Dec 12, 2017

A visit to Henkel’s Hair Lab in Düsseldorf

Making sure products keep their promises

“Magnificent Strength,” “Healthy Shine” or “Prevents Split Ends” – a lot of consumers choose products based on the effects they promise. Dr. Sabine Babiel, head of Henkel’s hair lab in Düsseldorf, and her team examine new product claims to make sure customers can rely on the promises being kept.

“If there is a consumer demand for a product that provides intensively nourished hair with a healthy shine, our marketing colleagues ask our product developers to develop the appropriate formulation.” Once they have developed the formula that delivers those effects, the product has to be tested in the hair lab. Sabine Babiel and her team test the performance of the product. The developers check whether the product’s care performance fits the claim and if the product keeps its promise.

In the hair lab, hair is researched, tested and pulled apart – sometimes to its breaking point. The right equipment is available for each test method – Henkel even developed some of the devices itself. Strands of real hair are hung in the climate chamber at 24 degrees Celsius and 25 percent humidity until they are needed for testing. The chamber ensures the same conditions for each hair, so the results cannot be distorted by external climate influences.

The experts can use the flat iron device to test whether the formula newly created by the product developers has a positive effect on hair that has first been artificially damaged. A reference measurement is therefore always essential to make any difference visible. “This reference measurement is a comparison value of hair strands that have not been treated with the new formula, but have been subjected to all the tests,” explains Babiel.

The stress-strain measurement is another test method where individual hair is stretched and sometimes pulled apart until it breaks. “This method is used to test whether our hair care products strengthen the hair structure” explains Babiel.

The tests are done with hair from different regions such as European hair, Brazilian frizzy hair or Asian hair. This depends on the region the formula has been developed for, because Henkel’s hair care products are available around the world. The tests clearly show the enormous difference in hair shape from one ethnic type to the next. Asian hair, for example, is evenly round, which is why it is very straight and different combing is necessary compared to European hair. “While we are on the topic of combing – this is a key aspect that we examine thoroughly with several different devices,” explains hair expert Babiel. “For example, we use a rinsing device to ensure the exact same conditions whenever shampoo is rinsed off the strands. The wet combing device measures the force needed to comb through wet hair – the less force required, the more pleasant it feels for customers.”

The split ends and hair breakage device, on the other hand, simulates the combing routine of three to four years by combing the hair strands 20,000 times. This method investigates the positive effect of our hair care products on split ends and hair breakage.

Once all the tests for examining the effect of the new formula have been completed, Dr. Sabine Babiel and her team start evaluating the results statistically. Everything must be recorded in detail so that the information can be drawn on and traced at any time. “That way, we can make sure that the product claim is proven, and that our customers will get an effective product”, explains Babiel.

Kirch and Babiel evaluate the test results

After the tests are done, Kirch and Babiel evaluate the test results thoroughly. That is the moment of truth: Does the product keep its promise?