Hair coloring has been a huge beauty trend throughout history. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans altered the color of their hair. Today, 75 percent of American women report coloring their hair. While the Greeks and Romans used harsh soaps and dyes concocted with boiled walnuts, we now use artificial dyes to alter the color of our hair.
Artificial hair color is comprised of two main chemical ingredients that interact with your hair to create a new color: hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. Hydrogen peroxide, also known as the developer or oxidizing agent, helps start the color-forming process by breaking down your natural hair pigment. Ammonia is an alkaline which allows for lightning in the hair by acting as a catalyst when the permanent hair color comes together with the peroxide. Ammonia separates the cuticle, the outer layer of your hair, and allows the hair color to penetrate the cortex.
There are different levels of artificial hair colors that each interact with hair differently. The first level is semi-permanent color. Semi-permanent dyes add color without dramatically changing your natural hair color. Semi-permanent hair color adds small color molecules to the cuticle layer of your hair. Due to the small size of the molecules, semi-permanent hair color exits the cuticle after 6 to 12 shampoos, leaving your hair as it was before. It does not contain ammonia or peroxide, so it won’t lighten the natural pigment of your hair.
Demi-permanent hair color is a longer lasting artificial color that typically lasts up to 26 washes. In this coloring process, demi-permanent color molecules get under the cuticle layer of your hair but do not penetrate the deeper cortex. The absence of ammonia in demi-permanent color means the natural pigment of your hair can’t be lightened, but the small amount of peroxide will allow for a noticeable color enhancement. Demi-permanent colors work to enhance the natural pigment of your hair.
Permanent color is the artificial color used for the most significant color changes. In permanent hair coloring, ammonia and peroxide are both used to alter the color. Tiny molecules enter all the way into your hair’s cortex, where they react and expand to a size that cannot be washed out. The ammonia opens the cuticle and lightens your hair’s natural pigment to create a new base. The peroxide works alongside the ammonia to break down the natural pigments in your hair. As the hair is decolorized, the new permanent color is bonded to the hair cortex. This process results in a combination of your natural hair pigment and the new shade you choose. Hair colored with permanent artificial color has to grow out over time.
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