After wearing weaves and subjecting her hair to regular heat styling, Tammy Porter’s stylist convinced her to let her natural curls show through. “As a black woman, I didn’t want to live up to European beauty standards,” says Porter of Carson, California. “I also didn’t want to spend my life in a beauty salon and at the time the natural hair community was booming!”
So Porter, 41, embarked on a 5-year journey to go from chemical relaxers, heat styling and extensions to her natural curls. She was a new mom and business executive when she decided to try color again.
She hadn’t colored her hair in years. “I loved my blonde hair, but I was nervous,” Porter says. “Like a lot of people, I’ve had bad experiences with color. As a natural girl, I’ve seen it change my curl pattern and damage my darker hair.
For Porter and many people of color, wearing their hair in its natural state means there are no chemical relaxers or harsh chemicals to alter its natural curl pattern. The textures in their natural state vary from tight coils to loose waves.
Many have stories of hair color treatment gone wrong. But as the science improves and stylists become more adept at treating your hair, there’s no need to cower on color.
To keep your coils looking vibrant and healthy when coloring your hair, consider these questions first.
Are your hair and scalp healthy?
Blacks have hair that tends to be coarser and drier.
Time can take a toll. The same goes for some hair treatments. You can go from diva to pity in no time.
“Your hair shaft isn’t as resilient as you age, and coloring for years can cause problems,” says Amy McMichael, MD, FAAD, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston- Salem, North Carolina.
If your hair is very dry, brittle, and overall not on its A-game, it’s best not to color your hair until your hair has the TLC it needs.
“I suggest my patients treat any skin or scalp concerns before coloring their hair,” McMichael says.
Talk to your doctor about how your health may be causing problems with your scalp. A dermatologist focuses on skin, nail, and hair issues and may prescribe medications or treatments like medicated shampoos to help turn things around.
The crown of your head might not be the only thing to check if you’re getting ready for color. “I ask my clients if they’re taking any medications before doing a color treatment,” says Debra Dye Brown (yes, her real name), master cosmetologist in Atlanta.
Brown says that certain medications – such as those for high blood pressure, certain hormones or steroids – can impact how hair color works and in some cases cause a reaction. “If you think about it, some drug tests require a strand of hair because what you put in your body will often show up there,” Brown says.
Where you are in life – whether you are going through menopause or a period of high stress – is a factor in how your color journey unfolds. Talk to your stylist about all of this. You are in their chair to share after all.
Have you found a professional?
Unless you’ve gotten all A’s in Advanced Chemistry, it may be best to leave the hair dye process (especially if you’re going lighter) to the pros. “The color box doesn’t know anything about your hair like I would as an expert,” says Milena Ghattas, celebrity colorist in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Dying your hair at home for years can cause damage over time, even if you can’t see it.”
A trained colorist will know how to assess your hair, health, and lifestyle to help you come up with a plan. Do your homework to find a licensed colorist and check their social media pages to see if they can color hair that looks like yours.
The hair color is, well, color blind. “The hair coloring process is the same for everyone,” says McMichael. “It’s about drilling holes in the hair to allow the color to seep through.” (These “holes” are made with chemicals.)
Natural hair may need more moisture in general and even more if color is applied. Additionally, color can soften the curl pattern — but only temporarily if done right, Ghattas says — on natural hair.
While natural hair comes in all textures and shades, many people of color have darker hair colors (with more red and golden undertones). Changing hair from dark to light involves the most chemicals (bleaching) and can be more damaging than going from light to dark.
Are you doing too much?
It’s not a good idea to make all your style changes at once. Using a relaxer, color, and heat styling in the same setting can be a bad idea. Give your hair a break between services and try to do other services at least 2 weeks before coloring.
A less permanent but gentler option is demi- or half-color instead of permanent color. Half-colors and demi-colors (not to be confused with rinses that wash out color weekly) fade in 6-8 weeks, but contain fewer chemicals that can damage hair and won’t soak into the hairline. hair shaft like permanent colors. Permanent color must grow or be cut out.
What’s your color story?
Pros like Ghattas and Brown will be interviewing new clients about their moments with color. “I want to know if you’ve done temporary coloring recently or if you’ve been coloring your hair for years,” Ghattas says. “I ask how your hair has reacted in the past and we talk about your starting point and your end point.” You are unique and so is your hair.
Did you do a strand test?
Will this shade of dark brown make your hair green? Will this light blonde even work for you?
Strand tests show how your hair will react – before you try it all over your head. It also helps your colorist know if the color will work, how it may affect your curl pattern, and if your hair is too fragile for the look you want.
Permanent color or not?
Researchers have studied the safety of hair color for years. In 2019, researchers from the National Institutes of Health reported that women who regularly used permanent hair color were more likely to get breast cancer than those who didn’t – and the risk was higher in women. black than white women. We do not know why. Semi-permanent or temporary hair color was not linked to breast cancer risk in the study.
The finding was based on data from more than 46,000 American women between the ages of 35 and 74, 55% of whom used permanent hair color. The women were followed for an average of 8 years. The study does not prove that hair color caused anyone’s cancer.
Many hair dyes contain chemicals like ammonia or hydrogen peroxide, which can cause skin irritation, redness, and other health issues.
If you are concerned about chemicals in hair dye, talk to your stylist about changing your hair color products, or ask your doctor if chemicals are right for you. If you’re considering henna as an alternative, it’s a milder form of hair dye than permanent dyes, and it’s less likely to cause allergic reactions. But it can still be irritating for some people, notes McMichael.
How do you show your hair some love?
Along with your new color, you’ll need a solid plan to keep your resistances healthy.
“Keep your hair cut. Every 3 months is better,” says Ghattas. “You also want to keep up with hydration treatments and keep your hair hydrated.”
Porter, who was happy with her color (done by Ghattas), really cares about keeping her hair healthy. “I condition my hair regularly and before coloring. I don’t use heavy products so the color penetrates better and I use a moisturizing shampoo,” she explains.
Another tip: Use a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid drying out your hair and fading your new color.
Whether it’s covering up your gray locks or overcoming a style rut, dyeing your hair – when done right – can give you the pop of color you crave.