Does hair dye damage Afro hair?
The short answer is, “Yes!” Hair dye damages afro hair … as well as all other types of hair.
It’s likely the reason you’re asking this question is that you’re tired of your natural hair shade and are eager to jump into those bold current hair colour trends you see all over Instagram.
And that’s fair.
Some of the styles and colours appearing on our feeds are nothing short of awesome and, as a trendy black woman or man, you are 100% certain that you’re going to rock that look you’ve been coveting!
Before you take the leap, pause for a few minutes.
As trichologists, we spend our days fixing decisions just like these, and it would be remiss of us not to point out the potential hurdles of colouring curly hair before you take the plunge.
Ultimately, though, the decision to colour your hair is yours alone. We’re giving you the tools and information to make the best decision for you.
Does Hair Dye Damage Afro Hair?
The very first thing to note is that afro hair, or African American hair, is generally black or very dark brown in colour. That poses a problem for people who are shooting for a permanent hair colour that is a lighter shade than what they already have.
Black hair needs to be lightened before anything else can happen. And that means, yes, you guessed it – bleach.
Hair bleaching requires applying a chemical agent that lifts the protective hair cuticles, penetrates the cortex and strips the colour from the hair strand. Melanin, the natural pigment molecule in your skin and hair, is oxidised during this process and, depending on how long the bleach is left in, results in a virtually colourless hair shaft. (This is different to the process of greying hair , where the melanin in our hair follicles depletes as we age.)
The problem with bleaching hair is that it has several nasty side effects.
- The hair cuticle loses its smooth outer coating and takes on a rougher texture.
- Damage to this outer layer results in a porous hair shaft that easily loses moisture, becoming dryer over time.
- Bleach breaks down the natural fatty acids in the shaft leaving it weaker resulting in hair breakage or splitting.
- Hair damage is more likely for black women or men with darker hair as the bleaching process takes longer than for lighter hair shades.
- Hair loss can result from the wrong product or incorrect application.
Can you apply a permanent hair dye to your natural hair and avoid the bleaching route altogether?
You can. But assuming you have very dark hair, the results will be extremely subtle. Is it worth the time and money? Only you can decide.
Things to Consider Before Dyeing Afro Hair
Let’s assume for a second that you’ve made the decision to dye your hair. What pitfalls should you look out for?
At the outset, it’s worth pointing out that African hair tends to be more fragile than other hair types. Understanding your hair type offers a little more insight into the challenges that you may face.
Denser heads of hair (more hair strands per cm2) and coarser hair types (thicker hair strands) require more time being bleached to achieve a lighter shade. This, coupled with a weaker shaft and a naturally dry or coarse feel, means you will need to carefully consider your permanent hair dye products and post-colour styling choices to limit further damage.
A six-hour bleaching session in the stylist’s chair is going to be a requirement if you want blonde hair or a vibrant colour. That’s a lot of time and a whole lot of money.
Are you opting for a full head of coloured hair or are you leaning towards highlights? Have you considered what your hair will look blow dried or straightened versus when you are wearing your hair natural? Consider if colouring your hair is going to encourage you into using further damaging styling processes in your hair routine.
Permanent Hair Colour?
Following bleaching, permanent hair colour is the most brutal of the dyes available to you. Semi-permanent or demi-permanent hair colour products don’t penetrate as deeply into the shaft and cause less hair damage.
A salon day of bleaching and colouring moves you out of the natural, textured hair zone and firmly into the processed hair arena. Whatever products you choose after this will need to be gentle, moisturising, and as natural as possible. You’ll need to work hard over the next few months (or years) in managing the chemical damage to avoid breakage.
Be careful of your styling choices so as not to add additional strain to your dyed hair.
Can I Colour Natural Afro Hair Without Ruining It?
Applying any sort of bleach or hair colour is going to damage curly hair.
If you are still keen to follow this path, however, we encourage you to:
- Look for natural hair products for African American hair
- Invest in a nourishing hair mask for curly hair
- Be sure to deep condition your hair regularly to keep it soft and strong
- To avoid hair breakage, ensure that your hair and scalp are in the best possible shape before committing to any chemical treatments
- Choose semi permanent dye over permanent hair dye
- Make sure to always patch test before applying
We hope that we’ve answered your question about whether hair dye damages Afro hair. However, if you have questions on this topic please feel free to get in touch with our specialised team.
Call or WhatsApp us today.