I'm A Believer- Hair Color and Chemical Processing: How to Make it Work and What NOT to Do
by Lianne Farbes, The Makeup Girl
My sister was a theater major in college—she has always been an “actress” though. When we were little, she would morph herself into different characters by using hair and makeup. We would look at hair magazines and try and replicate styles all the time. So when she went off to college to study theater, it was no surprise that she continued in the same vain, experimenting with different looks and trying out new things. Well, my lovely sister had cut her hair short and decided one day to dye it blonde for a one woman show she was starring in at school. It was super-blonde like Gwen Stefani…then she decided that she didn’t like the fuzzy edges, so she relaxed it. You know what happens next, her hair fell out all around her hairline.
I went to pick her up from the airport when she came to visit me in California, and she had on this orange headband. “Hey!” I said, as I hugged her. “What’s up with the headband?” she took it off to reveal an area of about 3-4 inches all around her hairline that was bald and a straight area in the middle. With a sad face, she explained what had happened. I took her straight to SuperCuts the next day, and we shaved her head. It was time to start over. There is nothing you can do in that situation aside from wearing wigs daily (which isn’t so great for re-growing your hair). My sister eventually grew all of her hair back, but she never made that mistake again.
When in doubt, always seek the help of a professional to help you on your way. I spoke with Master Colorist Ian McCabe who is a Balayage (ombre hair color) expert and has taught for one of the leading color companies in the industry. His work has been featured in Allure
magazine and Guest of a Guest
. He believes in always maintaining the integrity of his clients’ hair. McCabe says, "When working with hair that has been relaxed or chemically compromised, first off stay away from bleach. Chemical relaxers break down the bonds of the hair and bleach continues that process, therefore making the hair extremely weak and fragile." He continues, "Semi and demi permanent are great options for coloring relaxed hair, i.e. covering gray, changing tone or adding shine." Finally McCabe says, "Stay within two shades of your natural color. If you are looking for a drastic change, especially when going lighter, I recommend to stop relaxing your hair. Hair as a fiber can only take so much before it breaks—AND always wait two weeks between chemical services, otherwise you run a higher risk of breakage and damage. Make sure you do an at-home conditioning treatment at least once a month, it will help keep elasticity and build strength to chemically treated hair," he said.
If you are still relaxing your hair and you aren’t ready to transition yet AND you like to color your hair, I have some tips that will keep you from making that mistake too.
1. If you relax your hair, do it BEFORE you color and wait at least two weeks between processes. Having two processes in one day is too much stress for you hair and it WILL fall out. SO rather than risk your crowning glory, be patient.
2. The only way to color your hair and relax the same day is with an ammonia-free semi-permanent color. These colorants are more like tints, and while they won’t lift your shade, they can add tones or you can even go darker with one. Also, they usually will cover gray hair as well. There are plenty of semi- and demi-permanent options to choose from for a color boost without using anything with ammonia.
3. If you swim, wear a swim cap! You must protect your hair from the chlorine as that is a chemical too that can alter the texture of your treated hair and the color as well.
4. The lighter you go, the dryer your hair will become. When coloring on top of a chemical process, it is an absolute MUST that you deep condition on a regular basis to maintain your hair’s moisture level.
5. When in doubt—CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL. You don’t want what happened to my sister to happen to you. Remember, always color a relaxer, never relax a color.
Always protect your hair and treat it well. Transitioning is a process. It’s okay if you aren’t ready yet, just take baby steps and keep your hair as healthy as you possibly can.
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