In the Lab with a Master Chemist

With decades of experience in creating the products that we all know and love to use, we were excited to speak to Dr Ali N. Syed, Master Chemist and President of Avlon.

How did you get into the hair industry?
When I arrived in the US, in 1972, I wanted to get into the chemical industry. By chance, I got into the cosmetic industry as a Manufacturing Chemist and later specialised in product development. I loved developing products for multi-textured hair, as it is a very challenging research area with a lack of quality products and the market I wanted to do my best to ensure our consumer’s had the choice of better quality products.


Tell us about the average day in the life of a Master Chemist/President of Avlon…
My days are usually very exciting. Firstly, I take a tour of the company to see what is going on overall. I always have a list of things that I am working on and will follow up on these things. I believe that follow-up is key to the success of any executive. I attend scheduled meetings with various departments on a daily basis. Most importantly, I spend much of my time managing research and development projects and new product development and innovations. I strongly believe that innovation and NPDs are key to success of Avlon and this is what drive’s us as accompany to be better today than yesterday.

What tips do you have for today’s consumers that can help them to find the right product for their locks?
This is a very important question. I would recommend consumers to research about their hair and how to care for their hair. Unfortunately, manufacturers do make many false claims regarding their products which are often not validated. Consumers should always read about the ingredients and their interaction with hair itself. They should also read about the global textures of hair, find out what hair type they have and what brands and products are available for their specific hair type. They can read my blog as well to get this information (

As a scientist, what monthly regimen would you recommend to keep your hair healthy?
First thing is to identify your hair type and scalp condition. Then use the right type of cleansing products, conditioning products including deep conditioners, leave in products, styling products, and any other specialised products for your specific needs. If your hair texture is curly, and you have decided to stay curly, then use cleansing products such as co-wash and a shampoo once a month, followed by a leave-in conditioner and a curling gel or cream. Also use daily moisturisers that have a cream base. if you relax your hair, make sure you use a salon – I wouldn’t recommend relaxing your hair at home as there are parts of your head you can’t see. Deep treat your hair twice a month and use a leave-in conditioner daily. Work with your hair stylist who will prescribe maintenance products.

What is your top tip for transitioning hair?
I recommend cutting off your previously straightened hair and then indulge in styling your curly hair using products that are formulated to care for naturally curly hair.


What kind of innovations are on the cards from Avlon for 2017?
We are constantly involved in innovating new technologies that are less damaging to the hair and scalp. We are looking at new technologies where hair is almost as strong as untreated hair when it is chemically straightened. We will also have new semi-permanent straightening technologies, anti-frizz technology and technologies that will allow you to care for your natural curly hair styles. We believe in providing technologies according to the needs of the consumers, with the least damage to hair and scalp – healthy scalp and hair is our main priority. Our research on human scalp and hair is second to none in the personal care industry – no stones are left unturned
Why do sulphates need to be in shampoos? How do they benefit or harm the consumer?
The “Sulphates”, generally mean Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate, or TEA Lauryl Sulphate. These are detergents and have been used in hair shampoos for last 60 to 70 years. Our research in our dermatology laboratory shows that these detergents are drying to hair and scalp, whereas Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth sulphate are not as drying to hair and scalp. The amphoteric detergents are generally milder to hair and scalp and are present in many high quality shampoos such as KeraCare Detangling Shampoo. I have written extensively on this issue in my blog posts. However, I now formulate shampoo with primarily milder detergents. These shampoos are tested on the human scalp and skin for moisture contents and any skin irritation prior to being introduced to the market.

As the leading chemist for relaxer formulation what are your thoughts on them?
I know there has been significant bad press against relaxers but that press has been based more on social attitudes rather than science. According to science, ingredients in the relaxers such sodium hydroxide or guanidine hydroxide are not carcinogenic. These materials if formulated right do not damage the hair and scalp as compared to formaldehyde/methylene glycol. One must look at the relaxer formulas as a total system – other ingredients such as mineral oil, petrolatum in relaxers mitigate the irritation potential of the relaxers. The new relaxers would further reduce the hair and scalp damage to almost nothing, as we have found in our Research Center. There are many new natural ingredients that have shown a great potential for protecting the hair and scalp during relaxing process. Some of the problems with relaxers came from the retail industry more than professional salon industry due to bad quality formulations and faulty application techniques.
We always recommend consumers visit a good salon for all chemical service and don’t try to do them at home as hair stylist are trained to deliver these types of services.

For more info on the Avlon range visit