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Coloring Your Hair: What You Should Know

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Let’s get the true confessions out of the way right now: I turned my hair orange when I was in my twenties. It wasn’t Bozo the Clown orange or even Carrot Top orange; it was sort of a cross between doorknob brass and orangutan orange. Not shocking but not too far from it, and definitely not the effect I was going for when I decided to color my own hair.

Needless to say, at that time I did not know much about the structure of human hair and the impact of hair dye. Now that I understand these concepts better, let me pass the information along to help you avoid the same chemical disaster I experienced.

The outer layer of each hair shaft is called the cuticle. It’s made of transparent cells or scales that overlap each other in a protective coating. A Procter & Gamble Web site, www.pgbeautygroomingscience.com, notes that an undamaged hair cuticle contributes to shiny, healthy looking hair by reflecting maximum light. That’s why you want to be gentle with your hair.

The cortex, the center of the hair shaft, contains strands of protein called keratins. It also contains the all-important melanin particles that give hair its color. According to Procter & Gamble, there are two kinds of melanins: eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Most people have a mixture. Eumelanin gives hair darker color; phaeomelanin is a lighter pigment predominating in blonde and red hair.

These days, most hair color companies categorize their products into three levels of coloring, explains www.howstuffworks.com:

LEVEL 1 is semi-permanent color. These products don’t contain ammonia or peroxide, so they can add color but not lighten your existing color much. Semi-permanent color does enter the hair cuticle and deposit molecules in the cortex. But the molecules are small, so they 1) don’t impact existing pigment and 2) wash out after several shampoos. These products can be good choices for covering gray hair as they add color to hair that has lost most of its melanin.

LEVEL 2 products are called demi-permanent.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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