We all want healthy, vibrant, beautiful hair. Most of us also want to change up the color of our hair from time to time. The bad news is that frequent chemical processing has a nasty tendency to damage hair. The good news is that the type of color you are using, and your before and after care routine both play an important role in how much damage is done to your hair during the color process. If we are willing to educate ourselves a little more, and take the proper hair care precautions—we can have our new hair color, and love it too.
To understand how hair color impacts your hair’s health, it’s important to understand the basic mechanics of your hair structure and how hair color works. If you’d like to get really in-depth on this topic, you can find everything you ever wanted to know in our Guide to How Hair Works. For now, let’s stick to the basics.
Your hair’s structure is really similar to a tree’s trunk. The outer layer—or cuticle—is a lot like the bark of the tree, and its purpose is about the same—to protect what’s underneath. Both your hair and tree bark are made up of large “shingle-like” pieces. Ammonia, which is present in most professional hair color, is designed to lift up those shingles. It does this to create a clear path to the inner hair shaft for peroxide. The inner hair shaft is where your natural pigment lives, and peroxides’ job is to break it down, so that new color molecules can be deposited.
Lifting the cuticle is achieved by breaking down a lipid membrane that surrounds the hair shaft and is designed to protect it by keeping it smooth. A smooth, flat cuticle holds in moisture and gives the appearance of shine. The more often you lift the cuticle, the harder it is to get it to lay back down, which is why hair that is regularly processed looks less vibrant than virgin hair. Consistent “roughening” of the cuticle causes hair to look dry, dull, and flat.
You can add lipids back into your hair with a post-color treatment like natural care active yogurt mask.
Another way that hair color can impact the overall health of your hair is by breaking down keratin molecules in the hair cortex. These ultra-important proteins that make up the majority of the hair’s structure are broken up into smaller and smaller pieces with each color process. This makes it easier for the proteins to pass through the lipid barrier (which if you remember, has been damaged at this point) and “leak” out every time you wash your hair. As you may guess, since keratin is an important structural component for your hair and any loss of keratin molecules results in a weakened structure that is more prone to breakage.
In a cruel ironic twist, hair with a weakened lipid barrier and protein structure is also more prone to fading. By reducing the effectiveness of the protective barrier, both proteins and the newly introduced color molecules from your color process are equally likely to pass through the hair shaft. this typically contributes to a perpetual coloring cycle that can lead to over processed, damaged hair.
You don’t have to be doomed to dull, faded, easily broken hair just because you want to change your color, however. By being aware of how certain ingredients in hair color can impact your hair’s health, you are taking an important first step in minimizing damage. There are a number of gentler color lines and post color treatment options that are designed to protect the integrity of the hair throughout the color process. Check with your professional milk_shake colorist to learn more about the options best suited for your hair type and desired color.
Using the right products, both at the salon and at home can help to protect your hair against potential damage from coloring. Be sure that your colorist is using hair color that is specifically designed to protect the integrity of your hair’s health. And remember that you can maintain healthy balance of moisture and protein at home with a care routine created specifically for your color-treated hair’s needs.