By Rebecca Hitchon
As spring approaches, many of us think about starting afresh. One simple adjustment that can make a difference is a change in hair colour. We know how confident a freshly dyed head of hair can make us feel at first, but this can disappear in the long run if we find our hair becoming damaged or the colour fading quickly.
It’s something that has bothered me. Two years ago, I had my hair dyed for the first time. But I’ve since discovered that although I thought I knew my hair, I was stopping it from being its natural, curly self with chemicals, heat and dye, which were stripping away essential moisture. Since then, natural hair care has helped me improve my hair health, but part of me has wondered if I’d ever be able to dye my hair again without damaging it.
Ingredient dos and don’ts
Ammonia is used in hair dyes to open the hair follicle so that the colour can be absorbed deep into the cortex, or inner layer, of the hair. Yet, most of us are aware that the chemical has its fair share of drawbacks. It damages the hair cuticle as it works, resulting in dry, brittle and just overall unhealthy hair. Lynsey explains that if you want to lighten hair, you’ve got to have a little bit of ammonia in your dye to activate that, but there are natural hair colouring options with low, diluted ammonia contents or without ammonia.
What you should bear in mind about ammonia is that it reacts badly with henna.
Henna is a natural, semi-permanent hair tint, found in the leaves of the Lawsonia inermis plant. It doesn’t have such a damaging effect as its coats the hair, instead of stripping or permeating it. But if after using henna, you want to dye your hair again with a non-henna dye, you should let the henna grow out or have it cut it out.
“[Henna] includes metallic salts so when we use ammonia on it, it can bubble and have really quite bad adverse reactions,” says Lynsey. “I think if you want to use it you’ve got be committed to that in itself, rather than go and use something else, because the reaction that can happen is pretty severe between the two chemicals.”
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If you’ve seen stories of people’s severe reactions to hair dye, this may also be because of PPD. Lynsey tells me that it’s a chemical in darker colours that provides natural and long-lasting results, but people are highly allergic to it. “That’s why we skin test before every colour service if you’re a new client or haven’t had your hair coloured in a little while, and that’s the advice of some home colours as well,” she says. Hair colours containing PPD are safe to use, but it’s crucial that safety instructions are followed to a T.
Finally, we have to mention bleach. Despite its bad reputation, bleach is actually becoming a much more natural hair colouring ingredient. Aveda’s bleach contains sunflower, castor and jojoba oil, protecting the hair and adding condition and shine during the lightening process.
These oils are used in all of Aveda’s ranges, as well plant-derived L-Arginine, which helps colour last longer. So, the stereotype that bleach makes your hair fall out isn’t true? Lynsey says no. “There are activators, so we [Aveda] have got hydrogen peroxide which activates the bleach powder. The activators are a lot lower now. You just don’t get the same ones as you used to, and also the training on bleach now is much more vast.”
Because of this, Lynsey recommends waiting to go to a salon if you can.
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But what about grown-out lockdown roots?
Lynsey advises a few simple and non-committal things for grown-out roots. Putting your hair up and headscarves are one option, along with root sprays, which are beneficial if you have dark coloured hair with grey roots. She even recommends dry shampoo to take the edge off dark roots on a blonde.
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Our pick of the top natural hair colouring salons (for when restrictions are lifted)
Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa, Covent Garden
Aveda natural hair colours are 100% vegan, cruelty-free, have low chemical contents, which avoid harming ecosystems, and are up to 96% naturally derived.
Another big advantage is that Aveda doesn’t use pre-mixed colours. “We’ve got our shades and our tones that we mix together,” Lynsey tells me. “We don’t really use shade charts either, so you don’t just point at a colour and that’s what we would use. We go through more visual aids, looking at pictures and then thinking how we would get to that and also using the condition of the hair, using the texture and density – it all comes into consideration.”
Glasshouse Salon, Hackney
Naturally nourishing and strengthening ingredients are behind Glasshouse Salon’s focus on the long-term condition of coloured hair. Glasshouse Salon are experts in the Organic Colour Systems brand, which sustainably produces natural hair colour, care and styling products in Hampshire. They use vegan, certified organic and cruelty-free ingredients and avoid harsh chemicals for your hair, scalp and also marine life, like ammonia, parabens, sulphates and silicones.
GA Salons, Notting Hill, Wimbledon, Chelsea and London Bridge
Gennaro Dell’Aquila salons make their colours and treatments by hand from 100% naturally derived herb, root and flower ingredients. Therefore, there are no chemical and synthetic additives, as well as no carcinogens, substances that can cause cancer. This is why the salons promote themselves as ideal for anyone that must be particularly careful with the products they use, such as people undergoing cancer treatments and pregnant women.
Like Aveda, GA colour blends are crafted in the salon with the client in mind. GA salons are strong believers that swapping to natural hair colour and care avoids long-term chemical damage and demanding upkeep, instead improving the health of hair over time.
Buller and Rice, Hackney and Walthamstow
London’s first sustainable salon, Buller and Rice, is partnered with Oway, which provides their natural hair colours and hair care and styling products. Oway has mastered sustainability at every part of their supply chain. They source their botanical ingredients from their farm estate in Bologna, where they use what is called the biodynamic method to obtain the active ingredients without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Using renewable energy, these ingredients are packaged in recyclable materials, with high concentrations to avoid waste.
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Product recommendations for coloured hair
Home hair care is important to get your hair in good condition to be coloured and to maintain its health when it is dyed. Hydration is key for this, but so is understanding your hair. Aveda colour ambassador Lynsey explains that many people mistake a lack of moisture for damage, which is actually caused by protein loss.
Lynsey says “I’d advise the Aveda colour conserve shampoo and conditioner so it gives enough moisture for colour longevity. That’s what makes you hold the colour more is if you’ve got enough moisture.”
KeiSei also recommends Rahua color full shampoo and conditioner.
Lynsey says “I’d use the nutriplenish range to provide instant hydration.”
KeiSei also recommends Pureology hydrate shampoo and conditioner.
Lynsey says “for heat or chemical damage, I’d recommend Aveda botanical repair. It builds bonds within the hair to improve hair strength.”
KeiSei also recommends John Masters damaged hair shampoo and conditioner.
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