Color Smart: 4 Things You Should Consider Before You Color Your Natural Hair
Taking your hair to the next level with color can be a really exciting experience. Color can jazz up a boring puff, add dimension to locs and twistouts or really turn heads as a simple statement piece on TWAs. While going darker, adding lowlights or coloring within your natural color range won’t cause you too many problems—the drastic color leaps upward (more than 3 shades beyond your natural color) can really take a toll on your hair. Before you engage in any hair altering experience, first understand and weigh the risks. Never ever color your hair on a whim or without a gameplan for aftercare. Finally, decide if you trust yourself enough to do it yourself. Be honest with yourself and say, Self— do you really know what you are doing? What if this color is unsuccessful? Am I prepared for breakage? Am I prepared for a weird color result? Before you take the color plunge, here are some things to consider.
You May Experience:
1. Curl pattern changes. Yes, coloring textured hair can sometimes result in temporary, unpredictable changes in your hair’s curl pattern. Sometimes, the changes are permanent. Whenever you alter or manipulate the hair’s protein bonding arrangement a slight relaxing effect can occur. These curl pattern changes are less likely to occur in coarse hair textures (coarse refers to the diameter of the hair fiber, not the feel of the fiber), and are more likely to occur in those with fine to medium hair textures. Prior damage may also influence whether or not you experience changes in your curl pattern. Using a protein reconstructor after coloring may help some lost curls find their way again.
2. Increases in hair porosity. Products that lighten the hair always require direct access to the hair’s cortical layers. When the hair’s cuticle is breached in this manner, the hair’s natural porosity increases leading to a dryness that hardly ever lets up. When porosity increases, dryness becomes a major complaint because moisture is next to impossible to hold securely within the fiber. Your hair becomes like a bucket with holes poked in the sides. Color-treated hair can be unforgiving, too. Miss a regularly scheduled deep conditioning and you may find yourself parting with strands prematurely. A strict, moisture and protein-focused regimen is absolutely essential if the hair is to thrive in this condition. If you never cared before, now is definitely the time to learn how to balance protein and moisture sources in your regimen!
3. Loss of Elasticity. Because color-treated hair has lost much of its natural moisture (and its overall ability to retain supplemental moisture given), the hair may lose some of its elasticity. Elasticity refers to the ability of our hair fibers to stretch gently and return back to their normal shape and character without damage. The elastic quality of our hair is what makes putting our hair in a ponytail or drawing a puff effortless. When hair lacks elasticity, it does not move, bend and recover when pressured like healthy hair does— it simply gives up under pressure and snaps in its fragile condition. Again, moisture and protein balancing become critical for establishing elasticity because it’s that careful mix of moisture and strength that gives our hair the ability to resist breakage from being stretched and handled day to day.
4. Horrific Color Result. Color is very, very unpredictable and all the swatches, box comparisons and focus groups in the world can’t prepare you for the end result you will be able to expect. Why? Because color uptake is dependent on a number of factors— namely your hair’s current color, porosity and texture (strand size). At best, the hair color on the box is just the product manufacturer’s best corporate guess at what your hair will look like (with a bit of photoshopping thrown in for good measure.) Sometimes, multiple steps will be needed to get your color right. It is always best to have an experienced professional take color more than three shades out of your natural color range. Chances are, they’ve seen numerous heads with textures like yours and varying degrees of porosity—plus they have the added bonus of experiences with various colors and looks to bring to the table. The numbers game is in their favor. You standing there in the store aisle with a box and maybe 0-5 colorings under your belt really can’t compete. (Okay, okay— maybe some of you can!)
Don’t let your color job be the first time you are sitting in this stylists chair— especially if the color change is drastic. You want someone who knows you and your hair and who’ll be available if you have questions. Unfortunately, here on the worldwide web, we can’t see your color or touch your hair. Sometimes it really is best to have someone from the outside hold your hand a little.
Finally, one last note to take into consideration. Know that your color-treated hair will be very sensitive to things that you may have taken for granted before— (i.e., water, the sun, heat etc) and undergoing the coloring process sort of assumes that you’re ready to handle a little extra responsibility. Color-treating your hair is not a time to get lackadaisical with your hair. If you are lazy, put down the box, do not pass go and do not collect $200. (Same advice for those of you who relax/texturize, too)! Color-treated hair REQUIRES upkeep or you will quickly find it circling (albeit very colorfully) down the drain. Check out The Science of Black Hair (pp. 181-192) for specific ways to preserve and work with your color-treated hair.