Spotted your first grey hair? Or just want to get your hair coloured for a new look? Either way most first-timers are sceptical about streaking or colouring their hair. Understand the process, keep these pointers in mind and there’s nothing to worry.
Is it safe?
Quite obviously, hair colouring is a chemical treatment that changes your hair texture and its natural state so it doesn’t come without risks. But to ascertain whether it could be potentially harming, a visit to a dermatologist is advised, especially if you already have a problem concerning hair or scalp, such as excessive dandruff or hair fall.
Can I do it myself or do I have to go to a salon?
You can do it at home. Get a friend to help (especially if you have long hair) and make sure you get a few things right before you begin.
Your very first task is to test the colour for allergic reaction – so get that out of the way to avoid any unpleasant scalp-surprises later.
Know your shade: Two shades lighter or darker – stick to this mantra to choose a shade that suits your skin tone. The only thing worse than a bad hair day is a bad hair colour day.
Set a timer: Don’t apply the colour and forget about it – make sure you keep it for as much time as it says on the pack.
Condition, condition: There’s nothing more important than conditioner post colouring. Not only does it help to retain the colour for a longer period but also preserves your hair texture.
“Conditioners are a must, hair colour or no hair colour. You should go in for colour safe shampoos and conditioners. Ask your stylist if your hair needs a specific conditioner in case your hair has become too brittle, rough or you are experiencing too much hairfall. Pay your stylist a visit routinely to find out if your hair is in a good condition or if it needs anything extra like a hairspa,” says Zing Shatsang, who owns Zido Salon in Mumbai’s Bandra suburb.
After the first time, just colour the roots because your hair colour will have changed only there.
Are colour-protective shampoos different from regular shampoos?
They are definitely more expensive! Most colour-protective shampoos claim on their labels to ‘enhance or revitalize richness and depth and add shine’ which probably indicates more conditioning agents for a shampoo that’s less chemically harsher on your hair than a regular shampoo.
Although opinions are divided on whether there’s any difference between the two, you can look for ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate and cocamidopropyl betaine on your shampoo bottle which are gentler cleansing agents and won’t wreak as much havoc with your hair colour. Also, shampoo your hair as seldom as possible.
There are two reasons to avoid the salon – cost and chemicals – the above option is for the cost. But what if you want a natural colorant?
Can I use natural home-made colours?
Yes, but again, consult a dermatologist before you go ahead. If you are too apprehensive about going the commercial way, try a natural recipe for hair colours. For instance, to get blonde streaks apply a mix of lemon juice and chamomile tea, don a straw hat and pull out as many strands as you want to streak and sit in the sun for two hours and voila! You get perfectly natural streaks.
Similarly if you want dark brown tones simmer some walnut shells, black tea and cloves in water and apply the strained liquid on washed hair. Repeat a couple of times to develop the rich brown shade.
For red tints, try beetroot and carrot juice and dry your hair in the sun.
The most common natural dye that most Indian women prefer is mehendi or henna – it gives a strong reddish orange tinge to your hair and doesn’t fade away for a long time. However, not everyone’s hair is compatible with its use and while there are advantages, there are some shortcomings related to its usage. For instance, not all henna brands are completely natural because manufacturers add some or the other chemical or metal salts. Apart from that, if your hair has been coloured before, adding henna on top of it might produce a completely different colour from what you expected. And for many, henna makes the hair very dry. You could try colouring a very small area of your hair with it and see if the results are desirable.
At the salon
Trusting yourself to the hands of a professional is a good idea, especially the first time but it’s equally important that your hairdresser understands exactly what you want.
Take a picture: Do you have a picture of the hair tinge you’d like? Share and discuss it with them and explain exactly what you like about the picture.
Listen: Remember that you are with a professional so listen to their feedback – for instance, if they tell you that the shade may not suit you, consider the suggestion. Never proceed unless you are completely satisfied with the consultation.
Ask: You might want red streaks but did you know that colours like red and purple fade out faster than say, brown? Talk about the colours you want and find out how soon they are likely to last.
“Shades like blue and purple do fade off because we (Indians) have naturally dark hair so hairdressers need to bleach the hair by pre-lightening it. And if the hair is weak, it can’t hold on to the new colour for too long. Also, most of these colours are ammonia free,” explains Zing.
Ammonia helps open the cuticle layer of the hair and allow the colour to penetrate; it also activates the peroxide in the colour developer.
The golden rule of testing the hair colour on your skin holds good here too.
How often can I get my hair coloured?
“In case of a ‘global’ colour(entire hair being coloured) you can ‘refresh’ the hair colour every 4-6 months; till then doing a monthly touch up is required if you want an even look overall,” suggests Zing.
Avoid hair colours if…
You have a medical scalp condition such as ringworms or excessive dandruff – chemicals in the hair colour may aggravate this problems. Instead, consult a dermatologist to find out if you can colour your hair at all.
You’ve had an allergic reaction to a hair product in the past. A common allergen in hair colours is called PDD (Paraphenylenediamine) that you might want to check for.
You have a serious hair fall problem. Hair colours are inherently strong and therefore may turn your hair even more brittle.
So there you have it – an introduction for beginners to hair colouring. Who doesn’t want their locks to look trendy and lovely, right? But because your tresses are such an important part of your appearance, be armed with all the information you need. Apart from that, happy colouring!