Hair colouring 101 - All you need to know about those beautifully coloured locks

Have you ever wanted to colour your hair but are worried that your hairstylist might mess it up and give you frost tips like the one’ Marshall got on the day of his wedding in ‘How I Met Your Mother’? Or maybe you are slightly paranoid that the colour bottles might get switched and you’ll end up with a blue hair like Olivia from ‘Bride Wars’? Well, the chances of these happening to you are almost negligible. But it is quite understandable that colouring your hair, is a daunting task. So, this is a basic guide for all those who are toying with the idea of taking a little step with experimenting with their hair.


How hair colouring works

  • Natural hair colour can range from jet black to platinum blonde. And between these two there are a variety of shades. Moreover, from individual to individual, a colour may look different because of the wide range of shades they exist in. The compound that gives your hair your colour is melanin.
  • There are two types of melanin – Eumelanin, which makes the hair darker and Phaeomelanin, which makes your hair darker. When the net melanin content reduces in your follicles, your hair starts greying.
  • This melanin is present in the centre of your hair strand and around it is a cuticle which basically protects your hair.
  • Hair dyes, in general, contain bleaching agents which damage this outer layer and allow the actual colouring agents to seep in.
  • But there are hair colours which do not contain bleach. And these probably will show some temporary results and won’t last as it will get washed away. For such kinds, you’ll have to get a primer bleach done so that the colour holds.
  • Bleaching is must if you wish to get a shade lighter than your nascent hair colour. But if you want to go darker, bleaching need not be necessary.


Types of hair colour

Based on the source broadly, hair colours can be categorized into two widely popular categories – Natural hair colour and Synthetic hair colour
Natural hair colour
  • The colour ingredients are derived directly from nature, mainly plants. The most popular plants include henna and indigo. Even some insects are used to make natural hair colours.
  • The most popular one in this category is henna. In fact, apart from being used as a hair dye, henna is also used as a temporary ‘mehendi’ or body tattooing technique. Henna gives the hair a bright orange or red tinge and is widely popular in South Asian countries.
  • Henna is also sold as a mixture of itself and indigo which can give a jet black or bluish-black hair colour.
  • Henna is best for straight hair and wavy hairs. But for curly hair, it might not be the best as the curls become limper.
Synthetic hair colour
  • As the name suggests, they are synthesized in a lab and not derived from natural sources. These are formulated with chemicals and thus requires more careful attention while applying it on hair.
  • These should be your go-to option to exploit the range of possibilities for your hair colour and to avoid a tacky red hue.
  • The most significant advantage that synthetic hair colours pose is that they are long-lasting when appropriately applied. It too will eventually fade, but it takes much longer for that to happen.
  • For the best result, bleaching might be necessary for this type.


Based on colour retention

Depending on the chemical composition and method of application, the colour can last for a short period or a prolonged duration. Temporary colours – These are non-oxidative, i.e. they do not bleach your hair. It will last as long as the outer layer can hold the colour and eventually fade with every shampoo wash Semi-permanent colours – These also don’t contain oxidizing agents but have a compound called amines, which diffuse into the core and bind onto the melanin. These also do not last as long as permanent colours as the bond eventually breaks Permanent colours – These contain oxidizing agents, which promote bleaching and allow the colour to seep in and stay for a much longer time. They are also shampoo resistant and thus washing your hair with shampoo won’t strip your hair of colour.


Side effects to watch out for

Natural hair colour
  • Even though henna is not known to cause any adverse side effects, it does have a couple of disadvantages, namely dryness and itchiness.
  • Also, some people may face some allergic reaction after application. Perform a patch test before applying
  • Henna is also known to fade over time. Though, it doesn’t vanish entirely.
  • Another major problem with henna is that it is difficult to bleach out. Thus, you’ll not be able to colour your hair for over 6 months if you have applied henna on your hair.
Synthetic hair colour
  • These contain a series of harsher chemicals which can cause damage to not just your hair but to your health as well.
  • Compounds such as 2,4-tolunediamine have been liked to cancer, and thus overuse of these hair dyes can cause severe irreparable health damage
  • The bleaching process can release toxic fumes which are not friendly to your lungs.
  • It is best for pregnant ladies that they do not colour their hair while carrying as these harsh chemicals might have mutagenic effects on the fetus.
While hair colouring to some may be a need, and to some others, it might be a fashion statement, it is better to be aware of what is best for your hair. Moreover, if you plan on using synthetic dyes, it is recommended you visit a stylist who will ensure that the process is safe for both you and your hair.

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