Hair Dye Explained: What is the Difference Between Hair Bleach, Permanent, and Temporary Hair Dye?

By Liz W

hair dye

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Hair dye has been around for centuries, and there are so many different types, techniques and colors to choose from that it can be hard to stick to one shade of style for longer than a few months. Unfortunately, those of us who have repeated hair-color-induced identity crises tend to overdo it, and can be left with brittle damaged hair. There are ways to avoid this inevitable damage and still stay spontaneous with your hair color if you use the right products. Understanding the different processing levels is key to keeping your precious locks in tact while they go through regular color transformations.

Temporary Hair Dye

For those of you looking for a way to spice up your look with a shade that is a few shades darker or similar to your natural hair color, temporary hair dye is a great way to add shine and luster without penetrating the delicate hair shaft, keeping it safe and intact. When choosing a temporary color, make sure you are using a “no lift” formula that contains verily low or no peroxide. (Peroxide is what enters the hair shaft; and is a must for shades that require an initial lifting of the base color, but for a temporary color deposit jobs, will just cause unnecessary damage.) Unfortunately, this is only an option if you want to dye your hair with brown hair dye, and is pretty limiting to the adventurous beauty queens. These products only coat the hair with pigment and boost radiance without the side effects of permanent hair dye or bleach.

Permanent Hair Dye

Permanent and Semi-permanent hair color works one level deeper within the hair strand and therefore have a wider range of shades both lighter and darker from your natural color. These work with a higher level of peroxide with opens the hair cuticle to allow the dye inside the cortex. Once inside the cortex the two-step process of removing color (also called lifting) and then depositing the new color on top. This process bonds with the hair much more strongly than a no lift color deposit, and there for provides longer lasting, yet slightly more damaging results.

Hair Bleach

If you have dark hair and want to go 3 or more shades lighter than your natural color, there is no way around it, you have to use hair bleach. The bleach reacts with the melanin in hair, and permanently removes all of its pigment. Bleaching black hair blond can be a tricky and often disastrous process if the person is not familiar with the chemistry of the hair, but these problems can be avoided with a little knowledge.

Normally the goal with bleach is to achieve the pale yellow hue that is actually the natural color of plain keratin (the building block of hair). But way too many people end up with one of those fiery shades of radioactive orange that I am all too familiar with. This happens due to the bleach being removed too early in the lightening process. It’s all a matter or science, and understanding the different nature of color molecules. When bleach starts reacting with the melanin in your hair, it first removes the smallest and easiest blue molecules, and then enters the longer stage of taking out those larger, more resilient red molecules. This takes multiple treatments in some cases, as the bleach will lose its potency after about an hour. It must be reapplied to cut through all that stubborn red and reveal that oh so beautiful pale blond below.

If you are doing an at-home bleach job, be very careful to not over process, as bleach doesn’t stop when it has reached the desired shade, it will keep on eating away at your hair, and could dissolve it completely.

If you don’t trust yourself or fully understand what you are doing, I would highly recommend shelling out the cash to have it professionally done. I have fallen victim to about every hair dying disaster, and believe me when I say, emergency color correction is VERY expensive.

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