How To Minimize Hair Dye Damage

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Many men and women take joy in altering their appearance by dying their hair. While this is a common practice offered by hair salons and over-the-counter products, dying your hair may not be as harmless as it initially seems. While hair dye doesn't necessarily need to be avoided altogether, individuals should be well aware of the consequences of using this method to change their hairstyle. Read this article to learn more about how hair dye works and the potential risks of hair dye damage and how to minimize it.

How Hair Dye Works

Dying your hair is most commonly obtained by applying a mix of chemicals to the hair in order to change its appearance. Once the dye has been applied, it removes the outer surface of the hair, which is made up of a coating of lipids.

Meanwhile, the internal structure of each strand of hair is also being changed. Hair dyes contain tiny color molecules that enter the hair. Once inside, they react with larger color molecules already present in the hair. These molecules oxidize and cause the color of the hair to change.

Types of Hair Dye

There are several types of hair dye available today. Among the most common are over-the-counter products. These are typically available in most drug stores and supermarkets in the hair products aisle. The vast variety of hair colors and application techniques offered by these hair dye brands is appealing for those who want to save time and money by dying their own hair at home.

Hair dying can also be completed at a salon. What many people don't realize is that the actual products used to dye hair at a salon vary hardly at all from the over-the-counter products. In fact, both over-the-counter and salon dyes contain the same main ingredients, including p-Phenylenediamine, 2-nitro-p-phenylenediamine and hydrogen peroxide.

The key difference between these hair dye options is the application. A stylist at a salon is more knowledgeable about how to properly apply hair dye. Furthermore, they can create custom colors for their clients, and as they dye again and again in the future, they can get to know the client's hair very well and can alter their application for the best and most lasting results.

Potential Hair Dye Damage

Even if a hair dye job looks great, there still may be potential damage going on in the hair strand itself. For instance, a hair strand loses its lipid coating again and again with each dye. Unfortunately, these lipids cause the hair to be smooth, soft and water-resistant. The more they are stripped away, the more frizzy and coarse the hair will become. Furthermore, some of the bonds that keep hair strong and healthy may break down as the molecules oxidize inside the hair. This creates weaker hair that is less resistant to flat ironing, blow-drying and brushing. The more that hair is dyed, the more permanent these effects of hair dying will become.

There are some reports that link cancer to regular hair dying due to the possibly cancerous nature of some hair dye ingredients. This has not been proven, however, and needs further research before this link can be confirmed.

In addition to this, there are some temporary effects that some people may experience when dying their hair, including:

  • Hair loss
  • Burning or redness on any skin which the dye comes in contact with
  • Itchy scalp
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face

Tips for Minimizing Damage

There are several ways that you can minimize hair dye damage from harsh hair ingredients. Use these tips to protect your hair while dying it:

  • Choose semi-permanent hair dyes. Although semi-permanent hair dyes won't last quite as long, they tend to be less harsh as far as the chemicals they contain when compared to permanent dyes. Look for semi-permanent over-the-counter dyes or ask your salon if they offer any semi-permanent or less harsh treatments.
  • Always follow the directions. If you do use any store-bought hair dye products, make sure you follow the directions very carefully. This is especially important when it comes to how long the dye should be left on your hair. Additionally, read through any "Warning" or "Caution" sections in the directions before you begin.
  • Don't mix hair dye products. Hair dyes are typically FDA approved. When you combine these products, the chemical balance could change and become too harsh for your hair.
  • Use alternative hair dye products. There are some hair dyes that are considered safer, such as henna-based dyes, which are made from a plant and are available in reddish and brownish hues. There are also progressive hair dyes, which slowly turn your hair shades darker rather than doing it all at once. Some women even use lemon juice to lighten their hair in the sun. These options cause much less damage to your hair than traditional hair dyes.


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