Coloring your hair has a transformative power. Sun-kissed highlights evoke lazy days at the beach and make you feel flirty and carefree. Bold red hues make you strut instead of step, and more likely to make the first move. Neon streaks are a little edgy, and a whole lot of fun. Warm, glossy chestnut exudes confidence and sensuality. And for an exotic and mysterious look, turn your hair raven black. No matter what your pigment preference, you can achieve it through natural, over-the-counter or professional hair coloring treatments.
Centuries-old Coloring Techniques
Our ancestors used plants and metallic compounds to alter their hair color. Today you can still dye your hair using natural ingredients, but the results are more subtle than commercial alternatives. Henna gives you a red-orange hue. Chamomile tea and lemon juice brighten blonde and light brown hair. For reddish-gold highlights, make a rinse from marigold flowers and red wine. Your mousy brown hair can have richer shades by rinsing it with distilled water darkened with walnut shells or whole cloves.
These natural products change your hair gradually, so make sure to apply daily until you are pleased with the color. They are also quicker to fade from your hair, especially if you shampoo frequently. And a word of caution: compound henna formulations may actually contain chemicals with metallic salts and discolor chemically-treated hair - so check the label. 100% natural ingredients are a gentle and effective way to color tresses, especially if you want to avoid the potential risks - including skin irritation and hair breakage - that are associated with chemical treatments.
The Convenience of Coloring at Home
For a fraction of a salon’s price, you can color your hair in the comfort of your home. And advances in at-home formulations have made them comparable to professional products. Decide whether you want color that is permanent, demi-permanent, semi-permanent or highlight/lowlight. The permanent formulas fully penetrate hair shafts for vibrant, all-over color for approximately 12 weeks. But the only way to remove permanent color is by using a stripping shampoo.
Less invasive to the hair shaft, both demi-permanent and semi-permanent colors deepen your current hue, but cannot lighten it. They condition your hair, making your hair shiny, plus they both fade gradually so you don’t have a jarring root line. Demi-permanent lasts twice as long as semi-permanent - a difference of approximately 6 - 12 shampoos. And demi-permanent is better at covering grays.
Highlights and Lowlights
Highlights and lowlights are achieved by lightening or darkening select strands. This adds depth and interest, and looks more natural than a one-dimensional color. And short-term fixes like color wands and glosses can help until your next coloring. No matter which product you choose, consider what will complement your skin tone and current hair hue. Different formulas require different processing times, so it’s essential to read the instructions first. To preserve your chosen tint, use shampoos, conditioners and styling products that are designed for colored hair. And take precautions to protect your hair from the sun, salt water and chlorine because they all may discolor your hair.
Temporary Color - Frisky but Fleeting
Want to go dip-dyed orange for Halloween, or streak your hair bright blue to show school spirit? You can apply a rainbow of temporary colors to your mane by using inexpensive over-the-counter products that come in foam, gel, rinse or spray form. Because they don’t penetrate your hair shaft, temporary colors are just that - they wash out after one shampoo. If you are skittish about coloring your hair, but still want kelly green tips for St. Patrick’s Day, clip in colored hair extensions instead.
Professional Results from Your Hair Colorist
Visiting your local salon to color your hair is pricey, but a skilled colorist can employ a variety of techniques that are difficult to replicate at home. Instead of one formula, your colorist may use several to create gorgeous, textured tresses. Your colorist is also more adept at application methods including balayage, weaving and foiling, and using a cap and crochet hook. Most importantly, coloring hair is as much an art as it is a science, so an experienced colorist will take into account your hair’s hue, health, cut and previous treatments to achieve and maintain your desired results.
If your budget only allows for an occasional professional treatment, ask your colorist to recommend at-home products to make color last until your next appointment. And color-treated hair requires products that address your very specific needs. Use intensely moisturizing shampoos and conditioners to repair your shaft damage and prolong color. Shield your locks from the sun by applying styling products that contain UVB filters. Use hair dryers and styling irons sparingly to minimize cuticle damage. If you decide to use a professional to color your hair, make sure to protect your investment.