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Click to view a special, video that offers a comprehensive overview of the HD³ Dye Technology.

No.05 Multi-dimensional Color born of Co-creationHD³ Dye Technology


Our Science Reporters with the Inside Scoop INNOVATION REPORT The arrival of an innovative hair color that delivers truly multi-dimensional color ! Get excited with HD³ Dye, co-created by Fujifilm and Kao!

  • Meet Our Reporters
  • Our Technology
  • Commercialization and Future Outlook

Meet Our Reporters




Our Technology

Ms. Yuko Watanabe, our innovation reporter speaks to Mr. Makoto Iijima from Kao, Mr. Akinori Fujita, Mr. Yasuhiro Ishiwata and Ms. Akiko Gosho from Fujifilm about the new HD³ Dye for hair, jointly developed by Fujifilm and Kao, and which opens the door to totally new opportunities of beauty and creativity in hair color .

photo:Dr.Akiko Gosho Manager Fine Chemical Business Div. FUJIFILM Corporation / Mr.Akinori Fujita Manager Synthetic Organic Chemistry Laboratories Research & Development Management Headquarters FUJIFILM Corporation / Mr.Yasuhiro Ishiwata Synthetic Organic Chemistry Laboratories Research & Development Management Headquarters FUJIFILM Corporation / Mr.Makoto Iijima Development Research Hair Care Products Research, Director

[The Fine Chemicals Business]Watanabe : I’m here today to ask you about Fujifilm’s Fine Chemicals business.
What exactly is this business involved in?

Gosho (Fujifilm) : Fujifilm is a chemicals manufacturer that, over the decades, has been involved in the development and manufacture of photographic film. Fujifilm has a chemical library of 200,000 different chemicals which have been developed by utilizing sophisticated synthetic chemistry technologies. One of the important objectives behind our Fine Chemicals business is to use these chemicals as a starting point to collaborate with customers from diverse areas, and through this process, to develop functional products and materials that create new value for the world at large. And, today, I’d like to discuss a successful example of open innovation, which is the very embodiment of this objective.

[HD³ Dye Technology]

Watanabe : I will be asking you about the new hair color technology that’s been jointly developed by Fujifilm and Kao. Was Kao initially searching for a new type of hair color, and was this the catalyst to the development of this technology?

Iijima (Kao) : Color is the most important category in the salon industry and that this category has not seen any major innovation since many years given the limited amount of color molecules that are available. So if we want to bring the category and the business to a new level, we have to create new molecules. In around 2000, new hair color products were being actively developed in countries throughout the world. In particular, there was a trend in vivid and fashion hair colors, and as a result, manufacturers began to compete in developing a hair color product that could create beautiful colored hair .
Kao also wanted to develop its own technology in this area.
When we started to think about a new hair color technology, the inspiration for this came from HD TVs and photographic colors. Meanwhile, Fujifilm is a specialist when it comes to color, which can be clearly seen in the dyes that it has developed for photographic film. So it all started when we approached Fujifilm about sharing their knowledge and expertise in this area.

Watanabe : In other words, your aim was to create a more vivid, multi-dimensional color on the hair, and so you joined forces with a true color specialist!

Iijima : That’s right. However, you’re probably aware that a hair color product can add color to hair with beautiful results, but at the same time, it is a product that asks for a lot of expertise and artistry to achieve the right color results.. As a result, of course we wanted to offer beautiful colors, but we also wanted to ensure that the product would be easy to use. And that’s why exploring the essential functions and performance of a dye and to what extent these could be improved were also extremely important considerations in developing the product.

Watanabe : What specifically are the functions and performance of hair color products?

Iijima : There are two major functions – one is that it delivers a beautiful result, while the other is that it has to be easy to use. To achieve a beautiful result, the three primary and high-saturation colors are necessary to ensure good coloration. This gives the tone variation and depth of the colors. And, to ensure that that the beautiful color lasts over time, the color needs to remain for a prolonged period of time.
Meanwhile, to ensure that a product is easy to use, the color must penetrate only the hair and not the skin, such as scalp and hairline. These features in turn ensure that the product is simple to use and doesn’t cause any concerns to the user.

Watanabe : A hair color product that delivers beautiful color, but only colors the hair, that lasts and can be used without concerns! I would think“that’s great!”and not think very deeply about the difficulties of developing such a product. I’m assuming that Kao, as the manufacturer, approached Fujifilm to ask if such a dye existed, and that Fujifilm accepted this challenge.

Ishiwata (Fujifilm) : Yes, I must say we were really surprised when Kao first approached us, asking whether we had any dyes for hair color. (Laughs)
At the time, Fujifilm hadn’t been involved in developing dyes for coloring hair, but we have extensive knowledge and expertise in dyes used in photographic film such as instant cameras (Instax) and QuickSnap, printer ink, and have a library of over 40,000 different types of dyes. So, we first selected some specialty dyes that we thought may be able to be used for hair, and, with Kao, tested and screened them. After a year of trial and error, we arrived at a dye structure that wouldn’t color the skin but would selectively only color the hair, and we used this as the starting point to develop a product that would continue to thoroughly color hair.

Watanabe : My understanding of the process of coloring hair is that dye is applied on bleached hair , and that this dye then remains in the hair. What were some of the larger challenges you faced?

Ishiwata : The dye penetrates into the hair through gaps among cuticles. These gaps are incredibly narrow, and so the dye molecules have to be as small as possible. There were many necessary and desirable functions that had to be added to the dye molecule. However, our major challenge was that the molecules had to be as small as possible. Normally, the required functions are “hung” onto the molecules, but this doesn’t apply to this product. The major feature of HD³ Dye is the fact that all these functions, including delivering beautiful and lasting color that remains stable even when in contact with light, and solubility, have all been “injected” into a dye with tiny molecular size .

Watanabe : So you succeeded in realizing conflicting requirements – that the product must achieve all the necessary functions but at the same time that a tiny molecular size has to be achieved.

Iijima : That’s right. And, the candidate dye molecules that we came up through a process of trial and error with Fujifilm were then evaluated by Kao to verify its performance advantages. Other evaluations including safety, and this process was carried out for around five years. Meanwhile, we were fortunate to be able to collaborate with another absolute expert in this field, Prof Hartmann, a globally renowned expert in advanced dye synthesis from Technical University of Dresden. In the end, I think there were around 1000 varieties of dye structures that were considered.

Watanabe : That’s amazing! And the end result of this time and effort is the creation of an innovative hair color product that produces an even more beautiful result than existing products!

Iijima : Actually, we made a new discovery which I’d love to tell you about.

Watanabe : A new discovery? What is it?

Iijima : The initial aim behind this project was to improve performance, that is, how to solve the issues related to hair color that existed at the time. However, as a result of our collaboration with Fujifilm, we discovered a new technology that delivers an unprecedented level of beauty in color.
As mentioned earlier, we asked Fujifilm to create a dye with a structure that would enable the color to easily penetrate hair. As we gained a deeper understanding of this aspect, we were able to develop a technology that enables the level of color penetration to be easily controlled. As a result, the penetration area of the new dye stuff can now be restricted to the periphery area inside the hair, so that it forms a ring. Have a look at this model.



Watanabe : So this red section, shaped like a ring, is the section of the hair that has been colored with the new dye?

Iijima : That’s right. In this model, the blue represents the middle of the hair, and you can see that the dyed section, shown in red, is only on the outside and at a depth of about 30%. We discovered that when the hair is dyed in two layers, as shown here, it creates an effect in which the color appears different when in contact with light, as a result of the optical path. Woven fabrics using the color kikujin (yellow-grey), which has been regarded as a special color since ancient times, deliver multi-dimensional coloration based on the same principle. We were astounded that we were able to realize this with hair color.

Watanabe : You’re right! Looking at it from the outside, it looks as though it’s dyed red, but depending on the angle of the light, a blue light appears from a different direction!

Iijima : That’s exactly right! By making the most of the characteristic of this dye, we were able to discover new possibilities in creating dimensional color with depth.
With conventional oxidative color products, for example, if hair was dyed red, the result may look good, but you end up with a finish that’s flat and even mono-tonal. But if you can control the depth of penetration by using HD³ Dye, then you have a beautiful visual effect with movements such as when hair’s gathered up, or sways in the wind, and the color actually appears to change with those movements.

photo:富士フイルム(株)R&D統括本部有機合成化学研究所研究マネージャー Fujitaさん

Watanabe : That’s incredible! Not only have the issues of hair coloring been addressed, but you’ve been able to create a totally different look in hair color! From Fujifilm’s perspective, do you see this as a totally new discovery which was made possible by the incorporation of another perspective?

Fujita (Fujifilm) : Yes we do. We have a library of over 40,000 different dyes, and were accustomed to ways of controlling various colors in photography and displays, but controlling color that includes the depth of color in hair was a new discovery for us. We are incredibly happy that this collaboration resulted in the discovery an inconceivable feature for the resulting dyestuff. At the same time, we are also curious as to how this ability to control color by controlling depth of penetration can be applied to other areas.

  • About Fujifilm’s Core Technologies

Commercialization and Future Outlook

Commercialization of HD³Dye, and its Future Outlook

photo:富士フイルム(株)ファインケミカル事業部マネージャー Goshoさん

Watanabe : So Kao and Fujifilm have succeeded in the research and development of a hair color technology that takes beautiful hair to a new level. With regards to the commercialization of this technology, my understanding is that you’ve joined forces as business partners to develop the large-scale synthesis of this dyestuff?

Iijima : Once we’d completed performance verification and safety evaluation, and we had the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow, we started the process of preparing for commercialization. However, in order for this to happen, we had to be able to carry out the large-scale synthesis of a quality dye. To be honest, only Fujifilm had the ability to quickly realize this, and so we approached them again in autumn 2013. However, commercialization had already been planned for spring 2015, and so in hindsight, we were really putting pressure on Fujifilm! (Laughter)

Watanabe : With the deadline fast approaching, you had to come up with mass-scale synthesis of a high-purity product! And there would also be issues that needed to be solved, such as cost, in order for you to achieve your goal!
How many people were involved in the process from development through to making it into an actual product?

Gosho : 2014 was our most significant year in terms of establishing the business and getting ready for the market, and at its peak, we had a total of 30 people working on the project. During this period we had a team of members in various roles, including synthesis technology, manufacturing technology, legal affairs, intellectual property and accounting, and they all worked together towards achieving the internal agreement necessary to create the new business, as well as developing the contract with Kao. The project was promoted over a short time period in order to be able to supply the dye that met Kao’s required quality standards by the specified date.

Ishiwata : Part of the quality control process is to identify the reactive conditions for the by-products which are blended into the final dyestuff. One thing we were constantly aware of was that we wanted to develop a product that our children would be able to use safely, and that was one of the main motivations behind achieving our goal.

photo:Project members (as of 2014)

photo:sample of HD³ Dye Technology

Fujita : Because Fujifilm had originally been involved in photographic film production, the performance of a product only becomes apparent when it’s in the customer’s hands. Therefore, regardless of what kind of dye it is, we have extremely strict standards when it comes to the quality control of chemicals and their purity. In this collaboration, the Fujifilm Group’s manufacturing arm was also involved in establishing, simultaneously, the mass-scale synthesis of three colors, and over a short period of time.

Watanabe : Three colors simultaneously! That must have been a huge job!
Are the colors on the board samples of hair that’s been colored with HD³ Dye?

Iijima : Yes. The samples in the top row have been dyed with conventional hair color, while the samples in the bottom row have been dyed with HD³ Dye.

Watanabe : Wow, they’re totally different! The colors are beautiful. And the tone of colors are so diverse!

photo:using image of HD³ Dye Technology

Iijima : As the HD³ Dye range is comprised of the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow in highly vivid and intense tones, the desired color can be easily achieved by changing the color ratio when mixing the dye. For example, using blue dye to rid the orangey tone that’s generated when dark hair is lightened results in a sustained beautiful blonde color. And so it’s possible to create colors that are both vivid and highly fashionable.

Watanabe : I’ve heard that this HD³ Dye will initially be offered for use in hair salons in the Americas and Europe, the regions where trends start. However, it would be wonderful if the product could be developed for use at home! I often help my mother dye her grey hair, so it would be wonderful if this could be something that was made readily available to people in Japan.

Iijima : We intend to carry on development so that it can be used safely by larger numbers of people in the future.
And, the role of hair color is not just about fashion, that is, enjoying changing your hair color, but it plays an important social role by responding to the needs of people who want to cover gray hairs so that they can look younger, or who want to maintain their very own look. When it comes to dyeing gray hair, as new growth appears at the roots, it’s very noticeable, which means that gray hair needs to be touched up more frequently. As we want to create a product that can be used by everyone without having to be worried about uneven coverage or the color staining the scalp or skin, I believe that developing coloring technology featuring HD³ Dye represents a starting point for further improvement.

Watanabe : So you’re going to continue working with Fujifilm for further development!
And to conclude this interview, can each of you sum up, in your own words, what this joint-development initiative has meant to you?

Ishiwata : Although this is the first time we’ve been involved in hair dye, we had excellent communications with Kao by working as a team that was working towards the same objective. We were able to work towards realizing a product that delivers beautiful color while never compromising on safety so that customers can use the product with reassurance. I think this is why research proceeded extremely smoothly.
I also came to the realization that developing a truly outstanding technology by incorporating others’ perspectives can lead to new discoveries. So I believe that you can’t go wrong if you continue to work towards creating something that represents genuine quality.

Fujita : It was because Kao communicated its passionate desire to create a safe hair color product that people could enjoy, in a way that was understandable, that the many people involved in this project were so enthusiastic. And in the end were able to achieve our goal.
A major aspect was that Kao and Fujifilm were on the same page when exchanging technological theories, and this was a factor behind the new discovery that was made. Talking to the people at Kao often means sharing aspirations. I therefore look forward to new and greater possibilities that aren’t limited to this field, through continued technological collaborations between Fujifilm and Kao.

Iijima : We did achieve one of our goals by successfully applying a new coloring technology to a product. However, we still face many fundamental and essential challenges specific to hair coloring, and so we look forward to the continued support of Fujifilm in addressing and solving these problems over the next 5 or 10 years, so that we can achieve our big dream. When focusing on the research center as part of our recent collaboration, I am convinced that Fujifilm and Kao think in the same way, and that we share similar DNA. Specifically, these are to have an essential understanding of the subject, to be extremely accurate and precise when it comes to controlling the physical properties, and absolute integrity in our research. It is this mindset that results in a high level of creativity. In other words, both companies are incredibly discriminating in its creations.
Although two companies were involved, as Mr. Ishiwata has mentioned, we always felt that we were working as one team. As two Japanese companies working together, I strongly believe, going forward, that we shall continue to create products and services that respond to people’s dreams, and I look forward to continuing to work together.

Gosho : What really impressed me about Kao as a result of this collaboration is how open they were in sharing information with us. Kao’s research center shared their vision with us during the stages leading up to the signing of the contract in autumn 2013. For example, their desire to promote the value of this new hair color technology by first starting with hair salons in Europe and the Americas, and at the same time continue to build on the technology so that the product can be made available to more customers in the world in the future. Kao also explained to us how their Japanese and German research centers would be collaborating with hair salon professionals to come up with the best way to use this hair color, and how to make this innovation available to the world.
That’s why it’s not simply about Fujifilm producing and making HD³ Dye available to the market. This collaboration was made possible because we all thoroughly understood exactly who and how this dye would be used.
In the past we had a “seed mindset”, that is, a desire to make something new and unprecedented. However, as a result of this collaboration with Kao, we thought about how to best address different perspectives and different markets. Looking back, I do believe that it is this needs-driven way of thinking that resulted in this innovation. I hope that we can continue to communicate and collaborate with Kao and develop technologies that will make more products that deliver beauty to more people.
In addition, with the materials and chemicals held by Fujifilm as the key, We hope that our collaboration will include diverse and wider areas so that we can deliver new value-added products to society. And, We hope that we can continue this open innovation-based success by working together, in the same way, with other industries.

More about Fujifilm’s Open Innovation

Watanabe : Thank you very much everyone!

* Department names, titles and interview details are based on the interview conducted in August 2017.

After the Interview

Yuko Watanabe

In this interview, I was able to find out about the new possibilities that emerged as the result of two companies from different industries who enhanced each other’s technological expertise in carrying out research together. I have a feeling that this technology and product will put smiles on the faces of many, many people! I also look forward to focusing on other diverse examples of open innovation.

Click to view a special, video that offers a comprehensive overview of the HD³ Dye Technology.



YUKO WATANABE Age23 Scientific Specialty: Robotics

Hobbies include anime, manga, movies, watching TV, visiting sacred spots and karaoke. Has experience in several sports, including volleyball, tennis, basketball and distance running. A real jack-of-all-trades, she's involved in both sports and the humanities. "I'm so glad that what I've learned in science and engineering will be useful to me as a reporter! I'll be giving it my best!"