Two-thirds of us colour our hair, either to cover grey or to brighten the blahs.
If you’re thinking of trying it for the first time, or just need some fresh ideas, here’s what you should know.
The tamest way of refreshing natural or tinted hair is with colour-enhancing conditioners, such as John Masters Organics Colour Enhancing Conditioners, £22, which come in four shades. The colour molecules are too large to penetrate the hair, so they sit harmlessly on the surface, adding a hint of warmth or depth before washing off with the next shampoo, and of course they’re great conditioners, too.
A marginally bolder change occurs with temporary colourants such as Superdrug Colour Effects range, £1.49 each, which work similarly, so they won’t lighten your haircolour. More vibrant temporary colours include Bleach Hair Crayons, in three fun shades, £4 each, which are brushed over dry hair like make-up. North London colour specialist, Mimoza Koka, says, “Brunettes look great with green streaks, while blonde and silvery hair look funky with pink or violet. They’re also a crafty way to cover stray greys.” Since they’re literally make-up for hair, they wash out immediately.
Traditional semi-permanents, such as Nice’n Easy Non-Permanent, £4.50, with no ammonia and no peroxide, last up to 8 shampoos. They contain molecules small enough to penetrate the hair and ‘stain’ the fibrous interior. These particles are also small enough to seep out again, so colour fades gradually over six-to-eight washes. Best for brightening lacklustre browns or mousey blondes, they cannot lighten hair. However, adding a tiny percentage of peroxide makes colour molecules swell slightly inside the hair. so they wash out more slowly. This principle is behind longer-lasting semi-permanents such as L’Oreal Casting Creme Gloss, £5. These last through 16-24 shampoos and can cover up to 50% grey but, again, they can’t lighten hair.
Permanent tints, such as Garnier Nutrisse, from £4.50, contain more peroxide or ammonia, enabling colour molecules to swell enough to stay put – unless the cuticle is so badly damaged that they still leech away. Almost any colour change is possible and permanent tints cover all greys, but radical transformations, like from dark brown to pale blonde or vice versa, are best left to the salon. Their main drawback is the need to redo the roots every four-to-six weeks.
Clairol Nice’n Easy Root Touch-Up, from £4.99, comes in 14 shades which match most brands, but when that’s simply too much of a headache, Josh Wood Blending Wands, £12.50 each, are like mascaras for hair, so they’ll disguise roots between washes and help colour last slightly longer.
“Most home colouring works OK, but things occasionally go wrong, especially with dramatic colour changes or when people try doing their roots but end up covering all the hair,” adds Mimoza. “The results can then be patchy with light roots and dark ends, or worse. If that happens, please don’t try to correct it yourself – always call the professionals.”
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