Fashion journalist Sarah Fox wearing a whistles jacket and all saints dress and hat from Amsterdam.

Fashion journalist Sarah Fox wearing a whistles jacket and all saints dress and hat from Amsterdam. Photo: Getty

It is one of the inexplicable frustrations of modern life but scientists believe they have found the cause of those bad-hair days when your locks just will not do what you want.

Researchers have discovered that traces of copper in the water from the pipes in our homes can damage hair. The metal gradually builds up in hair, helping to speed up damage caused by sunlight, causing split ends, fly-away strands and less shine - and making it harder to manage. The effect is said to be even more pronounced in those who use hair dyes, they found.

The beauty products firm Procter & Gamble is trying to exploit the findings by developing dyes and shampoos to neutralise copper. ''Copper is not present in large amounts but it is important as it is catalytically active. [It] comes in from the tap water and the hair acts like a sponge, picking it up over time,'' P&G research fellow Jennifer Marsh says.

Hair from 450 women around the world was analysed, and varying levels of copper were found. Low levels are thought to occur naturally in drinking water but purifying processes used by water companies can add more. Most of the traces, though, come from copper pipes and hot water tanks.

As the copper level rises, it can help break down the outer sheath of the hair, making it more prone to damage.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, found that treating hair with chelants - chemicals commonly used in washing powder - could reduce the action of the copper.

Telegraph, London

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