What to know about colouring hair

Colouring your hair is one of the most satisfying ways of changing your look without having to brave a brand new hair cut. But whether you indulge in home colouring or going to a professional (recommended), there are a few things that are useful to know…

It is important to know, especially if you colour your hair yourself, that hair dye does not work like paint – if you want a specific colour, you are not guaranteed to achieve it if you simply buy and apply the colour.

Hair dye is a chemical agent that relies on chemical reactions. So, if you have black hair and apply a blonde shade (not bleach), you are likely to result in green hair as black mixed with yellow make green.

To understand how this works, you need to bear the colour wheel in mind. This consists of the basic colours red, orange, yellow, green, black and indigo/violet. They are positioned in a circle with red at top. The principles that are applied is that to make a colour, you mix the colours on either side – so here you can see that green is in between yellow and black. Also, adjacent colours compliment one another and opposite colours neutralize each other. So if you went to a salon with green hair, they would use a reddish toner to neutralise the green.

Types of hair dye

There are few types of hair dye which have different effects.

Firstly you have permanent colour. This actually contains chemicals that enter and lie under the hair shafts and therefore sticks to your hair. Therefore, when applying a permanent colour, it grows out, causing roots.

Next you have semi-permanent. This contains agents which cause the colour to only partially enter the hair shafts. This results in it washing out but because the colour does partially enter the hair shafts, it takes approximately 6-8 washes to completely come out.

Thirdly there is temporary colour. This type of dye sits on the surface of your hair shafts which means that it washes out with just one wash. It is commonly used for dramatic colours.

These three are the most common types but there is a fourth which is often referred to as Quasi colour. This is a type of dye which sits in between permanent and semi-permanent as it is not quite permanent but doesn’t wash out either. Instead the colour gradually fades away which means that you get the colour for longer but do not have to worry about roots. The only drawback is that the chemicals used are not strong enough for too much of a dramatic colour lift – it is more effective to enhance your colour or to go darker, rather than much lighter.

Finally there is bleach. This is mostly used to achieve blonde hair but its strength can be quite damaging to the hair. This is because it works by stripping the hair of its colour. Colour in the hair sits in layers with yellow right at the bottom. So if you have dark hair but want to achieve blonde, bleach is likely to be the best option as it will strip your hair of its colour until it reaches the blonde layer.

With hair dyes, they are kept on the hair for a certain length of time before being washed out, but you do not have to be too vigilant as after that amount of time, it stops working anyway. With bleach however, you have to be much more careful as it never stops working and if kept on for an excessively long time, it will eventually disintegrate your hair. To stop it from working spray some water mixed with conditioner on the hair. Be sure to wash it out thoroughly and condition the hair in case there is any left on the hair – the conditioner stops it from working.

Although people often apply hair colour at home, as you are dealing with chemicals, I would always advise going to a salon. The advantages of going to a professional stylist far outweigh the benefits of doing it yourself, as a stylist will analyse your hair to ensure it can cope with the chemical process, will mix the colour so that you can achieve a specific colour, and will only use the strength of peroxide your hair needs and no higher, therefore causing minimal damage.

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