The Science of Hair Color

It’s so tempting.

You’re there in the store with super-sale adrenaline rush and all of the inspo photos you’ve been pinning are racing through your mind.

You could save some cash and get that $6 box of fire engine red hair dye. But there are a few things that you should consider before going it alone.

What is Hair Dye Actually Doing?

There is a lot happening when you dye your hair, and the result you get depends on how coarse or fine your hair is as well as the kind of dye/developer that you’re using.

Hair is made of layers, the cuticle and the cortex. The cuticle is the outer layer of the strand, and the cortex is the inner layer that contains the melanin which determines how light or dark your hair is.
Hair dye or color is rated by levels from 1-10, where 10 is the lightest shade and 1 is black.

In order for the color to remain in your hair, it needs to be mixed with a developer. Most people are familiar with hydrogen peroxide and ammonia though there are some developers with less harsh chemicals in them.

Hair dye is also classified by permanence, or how long it will stay in the hair. Level 1 being semi-permanent, it washes quickly because it enters through the hair cuticle but doesn’t interact with any natural pigments in the cortex so the color is more like a coating.
Level 2 is demi-permanent and it lasts a bit longer than semi-permanent color, as it enters through the cuticle and interacts with the natural pigment in the cortex to create larger color molecules (which are harder to wash out)

Level 3 is permanent color, and the color enters through the cuticle and penetrates the cortex to and replaces the natural pigment, meaning that though it may fade it must be grown out and trimmed or simply recolored with another permanent dye.

Is your head spinning yet?

Art, Chemistry, and Design Oh My!

Not only must colorists carefully mix harsh chemicals and highly pigmented colors, they have to account for the amount of color left in your hair from previous color sessions and accommodate for the reaction that it will have with the new solution.

Learning the laws of color and memorizing the color wheel are necessary to find the perfect shade for your skin and undertones. They even have to take seasonal transitions and lifestyle habits into consideration when they are mixing together the perfect look for you.

The art of hair color is not to be taken lightly (unless you’re getting highlights). Stylists undergo hours worth of in-class and clinical training to guarantee that you will get not only the look that you want, but the one that is best suited for you.

Cosmetology students learn far more than simple color pairing and application technique, they are students of chemistry, math, art, and design.

While a $6 box of at home dye might seem like the most cost-effective option, a custom look created by a trained professional is genuinely priceless.

Still on the fence about making the splurge? Check out these rules-of-thumb for booking a professional!

  • If you are lightening or darkening your hair more than 3 shades. The industry standard suggests that you can successfully lighten or darken your hair up to 2 shades, if you’re considering a more drastic change then you would be best suited to book an appointment.
  • If you tried it at home and it didn’t work out- we have all been there but in the case that you create a disaster then you need to see a professional stylist. Pro-tip: color is much harder to remove than it is to apply, especially at home.
  • If your hair has been permed or has a significant amount of damage due to prior color treatments of a lot of heat styling it is best to see a professional. They can make recommendations for repairing the damage, and also avoid damaging other treatments that you have had done.
  • If you have NEVER dyed your hair before- watch a pro do it first. Simple at-home kits seem really easy and for the most part they are; but it’s best to leave it to the professionals before you try it yourself and end up with seaweed colored hair.

Convinced that professional is always better? Good, we are too. Learn about becoming a professional at Bellus Academy here.

Book an appointment at a location near you and get a great new do, created by a Bellus Professional.

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