Quite literally, you need good chemistry for great hair color. The first ever safe-to-use, commercial hair was created by French chemist Eugene Schuller, using a chemical called paraphenylenediamine. Today, over 75% of women and a growing percentage of men use at-home or salon treatments to change their hair color.
But finding the right hair color that will suit your face, personality and lifestyle are like finding a diamond in the rough. To top it all off, a professional dye job isn’t cheap. You want to make the most out of your recent salon visit and sport your brand new, vivacious locks for a much longer time.
To understand how you can maintain your hair color, it’s important to know how hair color works. Hair color involves a series of chemical reactions between the pigments in the dye, the peroxide and ammonia and the components that make up the hair.
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Each hair has two regions, the root and the shaft. The root exists below the surface of your scalp, fastened in the follicle, whereas the hair shaft is the section that is above the surface and visible to you. Hair is primarily made of dead cells, with just a few live cells at the base of the hair root. The shaft is made of the proteins, keratin, and melanin.
In general, hair has three cross-sectional layers: the outermost cuticle, the cortex in the middle and then the air-filled medulla. Not all hair has a medulla.
The cuticle is the outermost protective barrier of your hair that is made up of keratinocytes – the cells that produce keratin. These cells are arranged like scales, or shingles on a roof and are partially transparent, which allows the melanin (pigment protein) in the cortex to show through. Each keratin molecule contains the amino acid, cysteine, which contains sulfur. The sulfur in cysteines strengthens them and form disulfide bonds, making hair fibers sturdy and insoluble.
Natural hair color is determined via two types of melanin – eumelanin that gives brown to black hues and pheomelanin, which gives blonde and red hues.
During the process of hair coloring, the dye and its accompanying components need to travel to the cortex of your hair. For this to happen, there has to be a change in the outermost cuticle. Dye lifts the cuticle “shingles” and softens them, allowing easy access into the cortex.
Hydrogen peroxide and ammonia are the usual heavy hitters in hair dyes as they offer a plethora of functions during the entire process. Ammonia is the vehicle to transport the dye to the cortex, and since it’s alkaline, it makes the environment in your hair basic, providing adequate conditions for the required reactions to occur.
The cuticle opens when hydrogen peroxide breaks down the disulfide bonds, allowing precursor dye molecules to enter the cortex and react with melanin. Inside the cortex, the dye molecules assemble, form larger dye molecules and react with hydrogen peroxide.
Ideally, with permanent hair dyes, the large dye molecules do not get washed off and remain inside because they cannot pass through the cuticle “sieve” any longer.
The effects of hydrogen peroxide are two-folds in the hair. It oxidizes melanin to remove its color and oxidizes precursor dye to make permanent dye. This is especially important if the starting hair color is dark and you’re switching to a lighter shade.
You might wonder why your hair color looks different on your friend or why it fades much faster than you expected. Hair has a myriad of chemical and physiological factors that affect how it behaves with dyes, chemicals and styling products.
Some of them are explained below:
Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb the liquid. This relies on the condition of your hair’s cuticles. Recall the shingles analogy here. Hair that is healthy has a smooth, compact cuticle. It functions adequately as a barrier, with minimal gaps in between. Once the cuticle opens, the hair surface is no longer smooth, causing dull, unmanageable, easily-tangled hair.
Furthermore, a cuticle with many gaps – in other words, a cuticle that is more porous, absorbs color quickly but also releases it faster.
Porosity is also affected by the length of the hair. The older (or longer) the hair, the more porous it becomes. Chemical treatments such as dyes, heat, sun, pollution and general wear and tear open the cuticle and increase its porosity.
Fortunately, any product that coats the hair – such as a nourishing conditioning treatment or a keratin treatment will smoothen the cuticle and decrease the hair’s porosity. The added layer adds moisture and closes the gaps in your hair, preventing moisture and hair dye from escaping.
When we talk about the texture of hair, we are talking about its diameter and its relative straightness or curliness.
The diameter of your hair varies by genetics. Some people have very fine hair, while others have coarse hair. Fine hair generally lightens and receives color more easily than coarse hair, which requires more color to go through a change.
The hair’s natural color refers to the amount of melanin in its cortex. Melanin is visible through the translucent cuticle and is what gives hair its natural color.
Hair color has level and tone. The level is how dark or light hair is. Tone refers to the underlying color. Just like with skin, hair has cool tones and warm tones. Black and brown pigments are involved with level, whereas yellow and red pigments give tone. Levels are often described as a number. For example, if you have level 1 hair, it means your hair is really dark.
Hair that is naturally dark but is going to be lightened will call for the use of bleach to eliminate the color-giving melanin in the hair. This is an irreversible reaction and is the most corrosive process of hair coloring. On the other hand, going from light to dark is the least damaging as it doesn’t require bleach or hydrogen peroxide to lock in the new color.
Elasticity is your hair’s ability to stretch and return its original shape – similar to a spring. This is what allows dry hair to stretch to 30% of its length and return to normal. Your hair’s springiness depends on the strength and resilience of its disulfide bones. If the bonds are broken, such as during hair coloring, the hair will extend beyond its normal length and become less elastic.
Elasticity depends on the strength and resilience of the disulfide bonds. When the bonds are broken, hair strands extend more and become less elastic and less springy. Wet hair stretches more easily as a result of water entering the hair and breaking weaker bonds. This is why wet hair is more susceptible to breakage, especially if it is colored or chemically treated.
Hygroscopicity is the measure of the hair’s ability to absorb water vapor. This is what makes hair frizzy or limp during humid conditions. Hairsprays and gels help prolong your hairstyle by preventing water molecules from the atmosphere from being absorbed.
Hair prefers acidic conditions as they close and smooth the cuticle, leaving hair smooth and shiny. Shampoos and conditioners are made acidic, but even simple DIY treatments such as apple cider rinses can help stabilize pH levels, leaving hair shinier and much more manageable.
Now that you’ve understood the anatomy of your hair, how it reacts to hair dye and the various factors that make these reactions different from one person to another, you probably have an idea of why your color jobs don’t stand the test of time.
If your hair color is fading and becoming brassy too early, check if any of the following may be the cause:
Your hair health determines how well your hair will catch pigment and hold on to it. Hair that is dry, dull and has split ends is one of the poorest receptors for hair color. According to a text published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, hair shine and texture relate to surface properties of the hair, and structural integrity relates to the cortex.
Poor hair health can occur for many reasons, including an inadequate diet containing very little protein, iron, vitamins and other vital nutrients, lack of hydration, not conditioning the hair, not protecting the hair from the heat or sun, over-styling and so on.
One common reason behind hair color dulling fast is not enough processing time. In other words, the hair color didn’t stay long enough in the hair. This is especially true if you have grey hair as cuticles in gray hair are tightly packed down and take much longer to open and take in dye compared to other hair types.
Most ammonia-based dyes perform their job within 30 minutes. The first 10 minutes involve lifting the cuticle and roughing it up, the next 10 minutes for transporting the dye molecules to the cortex and the last 10 for setting the dye into the cortex. Most dyes used today are non-progressive, which means they’ll stop processing your hair after 30 minutes.
Direct dyes are typically timed for 20 minutes or less, depending on the texture and porosity of the hair. Direct dyes are only involved in making the hair soak up the pigment and don’t cause added damage if left longer.
During the lightening process, bleach is often left for up to 1 hour with a 20 volume developer for average to fine hair and a 30+ volume developer for coarser, darker hair. Leaving bleach on the hair for longer can result in severe, irreversible chemical damage, such as the dreaded “fried hair.”
About 65% of Americans have hard water in their homes. The calcium and magnesium present in hard water tend to accumulate in the hair over time, preventing dye molecules from passing through the cuticle. If you live in an area with hard water, try using a product such as the Malibu-C Crystals Gels before coloring your hair.
Heat is hair’s and hair color’s natural enemy. Hot water causes the cuticle to open more, allowing dye molecules to leach out every time you shower.
When you wash your hair soon after your appointment, you’re at risk of fading your brand new hair color much faster. Also, shampoos and conditioners that are not designed for colored hair can be too harsh and have higher pH, causing hair color to leave the hair strand much faster with each wash.
Furthermore, most styling products are packed with plastics and petrochemicals that build up in the hair over time, allowing colored hair to lose its vibrancy and sheen.
Heat styling tools such as straighteners, curling irons and blow dryers all cause thermal damage to the hair. Not only does this cause hair color to leave the hair strands over time, but it also damages the hair and makes it lose its natural shine.
Hair that is smooth and shiny tends to look more vibrant when colored because of the light reflecting off it. On the other hand, when hair is damaged, hair color tends to look more faded and dull.
Here are two guides that may be helpful to you:
Your hair needs sunscreen too! Not using proper UV protection is an open invitation for the damaging UV rays of the sun, causing hair color to fade much faster.
Regardless of the plethora of hair color options out there, no dye-job will look the same as the day you stepped out of the salon.
Using the right products and protecting your hair from heat and mechanical damage can go a long way in ensuring your hair looks gorgeous and vibrant for a long time. However, it is also essential that you are coloring your hair regularly enough to achieve desired results.
Whether you’re getting new highlights or switching to an entirely different hair color, dying your hair is a bold choice on its own. However, we want this change to last and not result in faded, brassy locks in just a matter of days. Most women find that purple dyed hair fades the quickest.
If you are considering taking the plunge, it helps to do some research on what the color of your choice will give you, in terms of vibrancy, sheen, long-lasting effects, upkeep and so on.
For your convenience, we’ve rounded up some important information on popular hair dyes and how they behave with time.
If you’re a brunette and you’re planning on transforming your hair to any shade of blonde, you should be aware that hair lightening is not just a coloring process. To add your desired shade of blonde, your existing hair color needs to be stripped off using bleach.
After this, your hair needs to be toned to cut off any brassy tones. Since hair lightening requires a few additional steps which can be harsh on the hair, it’s critical that you treat your hair with extra care to prevent your hair from looking dull and brassy.
If you’ve gone red before, you probably know that seeing your color fade is quite a painful process. Artificial reds tend to fade much faster than any other color for several, complex chemical reasons. Red hair dye molecules are the largest molecules in the color palette, which prevents them from penetrating deep into the shaft and causes them to slip out of the cuticle much faster.
Because of this, artificial red is the most susceptible to fading with each wash. Intense reds fade much faster than others, while more muted shades such as auburn and red-tinted browns stay the longest.
Brown hair color has the most staying power, and fading colors just turn to another shade of brown, causing little noteworthy difference. Furthermore, brown hair dye molecules penetrate more deeply into the hair shaft, resulting in a more lustrous color.
To top it all off, darkening your hair causes very little damage as no peroxide or bleach is needed to strip off existing hair color. This makes brunette a low maintenance choice for most individuals.
Bright, vibrant colors are all the rage these days, with many individuals choosing blues to pinks and everything in between. The lilacs and unicorn shades are undoubtedly Instagram-worthy, but they do come with their own share of heavy maintenance.
In most cases, to lock in a gorgeous bright color, you need to bleach your hair. This is one of the most damaging steps in hair coloring and calls for additional upkeep. It’s important to note the brighter the color is, the more likely it is to fade over time. For example, pastels have more staying power than electric blue or hot pink.
By now, you’ve probably understood that new hair does not only involve changing a product or two, but it’s about embracing a whole new product crew and taking up a brand new hair routine.
This may sound tough, but understanding your hair and color and building a routine around them can go a long way in ensuring that your color lasts – without you having to revisit a salon for a much longer time.
The following are the top-rated tips given by expert colorists on how you can preserve your hair color as soon as you leave the salon:
Hair coloring is a multi-faceted process that requires some time to make a lasting effect – even after you leave the salon. During coloring, your cuticle is opened to allow the color to enter the hair quickly. When you wash your hair right after your appointment, your cuticle barrier may still be open, allowing easy access for water to wash off dye molecules residing in your hair shaft.
It takes up to three days for the hair cuticle to close entirely. The longer you wait to shampoo, the more time you’re giving the color pigment to soak into the cortex.
We recommend waiting at least 72 hours before your next shampoo as this will make hair color last much longer between salon visits.
Most shampoos and conditioners contain chemical detergents or surfactants that act as primary cleansers. The most common detergents used in care products are anionic detergents, which include the notorious sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. Sulfates are responsible for creating a rich lather and quickly removing dirt, dust, sebum, and pollutants from the hair.
Unfortunately, while sulfate shampoos do leave your hair squeaky clean within no time, they are also incredibly harsh. By using products containing sulfates, you’re running the risk of eliminating the natural oils, moisture and even your new color from your hair. Sulfate shampoos also cause damage to the hair over time, causing hair to lose its luster.
To keep your hair color from fading, try using sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, designed for your hair type.
Products designed for colored hair don’t contain alcohol, have low sulfate levels and include added hydrating elements to give hair more shine. The shinier your hair is, the more light it will reflect, making your hair appear healthier and more vibrant. While choosing color-safe products, choose ones that have added proteins, or keratin, to help strengthen the hair and seal opened areas of the cuticle.
On your first day of shampooing after your salon visit, instead of grabbing your regular conditioner, try using a deep conditioner to lock in more moisture and nutrients. Hair coloring and bleaching can cause a reasonable amount of damage to hair. To make it appear healthier, you need to make hydration your top priority.
Deep conditioners are richer, offer more moisture and have added ingredients to nourish your hair. After the first week, deep condition once a week to maintain your hair color.
If you’ve opted for brighter colors such as red, pink, blue or purple, try adding a bit of dye to your conditioner while washing your hair. Since you’re losing your color every time you shampoo, adding dye via your conditioner will slightly freshen it until your roots grow out.
We love long, relaxing hot showers, but your skin and hair aren’t huge fans of it. When you’re washing your hair with hot water, your hair’s cuticle opens up, causing hair color to wash out while shampooing. Also, it also opens up your follicles and makes your hair more vulnerable to falling.
To prevent your hair color from going down the drain, try washing your hair with slightly warm water. After you condition, rinse with cold water to close your cuticles and seal the moisture from your conditioner.
Since you’re losing hair color every time you shower, then washing your hair every other day or even 2-3 times a week may be a great idea.
By washing your hair, not only are you stripping your hair and scalp of its natural oils and moisture, but you’re also washing away a little bit of dye every time. It’s much healthier for your hair to skip a couple of days than to wash your hair every day.
On days you’re not showering, try using color-safe dry shampoos. A dry shampoo can help add volume to otherwise, limp, oily hair, and make it look fresher with very little effort. You can also freshen your color by using a color-tinted dry shampoo, without having to visit a salon anytime soon.
Styling your hair regularly with curling irons, straighteners and blow dryers can dry out your hair and damage it, making hair an uneven canvas for your new color. If you haven’t colored your hair yet, you’ll want to keep off styling tools for a few days as hair color cannot deposit appropriately on dry, damaged hair with scaly cuticles.
While it may sound impossible, you can style your hair without the help of your favorite heat styling tool. Instead of using a hair dryer after every time you wash your hair, try drying your hair with a cotton t-shirt and letting your hair air dry. Not only will this cause minimal damage to your hair, but it will also help prevent frizz and fly-aways once your hair is dry. You’ll notice that your hair is way bouncier and healthier looking after you air dry it.
If you have to leave the house after your shower, try styling your hair in a gentle braid. A braid offers a young, chic look with minimal effort.
We get it, despite your best intentions, there are going to be days when you’ll need to heat style your hair to make your hair look more fabulous.
Since you’ve already understood that heat strips away hair color and severely dehydrates hair, try building a thermal prep routine. A heat protectant spray acts as a guard against moisture loss within the hair, leaving hair smooth and less prone to frizzing from humidity after you heat style it.
Chemically treated hair, such as colored hair, requires some extra TLC to help hydrate it and protect it from the damaging rays of the sun. Leave-in treatments allow hair to stay smooth and moisturized, preventing colored hair from looking duller over time.
Just like your skin, your hair can get damaged by ultraviolet radiation. According to a study released in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, all hair types undergo protein and moisture loss when exposed to the sun.
Use a leave-in treatment with UV protection to prevent the sun from fading your hair color – especially on days when you’re spending more times outdoors. For added protection, use a hat or scarf while sunbathing.
Ever experienced your blond hair becoming greenish or looking duller after taking a swim in a pool? Pool water contains copper that reacts with chlorine and your hair proteins, giving your hair a greenish hue.
To prevent pool water from damping your hair color, try soaking your hair with a leave-in conditioner or just plain bottled water before you enter the pool. This will create a barrier on your hair shaft, preventing copper from reacting with the chlorine.
For added protection, try a swimmer’s cap!
We’re talking about your beloved sea salt spray. Salt has a dehydrating effect on hair, causing it to look dull and weak.
If you’re a fan of texturized beach waves, try making a DIY beach waves spray using one tablespoon of sugar, one tablespoon conditioner, and one cup water. Shake it up in a spray bottle, spray and tie your hair in two braids. Once you’re ready to head out to the beach, open your hair, give it a final spritz of your leave-in treatment, scrunch your hair and you’re ready to go.
If you don’t have enough time for a DIY fix, mix a little bit of your conditioner into your sea salt spray to minimize the drying effects of the salt in it.
Bleach, ammonia, and peroxide can damage your hair and increase its porosity. This creates gaps in your cuticles, making it susceptible to moisture loss and frizz. Moreover, bleaching treatments can permanently break the disulfide bonds in your hair, making them weaker and more prone to mechanical breakage.
Your hair is primarily made of protein, so adding in protein from a protein-enriched product, helps fill in the gaps in your cuticles and close it up. Locking in protein makes your cuticle do its job of acting as a barrier.
In addition to routinely visiting your salon for a protein treatment, try making an at-home protein treatment using egg whites and moisturizing oils, such as coconut oil. Whisk the two and apply all over your scalp and hair. Leave for up to 20 minutes and rinse off.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, a proper diet containing the right balance of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals is key to maintaining the strength and elasticity of your hair.
Hair that is weaker on the inside looks dull, damaged and frizzy on the outside. This doesn’t help showcase your new color in its true glory. To prevent this, try upping your protein intake by consuming more lean meat, chicken, eggs, legumes, and lentils.
Furthermore, you can amp your vitamins and minerals by drinking home-made fruit and vegetable smoothies every day. Blend your choice of fruit and veggies with water, coconut water or plant-based milk and avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar can have a damaging impact on your hair and skin so try using healthier alternatives such as maple syrup or dates.
Stress is one of the key contributors to hair loss and hair greying. According to a research published in the American Journal of Pathology, the psycho-physiological impact of stress can affect your hair right at the follicle. This results in extreme hair loss over time, causing colored hair to look flat and unhealthy.
To make your hair look like it’s taken care of, try managing your stress if you’re battling with negative emotions. Talking to a friend or loved one, taking up an abandoned hobby such as dancing or painting, becoming more physically active with fun, exciting workouts are all excellent ways of beating stress and managing hair loss.
Split ends don’t hold color and tend to fade much faster. Furthermore, they travel upwards, slowly damaging the rest of your hair shaft. To prevent dead ends from taking over, be sure to get a trim every 6-8 weeks. This will help your hair and color look brand new from root to tip.
A couple of our favorite color-friendly kitchen ingredients include coconut oil and apple cider vinegar. For optimum moisture, try applying a coconut oil mask to your hair on days you shampoo. This will help smoothen your hair cuticle, and enrich it deeply, preventing colored hair from looking dry and limp.
Apple cider vinegar is excellent for replenishing the natural pH of your hair. Mix one part apple cider vinegar with three parts water and rinse your hair with it before you step out of the shower. This helps bring a natural shine to your hair, without the need for additional products.
The secret to extending your hair dye for several weeks without having to spend major bucks on a full-on treatment is getting a few touch ups in between. Simply ask to lighten your roots by one or two shades or get highlights on hair that frames your face. This is an inexpensive way to get a salon pick-me-up so that your hair looks lustrous and flawless till your next hair color appointment.
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