The evolution of home hair colour

Today’s new-and-improved home hair colour makes the process easier, faster and more convenient. Here’s what’s new

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hair colour

At-home hair colour

The sagging economy may be encouraging more people to colour their hair at home. After years of struggling for growth, in 2011 U.S. sales of home hair colour rose by 3.1 percent (although new research suggests the trend may be slowing), according to global research company Mintel.

Of the 58 percent of Canadian women who regularly colour their hair, about 43 percent opt for at-home colouring, according to a 2013 survey by John Frieda Canada, a hair-care products company. Mintel found that one in five people earning $100,000-plus used at-home hair colour in the previous year.

The at-home versus salon decision is often based on lifestyle and convenience. Says Eric Del Monaco, official hair artist and colourist for L'Oréal Paris in Canada and owner of Del Monaco Hair Studio in Toronto, "I have clients who come to me for their haircuts, but do their root touch-ups at home. What with kids or work, they may not have time to spend in the salon." Home dying takes less than an hour-no babysitter required.

But it's not all about keeping your sanity, or saving money. In case you aren't already a convert, it's good to know that recent developments-from colour foams to ammonia-free options and fast-developing applications-make it easier than ever to get great results.

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Gentler

Gentler

You can now buy permanent at-home colour that has no ammonia. This chemical compound blasts open the hair cuticle, removing your natural pigment and allowing the new shade to penetrate thoroughly. It's used in professional dyes and at-home products. It works, and colour lasts until your hair grows out, but it can be hard on your hair, leaving it dull and frizzy. Non-ammonia hair colour is gentler on the hair and scalp but until fairly recently, you could mainly get permanent non-ammonia colour only in salons.

 

Try

Garnier Olia: Olia ammonia-free permanent hair colour won't fade out, and covers up to 100 percent of grey. The product uses monoethanolamine (MEA)-an odour-free organic chemical compound, and a less damaging alternative to ammonia-to open the hair cuticle more gently. A flower-based oil gel helps colour soak into your hair with fewer
damaging effects, as well as coating and conditioning the outer layer of your hair strands to keep them strong. ($12)

Tints of Nature: Traditional permanent colour treatments force the hair cuticle so wide open that essential protein and moisture are lost, says Raoul Perfitt, managing director for this U.K. brand. Tints of Nature relies on a low percentage of paraphenylenediamine (PPD) as the base pigment. The soya oil base of the colour is alkaline, which allows hair to soften and lift the cuticle slightly, allowing colour to pene­trate and yet maintaining hair's essential protein and moisture. "After colouring, our specially formulated shampoos and conditioners return hair to its natural pH level," says Perfitt, "fully closing the cuticle and leaving the hair undamaged by the colouring process." ($19)

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easier

Easier

In the past, you had two choices in home hair dye: liquid or cream. But foams, introduced in about 2010, have taken off in popularity. They go on fast and spread easily, but don't run, so you don't have to worry about the dreaded drips down your forehead or neck. They can also make it simpler to target hard-to-reach areas. "It's difficult to imitate a salon colourist," says Montreal-based Alain Larivée, Canadian consultant for John Frieda. "For one thing, you can't see the back of your head as you apply the product." Foam hair colouring helps with that.

 

Try

John Frieda Precision Foam Colour: Squirt a tennis ball-size amount of the thick creamy foam into your hand, and work it through your hair section by section, starting at the roots. ($15)

L'Oréal Paris Mousse Absolue: As anyone who has ever tried the DIY approach to hair dye will know, you have to add the developer to the colour and then shake or stir to combine them. Mousse Absolue requires no mixing. It comes in a divided bottle, with hair colour on one side and developer on the other. To use it, you shake the bottle, press the button and apply the foam directly to your hair via its pointed applicator tip, massaging it in with your hands. Better still, while other dyes have to be thrown out if you don't use them up, this product is reusable because it is mixed as needed, so it's easy-and cheap-to do a root touch-up a few weeks down the line. ($19)

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Faster

Faster

For gals on the go, finding time to dye your tresses is always problematic. But now Clairol's patented amino-glycine technology gets you great results in less time than it would take for you to physically get to the salon. The technology uses a combination of ammonium carbonate, peroxide and glycine, says Jennifer Marsh, principal scientist, P&G Beauty and Technology Division in Cincinnati. Not only does it produce fewer hair-damaging free radicals, it also lowers the formula's pH level, which helps preserve the fatty lipid layer that binds to the cuticle of the hair. And because it is more selective about targeting the pigment in hair, it works faster. The result: You'll see smoother, shinier tresses.

 

Try

Clairol Nice 'n Easy Perfect 10: You get permanent high-gloss colour and 100 percent grey coverage in just 10 minutes, a fact that earned Clairol the Royal Society of Chemistry Teamwork in Innovation award in 2009. ($16)

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More convenient

More convenient

Suddenly faced with a big event or meeting? A permanent hair colour mini will help you get rid of that skunk stripe fast. You get a small amount of product with which to target high-visibility areas of your hair, such as your part and temples. You'll pay a few dollars less than you would if you did your touch-up with a regular colouring kit, and you will be able to wait a few weeks before colouring again.

 

Try

L'Oréal Paris Root Rescue: This low-ammonia formula offers 100 percent grey coverage in just 10 minutes, and is designed to match colour seamlessly. It comes with a flexible brush applicator. ($10)

Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up: Colours are formulated to match any brand's hair colour, and last up to three weeks and repeated shampoos. It comes with a brush and bowl for mixing. ($9)

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washing hair

For the occasional oops

If that fire-engine red hair colour made you look more like Elmo than the sexy siren you envisioned, there's a new product to the rescue. Color Oops removes semi-permanent and permanent dye by shrinking down the colour molecules that penetrate the cuticle until they're small enough to wash out. Be warned: If you've lightened your hair, it won't return you to your virgin hair colour, because colouring hair a lighter shade removes natural pigment; Color Oops removes only artificial pigment. But it will take you one step back-to the last colour you dyed your hair. The good news: You can colour again, even the same day. Whew! ($17)

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computer laptop

Pro advice online

California-based eSalon aims to bridge the gap between customized salon colour and one-size-fits-all home kits. "We combine the quality of the formu­lations of the salon with the conveni­ence and price point of colouring your hair at home," says eSalon's CEO, co-founder and resident techie Francisco Gimenez.

You answer a series of questions about your hair's texture, condition and shade (such as grey percentage, natural colour and previous colour) at esalon.com; you can even upload a photo. Then you get a roster of colour choices. Pick your favourite and eSalon will mix it and deliver it for $25 plus shipping (about $5 to Canada).

eSalon's product costs more than off-the-shelf options, but it's much cheaper than the $100-plus you would pay for a salon colour job. And you can save $5 per bottle by signing up for regular deliveries (you choose the interval-whether every three weeks or every three months). The company launched in 2010 and it has 60,000 active subscribers.

Related:
Hair Glossary: Decoding hair colour
9 tips for shiny hair
The ultimate hair care guide