Just mention “Kool Aid” and my memories flop back to summer camp. That was the beverage we were served with every meal. And it was the same with my kids. They used to tell me about the "bug juice" that was blended in large garbage cans to serve the whole camp. I’m not sure why they called it bug juice, maybe it was because of the insects that inevitably met their doom in the brightly colored liquid. And as you know, Kool Aid colors are bright! Intense reds, bright blues, fluorescent greens! Just like the colors that adorn the hair of some adventurous teens. There is a good reason why some punkers look as if they had dipped their hair into Kool Aid. They have!
Some bright kids figured out that Kool Aid could be used as an effective temporary hair dye. Just the right thing to amaze your friends and scare your parents. The technique, as I understand it, involves dissolving a pack of your favorite color in hot water and then immersing your hair in the bowl. My guess would be that the artificially sweetened versions would be preferred since all that sugar in the regular Kool Aid may just gum up the hair. For a Kool Aid neophyte a fair bit of experimenting is probably in order before they really start to look cool. There is no great risk in putting Kool Aid into your hair, but you do have to stay out of the rain. The dye will color skin as well as hair when it runs. Coloring hair this way is probably about as low tech as you can get. But in the future we may be dying our hair in a very high tech fashion as biotechnology enters the picture.
Wouldn’t it be great if a gene that codes for hair coloring could be inserted into hair follicles, the tiny organelles in our scalp from which hair grows? This may not be as outlandish as it sounds! AntiCancer, a California biotech company, has some intriguing preliminary results along these lines. Alright, so they are with mice and not with humans. And the hair is green. And it only shows up as green under blue light. But it’s a start. The California researchers were successful in isolating a gene from jellyfish that codes for the production of a protein that glows green in blue light. They then incorporated this gene into an adenovirus, the type of virus that causes colds, and placed a piece of cultured mouse skin into the virus solution. Within hours a green pigment could be seen in the follicles. When the skin was transplanted to live mice, about 80% of the hairs that grew were green! Since green hair doesn’t have much commercial appeal, the researchers are exploring the possibility of tinkering with the genes that code for the production of melanin, the substance that is responsible for hair color. They’re hoping to develop hair creams that contain chemicals that can switch these genes on or off. We’ll see. At least with Kool Aid, if you’re not happy with the result, you can just wash it right out of your hair!