One of the best ways to switch up your look is to color your hair. However, if you have textured hair, you may feel a little apprehensive about pulling the trigger and making an appointment with a colorist. The twists and turns of natural hair make it notoriously fragile, and many women fear coloring their strands will cause irreversible damage.
We’re here to let you know your fear is misplaced. Just about anything is possible in the hair world—as long as you’re working with a professional who really knows their stuff. Which is why we sat down with Michelle O’Connor, Matrix artistic director and master colorist, and Rachel Redd, Redken x Mizani brand ambassador and master colorist, to get the scoop on everything you need to know about coloring natural hair. Whether you’re dreaming of ash blonde hair or highlights, these colorists got you covered with everything you need to know to make sure the health and integrity of your textured strands stay in tip-top shape before, during, and after you color your hair.
Photo Credit: @lamajbackwards.
Does hair color damage natural hair?
If you’ve avoided embracing the hair color of our dreams because you’re worried about damage, Redd’s got some good news for you.
“Hair color doesn’t damage hair, the misuse of hair color damages natural hair,” she explains.
If you or someone you know had a bad experience with hair color damaging the look and feel of their hair, chances are good they tried to DIY their hair color themselves (always a no-no) or went to a colorist who wasn’t as experienced as they let on. Be sure to do your research when looking for a colorist to create your color transformation. Their social media feeds should give you a good idea about the type of hair they’re used to working with and what colors they know how to bring to life. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to schedule a consultation so that your colorist can take the time to assess your hair needs, and you can ask any questions you may have.
While hair color alone shouldn’t damage your hair, there is one chemical that will cause a bit of damage: bleach. While bleach will always cause some damage, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever embrace the bottle blonde life. You just have to be sure to find a colorist who is as dedicated to maintaining the health and integrity of your strands as they are to creating a stunning hair color.
“Yes, it is safe to bleach when properly analyzing the natural hair’s current porosity,” Redd says.
Simply put, porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. There are a few factors that determine your hair’s porosity, including things you have no control over such as your hair type and texture. While there is no hard and fast rule about what porosity level is acceptable to color hair, typically hair with high porosity is more susceptible to damage, while hair with low porosity is more resilient.
Photo Credit: @leysahairandmakeup.
How do you color natural hair?
O’Connor says there are some differences when it comes to coloring textured hair versus straight hair—but she maintains the differences are small. The curl patterns of textured hair often result in raised hair cuticles. Raised hair cuticles (which typically indicate high porosity) can cause hair to look dull and frizzy instead of sleek and glossy. Raised cuticles also allow chemicals to more deeply penetrate the hair strand—which can lead to severe damage, specifically when you’re talking hair color. But, this doesn’t mean your unicorn hair dreams are off the table, O’Connor says it just means your dramatic hair transformation may take more time.
“Generally, I tend to stay away from the higher developers and mix textured hair at a slower capacity. I’ll drop it down to 20 volume developer, then I’ll drop it down to 10 volume developer, and I’ll just do it again,” O’Connor explains. “That client will come in for two or three visits as opposed to me just going in with 40 volume and doing it in one shot.”
Redd couldn’t agree more.
“Any hair color technique can work best for natural hair with keeping in mind that natural hair can be fragile and dry. Low and slow is the texture hair color motto,” she says.
Even though O’Connor always approaches textured hair with more caution, she says her main concern when coloring hair of any texture is the actual thickness of your individual strands.
“You want to make sure that there is no over-processing. If I have a person who’s a level 3 and they have strands with the diameter of a spider web, it’s going to be less of a wise idea for me to take that client to a nine or level 10, versus hair that’s a level three that might have the density of dental floss,” O’Connor says. “Their hair could withstand the journey, lifting through those levels more than someone who has fine hair.”
Photo Credit: @designsofcomposure.
How should you prepare your strands before coloring textured hair?
If you’re hoping for a dramatic color transformation, you already know it may take several appointments before you achieve the color of your dreams. In order to keep your textured hair as healthy as possible throughout your color journey, O’Connor advises you should plan to head to the salon a few weeks before your first color appointment.
“I would insist that they come in weeks preceding the visit. This might be months before we even do the color application,” O’Connor explains. “It’s all about the preparation.”
O’Connor says the best way to prepare your textured strands for a color service is to apply a deep conditioning treatment to your mane at least once a week for several weeks prior to your first color appointment. You and your stylist will decide on the best schedule for your hair during your initial consultation.
If you’re in the market for a killer deep conditioning treatment, O’Connor loves the Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator Multi-Tasking Hair Mask. The single-use hair mask packets boast 20 beautifying benefits that nourish, revitalize, and strengthen hair in just 60 seconds.
We’re not sure who started it, but there’s been a long-standing rumor that you should apply hair color to dirty hair—and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While your colorist will likely wash your hair for you before beginning to apply color if you want the best results possible, Redd recommends washing your strands with a clarifying shampoo to remove any harsh minerals and buildup. We love Redken Detox Cleansing Cream Shampoo. This cream shampoo purifies your hair, removing minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, and calcium, all found in hard water, as well as excess oils, pollution residue, and buildup of product.
How should you care for recently colored textured strands?
If your colorist gives your textured strands a dramatic color transformation, you’re not just beginning a new relationship with your hair color—you’re also beginning a new relationship with your colorist.
“We’re married at that point,” O’Connor quips. “You’re going to see me at least once a month at minimum, maybe even every couple of weeks because I have compromised the natural state of your hair.”
Whether you opt for hot pink hair or subtle golden highlights, you’ll have to switch up your at-home hair care routine to care for your new hue. O’Connor says moisture is the key to maintaining newly-colored textured strands. We recommend swapping out your regular shampoo and conditioner with a system formulated to nourish and protect your color. The Biolage R.A.W. Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner system is formulated with coconut milk and meadowfoam to help protect color-treated hair, leaving it soft and shiny with lasting color vibrancy.
Just as deep conditioners were a key part of your hair care routine prior to coloring, they are equally as important after your service. Deep conditioners can help to intensely hydrate your hair, a necessary step to maintaining hair health and keeping your new color looking rich and vibrant. We recommend maintaining your weekly deep conditioning routine with the Mizani Moisture Fusion Intense Moisture Mask.
As long as you follow O’Connor and Redd’s expert advice, you can have the healthy rainbow textured hair of your dreams.
Interested in coloring your textured strands? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.