5 Things Every Natural Should Know Before Choosing a Hair Color

StrawberryBlonde natural hair dye
by Alondra (pictured above)
There are some of us curly girls who prefer to keep it 100% natural. You know, no chemicals, no heat, no styling utensils…no anything! On the other hand, there are many of us who actually prefer to experiment with our natural hair. Some of us rock it straight at times. We weave it up for a bit and for the dare devils, play around with color! *Dun, dun, duuuun*

Now I know the thought of chemically altering the hair in any way always presents some form of a risk (and I’ve learned this the hard way). However, there are safer ways to color the hair and successfully avoid damage.
But first, let’s start with the basics. There are four types of hair dyes: temporary, semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent. Outside of those dyes, there is another product that will change your hair color which is simply called “hair bleach”. Let me say this, hair bleach is not to be confused with color, because it is actually colorless. It is a substance that chemically removes color, be it natural or dye, from the hair. So now that we know the proper names, how do these differ from one another and which way is the best way to go to maintain healthy hair?
ChocolateBrown natural hair dye

Try to keep up because I’m about to break it down:

1. Temporary Color: This type of color is the least complex of them all. It’s just as the name suggests…temporary. This color is only used to mask or cover a pre-existing color and it does this by merely coating the hair cuticle. It does not penetrate the hair shaft and cannot, in any way, lighten hair. It can also give your hair a nice little hue when sunlight hits it. You most likely won’t be able to see it in a filterless pic, but maybe hit it with the “Valencia” or “Rise” filters and you’re good to go! Any who, because of its characteristics, temporary hair color will likely rinse out during your next two or three shampoos…and it can get messy. Real messy.

2. Semi-Permanent Color: This type of color is a little step up from temporary in that it actually does penetrate the cuticle…this is called depositing. All semi-permanent colors will require a developer that helps to raise the cuticle so that the color can be deposited just underneath it. Just like temporary color, semi-permanent does not have the ability to lighten the hair. So don’t waste your money purchasing Bad Gal Blonde in semi-permanent form when your hair is that of a 1B. It ain’t gon’ work, darling. I tried that too. These types of colors typically have a life span of about six to eight weeks and will wash out gradually.

3. Demi-Permanent Color: The only difference between demi permanent colors and semi is the size of the molecule. These colors have a smaller molecule than semi-permanent colors and for this reason, demi-permanent colors are actually able to penetrate all the way to the cortex of the hair.
*Side Note: the cortex is the thickest layer in a hair strand and contains most of the hair’s pigment…which, of course, gives it the color*

Getting back to the topic, now although demi-permanent colors can get a little deeper, they still do not have any lifting properties. So you still can’t lighten your hair with it, but you can enjoy whatever color you have for a significantly longer time. Also, instead of rinsing out, this color will actually fade over time.

4. Permanent Color: Now we’re running with the big dogs. If these were relationships, temporary color would be the boo that only your best friend knows and permanent would be your husband. In short, it’s a commitment. Permanent colors, in conjunction with a developer,  are designed to penetrate the through the cuticle and cortex, bond with hydrogen peroxide to produce larger tint molecules, and permanently change the color of the hair from the inside out. Because of these properties, permanent colors have the strength not only to deposit color to the hair but also lighten in depending on the level of the developer used. Needless to say, permanent color is there to stay unless you color over it, lift it, or grow it out.

5. Hair Bleach: Remember that bleach IS NOT a color. It is a chemical made up of ammonia and peroxide that work together to lighten hair color. The ammonia is there to lift the cuticle of the hair and activate the bleaching properties in the peroxide so that any color is lifted out of the cortex of the hair. Typically once the color is lifted to the desired level, the colorist may opt to leave it as is or deposit another color back into the hair. This is common for those who have dyed their hair dark and wish to have a lighter color. Now of all the color altering options for hair, bleach would be the strongest out of any of them and must be used carefully and in moderation. If not, the integrity of your hair could be in jeopardy.

GoldenBlonde natural hair dye

Now that we’ve gotten all of the science out of the way, which one is actually worth your while and the risk? I happen to love hair color and have had experiences with all five options; each one has its pros and its cons:

  • Temporary color is the safest and doesn’t harm the hair in any way. However, it’s a pain to have to reapply every couple weeks and even worse clean the dye out of the tub or sink! I’m straight on that.

  • Semi-permanent is cool and all. In fact, it would be great for me if I tended to switch hair color rather frequently (yearly is frequent in my book)…but I’d rather not recolor every couple months…nor am I trying to dish out my hard earned money every couple months at the salon either. I saved a lot of money when I switched to No Relaxer…and I’m keeping it that way.

  • Demi-permanent was actually my favorite. It was still rather gentle on the hair and just by the time I was getting tired of it, it would begin to fade. I probably got my dyes done twice a year with demi-permanent color, which is perfect for me. 80 dollars annually at the salon doesn’t sound bad at all.

  • The only reason I don’t like permanent color is because, well, it’s permanent; however, even though it’s ride or die, the color still didn’t negatively affect my hair health. I’d rather not oblige to a color if I don’t have to…because getting rid of it is a pain.

  • I could simply say that hair bleach is a weapon of the healthy hair enemy and leave it at that…but I’ll elaborate. Not only does it strip color from the hair, but it strips out moisture and loosens the curl pattern. It’s horrible! It really changes your hair for the worst. Now it is a quick way to change your look and give you something drastic and fabulous…however it is not worth it. You will hear women say that their hair is fine and completely healthy after bleaching, and they can feel that way…but that process is stressful on the hair and can cause alterations that you didn’t desire, whether you notice it or not. That is why I’m currently growing out a permanent color as opposed to getting it lifted out with bleach. This process is painstakingly long, but it’s worth the time for a healthy head of curls.

  • So I’ve given you the tea and I hope that you sip responsibly. Personally, I would recommend the demi-permanent color option over all of the others, but of course, it is completely subjective. And oh…go ahead and employ a licensed cosmetologist to assist you in whatever hair color goal you may have. I’ve seen far too many heads come back unrecognizable from the kitchen. But that’s none of my business. ?

         What coloring options do you prefer and what are some of your experiences?
    About Alondra: Joke telling, hair pick toting, life-living Southern Bell by way of Memphis, Tennessee. I’m a young,educated black woman pursuing dreams by day and a super hero by night; my powers reside in my mind. To state it simply, I plan to save the world one conversation at a time. @Color_Me_Diva @MyManeThang

    Dorcas Woodson, licensed cosmetologist

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