Saturday, July 31, 2010

Peroxide In Permanent Boxed Hair Dye

Well, okay, AutumnLeaves, I guess I'll accept "lots of hair" as something good about your hair. You also asked me a really good question about when and how the damage that I talk about my hair having, actually occurred. Did it occur when I dyed it brown, or when I dyed it back to blonde a year later? Well, the answer is both.

When I started my long hair journey, my hair was about 2 inches or so shorter than it is right now. I had just stopped using heat products on my hair, but my hair was already somewhat damaged from using them. If I knew then what I know now, I would have concentrated on a growing/trimming plan that would have had me gaining length, while getting rid of damage.

However, back then, I just wanted length, and I didn't even want a trim.  I wanted every bit of growth I had to show.  After a year, I was at about waist length, and my ends were pathetically thin from breakage, but not as bad as some hair I've seen.  Nevertheless, I wouldn't allow my hair to get into that state with the knowledge that I have today.

I really did have to learn my lesson about quality over quantity.

I got a very quick lesson when I got a bee in my bonnet about dyeing my hair medium brown. I don't to this day know why I just had to do it, but I really wanted to see what it felt like to have brown hair. For some reason,  put aside my age and the resulting changing skin tone, and the fact that my roots were almost snow white. If I had really thought about all of that I wouldn't have dyed it, but sometimes a gal just has to try something new, and an army can't stop her (me).

The medium brown hair dye did damage my hair. Worse was the fact that I had to dye it a second time, because the colour didn't take evenly throughout my hair. So I dyed with medium brown over all of my hair not once but twice. Remembering that the last several inches of my hair had already been dyed blonde to cover my grey, and had been regularly heat-styled, you will realize that my hair was already fragile, and in no condition to use a full head dye even once, never mind twice.

I know that when we think about peroxide in permanent box dye that we purchase in the drugstore or grocery store, we often think of the peroxide being only in blonde colours.  We know that ammonia is in all permanent drugstore dyes, however, often we forget that peroxide is in all such dye whether light blonde or jet black.

Don't forget that regular permanent box dye only will lighten hair by about 2 shades.  If your hair is naturally black, you will be able to go to medium brown with box dye, if dark blonde naturally, you could go to light blonde from dark blonde. In my case I'm adding colour to hair that predominantly has none.  To do that, peroxide and ammonia are also necessary.

Peroxide does lighten hair, but it also opens the cuticle of the hair shaft so that the dye can be deposited.  Hence, the permanence of the dye.

So yes, even black permanent dye does contain peroxide.  That's why people who have greys will not get any sort of lasting coverage from products that do not contain peroxide and/or ammonia.

There I was, almost at waist length, a year into my long hair journey. After dyeing twice with the medium brown, my hair felt like straw, almost as though it had been bleached.  It wouldn't have been so bad if my hair was already in tip-top condition, but as I said before, it had already been previously dyed and heat treated.

I cut 6 inches off my hair at that time. I definitely cut out the worst of the damage, and that's when I started my plan of growing but cutting off 1/2 inch quarterly.

It didn't take me long though, to realize that I was fooling myself by thinking that the brown hair looked anything like natural on me, and I had to touch up my roots so often that it wasn't even funny.

However, I knew that if I lightened it back to blonde, I would inflict severe damage on my hair. That kept me dying it brown for close to another year. My hair was looking good though with my new trimming plan and the new hair care that I had discovered.

There I was though, two years into my long hair journey, closer to waist than to BSL, and I knew that I absolutely had to get rid of the brown.  It was not flattering to my face, it required constant touch-ups, and most importantly, it just wasn't me.

I did the best I could do with honey lightening, over the course of a couple of months, but there was only so much I could do to lighten my hair. When it was finally light enough that I was comfortable with trying to dye it blonde again, I could not achieve the blonde I wanted right away. There was too much orange in my hair, causing a brassiness. I can't believe I did it and still had any hair left, but I had to lighten my hair two more times in order to get my old blonde shade back.

Needless to say, my hair was damaged yet again, only much worse than before.  Now I had breakage as well.  I had to cut off another six inches, and then again 3 years into my long hair journey; a year ago, I cut off yet another six inches. With all of the trims I've had in between, I've just about cut off as much hair as I've grown in the past four years.

All of that major dyeing took place before I learned that coconut oil could help to lessen peroxide damage.  For almost two years, I have been using coconut oil on the length of my hair before touching up my roots, and I am convinced that it does help reduce damage. However, I must say that just because it seems to work for me does not mean it will work for anyone else who reads this, but I will add that if you're going to colour your hair anyway, a pre-oiling with coconut oil certainly can't hurt, unless you're allergic to coconut oil.

As I've said before, there will be no more six inch chops in my future. I'm only trimming off about a quarter of my growth every three months, which still gives me six inches of growth per year.

So that's the full story on my damage, and a reminder that all permanent box dyes have peroxide.

Well, my hair did indeed enjoy the deep treatment yesterday, and I hope to be back tomorrow with my progress report for August.

Love to all.


  1. Franny, your story is similar to my own. On July 8th, 2008 I went to the hairdresser for a few highlights (I had used a box color, dark golden blonde, just a week before) My stylist proceeded to tell me that my hair was for too fragile and damaged from many years of coloring and she was afraid that highlights would cause even more damage. She suggested I go home and google short hairstyles instead, then come back for a good cut. I did go home and google short hair cuts and "stumbled" upon the GoingGrayLookingGreat website and the rest is history. I made the decision to give up the dye and just see what Mother Nature had in store for me. My hair is the healthiest it has ever been and I finally have some length back (I cut it "down to the wood" on December 22nd, 2008 to get rid of the last of the oxidized ends) I then found TLHC, thankfully, and have been growing my hair since.There are days when I look in the mirror and think....maybe just a few highlights....but then I chicken out!!LOL!! Thanks for sharing your story with us. I have certainly rambled on long enough...time for bed.

  2. So it wasn't the brown itself but the repeat colorings that caused the damage then. I remember going through similar when I was coloring my hair. I have to be honest though and tell you that I thought the brown looked very natural and beautiful on you, especially with your blue eyes. If it had been a dark brown then I wouldn't be saying that but it was rather a nice and light brown...if memory serves (as time goes on, I forget more and more, alas). Still, I do know all the applications will have a not too pretty effect for the reasons you mentioned. I'm really tired of my grays but I just can't stand the merry-go-round of coloring...and constant coloring...that I would have to step on to get rid of it. I feel like I look so old! But you, my dear, I think are timeless and your hair is your crown.

  3. Wow I didn't know all that about hair coloring. I have never colored my hair. I was tempted too once or twice but never did it and now I'm very glad.


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