Semi, demi, or permanent? Finding the colour solution for your hair


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Whether you are looking for a temporary change, a complete colour overhaul, or simply wish to boost your natural tone, there is a dye formula to suit you and your hair needs. Thanks to some huge advances in hair technology, we are now able to achieve bespoke colours, which can differ in degrees of permanency, on the basis of how long we wish to keep our colour. However, with the sheer volume of salon and home colour products on offer, it can seem impossible to find the best possible solution for you. Here, we will help you understand the difference between different types of colour, the kind of results they deliver , and ultimately help you decide on the best option for your colour transformation.

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The application of colour in our Tunbridge Wells salon

How does dye effect my hair?

Any colourant, regardless of permanency, essentially enacts a chemical process that alters the hair structure. As a result, these can be damaging if not used correctly. Where the colour lies in the hair and how deep it penetrates the hair shaft is key to understanding the longevity of your colour. Your hair is comprised of three fundamental layers where molecules of colour can sit. Where the colour sits is dependent on the size of the molecule itself, and this will affect the length of time the colour remains.

Semi-permanent products are often seen as a more gentle way to dye the hair, as they don’t require bleach or ammonia to alter the colour of hair. Lasting around 10-12 washes, dependent on how porous your hair is, the colour molecules will sit on the cuticle of hair: in between the cuticle and cortex. A demi permanent shade sits between semi and permanent dyes and lasts around 20-24 washes. Usually combined with a low volume developer, they aren’t as damaging as some permanent colours but have more longevity than semi-permanent shades. Semi and demi colourants will not lighten hair, but can administer colours which are darker than your current tone or tint your existing colour.

Permanent colours sit deep within the cortex of the hair, and are made up of small molecules which swell during the oxidising process, using hydrogen peroxide. These will not wash out but can fade over time. Permanent colours grow out of the hair rather than ‘wash out’, leading to visible regrowth. This regrowth can be maintained with regular touch-ups using the same colour, or one close to the shade. The colour shouldn’t be applied to your full lengths every time, rather concentrated on the root. This will mean a shorter salon service, as the same shade will only need to be applied to the roots, before being taken through the lengths of hair in the last 5-10 minutes of processing. Removing permanent colours can be time consuming and expensive, so if you unsure of the shade you are looking to achieve, perhaps try out a semi or demi permanent option if possible. Or, for more guidance, consult an expert stylist who will be able to give you an honest opinion of whether the shade you desire is achievable, and if it will match your cut and skin tone.

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Redken's 'pH bonder' is our favourite bond strengthener!

Preparing your hair

The condition of your hair before colouring will also affect the end result. If you are looking to lighten your hair more than four to five shades, this may take a couple of trips to your salon to achieve. Slowly working towards your dream shade will avoid over processing and damage, which can affect elasticity and cause breakage. Bond strengtheners have become popular in salons, thanks to their ability to resist excessive damage from colouring, particularly when using high lift tint, bleach, and permanent shades. Overly porous hair can mean that certain areas of hair absorb more colour, leaving a patchy finish. To boost your existing shade, without using permanent colour, shaders and toners can enhance shine and give you slightly more time before needing to address root regrowth. Always ensure before any colour treatment is carried out, that you have had a patch test and let your stylist know if you’ve used any other colourants, as this can also affect the result.

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A close-up of Victoria Genevieve's 'Unicorn Opal' hair by Symon May, The Chapel Tunbridge Wells

Caring for your colour

When washing your hair, particular attention must be taken to avoid colour fade, to keep hair looking shiny and healthy. Keep the temperature of water tepid, as using water that is too hot will cause colour fade: you will notice after a few washes colour may not be as vibrant. This is particularly true in the case of red shades. Hot water opens the hair shaft, allowing colour molecules to be washed away. If you can leave your hair the longest amount of time possible, following the initial rinse, after colouring this will really help to extend the colour’s life. Conditioning masks can help lock colour in, so try to set aside some time to indulge in a weekly conditioning treatment. You should also try to avoid products which contain silicone if you colour your hair, as these can lead to product build up, and after regular cause dull hair. Consider the amount you rely on heat styling hair, using tongs and straighteners only in conjunction with heat protecting products, as excessive heat can also damage and change the tone of coloured hair.

Ready to embark on your colour transformation? Get in touch with one of stylists who’ll be more than happy to help.

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