If you’ve always wondered whether hair color damages your hair and exactly how much, you’ve come to the right place. It’s uncommon these days to find a person who doesn’t color their hair or at least hasn’t at some point.
And if you go to the salon, you probably know having a professional color is safer than buying a box and coloring at home—but just how much safer? In fact, isn’t it all damaging to some degree?
Let’s take a look at the lowdown, broken down for you to (hopefully) make it clearer!
First and foremost, we need to talk about damage. It’s a fact that just about everything is damaging to hair. Just being alive and existing on this planet means you can’t escape some form of damage to your hair. It’s more a matter of different levels of damage.
Here’s a list of the main causes of damage to your hair:
• Dry air
• Environmental pollutants
• Hair products
• Combing and brushing
• Roughing up with terrycloth towels
• Medications or poor diet
• Blow drying/heat styling
• Coloring and highlighting
• Straightening and smoothing treatments
• Swimming pools
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it at least gives you an idea that there’s really nothing you can do to avoid some level of damage to your hair. You can skip the chemicals and heat styling, but it’s not recommended to skip washing. Then you’d have damage from not washing.
See, you can’t win!
But that’s no reason to freak out. The best things to do are:
1) listen to your stylist’s recommendations on taking care of your hair
2) pay attention to the condition of your hair and adjust your routine accordingly
3) don’t overdo the chemicals or heat styling
Those last two things are the most common and deepest causes for damage, so if you keep those to moderation, your hair won’t split or break off nearly as much.
As with everything, moderation is key!
Damage from Hair Color
When it comes to hair color, there are several levels of damage as well. Let’s go through the list, below.
Semi Permanent Colors
Semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair colors (those that typically last between 4–8 weeks) are the least damaging. (No need to count temporary colors that you spray/gel/foam in and disappear with the next wash. Those aren’t generally considered chemical “hair color” and they’re not any more damaging than styling products.)
Most of the semi-permanent hair colors don’t contain ammonia, which is why they’re gentler. Fewer chemicals means it doesn’t go into the hair shaft as much, which is why it also doesn’t last as long.
Permanent colors do require more damage, but they last longer and cover better. Many of them do contain ammonia, hence the strong odor—but that’s what helps you get the color you want! Even within the permanent color spectrum, levels of damage depend on the manufacturer, ingredients, and quality of hair color.
There are several color lines on the market today that are organic or all-natural and have much gentler ingredients with less damage that still achieve high-quality colors. Even the “organic” colors that are ammonia-free still typically contain peroxide, although it’s usually a low percentage.
Box colors tend to be more damaging than professional colors overall, mainly due to the ingredients. (After all, there’s a reason they’re inexpensive!)
Thankfully, even those have improved in recent years, but its recommended that if you color from a box at home, you stick with shades in the middle of the color spectrum—no blacks and no platinum blondes. Those colors tend to be the harshest and the hardest for your hair to recover from!
Bleach, of course, is the most damaging version of all hair color. That’s because bleach isn’t a color; bleach strips the pigment from your hair, whether it’s your natural pigment or artificial. Bleach has the potential to do the most damage the fastest, because it typically keeps working as long as you leave it on.
That’s why bleach is not recommended to do at home, because it’s too easy to turn your hair into mush or strip the color out so far that it’s fried.
It’s always better to leave the bleaching to the pros, and a deep conditioning treatment before and after certainly never hurt!
Hopefully, the levels of damage from hair color are a bit clearer. There’s no need to avoid coloring your hair if you want to—just don’t overdo it, and be sure to take good care of your hair at home.
If you treat colored hair a bit more gently and use good products, especially conditioners, you can counteract the effects of the damage fairly easily.
If you start to notice breakage, invest in a reconstructor or deep conditioner and skip the heat styling for a while. Remember, it will grow out.
Just keep an eye on your hair, keep it trimmed and healthy, and listen to your stylist’s recommendations.