The Golden Rule of HAIR Color: Color Won’t Lift Color | hwh<3
I want to discuss a common misconception of hair coloring. I see people ask questions like “I put a blonde color over my brown and it’s still brown” and “How come every time I use the same color, my hair gets darker?” all the time. Well I will tell you exactly why in 4 words: color won’t lift color. Like, ever.
Let me explain to you why.
This is Clarice. She has naturally blonde hair and it has never been colored. She also has no lower body or arms.
Clarice decided one day that she wanted to color her hair dark brown.
She really liked her new look, as you can tell by her huge smile, and assuming she could walk, I’m sure she would have got a ton of compliments. However, she decided a week later that it was not her thing, and wanted her blonde hair back. She had one of her friends pick up some golden blonde hair color to match her natural color from Wal-Mart. Her friend, then, applied the color to Clarice’s hair and let it sit for 45 minutes, exactly like the directions told her to do.
So after washing out the color, this is what her hair looks like:
What went wrong?
Obviously, for this analogy I used markers, because most people understand how markers work. You can’t color something with a dark color and then put a lighter color on top of it, and expect it to be the lighter color. Basically all you are doing is packing more color molecules in the hair shaft with the already dark color molecules. The result is darker hair.
Okay, let me explain a little deeper how color works.
Your hair is made of three parts: the medulla and cortex which are the inner parts of the hair shaft, and the cuticle, which is the scale-like protective covering of hair. Melanin molecules or aka color pigments are located inside the cortex. The ammonia in hair color helps lift the cuticle, allowing for the color pigments to get inside the cortex. The color molecules are packed as much as possible into the cortex. In permanent colors, which are most commonly used, the color molecules are meant to stay in there basically forever, so they are really super packed in there.
So back to the example I used, with Clarice. When she first colored her hair brown, the hair color packed a ton of brown color molecules into her hair shaft. Then, during the week that she had her brown hair, when she washed her hair she probably lost a few molecules along the way. When they applied the blonde hair color to her hair, a few blonde color molecules packed into the spaces where the few brown molecules washed out. It didn’t really do anything to her hair. Color is not meant to lift color out of hair; it is meant to deposit pigment.
But I’m sure you are wondering to yourself right now, “Yeah, but how do people go from dark hair to blonde hair?” The answer is that they either had virgin hair or it was lightened first.
Virgin hair means hair that has never been colored. It could be that the person has never used color in their life, or that all of the previous color has grown out. In either case, the hair that you see has no color on it. Outgrowth is virgin hair. Color can lift virgin hair, but it will not be that dramatic. The reason for this is that you would mix a higher volume peroxide with the color and it will lift the hair slightly, but usually not more than a few levels. You could possibly use a higher developer when coloring previously colored hair but it probably won’t lift that much and it will not work predictably. That means, anything could happen.
Now the other option is to bleach your hair. I know that freaks a lot of people out, but bleaching your hair shouldn’t ruin it too bad if it is done correctly. If Clarice had bleached her hair to the level of blonde she wanted, and then applied the color she wanted to her hair, it would have worked a lot better. Using the marker analogy, pretend that I used nail polish remover (which, according to the interwebs, removes marker from paper) first, and then colored the blonde over that spot, it probably would have been more blonde.
The other option that Clarice could have used, would have been to strip the color out of her hair. The only thing that would do would remove the color molecules that have been packed in there, revealing her natural color. Depending on how dark it is, how many times it has been colored, etc., it could take multiple processes to remove all of the color.
Have you ever tried this? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.If you liked this article, I think you’ll like Types of HAIR Color To read more about hair, check out HAIR 101.