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Adventures in Home Hair Coloring

>I am one of those blessed women who inherited the “later in life” gray hair gene. My mother didn’t start covering her strands of grays until she was nearly 60, and it seems I am following right behind her. Well, I have to admit I actually started my first time ever hair coloring adventure on myself a couple of years ago when I started noticing them sprinkled around my hairline.

Actress Jane Seymour was hawking a home hair coloring product in a TV commercial around that time, so I was convinced if lovely Jane could still have fabulous looking long tresses coloring them herself (if indeed she really does color them herself) then it was a no brainer for me to give it a try.

Like many women standing at the portal of first time hair coloring I found it a bit overwhelming wading through the myriad of color choices available at my local drug store. As I compared options I also pondered the outcome of a potential disaster if I didn’t select the right one that would be close enough to merge with my natural color. With my fair skin tone and medium brown hair that had golden and red highlights I knew I didn’t want to end up looking like a high contrast dye job.

Finding the right gray covering product that was subtle enough blend in well with my natural hair color characteristics was definitely my immediate goal. So, I decided to go with a very short term Level 1 (semi-permanent) formula in light golden brown that would wash out within 6 shampoos. It had no ammonia or peroxide so that if it ended up looking bad it would only take a couple of weeks to wash completely out. It makes experimenting fun because with this kind of gently hair color formula you really can’t do any harm.

One thing is certain, that as we get older our skin tone becomes paler because the pigmentation in our skin doesn’t regenerate with the same intensity as it did in our youth. The same is basically true for natural hair color, and it loses its natural luster as the gray sets in. Once I found the product that worked for me it became a dance to figure out how to make the color last as long as I could in-between applications.

My gray hair patterning is largely in the front of my face and around my hairline, so it looks like I have more highlights that contrast nicely with my natural hair color. There is no doubt about it, I loved the results I got with home hair coloring and covering gray around my face does brighten my look for a more youthful appearance.

I discovered that gray or silver hair can typically be color resistant, and this was true for my hair, so I have to leave the color solution on for the maximum amount of time recommended in the directions. I also found that alternating with two different strengths of semi-permanent dyes (one washes out within 6-12 shampoos, the other washes out within 12-24) does a great job of touching up the color while helping to keep my hair in better condition. Overall, home hair coloring takes much less time and expense than going to a salon and at this stage of the game for me the results look very natural and believable to the eye.

So to all of you out there who are wading into the first time gray hair coloring waters, here are my 10 tips to help make the experience a little more secure with believable results and longer wear. They will also save you some money and time between coloring sessions.

1. The day before coloring wash your hair with a clarifying (detergent) type shampoo, and allow to air dry. This will remove any conditioning or styling product residue so that the color can fully penetrate the hair shaft, which will also allow the color to wear and last longer.

1. Install a shower filter that filters out chorine. Unfiltered tap water contains strong amounts of chlorine, which is a bleaching agent and will cause hair color to fade faster. Tap water also has mineral sediments that can bind to the hair and interfere with optimal color adhesion. A filter takes out most of the unwanted sediments and it is also great for the skin!

3. Choose a demi-permanent color to start with that is actually ½ to 1 shade lighter than your natural hair color. Hair color typically takes bit darker than described on the box. For instance, I use a light golden brown color even though my actual hair color is medium brown. This gives me a perfect blend with my own hair color and the highlights are more evenly distributed throughout.

4. When you apply the color, avoid putting it on the ends until the last 10 minutes. Hair is much more porous on the ends so it absorbs quicker. You will get more even color results throughout the hair strands if you don’t over saturate the color on the ends.

5. Wait at least 48 to 72 hours after coloring hair to shampoo. This will allow the hair color molecules to fully saturate the hair strands and result in longer wear between color applications.

6. Use a shampoo that is made for color treated hair, and don’t rinse in hot water. Hot water expands the hair shaft and contributes to faster fading. Always use lukewarm water to shampoo and rinse hair.

7. Allow hair to air dry after coloring and avoid using a blow dryer for two days following your color application. The hair dryer on fresh color will add a slight dullness to the color that is permanent, and you will end up having to use shine enhancing products to bring it back to full intensity.

8. Use an ionic dryer which is kinder to color and to hair, and dries hair faster without dulling down or frizzing out the hair texture.

9. Use a conditioner that has sunscreen in it to help protect your color, and keep it from possibly turning a brassy looking color. If you use a curling iron or hot rollers use a thermal styling spray that will help keep the heat from penetrating the hair shaft too deeply and breaking down the dye adhesion molecules.

10. About 2 -3 weeks after coloring use a color enhancing shampoo every other time you wash your hair. These kinds of shampoos have ingredients that enhance the hue and boost shine. When you get close to needing to color again, try a color glossing product to get the last bit of wear out of your fading color. These products intensify the color with shine so that you have the illusion of fresh looking color.

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