How coloring the hair changes it’s structure….

Your hair is like a close friend who can’t keep a secret.  It knows all and tells all.

Every little thing shows up on your hair shaft as it grows….like a linear timeline.  Its shows all your changes in eating habits, changes in stress levels, changes in lifestyle, and especially- changes in hair color.

Here is a break down of how some color techniques alter the structure of your hair:


Temporary / Semi permanent hair color:   Depending on the color type, either acidic dyes are deposited onto the cuticle layer of the hair OR very small pigment molecules are deposited inside the cortex by using a tiny amount of peroxide to slightly lift the cuticle layer of the hair shaft.  Because of the absence of ammonia, the dye is unable to penetrate far enough into the cortex to make it more permanent.  Shampooing with eventually dislodge this type of surface dye. The hair’s natural color remains intact and so does the hair’s structure.

Permanent hair color / High-lift tints:  To be permanent, color pigments need to be driven past the hair’s cuticle and deposited into the cortex layer.  Ammonia is required to open the cuticle, then peroxide is used as an oxidizing agent that allows the color to be deposited.  This formula needs to develop for the required amount of time to allow for the double process to take place.  The hair’s natural pigment is removed, then simultaneously, the synthetic color is deposited. Sorry ladies – the natural color has got to go cuz’ there isn’t room for both molecules in there and the fake stuff takes up a lot of room.  Two big drawbacks from the fake color having fat molecules – first, they are harder to keep under the cuticle, so they fade out over time.(BTW – red has the largest molecules, hence the extreme fade-factor)  Second, since your natural color has to move out so they can move in – it is gone.  There is no “bringing it back”. (More on this in another article).

Alcohol and conditioner is used to close back down the cuticle layer.  Over time, all this opening and closing wears the cuticle out.  Just like any door, if it is not treated carefully, the hinges get tired and it won’t close all the way.  This causes damage and pre-mature fading, usually at the ends.

Powder lighteners (aka Bleach):  Bleach – the “cleaner” of the color world.  It’s a take-no-prisoner kind of product.  Bleach doesn’t know whether a molecule is natural or synthetic,  it just knows they are booth delicious.

Natural pigment does lift out a lot easier than synthetic.  As the bleach processes on dark hair color, real or fake, it goes through stages of lightening. First you see red, then orange, then yellow, then (if you it’s what you’re going for, and the Gods are smiling down on you) white.  Bleached hair tends to have a “chicken-fat-yellow” look in it’s raw state (without toner).  Keratin is the structural protein of the hair and yellow is it’s natural color.  Once the color is stripped out – that’s what is left behind.  Some people (if they are lucky, in, I guess an unlucky kind of way – depending on how you look at it) have more keratin than others – which makes going platinum kind of impossible.  Unless, you are totally insane and insist on forcing that to happen then you get to have wet noodles for hair.  It’s a personal choice.

I love bleach. But, as with most things, there is a good way and a not-so-good way to use it.  I am all for using it to create beautiful blonde hair within healthy hair parameters.

Article by: Leslie Brewer, Orange County’s blonde hair expert.  Owner of Blonde Girl Studio in Lake Forest, CA.