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How to Care for Color Treated Hair

How to Care for Color Treated Hair

Covering gray? Enhancing your natural hair color? Or simply expressing your personality with vibrant colors, hair coloring is a wonderful option. However, without proper attention to your hair after color treatment, your hair may be worse off - dry, damaged or frizzy. The kinds of dyes, pigments and processes also impact the condition of your hair. Understanding what color treatments do to the hair and how to strengthen your hair after color will help you to keep your hair vibrant, manageable and hold onto its color as long as possible.

What Kind of Color: Permanent or Semi-Permanent?

Semi-permanent color, also called hair gloss, doesn’t open up your cuticle before adding color, instead it adds color "on top" of the hair shaft. Semi-permanent color is the hot Technicolor trend with people of all ages who want to rock a wild streak - or an entire head of brilliant color. People crowned with purple, hot pink, red, green, blue and just about any combination of the rainbow most likely used a semi-permanent color to achieve that look.

Permanent color is the more formal name for “hair dye” or “color-treated hair.” The process involves lifting the cuticle and adding color.

Permanent color is just as the name says, it lightens the hair and then embeds the chosen color deep within the hair shaft. Permanent color strips away the hair's natural color and replaces it with a new one. This makes it the choice for those seeking to cover gray or make radically different color changes.

As with any decision that has the word "permanent" in it, you'll want to carefully consider your color choice. Make sure it suits your skin tone, career and lifestyle. You should be sure you're completely committed to the color before you begin. Also, depending on the change, lighter or darker, your hair will have some damage.

What does bleaching do to hair?

Extreme lightening of the hair, also known as bleaching, can cause a coarsening of the hair's texture with corresponding dryness. Bleaching penetrates the hair follicle and removes the natural pigment, making it more susceptible to being brittle, dry and damaged. Add in daily hair washing, blow-drying and other styling products and you have a recipe for fragile, brittle hair that is highly prone to breakage.

While highlights and semi-permanent treatments are less damaging, they can also alter the structure of the hair and increase the likelihood of dull or lifeless looking hair. This is a problem for people who regularly touch up the gray in their hair.

Covering Gray

Hair we call white, silver or gray is actually the result of a hair follicle that has lost its color; it no longer carries its natural pigment. Gray hair can also become coarse, wiry or frizzy. Science points to genetics as the main reason why your hair may go gray at thirty, while another's may not change until well in their sixties. Despite legends, nasty fright or stress is unlikely to be the culprit.

You can choose to go gray "gracefully" or fight it every step of the way with color. Though semi-permanent color will not completely color the gray, it can change gray hair color or make it look like a highlight against the darker color.

Does Color Treatment Cause Frizz?

Hair color relies on the use of chemicals, typically ammonia, peroxide and/or other forms of alcohol, to open the outermost layer of the hair shaft, the cuticle. The cuticle needs to lift so color can deposit on the hair’s cortex. The cuticle’s job is to strengthen and protect the hair. Lifting it not only immediately increases exposure to other damage, but exposes the cortex to water.

Like shingles on a roof, the cuticle is made up of many overlapping layers of cells. When the cuticle is healthy, these “shingles” lie flat, giving the hair shaft a smooth appearance. Although special conditioners are added to hair dyes in effort to close the cuticle, it’s never quite restored to its pre-colored state.

Damaged Cuticles

Photo of damaged cuticles

Healthy Cuticles

Photo of healthy cuticles

Hair gets frizzy when water is absorbed into the hair shaft – which is why rainy and humid days always seem to bring on the worst. Water causes the hair shaft to swell, making the hair bend and curl out of control. Think of it like an untreated piece of wood left in the rain – pretty soon, it begins to warp. Water enters the wood, the wood expands and curves out of alignment. So, coloring your hair is like opening the proverbial floodgates - with the cuticle damaged, it can’t do its job as gatekeeper. Water rushes into the hair shaft and our hair is transformed into an unruly mess.


Tips to Avoid Color Fade And Damage

  • Make sure that you don’t rush the color process. If you or your stylist do not leave the color on long enough, it will fade faster. This especially holds true for gray hair, asgray hair can take longer to absorb artificial hair color molecules.
  • Wait at least 24 hours after coloring to shampoo.
  • Avoid hard water and hot water. Hard water can dull the vibrancy of your hair. Hot water rinses will open the cuticle and cause your color to fade.
  • Switch to a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates lift the cuticle as well; compounding the problem caused by hair color, and leaching out much of the color you’ve just deposited.
  • Look for conditioners that contain protein, such as Isoleucine. A protein-infused conditioner will both tone down frizz and boost shine.
  • Limit heat styling or turn the temperature down on your hairdryer to lessen continued damage.
  • Use a leave-in. If you need a touch up during the day, try a lightweight, lipid-containing leave-in spray. Lipids help to smooth down the cuticle and create a barrier against moisture in the air.
  • Avoid products with alcohol. Alcohol dries the cuticle further.
  • Stay hydrated. It seems counterintuitive, but the more water your hair strand contains from internal sources, the less it has to draw from the air.

Want to learn more about caring for your hair’s individual ecosystem?

Learn how to keep your color from fading and never worry about frizz again with the illumai Biome Care System.

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