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.
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Blondes seriously have more fun. That’s what I usually tell everybody. I’m 26 and started bleaching my hair when I was 12. Even though I have gone dark a few times, I always end up with bleached blonde hair. I’m just happier with blonde hair. I feel like it brightens up my face.
However, bleach can take its toll on your hair very quickly. Bleach penetrates into the hair cortex and removes all the color pigment. The first component of hair lightener / bleach is an alkaline, which lifts up the “scales” of the hair cuticle to allow the next part. An oxidizing agent, like hydrogen peroxide, is added to penetrate deep in the hair shaft to the area where color molecules chill. Then, the bleach starts to lighten the pigment molecules by releasing oxygen molecules during the oxidation process. These oxygen molecules break up the chemical bonds of chromophores, the parts of molecules responsible for color. ”The changed chromophore molecules either reflect no color or a color outside the visible spectrum. This absence of color is seen by our eyes as white.”(Wonderopolis: How Does Bleach Work?)
Hair lightening goes through a series of phases. Remember the three primary colors that make every other color are blue, red and yellow. Bleach first removes the blue molecules, which leaves the hair red. This process is very quick, so if you blink, you’ll miss it. Next, the red molecules start to be removed. This process takes a long time, and if you rinse the bleach out during this process, you will be left with orange hair. The last thing it does is removes some of the yellow pigments, which leaves it pale yellow. The natural color of keratin, which is the protein that hair is composed of, is yellow, so your hair will never not be a form of yellow. If you want an actual shade of blonde, you will have to use a toner, but that is a whole other article in itself.
Bleach doesn’t just strip the color molecules in your hair; it strips the protein, vitamins and moisture. It also changes the structure and texture of your hair. Remember how I said that it uses an alkaline solution to raise the cuticle? Well if you over-process your hair, the cuticle will not lay back down, which leaves the hair dull and susceptible to more damage. The cuticle’s purpose is to act as a barrier to protect what’s on the inside of the hair, and if that is damaged, the inside will get damaged too.
So now that you know what we are working with, I want to tell you that I am the *queen* of damaged hair.
I can’t even count how many times I have colored my hair black, just to bleach it back to platinum blonde again, and back and forth.
Within about a year and a half…
I realized after a while, that I am happiest when my hair is platinum blonde. I bleached it one last time and told myself that I had to commit to it. It’s been blonde for about a year and a half now. It looks healthy now, but believe me, it went through some tough times. At one point, I completely fried all of my bangs off. You can tell in some of the pictures that they were so short. I used to wear a headband just to hold them down every day, so they didn’t stick up. Now that I have made the mistake of over-processing my hair, I want you to learn from it. It’s not a good thing. So these are the tips you can do to make your bleached hair healthy again:
Wait Longer in Between Touch-Ups.
I try to go as long as possible in between bleach processes to give it time to heal. By the time I touch up my outgrowth, my coworkers have been begging me for a while to take care of it. It sucks having huge brown roots, but I really want my hair to grow and get healthy. When you have more space to work with, the less likely you are to overlap the bleach on already processed hair.
Only Touch Up The Outgrowth.
When you do have your roots bleached, only apply the bleach to the roots. In fact, try to get the bleach about an 8th of an inch from the line of demarkation (because bleach expands when it processes). The more you apply bleach to the same area, the more damaged it gets. Believe me, you can easily damage your hair to the point of no return. If that is the case, the only thing you can do is wait for it to grow out or break off. If you are just applying bleach to the new virgin hair, it will be fine.
There are different levels of peroxide. 10V, 20V, 30V or 40V are the most common. The higher the level, the faster it works and more lift you will get, but also the more damaging it is. Bleach really only needs 20V to process (unless you are trying to bleach black colored hair, then you will probably need 40V). But if you are just bleaching your roots, 20V should work perfectly. Since your outgrowth is close to your scalp, it processes really fast from all the body heat your scalp emits. It will probably take a little longer than 30 or 40V would take, but would you rather do your hair fast and sloppy or have healthy hair?
Healthy Color Refresher Between Processes.
No matter what you do, your hair will probably develop a yellow tint in between processes. I really have no scientific explanation for why it does it, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with buildup of minerals and other stuff that goes into your hair. The good news is that there are ways to prevent that without damaging your hair. The first way you can do this is by using purple shampoo that is made for blonde hair. Purple and yellow are on opposite sides of the color wheel, which means they are complimentary colors, which means they neutralize each other. Purple shampoo is meant to keep bleached hair looking fresh. Don’t be fooled; it’s not going to make your hair white if it is super orange or yellow. It’s not something that processes your hair or makes it lighter. It just adds a tiny bit of purple pigment to neutralize the yellow. My favorite purple shampoo is Paul Mitchell Platinum Blonde Shampoo.
The second thing you can do in between processes is to tone it. Toner is similar to the purple shampoo, but a little bit stronger. If your hair starts looking really yellow or dull, toning it will freshen it right up. The shade of toner you use depends on what type of blonde hair you want. You can do anything from platinum to ash to neutral beige to strawberry blonde. I like platinum hair so I use a purple based platinum toner. Just a friendly reminder: every time you tone your hair, you add pigment to your hair. If you tone it all the time, your hair will get darker and darker.
The final thing you can do is probably the best way to freshen your hair but also the most damaging. If you do it right, it shouldn’t do too much damage. It’s called a soap cap or color balancer. I probably do this about once every two months. A color balancer is when you mix bleach, 5V Peroxide and clarifying shampoo. You apply it to your whole head, and let it sit for just a few minutes. Since you are going to use a low peroxide, and short time, it shouldn’t damage your hair too bad. I always, always, ALWAYS recondition as soon as I am done though. Which brings me to my next point….
I am constantly reconditioning my hair in between processes. I really like the It’s a 10 Miracle Hair Masque. When I am at home, doing chores, I’ll put some deep conditioner in my hair, put a plastic bag or cling-wrap around it, and leave it. Sometimes, I will even sleep with it in my hair. Deep conditioners penetrate further into the hair shaft to help repair the damage, rather than just coating it. You should use a deep conditioner at the very least once a week. And also never ever skip on conditioner.
The strength of your hair has been compromised with the bleach. You need to be extra gentle when dealing with your hair, otherwise you will break it. Don’t ever rip a brush through your hair. When your hair is wet, especially, use a wide tooth comb to gently comb through it. Start combing through the tips and slowly work your way up.
Minimize Heat Damage.
Heat damage, like that caused from a blow-dryer, curling iron or flat-iron, wreaks havoc on everyone’s hair, but especially bleached hair. Like I just said, your hair is not as strong as virgin hair. And since your cuticle is exposing the innards of your hair, you have to be very careful not to damage it more. In layman’s terms, your hair is more susceptible to damage than non-bleached hair. Always make sure to use a heat protecting spray, like the HealthySexyHair “Soya Want Flat Hair Flat Iron Spray”, when you do use heat on your hair. This will coat it and protect it from the damage. If you can, try to keep hot tools to special occasions. If you are just bumming around at home, who cares what your hair looks like? Or maybe if you are going to flat-iron your hair, let it air dry first. Just try to minimize it as much as possible.
Alternate Hair Styles.
If you wear your hair in the exact same ponytail every day, on the exact same place on your head, the rubber band will start to cause breakage. And since your hair is already weak, you should try to alternate where you place your ponytail every day. Low side ponytails are in style right now, so maybe alternate between that, and high, medium and low ponytails. Also be aware that wearing braids, especially tight ones, in the same place everyday will do the same thing.
Replenish Protein and Moisture.
You need to use hair products that are going to help put protein and moisture back into your hair. I would recommend a high protein shampoo/conditioner system like Joico Kpak. After a few weeks of using just protein shampoo / conditioner, I would start to alternate it with a moisture shampoo /conditioner. I hate admitting this but seriously the best moisturizing shampoo and conditioner that I have ever found is Cost Cutters Hydrating Shampoo/Conditioner. It’s sulfate free and makes my hair feel so amazing. You most likely have a Cost Cutters nearby, so check that out because I can’t find any for sale online. A really good leave in conditioner for bleached hair is the It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin. It is expensive, but it will really help your hair. It deposits keratin right into your hair, which is needed for healthy hair.
Trim the Split Ends.
This is important, because if you don’t trim the split ends, you are gonna end up with major breakage. I would recommend trimming a little bit after each bleach job.
Let Your Natural Oils Go.
Your scalp produces natural oil, as you may already know, that is very good for bleached hair. It’s like the body’s natural conditioner. You definitely shouldn’t wash your hair everyday in the state it’s in. I usually just use conditioner when I am in the shower to freshen up my hair. Bleached hair is really porous like a sponge. It will absorb the oil really quick, therefore there is no need to shampoo often. Just judge when your hair starts getting greasy and then you can wash it. I seriously wash my hair like once a week. In fact, I have been using the “No Poo” method for about a week now, where I use baking soda in place of shampoo. This is because shampoo strips your natural oils really bad. Just remember that the oils are good, and if you don’t need to wash your hair, don’t do it.
Now you are ready to rock healthy bleached hair! Good Luck!
Do you know any other great tips that I missed? Leave them in the feedback!If you liked this article, check out 10 Weird HAIR Tips (That Actually Work). To read more about hair, check out HAIR 101.
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There are different types of hair color and sometimes that can be confusing to people.
In this article, I want to clarify the difference between all these different types of color.
Temporary hair color is a no-commitment color. It will rinse out the next time you wash your hair. It can be applied in many different ways. Color rinses are really popular, especially with the little old ladies that like to wash their hair about once a week. There is comb-in color, spray-on and hair chalk that are all temporary. You will see a lot of these around Halloween when people just need to change their color for one night.
Temporary color works by settling pigment on the outside of the hair shaft. No peroxide is used; therefore it will not lift your hair.
Keep in mind, that if your hair is bleached, or damaged in general, your hair will probably absorb the color, and it could take up to 8 weeks to wash out.
Manic Panic, Splat and PM Inkworks are all Semi-permanent colors. Semi-permanent color has smaller molecules than temporary color; therefore it is able to partially penetrate into the hair shaft. Because of this, they typically last a few weeks, or up to 6 washes. Usually these are applied with a bowl and brush.
There are ways to make semi-permanent color last a little longer, which is sometimes desirable, since most punky vibrant colors are semi-permanent. I learned a neat trick, that if you put the color in foils, you can tap the foils with a flat iron to heat them up. BE CAREFUL if you try this though, because the steam can burn your scalp. It takes a lot of practice. Instead of rinsing the color when you are done, you can flat-iron the product out of the hair until it is dry. The heat helps lock the color in. If you don’t want to try that technique, try just heating it up with a hair dryer.
Semi-permanent color typically uses no peroxide. Sometimes you will see them used with small amounts of low volume peroxide. Because of this, they are safe on damaged hair.
Demi-permanent is between semi-permanent and permanent. They will last a pretty long time, but will fade out completely before you have noticeable outgrowth. Demi-permanent is formulated with an alkaline agent other than ammonia (which is in permanent color). They are mixed with low volume peroxide and they will not lift hair.
These are a lot safer on your hair than permanent color, but they provide less coverage. The color line I use is Paul Mitchel, and their demi-permanent line, PM Shines, contains protein so they actually help repair your hair.
Demi-Permanent color typically lasts about 6 weeks.
Permanent color will last pretty much until it grows out or you lighten/color over it. If you are using permanent color on virgin hair, it will lift, but it can deposit on any previously colored hair. Remember, the golden rule of color is: COLOR WILL NEVER LIFT COLOR. On virgin hair, 20V developer will lift up to 2 levels and deposit, 30V will lift up to 3 levels, 40V will lift up to 4 levels (you usually only use this on high-lift blondes). 10V will just deposit.
I really recommend that you think hard about choosing a permanent color because once it’s in your hair, you’re stuck with it.
Bleach / Lightener
Bleach can be either a cream or powder. You should make sure that it is safe to apply to the scalp before you do so. Some bleach will burn and blister your scalp. They can be mixed with any volume of peroxide. Remember, the higher the peroxide, the more damaging it is. I usually use 20V unless you are really trying to get a dark color out. Bleached hair will turn anywhere from red to pale yellow. I always think everyone should use a toner after bleach. Which brings me to my next category…
The whole purpose of toner is to change the tonal level of bleached hair. If you want platinum blonde, you’ll want to use a purple based toner. If you want ash, you will use a blue based toner. There are all different types of toners. Strawberry blonde, beige, neutral, etc. are some examples. Everyone with bleached hair should use a toner, in my opinion, because it makes your hair look more finished and not yellow.
Do you have any questions / comments about these types of hair colors? Leave them in the comments and I will get back to you.If you liked this article, check out Kool Aid Hair Color To read more about hair, check out HAIR 101.