4 Major Dos and Don'ts for Color Treated Hair


By Alexa Santory

Dyeing your hair to change your look is super appealing, especially with all the cool color trends we see all over social media. Who wouldn’t wanna try something new with their hair?! But we all know that consistently dyeing and color treating our hair can wreak havoc on our strands, that’s why it’s vital to learn how to care for it in order for it to stay strong and healthy. Keep reading to learn all about what color treated hair is, how it’s different from virgin hair, and how to take care of your chemically treated strands, naturally!

Getting Real

Let’s make something clear: any type of chemical treatment for the hair, whether it’s hair dye, relaxers, perms, etc., will result in some type of damage. Our hair is only so strong on it’s own, and even the most careful person can experience damage from chemical treatments. Color treating your hair comes in three different levels: temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent. Each level of color treatment depends on how deeply the color penetrates your hair shaft. Temporary dyes cover the hair without penetrating it, making them easier to wash out and much less of a commitment. Semi-permanent dyes go a bit deeper into the hair shaft, but don’t last quite as long. And permanent dyes penetrate deep and last through hair growth, meaning they change the hair most significantly. Color treating the hair with permanent dyes can result in greater amounts of damage if it’s not properly cared for. And then…..there’s bleaching, which can be severely damaging, especially if you have darker hair and wish to go lighter. Bleaching and using permanent dyes opens up the hair cuticle, making it more vulnerable and prone to breakage, split ends, and brittleness. The single most important thing color treated hair needs is moisture. It’s important to be aware of your hair’s natural porosity before committing to color treatments, especially bleach, because it will give you a better idea of the intensity of the treatments you can use. For example, if your hair is higher porosity, it isn’t recommended to frequently dye and chemically treat the hair, since it’s already weaker and more prone to damage.

What really happens when the hair is color-treated

Bleaching the hair, as we know, leaves the hair cuticle more open and prone to breakage and dryness. This is because hair bleach uses chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and ammonium hydroxide, both of which completely strip the hair of any and everything good for it (R.I.P. natural oils). Here's what else happens to your hair after being chemically dyed:
  1. Frequently color-treated hair can often feel brittle, dry, and look rather flat and lifeless. This is because our hair experiences damage in the lipid layer that keeps our hair lubricated. When the hair is dyed, it’s being exposed to chemicals like ammonia, so it’s no wonder the hair has an adverse reaction to color treatments after some time!
  2. If that's not enough, the texture of your hair can change too. Since the cuticle is more open, you might start to notice that it’s frizzier and harder to manage.
  3. Color treatment can also wear down our hair proteins, namely the keratin protein that our hair is mostly made of, resulting in much thinner hair.
  4. Open cuticles on the hair shaft make it more prone to damage, but it also makes it more difficult for the color to last, leading to a vicious cycle of re-dyeing to achieve the color you want, at the expense of the hair’s health. So your hair may look bomb, and you may have the hair color of your dreams, but what really counts is taking care of it from the inside.

Let’s talk virgin hair…

Ahhhh….the simple days of having virgin hair. The days before the introduction of relaxers and perms seem like a distant memory for some of us. Personally, my hair hasn’t been virgin since I was about 6 when my mom relaxed my hair to tame my unruly baby hairs, as her mom had done for her. Since she was the one who took care of my hair from birth through junior high, I can’t say I blame her--I have a lot of hair and it has a mind of its own sometimes. I do wish she hadn’t though, since it altered the texture and curl pattern of my hair drastically. In any case, my hair is still far from “virgin” status, but chemical treatments on these curls are a no-no.
Virgin hair, in a nutshell, is hair that’s never been chemically altered. Whether by hair dye, perms, bleaches, relaxers — no harsh chemicals have ever penetrated hair that’s considered virgin. Crazy, right? In a world that practically begs you to alter your hair with the abundance of dyes and chemical treatments that promise they’ll give you the ~hair of your dreams~ there are people whose hair is completely pure and untouched. A girl could only dream. The good news is, there are ways to get your hair back to its natural virgin state. The bad news is, like all good things, it takes time, consistent effort, and a whole lot of patience. Lucky for us, hair grows in a cycle. It’s not going to stay damaged forever if you don’t want it to. And not every method requires you to cut off all your hair!
Seeing is believing! Check out these realistic tips for getting your hair back on track.
@CurlyPenny

Sooo...is the process different if I’m natural??

Yes and no! You can still use regular dyes, but according to NaturallyCurly, it depends less on the texture of your hair and more on the porosity. Curly hair is tricky and already naturally weaker than straight or wavy hair. Natural 4B/4C hair tends to be thicker and more dense with overall a much lower porosity. Curly hair in general requires more moisture, which can be difficult to balance regardless of the porosity. Since hair dye works by lifting out the color from our open hair cuticles, it could be more of a challenge to get the color to stay in place if the curls are too porous. It’s recommended that you head to a salon if you want to go lighter, but any darker color can be done at home on your own!
What to be mindful of when color treating your hair!
Thinking of dyeing your hair the color you've always wanted? Do you already color treat your hair and want to just improve its health? Here are some tips you should follow to make it easier for you!
Stop washing your hair so much. No seriously, stop. Especially if you have natural hair. When you dye your hair, you’re changing its texture, opening up the hair cuticle and ultimately stripping the hair oils away with no remorse. Using hard water, shampoos, and conditioners everyday isn't going to help replenish those oils, so let your scalp and hair live and take a few extra days in between washes.
If you do wash your hair, opt for sulfate free. This is a huge tip that all naturalistas already swear by. Sulfates, parabens, silicone — all those icky things do is strip and suffocate your hair. Your hair is already going to be super sensitive after dyeing it, so make it a little stronger by using products that will nourish the hair and give it the moisture it needs!
Hot tools? Those are a no no. Think of hot tools as something you know is probably bad for you. You may do it anyway, but the results are rarely worth the trouble. Heat can actually cause your new color to fade faster, not to mention it weakens the hair significantly because the cuticle is left wide open. If you must heat style your hair, please invest in a good heat protectant. But our advice is to avoid it altogether in order to maintain the hair's overall health, as well as your awesome new color.
Oils are your friend. Hair and scalp-friendly oils like coconut, jojoba, and Jamaican black castor oil have a ton of good, healthy fats and vitamins that can replenish and restore your color treated hair over time. Bleaching your hair? Apply coconut oil to your scalp beforehand to ease up the burning. Concerned about thinning after dyeing your hair? Castor oil and Jamaican black castor oil both have incredible hair growth benefits. Oils are great for keeping moisture locked in and can restore, soften, and nourish even the most damaged hair over time!

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