Permanent haircolour. It's something almost all of us use but how much do we really know about it? This blog post, as well as several others after it, will detail different types of haircolour and how to use it.
Most of us use a colour that's pre-packaged from Wal-Mart or the Drugstore. While there's nothing inherently wrong with these boxed colours, there can be some issues present with them. The main issue with a box colour is that you're never quite sure what level of developer you're getting with them.
Going back to my previous post that laid out an overview of haircolour terms (which you can read here), developer is the activator for your hair colour. There are several Volumes of developer from Demi up to 40 or 50 volume.
The volume of developer dictates the level of hydrogen peroxide in the formula. The higher the volume, the more levels of lift the hair colour can achieve.
Permanent colour is the only type of hair colour that can achieve lift. Other hair colours are known as no-lift colours because they lack ammonia. Ammonia and peroxide cause the reaction necessary to dissolve natural hair colours pigment.
Demi developer contains a low percentage of hydrogen peroxide and is only used for demi-permanent haircolour. This will only allow for depositing colour. No lift can be achieved with demi developer.
10 Volume developer contains a slightly higher percentage of hydrogen peroxide than a demi developer. It contains enough to achieve perhaps one level of lift on fine, porous hair but usually it is a deposit-only developer.
20 Volume developer is considered a 'standard' developer. It achieves 1 - 2 levels of lift and is most often used in boxed colours of a darker shade. This volume is appropriate for moving natural hair colour up one or two shades or for deposit-only colour on resistant hair.
30 Volume developer provides between 3 - 4 levels of lift and is the standard developer for lighteners.
40 Volume developer provides 4 - 5 levels of lift and should really only be used for extreme lift. I recommend only using this if you are a professional or if you've been doing your own hair with professional products.
50 Volume developer is a professional only product used in extreme cases. This should never be used by non-professionals and, more often than not, required a professional license to purchase.
Choosing which volume you're going to use depends entirely on the level of the colour you're applying and whether your hair is natural or colour-treated. If your hair is colour treated and you are going darker a 10 or a 20 will be acceptable. If you wish to go lighter you will need to pre-lighten using a lightener (or as it is sometimes known, a bleach.)
Finding the level is easy with professional colours. Rather than using descriptive names like Tahitian Sunset or Radiant Sunflower, the colours are classified by level and tone. That will provide your base for finding your own natural colour as well as the level of the colour you wish to achieve.
For example, moving from a 3G to a 5G would require only a 20 volume developer. If you wished to move from a 5A to a 8A, you would need a 30 volume developer.
The downside to boxed dyes found in drugstores and big box stores is you can customize your developer. Let's say that you have light, ashy blonde hair and you want to go just a little lighter. So you pick up a light blonde box dye and apply it, leaving it on for the appropriate amount of time by the instructions.
As your hair is already light, you wouldn't need a very high volume developer. However if the brand included a lower volume of developer, someone with darker hair can not use it to achieve the lighter blonde colour promised.
So every time you apply that colour, whether it's to refresh it, do your roots, initial application, etc, it's using a higher volume developer than your hair needs and causing more damage than is necessary to your hair.
Using a professional permanent colour allows you to use an appropriate developer and not damage your hair more than you need to.
Permanent colours come in three formulations with two being more popular. Liquids, Cremes and Gels (sometimes referred to as Liqui-cremes.)
Liquid colours are thin, runny colours and are best applied from a bottle applicator. These colours are often used by professionals.
Creme colours are thicker, richer textured colours that are best applied from a bowl and brush. This colour is usually my recommendation for first-time users or at-home applications.
Gels (or Liqui-cremes) are in between Liquids and Cremes. These are diverse colour formulations and can be used from a bottle or a bowl and a brush.
Most colours use a 1:1 ratio for mixing colour and developer. However this varies from brand to brand and 1:2 ratios can be common as well. Be sure to read the instructions on any colour before you begin your colouring.
Also be sure to do a patch test for allergies. I have had a friend go in to anaphylactic shock because she didn't do a patch test. Be sure to do a strand test as well. Mix a small portion of the colour and developer so that you can apply to one small section of the hair to check the colour result.
There are many other accessories that go along with hair colour and I will cover those in a separate post on just accessories. If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I'll be happy to answer them!