, and beauty, and is the ultimate tool of self-expression. Problems associated with hair growth and loss include: a reduction in follicle density; follicle miniaturisation resulting in weaker and finer hairs which break more easily; thinner hair fibres leading to feeling of reduced volume; slower hair growth; and excessive shedding. The human hair follicle is a regenerating biological system whose primary function is to produce a hair fibre. The hair growth cycle consists of 3 key phases: growth (anagen), regression (catagen) and rest (telogen), which occur continuously throughout the follicle lifetime. During catagen, the growing fibre produced in anagen becomes detached from the follicular matrix and is subsequently referred to as the ‘club fibre’. The club fibre eventually sheds from the follicle in a process termed exogen.
A multitude of underlying biological pathways and signalling molecules control the different phases of the human hair follicle cycle. The vast majority of hair biology research, spanning several decades, has focused on the hair growth cycle, whilst little attention has been devoted to studying the mechanisms involved in exogen. Understanding the factors that control exogen may shed light on routes to mitigate excessive hair shedding. Reports support the role of protease enzymes such as serine proteases in the mechanism of action during hair shedding. Retention of the club fibre in the follicle is thought to involved enzyme inhibitors such as plasminogen activator inhibitor type 2 [1] and tissue inhibitor of metalloprotease 3 [1].
We have confirmed expression of serine proteases around the human hair follicle, in addition to confirming protease activity in the material extracted from human club fibre bulbs. Furthermore, we have shown inhibition of protease activity in vitro in club fibre bulb extracts using known serine protease inhibitors. In this presentation we will aim to showcase the vital role these enzymes play during hair shedding, and how inhibition of excess levels offers a potential means for retention of club hairs, and consequently a reduction in excessive hair fall.

[1] Lavker RM, Risse B, Brown H, et al., Localization of plasminogen activator inhibitor type 2 (PAI-2) in hair and nail: implications for terminal differentiation [J]. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 1998, 110;917–922.
[2] Higgins CA, Westgate GE, Jahoda CA. Modulation in proteolytic activity is identified as a hallmark of exogen by transcriptional profiling of hair follicles [J]. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2011, 131:2349–2357.


16:30 - 17:00

Thermal Damage to Hair: Measurement & Perception

Heat-styling of hair is an established and popular consumer habit, exploiting the well-known thermally-induced glass transition in hair fibres to plasticise, re-shape then re-set the hair. Whilst the hair fibre glass transition itself is reversible, the application of heat to hair fibres can also cause irreversible configurational and chemical changes, ultimately leading to degradation of the structure of the hair fibre. Colloquially, this is referred to as heat damage, which is now the focus of significant consumer awareness and concern. In this presentation we discuss the selection of a preferred method for quantifying thermal damage to human hair based on considerations of sensitivity, robustness and physical relevance. We also discuss the utility of these measurements to the consumer with particular emphasis on the need to provide sound scientific guidance to those seeking to achieve fantastic styling results without suffering from perceivable detrimental effects of thermal damage to their hair.