Recently a reader of mine, Mary, sent me this question: 'Why do hair stylists hate at-home color so much? I get a complex when I go in for my haircut and she asks what I have put on my hair, only to see her disappointed face when I say [brand name X]...'
Well, Mary- great question! There are two main reasons stylists are weary of at-home color:
1- It's formulated TOO STRONG for most users- and causes unnecessary dryness
2- USER ERROR in application causes uneven pigment and over-pigmentation
Let's dive into the science a little here so you know exactly what I mean. Permanent hair color is made up of two parts: The Color and The Developer.
The color ranges in levels from 1-10, where 1 is black and 10 is pale blonde. There are also variations of tones within these levels such as cool ash, neutral, gold, and copper.
The developer (hydrogen peroxide) is the agent the transfers the color from the outside of your hair to the inside of your hair. It ranges in strength from 10-40 volume (or 3-10% for those outside of the US) 10 volume is the weakest strength and is used to change hair color by 1 shade, while 40 volume is the strongest and can change hair color up to 4 shades.
 Here is where we run in to a problem. Store bought color is designed to work for the MASSES- therefor it is formulated to be very strong (40 volume) whether you need that much power or not. So for the average person coloring their hair a shade or two darker, or just to cover a few grays- you are using 4X's the amount of hydrogen peroxide as you need! And as you can guess this results in unnecessary dryness and breakage. When you visit a salon, your hair is assessed by the stylist and your color is mixed to the strength needed to get the job done. This customization and expertise is what you are paying for, and the structural integrity of your hair remains intact.
 Often at home color-users apply their color to the entire head of hair EVERY time they color. Layering artificial color pigment over-and-over itself again is completely unnecessary and causes over-pigmentation. Over pigmentation happens when there is too much color in the hair and it becomes opaque. Light cannot reflect off of the hair or shine through hair- the result is lack luster and dull locks. Another user error happens when color isn't applied evenly. It is easy to color the hair that is visible in the mirror, but areas in the back of the head are often splotchy or missed all together. When a stylist is faced with this type of color job, it will take multiple formulations and several hours to cover and correct the unevenness.
If you simply cannot afford to visit the salon? Follow these rules to get better results when coloring your own hair at home:
-Pick a box color that is only 2 shades lighter or darker than your natural color. Trying to a make change bigger than that is risky and not recommended.
-Apply your color only on the new growth for touch ups. Recoloring the entire head of hair will cause dullness and drying. If the color has faded beyond the new growth- apply the color to the lengths of the hair during the last 5 minutes of processing only.
-Rinse with cool water to add shine and keep color from fading in between color jobs.
-Condition with a healing mask every other week to keep hair soft and pliable.
-Use a buddy to help you apply the color evenly especially in the back of your head.
So there you have it- I hope this answered some of your questions about at-home color.
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