Trust me when I tell you there are only three primary colors.  Red, yellow and blue.  After reading this I hope to make it clearer and less intimidating, the basics of hair color and the principles that will never fail you if you do your analysis honestly. So hang on, this may be a long one but I promise you, you will have a better concept and not be afraid of color.  Be it paint, hair or whatever else. “BASICS NEVER CHANGE!”

 In the mid 1990’s I was in Lithonia, Georgia for a color workshop to learn how to educate other salon professionals on how to use Aloxxi Hair Color, a Nexxus product. 

Aloxxi color by Nexxus

Now I’m a skeptic at heart but, it was obvious from the first sentence I heard that this product, its concept and the person teaching this class were top notch. I used Aloxxi Chroma Color for years. It is a reliable and fantastic product. It is always a ‘what you see is what you get’ color line.  Gary Travis, educator for Nexxus, is one of three salon professionals that I knew from the start, “had their act together” The way he explained the concept of Aloxxi, the confidence of the consistence of the quality and ‘what you see is what you get’ with this color line, made for the first time, a click go off in my hard headed brain. It made sense then as it does now. I have used that formula every single time from that very day until this one. The formula he explained so plainly works with any professional haircolor. You can rest assured that the formula will work EVERYTIME as long as you are honest with your analysis of the color you are wanting to achieve. 

Gary Travis broke it down.  ‘You’ve got to know where you’re starting and where you’re going, for the middle of the two to make sense.’  Simple, I know.

Never ASSUME anything when dealing with artificial pigment. Do your homework, think the color through. Remember that “BASICS NEVER CHANGE”. 

The other two people who laid the foundation for me were my instructors in beauty school, JoAnn Akers and Rovene Akin. I haven’t forgotten one thing they taught me. JoAnn was one of the best teachers of ‘Work Smart Not Hard’.  That was one of her messages to us students. I use her and Rovene’s practical side of the business on a daily basis. JoAnn practiced what she preached. She was very informative to the point she kept it real. She always knew how to pinch a penny and taught us the very same. She also put confidence in a hard headed twenty year old that needed it. I hated school from kindergarten until the day I left (yes, with a diploma). πŸŽ“Beauty school was different because it was a choice of mine, not something I was made to do. Do you see the stubborn streak showing? 😎

God Bless Rovene Akin! The first two weeks of beauty school I couldn’t stand her. What was I gonna do with this woman who told me from day one what was expected of me and what WAS to be done the WAY she taught it. Something changed and I started to realize she was a very smart person there to help me learn. From the third week on she was my friend, my helper  and my teacher that allowed me to think for myself.  She was very direct, very blunt but kind at the same time. You could not help but love her.

Rovene was very good to me and really everyone. She had poise, grace, and was just ‘good people’. Rovene was, well let’s just say she was ‘old school’ before ‘old school’ was ever heard of. She only wore her heavily starched pure white uniform with her ‘Miss Clariol 33R Flame’

Miss Clairol “33 R – Flame”
neatly in ‘waves NOT curls’ updo.  She once told me, “Tommy, you’re the only person I’ve ever seen that wanted to learn everything in one day!”  I said, “Well, I didn’t come over here to live I came to learn and get out because I’ve gotta get moving with this and get a job!”  She read me like a book and I loved her for it.

Rovene put the ‘Professional’ in Salon Professional. JoAnn and Rovene were both the finest examples in their field. They dont make instructors like them anymore.

Everything in life always goes back to basic principles and haircolor is no different.

The human hair is made up of three layers

The three layers of hail
Cuticle (outer), cortex (middle)and medulla (center). The medulla or third layer is where the blood supply comes in from the scalp.  The cortex or second layer is where the color or pigment is located. The cuticle or first layer is made up of fish-like scales.  The cuticle layer is actually transparent. What you see when looking at a person’s hair is actually the cortex layer.

Put The ‘p’ to the ‘H’

Potential for Hydrogen – that’s a mouthful of discombobulated words, ain’t they?

The pH scale goes from 0-14.  0-7.0 is acidic. 7.0 is neutral. 7.1-14 is alkaline.

Virgin or healthy hair will have a pH factor of 4.5 – 5.5  There are two forms of hair manipulation. Physical and chemical. Physical in the form of blow drying curling straightening anything to manipulate the hair physically. Chemically in the form of chemicals such as permanent waves, relaxers or color. It’s important to remember anytime you chemically alter the hair of it’s structure, there is always some degree of damage.

This is where our friend ‘Porosity’ comes in. I use the term friend, loosely. Porosity refers to the ability of the hair to accept or reject moisture. In regards to haircolor under normal daily ‘wear and tear’, porosity is not always on the extreme. Damaged, dry, brittle hair is treated differently. Uneven porosity to me is like a paved road with potholes in it. You’ve got fill the holes if you expect the pavement (color) to stick and remain even. 

An example of normal hair is shown here with little porosity. Notice the blue particles on the hair strand, that is moisture. The condition of this hair strand is normal. The cuticle layer is parallel to the hair itself.

This would be small to moderate damage. The cuticle is raised allowing moisture and artificial hair color to escape and/or more receptive (porous). The cuticle layer is the key element to holding the pigment or color in. With even a small amount of cuticle damage, some of the cortex is exposed and will result in average loss of artificial pigment.  

Lastly, an image of badly damaged cuticle with cortex exposed.  


Color in/ Color Out:

Molecular weight has to be taken in consideration. Each primary color has its own molecular weight.

Blue – the smallest molecular weight of the three (first in/first out). 

πŸš— πŸš—
Red – the next largest in molecular weight (second in/second out)

πŸš• πŸš•πŸš•
Yellow – the largest in molecular weight of the three (last in/last out)

Haircolor today is on a calibrated system. That is to our advantage and takes a lot of the guess work out for us. There are LEVELS and TONES. Levels range from 1 (black) to 12 (white). Tones range from warm to neutral to cool. For example a level six neutral brown is the same level as a level six red, the difference being the tone.

Just like there are three primary colors, there are only three things you can do with color. LIGHTEN, DARKEN and CHANGE THE TONE. 

   πŸš—πŸš•πŸš™ πŸš—πŸš•πŸš™ πŸš—πŸš•πŸš™πŸš—πŸš•πŸš™

Lift and Deposit 

Lift refers to the opening of the cuticle layer to expose the cortex where melanin (pigment) is. It is the opening or ‘lifting’ of the cuticle and removal of natural pigment with peroxide.

Deposit refers to the addition of the artificial color. Standard over the counter color is packaged with the equivalent of 20 volume peroxide for a ‘lift and deposit’ result.

There are four types of haircolor. Temporary, Semi-Permanent, Demi-Permanent and Permanent
Temporary color refers to a liquid with pigment solution with no peroxide whatsoever. It is strictly a cosmetic used temporarily until it is shampooed out.

Semi-permanent color is known as a deposit only meaning 10 volume peroxide or less is used. The cuticle is not opened to the degree that is needed for permanent color.

Demi-permanent is simply a longer lasting semi-permanent color. The volume of peroxide used is around 15 volume.

Permanent color is literally NOT permanent since it has to grow out. It is referred to as permanent because it lifts the natural color and deposits the artificial color.

If there is anything you need to remember more than anything else it is this:  

Artificial color does not take out artificial color……….I’ll repeat it again…….


There’s nothing ‘Nice ‘N Easy’ about ‘Nice ‘N Easy’

You’ve been there haven’t you? Where all those perfectly colored examples of the color you’re dyeing  for right before your very eyes in that brightly fluorescent lit ‘waiting for my prescription to be filled’  haircolor aisle deciding on that box that sells for $8.99 ($6.99 each if you buy 3 or more). 

Covering your gray hair is not a potential problem if it’s just that, gray hair. On anything other than solid white hair the color on the box, with its snap on ‘developer’ and Saran Wrap gloves, the 30-45 minute wait for the perfect shade in your head, can be an illusion when you raise up out of that sink and look, with no thump in your heart at the orangey blonde or brown you hadn’t planned on. Not the color you wanted? So back to the aisle in ‘fluorescent perfection’ to pick out a lighter color that will ‘lighten up’ your unexpected color malfunction. It’s not your fault. The fault belongs to the manufacturer of that ‘NutrisseNiceNGarnierColorSilkPreferenceEasyExcellence’

Am I mad because over the counter color has taken my color clients Behind Closed Doors? No……….

What makes me mad I’ve said for years and still say the color manufacturers should have on hand a swatch book in the store so the honest, well-intentioned buyer is not misled. 

…… be continued. ….