Today, I bring you… hair science!
No more white hair for me!
I had to dye my hair darker again because it’s time to renew my passport, and if you look different to your old photo, they make you get people to sign that they’ve known you for x amount of years. I don’t want to have to do that, and because of our racist immigrant laws in this country, I have to produce my passport every time I go for a job interview, to prove I have the right to live and work in the UK.
Since I’m renewing it because of my name change, it seemed prudent to give them as little as possible to say “you’re not the same human being as the person on this passport, your name and face are different.”
Because of some weird trick of my face shape, I look totally different when I change my hair colour, so I have had to get rid of the silver hair.
I did a little tutorial of how I did it, and then today I’ve done this science video – for SCIENCE! Friday – explaining how hair dye, bleach and coloring all work on the hair and why it’s important to put the red back in with a permanent red dye.
I’ve done a full explanation of the science in a video, the gist of it is written in the rest of this article (but since I don’t script my videos, it’s slightly different in the wording, although the science is the same), there’s diagrams and everything! I’ve explained it all in the most straightforward way possible, so if you love science as much as I do, and love hearing it in plain English, it’s a really interesting watch!
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So how do you get rid of white, silver or platinum blonde hair?
Those of you who are astute will know that colour remover isn’t how to get rid of silver or white hair – it has, effectively, already had all the colour removed by the bleaching process, that’s why it’s so light.
To get rid of white or silver blonde hair, then, you need to put the colour back in. That’s what I explain in the wrecked your hair article – I haven’t actually wrecked my hair this time, but the process is the same (the results are much faster and better on hair that wasn’t wrecked).
So here’s what my hair looks like now:
As you can see, it’s not my best hair colour because it really doesn’t suit my skin tone (I need a bluer red and this is an orangey red), so I now (after it’s settled for a week) have two options:
I can either dye my hair a dark true-red red, or I can stick with the plan and go for brown.
Either will probably wash out in 2-4 weeks to a color I don’t like any more. So I’m thinking brown for the passport pictures, then let that wash out a bit, then true-red red.
I’ve never been a proper red before, I’ve only been ginger for years and years then dark brown for 6 months before I whitened it. Oh and a bunch of temporary rainbow colours from time to time.
Since I’m basically artificially reconstructing the core of my hair, I need to stick with warm colours so blonde is off the menu for a while.
How does one artificially reconstruct their hair core, you ask?
The video I linked to above (which I made today) is a model showing what hair looks like when it’s been bleached. The loss of colour molecules is only part of the problem – the shaft now has holes burned in it where the chemical has gotten into the shaft to do its work and the colour molecules have departed (this is the same in any hair colourant – that’s why when you dye your hair dark brown or black loads of times, then use colour remover, instead of going to your natural colour, it turns a pale caramel type of colour).
When you add a new color to that, it packs the inside with color, but because of the holes in the hair shaft (which are irreparable) the color washes out easily. Not only that, but it’s designed to go on hair with color molecules in it (because normally you’d put it over your natural coloured hair), so it tends to be designed to simultaneously lighten the existing molecules and add some new pigment molecules, but there aren’t usually enough new pigment molecules to produce a realistic result on very bleached hair. And each time you use it, it burns more holes in the hair shaft.
In the process of artificially reconstructing the hair, then, you can do more damage if you’re gung ho about it which is why I’m going slowly, letting my hair recover each time (it doesn’t heal itself, but it does get its protective oils back over time, and they are way underestimated as to how useful they are) and gradually building up to the color I want.
Once it’s been done, it obviously can’t be bleached again past a certain point, because the bleach will keep blasting open the shaft which will eventually turn the hair to jelly, at which point you just have to cut it off. This has never happened to me.
Why am I so focussed on red, you ask?
It’s standard hairdressing knowledge that in order to move someone’s hair from blonde to brown, you have to put the red back in first. This has to be done with permanent colour (I’ll explain why below) and it has to be done because the blue molecules are smaller and have been mostly unaffected by the bleaching, they’re the last ones to get taken out (when hair is bleached, it goes through these stages: black> dark brown > caramel > weird orangey colour > weird bright yellow > pale yellow > white. If your hair’s not black, it picks up to the nearest stage on this sequence, eg if you’re a natural blonde, it will go weird bright yellow > pale yellow > white depending on when you wash it off).
To make your hair pigment, “nature” (or whatever) throws together a bunch of melanin (yes, vaguely something to do with melatonin) of different shades (it comes in 3 colours), and the combination of those 3 shades and the quantity of individual molecules are what produce your hair colour.
To restore the hair to a believable darker colour, then, you have to go through the other colours and replace those first. I could have replaced the yellow before the red, but most hair colourants to achieve blonde hair are either semi-permanent or have very aggressive developer (to get lighter results for darker hair), so doing that would blast holes in my hair shafts like there’s no tomorrow, and not really put much colour into it for the trouble, so I went for a yellowy-red instead of a true red, and that’s why I always go to ginger instead of bright red (ginger has the red and yellow molecules in it, bright red has very few yellow molecules) for the first thing I do to my hair after I’ve had it very light blonde for a while.
And that’s why, now, I can either let the red build up to restore my hair or I can make it brown to restore it. If I hadn’t bothered with the red, the brown dye would most likely give my hair a disgusting green tinge.
And that’s why I don’t say I can “repair” it (because nothing does that, hair is dead when it grows out of the scalp, you can’t “heal” a dead thing), I say “restore” or “fix” because I can make it look like it’s fine, but if you put my hair under a microscope it would probably look awful.
You mentioned semi permanent colours – I’ve been told they’re really good for my hair, why don’t you use those instead?
Semi permanent colours only affect the outside of the hair shaft. They don’t have the chemicals they need to penetrate the shaft and add colour to the inside. If you imagine my white hair is an empty drinking straw, the semi-permanent is like getting a felt pen and colouring the outside of that straw – it won’t make it more stable on the inside, and the hair is still left too fragile.
The permanent colours put the pigment inside the hair shaft – so they’re less “healthy” if you have perfect, undyed hair, but they’re more “healthy” if your hair has no pigment in the middle.
I cant visualise all this crap about molecules, can you explain it with some diagrams?
Yes! Here’s a video I made, that explains it with diagrams and a whiteboard (in case you missed it above):