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Coloring Your Hair

Posted by Adria Marshall on

Many curlies and naturals like to mix it up by adding color from time to time. Also, for those of us, myself included, who aren't quite ready to embrace their grey, hair color is a great way to bridge this gap! In May's blog post, let's discuss the different types of hair color, how they work, the risk factors and how to go about using them safely.

The 3 Ways to Change your Hair Color

Temporary Dyes

Temporary dyes are a terrific way to quickly change your hair color! These dyes cover the surface of the hair but don’t penetrate into the hair shaft. The color payoff is great and generally lasts for 1 to 2 washings. Because these dyes are gentle on your hair, they are a terrific impulse option. Examples of these are:

Semi-permanent Dyes

Semi-permanent dyes are a good middle-of-the-road option. Penetrating the hair shaft, they contain tiny color molecules that enter the hair's cuticle, or outer layer, and go into your hair's cortex. They don't interact with your natural pigments. And since the molecules are small, they eventually exit the hair shaft after several shampoos, leaving the hair as it was before the treatment. These dyes are more permanent than temporary dyes and don't contain as many of the risk factors as permanent ones but they won't lighten your hair color and typically last for 5 to 10 washings.

Permanent Dyes

These dyes cause lasting chemical changes in the hair shaft. They are the most popular types of hair dyes, because the color changes last until the hair is replaced by new growth. Permanently lightening the color of your hair is a 3-step process:

    • Step 1: Alkaline agents causes the cuticle to swell.
    • Step 2: Oxidative agents (Developers) cause the the bonds that make up the cellular membrane complex to break so that the natural pigment, or melanin, to dissolve. 
    • Step 3: Hair color is then deposited on your lightened hair

    When choosing the best type of hair dye, you should consider the risk factors for your hair and body. Overall, temporary hair dyes are by far the safest option. They are gentle on your hair and many contain nourishing ingredients that actually leave your hair in better condition! There are also no known risk factors in regards to your body's health. The downside is that the color only lasts a couple of washings, so this isn't a convenient option if you're looking for longer lasting results.

    With semi-permanent hair dyes, your hair's cuticle is slightly raised so that the color can penetrate. This means that these treatments are more damaging than temporary hair color but not as much as permanent ones. Be sure to incorporate a regular protein treatment  ( into your regimen to keep your locks strong. A recent study has noted that those who are exposed to semi-permanent and permanent dyes at work (hair stylists and barbers) are more susceptible to bladder cancer (via skin exposure and fumes) and those who have the services performed are more at risk of breast cancer. To mitigate these factors, be sure to use gloves and a mask when performing coloring treatments and space out the services if you are having them done. Semi-permanent dye will wash out in 5-10 weeks and won't lighten your hair color.

    If you're looking for permanent results or a lighter hair color, you should consider permanent hair dye while keeping their risk factors in mind. Remember the 3 step process that we discussed earlier? Well, that second step is a doozy! Developers come in a few different levels. The higher the level, the quicker the melanin is dissolved. But this comes at a cost! Generally, hair will be slightly porous when coloring or lightening with 20 volume developers, porous when using 30 or 40, and extremely porous after multiple permanent hair color services, not including touch-ups. Because it's tricky to determine the right developer level, I strongly recommend going to a professional for permanent hair dye treatment. A good stylist will know the appropriate developer volume for the look that you're trying to achieve. They will also inform you if your desired results are unrealistic. To avoid a color disaster or irreparable damage, see a professional! Be sure to check their prior work to be confident that they are capable of handling your curly tresses. After your treatment, your hair will be more porous and susceptible to breakage, so be sure to incorporate frequent protein treatments into your routine ( When my hair was colored burgundy, I used a protein treatment every week and didn't experience any breakage! Also, remember to handle your hair extremely gently - don't rush wash days or your refreshing sessions! It's kinda hard to be a "lazy natural" if you have permanent hair color, in my humble opinion. The cancer risks that we discussed with semi-permanent color apply even more with permanent dye, so try to space out your coloring sessions as much as possible.

    I hope this blog helped to educate you guys on the types of hair dyes, how they work and their risk factors! Do you color your hair? What do you use? How do you ensure that you are protected during these services?






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    • Thank you for this thorough and informative post. I’ve gone back and forth with embracing grey for various reasons. I appreciate you sharing your experience with products and your research.

      Tia on
    • So where does henna fit in, speaking in terms of how long it lasts and how safe it is?

      Audri on
    • I use permanent dyes but I only use them 3-4 months apart. I use the ION brand from Sally’s along with the pretreatment and after treatment. This works better on my greys. Maybe one day I will embrace the grey, especially after hearing it may cause cancer.

      diane sanders on
    • I always enjoy your blogs. This one provided lots of good information as well as all the others. I like how you broke everything down. I had semi-permanent highlights years ago. Lately I’ve been using Gemini Naturals & Hair Paint Wax.

      Latoya on

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