We’re calling it. Our own hair is boring. No matter what we’ve got, we want something different. Period. Even if we have gorgeous thick hair, that won’t stop us from trying to thin it, curl it, straighten it or color it.
It’s our prerogative as women to want to mix things up with our hairstyles, and that includes changing our color more often than our boyfriends.
Maybe you’ve toyed with the idea of a peroxide transformation or have spent years as a slave to every color trend going – from tiger stripe highlights to ombre? Maybe you’ve joined the DIY pink hair squad or have spent your spare dollar on expensive salon appointments to sort out your latest color crimes? Whatever your hair color history, the chances are your hair probably hates you.
We spoke to Robert Eaton, Creative Director and Trichologist for Russell Eaton salons, to discover exactly how bad it is to color your hair and how you can keep your hair protected, radiant and shining.
Are you ready to handle the truth? Ok. Take a deep breath and read on.
The good news is that color isn’t innately evil, experts can actually do some pretty great things with clever color techniques. Eaton says that the right use of “color can smooth and add shine and condition, but also thicken and add fullness and texture.” But be warned, “The actual process of coloring, if done poorly can cause damage that takes a long time to repair or in some cases, not at all.”
What does hair damage actually look like?
Struggling with lack lustre hair that never takes a shine? You can blame it on your color history.
Eaton says that, “If the cuticle layer of the hair becomes damaged and open or split, this can be difficult to repair and makes your hair look dull due to the rough surface of the hair shaft.”
In real terms, if your hair is breaking, looks dull or has a dry or rough texture, these are the usual signs of color damage. This kind of damage is usually down to peroxide which breaks down the natural color of your hair in order for it to take a new one. Peroxide is extremely drying on the hair so those extra expensive treatments and conditioners for lightened hair are well worth the investment.
If the hair becomes heavily sensitised and bleached for example, it can become very difficult to repair. Your stylist should be able to tell you whether your hair is strong enough to take more color.
The gentle way to color
If you’re set on transforming your hair with a color update or need to have regular upkeep and maintenance with your color, keep in mind these gentler options. Eaton suggests using a “semi-permanent color which can be kinder on the hair as they only deposit color to the surface layer of the hair and fade without changing the structure and natural tone of the hair.”
Reassuringly Eaton told us that most colors now are kinder and gentler to the hair and scalp with most manufacturers investing the latest technology in this color, making the results better with minimum damage.
Look out for pPD (para-Phenylenediamine ) and pTD (para-Toluenediamine) free colorants which have fewer incidents of negative reactions or allergies.
How to protect your hair from color damage
Protecting your hair and minimising damage from color all comes down to how hardcore your haircare routine is. Gentle brushing, intense conditioning treatments, leave-in conditioning sprays and fewer hot tools – all these can help support healthier hair. Most of all though, Eaton says it’s worth keeping color changes in the realm of the realistic.
He says, “It’s important to respect what your hair is capable of doing, not all color suits all skin and hair types, for example if you have dark brown hair the chances of going very blonde are slim without damaging your hair and particularly over lots of applications. Be realistic and work with your hair, it always looks better and grows out in the best possible way.”
How to go blonde without frying your hair
For those of us who have blonde ambitions, Eaton says bleach is not the only way. “There are many ways to lighten hair, using bleach, colors, high lift tints etc. this all depends on the individual’s hair type and color as to whether the desired lift is possible.”
Taking your time over a big blonde update will pay off with much better results. If a hair stylist makes one session promises that sound too good to be true, be wary.
Eaton says, “My approach is to lift with care, and to take time doing it. This could sometimes be over months rather than just one session in the salon and blasting the hair with bleach.”
Worst case scenario?
The worst thing that can happen to your hair if you over color it is breakage as most other color problems can be worked on, however, Eaton says “if the hair is too sensitised to hold color or styled at all then that is the worst problem.”
Keep it real
Keep your expectations real, respect your natural hair and take it easy.
Many of us want instagram ready results in a single session but that’s not always possible. When it comes to color changes you need to respect your hair, think about your lifestyle and what maintenance plan you can manage and of course pick a colorist who knows what they’re doing. Our top tip? See someone with amazing hair color? Just ask them for their stylist’s number.
Read more of MBS’s Extras column over here.