Spa & Beauty Salon Services in Sunny Isles, FL
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Category Archives: Spa & Beauty Salon Blog

What Exactly Is Hair?

what-is-hair Typical mammalian hair consists of the shaft, protruding above the skin, and the root, which is sunk in a follicle, or pit, beneath the skin surface. Except for a few growing cells at the base of the root, the hair is dead tissue and is composed of keratin and related proteins. The hair follicle is a tube-like pocket of the epidermis that encloses a small section of the dermis at its base. Human hair is formed by rapid divisions of cells at the base of the follicle. As the cells are pushed upward from the follicle’s base, they harden and undergo pigmentation.

The hair on our scalps and in our eyebrows and eyelashes are different from other bodily hairs. The hair on our heads grows a healthy .5 inch per month, and long scalp hairs have an average life of 3 to 5 years. Most of us have between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs on our heads!

There are two kinds of melanin found in the hair: eumelanin (the most common and responsible for hair shades from brown to black) and phaeomelanin (responsible for yellowish-blond, ginger and red colors). Absence of pigment produces white/gray hair. Before any permanent color can be deposited into the hair shaft, the cuticle, or outer layer, must be opened. The insoluble formula then reacts with the cortex to deposit or remove the color.

Ingredients in Hair Color

Until the early 1900s, hair coloring was made from a wide range of herbal and natural dyes. Flying in the face of other chemists who found the development of hair coloring trivial and unworthy of their time, French chemist Eugene Schuller created the first safe commercial hair coloring in 1909. His invention was based on a new chemical, paraphenylenediamine, and provided the foundation of his company, the French Harmless Hair Dye Company. A year later, the name was changed to one that is more familiar today — L’Oreal. L’Oreal, one of the hair product giants, has grown steadily over the years; the company credits advanced and applied research of new product development and expansion into markets around the world with its global success.

The two main chemical ingredients involved in any coloring process that lasts longer than 12 shampoos are:
  • Hydrogen peroxide (also known as the developer or oxidizing agent) — This ingredient, in varying forms and strengths, helps initiate the color-forming process and creates longer-lasting color. The larger the volume of the developer, the greater the amount of sulfur is removed from the hair. Loss of sulfur causes hair to harden and lose weight. This is why, for the majority of hair coloring, the developer is maintained at 30% volume or less.
  • Ammonia — This alkaline allows for lightening by acting as a catalyst when the permanent hair color comes together with the peroxide. Like all alkalines, ammonia tends to separate the cuticle and allow the hair color to penetrate the cortex of the hair.

In addition, various types of alcohols, which can also dry the hair, are present in most hair color. (Check out this official ingredient list for a hair color formula.)

For a long time, hair coloring has been serious business! For example, would-be heroes of ancient Greece used harsh soaps and bleaches to lighten and redden their hair to the color that was identified with honor and courage. First-century Romans preferred dark hair, which was made so by a dye concocted from boiled walnuts and leeks.

Today, hair color remains hot, with a booming 75 percent of American women reportedly coloring their hair. (In 1950, only about 7 percent of American women colored their hair. And when they did, they did it to cover gray with their natural color and usually didn’t want anyone to know they’d done it!) Women have also decided that blondes don’t necessarily “have more fun!” Red is currently the most requested color at beauty salons. And women aren’t alone…

Men increasingly cover gray or, following the female lead, completely change their look. Men’s home hair-color sales reached $113.5 million last year, a 50 percent increase in just five years. The selection of coloring products and techniques is mind-boggling.

Choosing a Hair Color

Choosing a Hair Color Time was when your hair color choices were blonde, red, brunette, and black, but those days are long gone! Each basic hair color comes in a full array of choices from platinum blonde to jet-black. Moreover, the modern consumer must choose from non-traditional hair colors that range from hot pink to chartreuse. However, the wrong hair color choice can give you the blues and leave you red in the face!

First Hair Color Choices The best method in choosing a hair color is first to choose the results you want from it. Depending on whether you are covering gray, highlighting a natural hair color, or using hair color to completely change your image, knowing what you want helps you to narrow down hair coloring choices.

Before you get down to choosing a hair color, first decide on your commitment to hair coloring. Temporary hair colors wash out in a shampoo or two, semi-permanent products typically last for a couple of months, while permanent dyes may either give you grow-out pains or necessitate frequent root touch ups.

Choosing a Compatible Hair Color After you’ve decided on results and made your commitment, it’s time to get out the color wheel. Beauty experts tell us that we’re either “cool” or “warm” depending on our skin tone, eye color, and natural hair color.
Although this is good advice, if you’ve just finished a tanning session, if you have some complexion problems (Rosacea, liver spots, blemishes), or if your hair color is already not what nature intended (in other words previously tinted or more salt than pepper), it may be difficult to determine by examining your skin tone and hair color. Don’t despair! There is a shortcut!

Examine your wardrobe. Cool hues are green, blue, and violet. Warm hues are reds, oranges, and yellows. Chances are, your wardrobe is a mix with either cool or warm hues in the majority. Clothing colors that look good on you and make you feel comfortable probably indicate if you’re in the cool or warm category. For instance, if olive drab makes you fade into the woodwork, then cool tones like ash blonde (ash tones contain green) are probably not for you.

In addition, most commercial hair colors have aids on the box, yet if you have a hard time deciding which group is your group, you may want to seek the advice of a professional hair stylist.

Hair Color Tips:
  1. Highlighting is a great way to add tone to monochromatic hair (jet black, pure brown).
  2. Beware of hair colors that have green, blue, or purple undertones, like “ash”. If you mix them with warm tones, your hair color will turn out green.
  3. The levels (one to twelve) you see on hair coloring boxes are the lightness or darkness of the color. Level one is black (darkest) and level twelve is light blond.
  4. “Complimentary colors” are opposite each other on the color wheel. Blue-orange, violet-yellow, etc. If you want to neutralize unwanted highlights, choose the complementary color. For instance, red will cancel out an ash undertone, and an ashen color neutralizes any red highlights in your hair.
  5. Be sure to check if your hair color is a “progressive dye”. Progressive dyes continually add more color with each use. For instance, if you’re coloring blond hair black, your first use of a progressive hair color may not give the result you expected. However, continued use will turn your hair jet black.
  6. Hair colors, like perms, are chemically based so if you’re pregnant, be sure to check with your doctor before coloring your hair.
  7. Henna hair dyes are organic based hair colors that don’t mix well with chemicals.
  8. Stay out of the pool and the ocean after coloring your hair. Neither sea salt nor chlorine mixes well with chemical hair colors.

Hair Coloring Products

The good news is that most hair color products today have nicer smells than the tell-tale rotten-egg odor that once accompanied permanents or hair coloring. And most color can be applied easily: some to wet hair, others to dry hair, worked into a shampoo-like lather, left to process (some formulas call for covering with a plastic cap during processing; others do not) and then rinsed and conditioned.

The down side is still that chemicals in hair coloring can be harsh and harmful to your hair if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you color or perm too often. How peroxide and ammonia react with your hair is directly related to the level and kind of product you’re using. Here are basic descriptions of the three major hair coloring product levels used by Clairol, L’oreal and others:
  • Level 1, semi-permanent color — This product adds color without changing natural color dramatically. The hair color contains tiny color molecules that enter the hair’s cuticle, or outer layer, and go into your hair’s cortex. They don’t interact with your natural pigments. And since the molecules are small, they eventually exit the hair shaft after several shampoos, leaving the hair as it was before treatment. This level generally lasts for 6 to 12 shampoos, covers up to 50 percent gray, enhances your natural color and leaves no roots. This hair coloring won’t lighten your hair color because it contains no ammonia or peroxide.
  • Level 2, demi-permanent color — This product level lasts longer, through 24 to 26 shampoos. In this process, pre-color molecules penetrate the cuticle and enter the cortex where they then partner to create medium-sized color molecules. Their larger size means they take longer to wash out. These products do not contain ammonia so the natural pigment can’t be lightened. However, it contains a small amount of peroxide, which allows for a subtle, but noticeable, color enhancement. It also blends and covers gray. (Both semi- and demi-permanent colors can become permanent on permed or already-colored hair!)
  • Level 3, permanent color — This is what you need for a more significant color change (to go from black to blond, you’ll still need to go with a process called double process blonding and it’d be wise to get this it done professionally). In this level, both ammonia and peroxide are used. Tiny molecules enter all the way into the cortex, where they react and expand to a size that cannot be washed out. Your hair actually has to grow out over time. This product acts to lighten the hair’s natural pigment to form a new base and then to add a new permanent color. The end result is a combination of your natural hair pigment and the new shade you chose. That means the color may appear different on you than on someone else using the same color. (That’s why the “strand test” is so important — more about that later.) Regular touch-ups of 4 to 6 weeks are generally needed to eliminate roots — hair with your natural color growing at half an inch per month from your scalp.

There are also hair coloring products known as “special effect” hair colors. These are the kits you buy to add highlights or streaks to your hair. They are available in varying strengths. Some are for adding highlights to natural, uncolored hair while others are made for adding highlights to already-colored hair. Double process hair color, or bleaching and toning to achieve drastic color changes, falls into this category. Most professionals recommend you don’t try this one at home unless you’re really adventurous and love to experiment! Newer products on the market include color-enhancing shampoos and mousses and shampoos that keep your color vivid longer.

Now that we’ve reviewed the different product levels used in hair coloring, let’s look at what actually happens to your hair. For example, if you’re blonde and are going darker — to brown — permanent hair color uses the interaction between the ammonia and the peroxide to create a new color base in your hair shafts. If you go in the opposite direction — from black or brown to blonde — the hair goes through an additional step. First, bleach is used to strip the color from the hair. Then the ammonia-peroxide reaction creates the new color and deposits it in the hair shaft. If you use a semi-permanent color, the hair is coated with color, rather than deposited into the hair shaft.

Choosing the Right Hair Color and Product

choosing-right-hair-colorChoosing a new hair color isn’t as simple as finding a color you like on a box in the drugstore. You need to make this choice based on an analysis of your natural hair color, eye color and skin tone. First, let’s review the basic “laws” of color. Color, as we see it, is actually the reflection of light off of the colored pigments in the hair shaft. It’s sort of like the color prisms you saw in elementary school: it fractured light into distinctive colors you could see. This is what happens with hair color except that you’re adding or subtracting colors to change from one color to another or to change the undertones.

A shade of color is made up of different combinations of reflections off the pigments. That’s why hair color — both natural and dyed — looks different under fluorescent lights and in natural sunlight. Color levels are the degrees of lightness or darkness of a color seen by the eye. Hair color is assigned a level number from 1 to 10, with 10 being the lightest and 1 being black. Black reflects very little light and the lightest shades of blonde reflect the greatest amount of light. A colorist would say that a level 10 blonde is two steps lighter than a level 8 blonde.

Look at a color wheel or chart: Suppose you want to lighten your hair color. When hair is lightened, it produces warm, or yellow-red, undertones. Remember from school that mixing yellow and red produces orange — not generally the desired hair color! Refer to the wheel to cancel out some of the orange tone but leave enough to keep the warm tones. The best hair colors for you if you have warm skin undertones (ivory, peachy, golden brown, creamy beige, cafe au lait, tawny, coppery, deep golden brown) and blue, blue-green hazel, green, topaz, amber or coffee bean colored eyes, are golden with red highlights, golden brown, honey brown, chestnut, copper and mahogany. Cool tones are blue-red. If your skin has rosy pink, rosy beige, dark olive, dark brown or ebony tones and your eyes are light blue, gray-blue, deep blue, deep green, brown or black, your best hair color options are plum and burgundy highlights, ash and platinum blonde, brown, dark brown, black, slate, salt and pepper and pure white.

Experts say you also can’t miss if you return your hair to its color when you were 12 years old.

Your choice of hair coloring product depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how long you want your color to last. Most women start with a lower commitment level and move up to a higher level over time. If you’re seeing more gray or your hair coloring isn’t covering gray as well as it did, you might need to move to a higher-level product. Level 3 is the only kind of product that can completely and permanently cover any amount of gray.

The all-important strand test (always explained in home coloring packages) will ensure that you’ve chosen the right color — and product — and will give you a chance to change your mind. It works like this:
  • Mix one teaspoon of color and one teaspoon of developer (peroxide) in a glass bowl.
  • Apply the mixture to the roots or ends to determine the outcome. You can protect the test strand from the other hair by wrapping a piece of tin foil around the strand and securing it with a clip.
  • Time the process according to package directions, then rinse and dry the strand.
  • Look at it in different types of light to see if you like it.