Wise uP: Hair Color Facts and Fiction

10 02 2010

In between sorting through the endless Farmville updates and Photo of the Day features on Facebook, I have many thought provoking, often hilarious conversations with my girlfriends about a wide range of topics. The past month alone has brought up at least three discussions involving hair color that I wanted to expand on. Hopefully I can debunk some classic hair color myths that have been hammered into our heads by that Giant of reliable information, Cosmopolitan magazine.

MYTH #1: You Should Always Color Your Hair When it’s Dirty

HOW THIS MYTH BEGAN: Even as recently as the 80’s, hair color contained about three times as much ammonia as it does today, making it much more irritating on the scalp. To prevent women from getting serious scalp irritation, hairdressers would tell women to wash their hair the day prior to color service (as well as putting sweet n low and cigarette ashes into the color bowl), allowing natural oils in the scalp to be a buffer between the scalp and the color. Somehow this evolved into coloring “dirty” hair.

THE pH: I recommend washing hair the night before a color service and not scrubbing your scalp too aggressively. You don’t want hair to be visibly oily or (gasp!) smelly. Too much oil can interfere with color and you want to make sure you get the most beautiful results for your money.

As a side note, this myth also applies to getting an updo or formal style. Please wash your hair the day or evening before an updo service.  While you don’t want your locks too flyaway, you also don’t want excessive oil or styling products to get in the way of your dream hair.

MYTH #2: Color Lifts or Lightens Previously Colored Hair

THE pH: I’d say that 70% of my corrective color clients are those who have dyed their hair at home, have been unhappy with the results and have then tried to “lighten” it with another box dye in another shade, only making it darker than before. Sorry girls, but once that color has been processed, another box of color will not make it come off and will certainly NOT make it lighter. If your “Espresso Brown” comes out more like “Elvis Has Left the Building Black,” I would first suggest washing your hair immediately with hot water and Palmolive dish detergent mixed with a little baking soda. Wash 2-3 times until there is no pigment left in the suds. Hair color takes approximately 48 hours to neutralize, so the sooner after the accident the better. If this still isn’t enough, call a professional, but whatever you do, do NOT buy another hair color kit!

MYTH #3: Color Safe Shampoos are a Marketing Ploy

THE pH: Oh really? Did you read what I just wrote about dish detergent sucking out your hair color? Many shampoos have the same ingredients as dish detergents or bath gels and have been designed to clean hair and remove styling products. Those same shampoos will lift your color out right along with your Aqua Net. My suggestion is a color safe shampoo and conditioner, preferably one with NO SULFATES.

Here are recommendations in three different price ranges:

EverPure Shampoo

Low range: L’Oreal EverPure Sulfate-Free ($5.99).   A terrific drug store shampoo and conditioner, available for different types of hair.

Mid range: AlfaParf Splendore Volume or Hydrate ($17.99).  One of my favorite color safe shampoos by a wonderful Italian company, now available at Linensandthings.com.


High Range: Davines Glorifying Shampoo ($24).  I’m a huge fan of Davines products and this is my favorite for color treated hair.  Available in salons: davines.com

Davines Glorifying Shampoo

MYTH #4: Coloring My Hair Will Damage It

THE pH: It would be irresponsible of me to say that hair is never damaged by color, especially by over processing and pushing hair to the limits of its capacity. I will say, however, that hair color is improving every day and in many cases can actually be beneficial to the hair. Demi-permanent colors, or “glazes” contain no ammonia and coat the hair shaft, leaving it glossy, shiny and tamed. Since they don’t contain ammonia, they wash out gradually, rather than grow out from the scalp, leaving telltale roots. Hair color companies have also significantly reduced the ammonia levels in their permanent lines, making the smell much more pleasant, the scalp less irritated and leaving the hair in significantly better condition than in years past.

Even highlighting is gentler these days. I use a highlight paste in the salon that contains essential oils and moves very slowly to prevent the hair from blasting out blonde, and combine this with a hand-painted “balayage” highlight. This process of painting the hair’s surface eliminates the use of foils and the heat that comes with foiling, potentially causing breakage.

Now just because color is improving doesn’t mean that people are, and I’d like to take a moment here to address the topic of over processing. As a hair color client, you need to know your hair’s capacity. If you experience breakage, brittle or weakened hair, talk to your stylist about steps you can take to get your hair healthy again. Remember, not everyone is supposed to be a platinum blonde and a responsible colorist will work with you to ensure your hair’s optimum health. Blondorexia is a disease but it’s a treatable one.

Your colorist is worth a million Lady’s rags, er, magazines. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and gain knowledge about exactly what you’re doing to your hair. I welcome questions and will be happy to address any of your hair color needs.