Michele: I am a huge fan of Confessions of a Blog Vixen! I did the BC about a year ago and this is the first time since then that I have lightened my hair and blow and ironed it straight so I am very concerned that I may experience damage because of it. My hair is also very thin. I wanted to find out about properly caring for natural hair that has been colored and flat ironed.
West: Hi Michelle. To care for your hair properly, you must understand the science behind it. Understanding your hair in its current state will help you to make better decisions about the care. Also, for the care of heat straightened hair, check out THIS POST where an article was shared from Audrey Sivasothy on How to Prevent Heat Damage. Heat damage is essentially the one major concern of naturals who straighten their hair sometimes, but love to rock their kinky, curly hair a majority of time.
The Makeup of Color-Treated Hair
The F-layer is a water-repellent protective layer present on the surface of the hair cuticle that acts as hair’s natural raincoat, helping to protect it from damage and maintain its natural moisture balance. It also provides hair’s natural lubricity and soft feel. Unfortunately, the oxidative coloring process can quickly and irreversibly attack the F-layer, which alters hair’s chemical and physical properties. Some of the hallmarks of color treated hair are addressed below. The use of color degrades hair’s pigment and transparent surface, causing color treated hair to become uneven and ruffled. When the cuticle isn’t smooth, it can’t reflect light and shine. This change to the surface of color treated hair also produces an increase in hair fiber friction, resulting in coarser texture. With the removal of the F-layer, color treated hair is no longer protected, which allows the layers under the cuticle to become chipped and more irregular. Consequently, friction increases and can leave color treated hair more prone to damage and with a rougher feel than non-color-treated hair . Blondes face more potential damaged hair than brunettes or reds because the blonde coloring process requires more damage-inducing oxidant.
The chemicals that change the surface of the hair can also penetrate deep into color treated hair and change the internal structure. Not only are the strengthening proteins attacked, but the porosity also increases, affecting hair’s ability to hold the color molecules [and moisture] within the fiber. This leads to weaker hair that is more susceptible to hair color fade [and dryness]. Red hair is especially susceptible to color fade, as the intense red pigments are the smallest and easily escape from a porous hair structure.[source]
Caring for Color-Treated Hair
Seal your color after dyeing your hair by using a rich conditioner immediately afterward. This applies whether you head to the salon or take on the task yourself.
Switch from your regular shampoo and conditioner to color-protectant versions with natural ingredients. Look for ones specifically formulated for your hair type, whether that’s curly, dry or damaged. Also, for African-American hair, use a gentle shampoo, and avoid one with chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate.
Use a deep conditioning or hot oil treatment on your mane once a week. It’s good to take time for yourself and give yourself some relaxation time, but this also helps keep your color shiny and beautiful. Leave it on for about 20 minutes before rinsing out.
The use of protein helps to strengthen weakened, porous hair structure. This should be done at least every 6 weeks and followed with a moisturizing deep conditioner. Proteins tend to leave strands parched and straw-like. Following up with a rich conditioner will help to resolve this.
Check out 3 more ways to care for your color-treated hair HERE