Published on May 11th, 2016 | by Ahana Basu
Despite Aishwarya Rai’s assurances on TV, the fear of harsh chemicals, hair fall et al continue to plague many of us. So, here’s a rundown of how hair colour works and what you can do to maintain it.
What’s in your hair
- Your hair contains two kinds of melanin – eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Eumelanin is the more common of the two and is responsible for shades of brown and black hair. Phaeomelanin brings the lighter colours like blonde, auburn and red. The absence of these pigments results in grey/white hair. To permanently colour your hair, the cuticle or outer hair of the hair needs to be opened. Likewise, there are two primary chemicals involved in the colouring process – hydrogen peroxide and ammonia (the nasty-smelling component).
- The main function of hydrogen peroxide is to create a base for the colouring process and initiate longer-lasting colour. The downside is that the more hydrogen peroxide you use the more sulphur your hair loses. Loss of sulphur can cause hair to become thin and brittle, which is why; most hair colours keep hydrogen peroxide at around 30 per cent volume.
- Despite initially being an integral part of the hair-dyeing process, the ghastly odour and harsh properties of ammonia have led to some hair colour manufacturers creating ammonia-free colour. Ammonia’s function was to separate the cuticle of the hair so that the colour could penetrate. Some manufacturers use an ammonia alternative called MEA, or monoethanolamine to open up the hair shaftmore gently and with less damage, while others like L’Oreal claim to be completely free of ammonia.
Colour all the way
Hair colour can be semi-permanent, demi-permanent or permanent, depending on how significantly you want to change your hair. Semi colouring will enter the hair’s outer layer and not really interfere with your natural pigments. This should last for up to 12 shampoos. Demi colour contains larger molecules that are harder to wash out and penetrate deeper. This should last for around 25 washes and is a good option to cover grey hair. Permanent hair colour enters your hair as tiny molecules which then expand to a size that cannot be washed out. Your hair’s natural pigment is lightened and in time, your hair will grow out in a combination of your natural colour and the shade you chose.
Keep your hair on
Now that the boring, scientific part is over and you’ve got your fabulous new hair, how do you maintain it? For starters, get yourself a shampoo and conditioner meant for coloured hair. L’Oreal, Dove, Sunsilk and many other brands have these. Try and protect your hair from the sun, especially the first two weeks. Wear a scarf or more daringly, a hat. Don’t skimp on the conditioner, it will smoothen out any roughness caused by the colour and maintain texture. Show your hair a little love while drying. If you’re using a towel, don’t rub too hard or wrap it around too roughly. If you’re using a hair-dryer, keep it on till your hair is around 80% dry and let the rest happen naturally.
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