Mane Event Mondays: How to deal with brittle, colored hair

Dec 3, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. ET

We're partnering up with some of the hair industry's top talents to bring you answers to your most pressing hair questions. Up today? Kyle White, lead colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon, is showing us how to deal with brittle, colored hair.

Woman examing hair

Your question

"I don’t want to stop dyeing my hair, but it’s drying it out. How can I combat brittleness that comes with coloring?"

Kyle's answer!

One of the most common questions I'm asked when meeting a new client is, "Will this damage my hair?" The honest answer, depending on what you plan to have done, may be yes.

Here is a list of hair coloring options that do not damage hair:

  • Semi-permanent hair color — These dyes are good for adding shine and tone, as well as covering up to 25 percent of gray hair. Vegetable and other semi-permanent dyes do not contain ammonia or peroxide, and also wash out of the hair gradually so there is no line of demarcation. At the same time, you cannot lighten hair with semi-permanent color.
  • Glosses — These are a great introduction to hair color for the nervous first-time color client. Glosses coat the hair, sealing the shingle-like outer layer of the hair cuticle, which makes the hair reflect tons of light for incredible shine. They can also add tone, whether you want to add warmth or a hint of red to your color, they are quick and have no damaging chemicals. Simultaneously, they do not cover gray or lighten hair.
  • Demi-permanent hair color — These dyes have no ammonia and very low levels of peroxide. They can lift hair one shade and cover up to 35 percent of gray hair. Demi-permanent hair color also lasts slightly longer than semi-permanent hair dye.
  • Permanent dye — These dyes offer 100 percent coverage and grow out rather than wash out. You can lift hair up to five shades and completely change your color, like going from brown to red, for example. Traditional water-based permanent hair dyes use ammonia to open the cuticle of the hair, which allows the color molecules to be deposited in the hair shaft. Ammonia is damaging to the hair regardless of how small the amount, not to mention the odor and stinging it can cause when applied.

The latest technology is oil-based permanent hair dyes, like INOA by L'Oreal. These dyes use an ammonia substitute called monoethanolymide, which isn't damaging to the hair at all and actually leaves the hair in better condition. This technology is currently only available for professionals, but the exciting news is that it will be available for at-home hair coloring this January with the release of Olia, also by Garnier. The only limitation between oil-based and water-based dyes is that you can only lift three shades.

Unfortunately, when doing highlights or a drastic color change, ammonia and peroxide are necessary and can be damaging. Here are some tips to keep hair healthy while using these types of stronger chemicals:

  1. The foundation for any hair care routine is a good shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for color treated hair, which contains low sulfates and high moisturizing elements.
  2. If and when you use heat styling tools, be sure to use a thermal protector like the one from Infusium 23 that is also a leave-in treatment with protein and vitamins.
  3. The sun fades paint jobs on cars and the cushions on your patio furniture, and it does the same to your hair color. You should use a sunblock for your hair every time you wash — even in the winter. If you’re going to be in direct sunlight, cover your head with a hat or scarf.
  4. Salt water and chlorine will not only fry your hair, but they will also turn your blonde locks into orange straw. Fill the cuticle of your hair with an oil that contains SPF, like the product from Phyto Plage, before jumping in the pool or ocean so that your hair won't absorb the chlorinated or salt water. When you get out of the water, rinse your hair with fresh water from a hose or shower, and then reapply the oil and put your hat back on.
  5. Cut back on frequent shampooing. Your scalp’s natural oils are Mother Nature’s deep conditioner. Try using a dry shampoo like the Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo. Dry shampoos really work, and using them will help to save your color, your blow out and the health of your hair.
  6. As with everything else, healthy hair starts from the inside out. Try taking a hair vitamin like Biotin or a supplement like Viviscal which has a whole system that you can follow.
  7. In winter months, I add Phyto Huile D'Ales Ampoules to the hair dye before application to help keep it feeling healthy during the coloring process. To lock in and maintain the integrity of your hair color, you can spray the Huile D'Ales throughout the hair the day before coloring.
  8. During winter months, my clients with a dry scalp and psoriasis are faced with the choice between harsh medicated shampoos that strip and fade color or embarrassing itching and flakes. I found that rubbing vitamin E on the scalp before bed and then shampooing in the morning solves this dilemma almost completely in most people. Take two vitamin E capsules and pierce them with a pin. Then, squeeze out the oil and massage into the scalp and hair. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and is also reported to increase hair growth.
  9. If you must use medicated shampoos with tar or harsh shampoos like Head & Shoulders for your scalp condition, remember that this is not a hair condition so there is no need to lather up your locks and kill your holiday highlights. Try first coating strands with a heavy conditioner, and then rub the shampoo on the affected areas of the scalp only. Next, rinse everything and continue with your normal shampoo and conditioner for color treated hair.
  10. Every winter I see an increase in breakage at the nape of the neck from high collars and heavy scarves. Silk, cashmere and softer fabrics will allow the hair to slide along the fabric without rubbing and breaking. Also try sleeping with a silk or satin pillow case for the same reasons.

More hair tips

Mane Event Mondays: How to prevent oily bangs
Mane Event Mondays: How to cure a flaky scalp
Mane Event Mondays: How to keep frizz out of your curls

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