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5 Things Every Natural Should Know Before Choosing a Hair Color

• Jul 30, 2014

StrawberryBlonde natural hair dye

by Alondra (pictured above)

There are some of us curly girls who prefer to keep it 100% natural. You know, no chemicals, no heat, no styling utensils…no anything! On the other hand, there are many of us who actually prefer to experiment with our natural hair. Some of us rock it straight at times. We weave it up for a bit and for the dare devils, play around with color! *Dun, dun, duuuun*

Now I know the thought of chemically altering the hair in any way always presents some form of a risk (and I’ve learned this the hard way). However, there are safer ways to color the hair and successfully avoid damage.

But first, let’s start with the basics. There are four types of hair dyes: temporary, semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent. Outside of those dyes, there is another product that will change your hair color which is simply called “hair bleach”. Let me say this, hair bleach is not to be confused with color, because it is actually colorless. It is a substance that chemically removes color, be it natural or dye, from the hair. So now that we know the proper names, how do these differ from one another and which way is the best way to go to maintain healthy hair?

ChocolateBrown natural hair dye

Try to keep up because I’m about to break it down:

1. Temporary Color: This type of color is the least complex of them all. It’s just as the name suggests…temporary. This color is only used to mask or cover a pre-existing color and it does this by merely coating the hair cuticle. It does not penetrate the hair shaft and cannot, in any way, lighten hair. It can also give your hair a nice little hue when sunlight hits it. You most likely won’t be able to see it in a filterless pic, but maybe hit it with the “Valencia” or “Rise” filters and you’re good to go! Any who, because of its characteristics, temporary hair color will likely rinse out during your next two or three shampoos…and it can get messy. Real messy.

2. Semi-Permanent Color: This type of color is a little step up from temporary in that it actually does penetrate the cuticle…this is called depositing. All semi-permanent colors will require a developer that helps to raise the cuticle so that the color can be deposited just underneath it. Just like temporary color, semi-permanent does not have the ability to lighten the hair. So don’t waste your money purchasing Bad Gal Blonde in semi-permanent form when your hair is that of a 1B. It ain’t gon’ work, darling. I tried that too. These types of colors typically have a life span of about six to eight weeks and will wash out gradually.

3. Demi-Permanent Color: The only difference between demi permanent colors and semi is the size of the molecule. These colors have a smaller molecule than semi-permanent colors and for this reason, demi-permanent colors are actually able to penetrate all the way to the cortex of the hair.

*Side Note: the cortex is the thickest layer in a hair strand and contains most of the hair’s pigment…which, of course, gives it the color*

Getting back to the topic, now although demi-permanent colors can get a little deeper, they still do not have any lifting properties. So you still can’t lighten your hair with it, but you can enjoy whatever color you have for a significantly longer time. Also, instead of rinsing out, this color will actually fade over time.

4. Permanent Color: Now we’re running with the big dogs. If these were relationships, temporary color would be the boo that only your best friend knows and permanent would be your husband. In short, it’s a commitment. Permanent colors, in conjunction with a developer,  are designed to penetrate the through the cuticle and cortex, bond with hydrogen peroxide to produce larger tint molecules, and permanently change the color of the hair from the inside out. Because of these properties, permanent colors have the strength not only to deposit color to the hair but also lighten in depending on the level of the developer used. Needless to say, permanent color is there to stay unless you color over it, lift it, or grow it out.

5. Hair Bleach: Remember that bleach IS NOT a color. It is a chemical made up of ammonia and peroxide that work together to lighten hair color. The ammonia is there to lift the cuticle of the hair and activate the bleaching properties in the peroxide so that any color is lifted out of the cortex of the hair. Typically once the color is lifted to the desired level, the colorist may opt to leave it as is or deposit another color back into the hair. This is common for those who have dyed their hair dark and wish to have a lighter color. Now of all the color altering options for hair, bleach would be the strongest out of any of them and must be used carefully and in moderation. If not, the integrity of your hair could be in jeopardy.

GoldenBlonde natural hair dye

Now that we’ve gotten all of the science out of the way, which one is actually worth your while and the risk? I happen to love hair color and have had experiences with all five options; each one has its pros and its cons:

  • Temporary color is the safest and doesn’t harm the hair in any way. However, it’s a pain to have to reapply every couple weeks and even worse clean the dye out of the tub or sink! I’m straight on that.
  • Semi-permanent is cool and all. In fact, it would be great for me if I tended to switch hair color rather frequently (yearly is frequent in my book)…but I’d rather not recolor every couple months…nor am I trying to dish out my hard earned money every couple months at the salon either. I saved a lot of money when I switched to No Relaxer…and I’m keeping it that way.
  • Demi-permanent was actually my favorite. It was still rather gentle on the hair and just by the time I was getting tired of it, it would begin to fade. I probably got my dyes done twice a year with demi-permanent color, which is perfect for me. 80 dollars annually at the salon doesn’t sound bad at all.
  • The only reason I don’t like permanent color is because, well, it’s permanent; however, even though it’s ride or die, the color still didn’t negatively affect my hair health. I’d rather not oblige to a color if I don’t have to…because getting rid of it is a pain.
  • I could simply say that hair bleach is a weapon of the healthy hair enemy and leave it at that…but I’ll elaborate. Not only does it strip color from the hair, but it strips out moisture and loosens the curl pattern. It’s horrible! It really changes your hair for the worst. Now it is a quick way to change your look and give you something drastic and fabulous…however it is not worth it. You will hear women say that their hair is fine and completely healthy after bleaching, and they can feel that way…but that process is stressful on the hair and can cause alterations that you didn’t desire, whether you notice it or not. That is why I’m currently growing out a permanent color as opposed to getting it lifted out with bleach. This process is painstakingly long, but it’s worth the time for a healthy head of curls.

    So I’ve given you the tea and I hope that you sip responsibly. Personally, I would recommend the demi-permanent color option over all of the others, but of course, it is completely subjective. And oh…go ahead and employ a licensed cosmetologist to assist you in whatever hair color goal you may have. I’ve seen far too many heads come back unrecognizable from the kitchen. But that’s none of my business. ?

         What coloring options do you prefer and what are some of your experiences?

    About Alondra: Joke telling, hair pick toting, life-living Southern Bell by way of Memphis, Tennessee. I’m a young,educated black woman pursuing dreams by day and a super hero by night; my powers reside in my mind. To state it simply, I plan to save the world one conversation at a time. @Color_Me_Diva @MyManeThang


    Dorcas Woodson, licensed cosmetologist

    About Editorial

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    19 Comments on "5 Things Every Natural Should Know Before Choosing a Hair Color"

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    I second that licensed cosmetologist suggestion. I have already owned up to the things I can and cannot do regarding my beauty maintenance and coloring hair is one of them. If you aren’t in a salon and don’t have a license there is NOTHING you can say to get me in your chair, kitchen or otherwise lol

    B3 Fearless

    I would love to color my hair. I’m in the mood for a bold strawberry blonde color, but 2 things stand in my way. #1 working in a corporate environment and #2 It took me 2.5 years to go from 1/2 inch TWA to almost APL. I’m scared that my hair will get damaged or fall out from color. I’ve heard too many hair horror stories. I should consult a licensed cosmetologist because I am in the mood for a change.

    Nice article. I have a rather unusual problem with coloring my natural hair though. I love my natural black hair color but i want to dye the ends of my natural hair blonde just to enjoy the look. But you see, i don’t want any harm to come to my natural hair at all, neither do i want to stay committed to hair dyes/other colours( I would like to go back to my natural hair colour as soon as I get tired of the colour ). Now, from what I read in the article; only bleach and permanent hair dyes… Read more »

    I forgot to add that the writer looks stunning in the pictures used in this article and I love the three different hair colours that she has on( in the pictures ). I’m just curious, but I wonder which brand of hair dyes she used.

    You didn’t say how “blonde” you wanted your tips to be. For a 100% temporary solution, try Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bold Gold or Bad to the Bronze. You can achieve a very natural looking caramel or honeyish color and if you keep your hair off your shoulders/clothes it’s a minimal mess. I’ve had success mixing eyeshadow in my gel (a la Long Hair Don’t Care aka Nik Scott from YouTube), using hair chalks, and using other brands of eyeshadow. I personally think Maybelline’s Color Tattoo is the best value for the money. For longer wear use a bit of… Read more »

    Where are the natural hair style icons?? I need some inspiration. Please start posting again

    Andrea Taylor

    I went with a permanent color. I went to a salon and had a professional color it for. I do the touch ups myself. I did not have a good experience in the salon so i will not be going back. I can touch up the roots myself. I love my color and have gotten a ton of compliments on it. I just made sure I deep conditioned my hair before getting it colored and after every root touch up which I stretch out to every 3 months.

    Tasha Nicole

    I disagree on the part about bleach. Yes, bleach can loosen the curl pattern and strip moisture, but as someone who has bleached kinky-curly hair nothing has changed about my hair at all. It only took 3 deep conditioning/protein treatments to restore my moisture. I believe if you have a hair stylist that truly know what they’re doing, then you should not have that problem


    My hair stylists knew what they were doing. I had ALWAYS been color treated. So my natural wasn’t truly MY natural. It wasn’t until I let my completely natural hair grow out that I realized that, in fact, my hair was different. It was obviously much thicker and the curls were tighter in the new growth. How many times have you colored your hair?

    +1 I bleached my hair for the first time, using a box kit to lighten the top of my hair on whim. I’d been retaining a lot of growth, so I thought I’d experiment before I became too attached to my hair. I was careful with my hair for a week or so, not using heat, adding lots of moisture, etc. and experienced NO ill affects of my hair. And I have very fine hair, easily damaged by physical manipulation. Which isn’t to say that bleach can’t be harmful: I’m sure t frequently is. But when you come down to… Read more »
    Napturally Kia

    i dyed my hair a deep natural brown color. afraid of bleach!!


    That hair color fits her perfectly, the make-up is perfect and her lips are beautiful!!!


    Apparently, honey has some hair lightening properties because of the natural hydrogen peroxide found in honey. It’s no where near as dramatic looking as the results above but it’s a fun subtle and natural change. Also, honey is such an awesome conditioner! I wrote about it at my blog 🙂

    Cece Danielle

    I’ve colored my hair using Clairol textures and tones about 3 times, and each time I’ve never experienced adverse effects. I also plan to color my hair like 6 months in advance so that I know to start adding protein to my deep conditioners and I’ll start adding more moisture than normal. Then when I finally do color my hair, I always add a protein treatment after coloring, and every month after a shampoo. I just add eggs to my conditioner. My hair is still very healthy.


    I disagree with your opinion on bleach. I have bleached kinky curly hair, and my hair has grown as healthy and strong as any other natural with colored treated hair. I deep condition my hair one to two times a month and be sure to keep it moisturized daily, and my mane is fine. So no, bleach does completely destroy your natural hair if it is properly cared for.

    I wasn’t implying that it completely destroyed the hair. In fact, MY hair wasn’t completely destroyed. It grew just as it should and never broke off. I happen to DC weekly…my hair care regimen is up to par, if I do say so myself. However.…it DID alter my hair. It was tolerable and if I wanted to I could still bleach…but I notice that my hair’s elasticity, moisture balance, and fullness is better without it. Those are all things that naturals value and bleaching can negatively affect that. I think the problem with many naturals is that when they hear… Read more »



    I went from having orange, red, blonde,black and brown and my hair has not been damaged by bleach. The lack of knowledge on how to take care of color treated hair has been the problem.


    My experience with bleach was horrendous I went to a hairdresser for HighLights only she bleached all of my natural hair.…cut a long story short in 2 days I had to cut it down to 2cm short from neck length or walk around with a dry crisp cotton wool looking hair do…NEVER AGAIN!

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