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Color Your Hair: Do's & Don'ts


Mandy Moore License To Wed Los Angeles Premiere 06-25-07

Celebrities and their high paid staff of hairstylists and publicists know that changing a celeb's hair color or style can instantly generate major media and fan buzz.

Not only does coloring your hair offer a fabulous way to instantly jazz up your look, it allows you the option to change the way others perceive you. It can also set you apart, which is why some celebrities will go against the grain when adopting their new hair hues.

Although Madonna is probably one of the most famous stars who changes her hair color on a constant basis, Britney, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore and Christina Aguilera have all played with transitioning through a variety of different shades.

Although Mandy has played with a range of hues from platinum blonde, red and raven black, she has chosen to maintain a rich chocolate brunette as her primary go-to color.

Whenever possible, it's always best to work with a hair color professional to create the healthiest and best hair color for you, your lifestyle as well as your hair type, texture, length and current condition.

Types of Hair Color

Although there is a dizzying array of hair color companies which cater to either the professional or home hair colorist, there are some basics about hair color which apply to both the pros and the do-it-yourselfers (DIYs).

There are two basic types of hair color:

1. Permanent

Mandy Moore 05-12-07

Permanent hair color is always mixed with some type of chemically based lifting agent that literally blows open the hair cuticle so that the current color can be "lifted" and the desired color can penetrate the cortex of the hair to create the final result.

If you go to a professional colorist you may see them mixing powders and/or liquids in a special bowl before they apply it to your strands with a special brush.

Permanent hair color does not wash it. The reason it's called permanent is because it remains the tresses until it grows out. As permanent hair color grows out it usually creates a root line.

Permanent hair color can be touched up at the roots, can be cut off as the hair grows or can be reversed or altered through other chemical applications. However, permanent hair color is truly permanent.

2. Non-permanent

Semi-Permanent Color

Mandy Moore American Dreamz Premiere 04-11-06

Also known as semi-perm, this category of color may contain a lesser form of chemicals than the permanent color in order to slightly open the hair cuticle.

When a mild form of chemical is used to deposit color, it will not lift the current shade.

The chemicals and/or peroxide (usually less than 5% concentration) will help the semi-permanent color to penetrate deeper. As a result, it will last longer in the shampoo cycle.

Most semi-permanent colors last up to 25 shampoos. You can stretch the life of semi-perms by shampooing less often, using shampoos designed for colored hair and using lukewarm water.

One professional colorist told me that is you can shampoo just 1-2x a week and use a non-sulfate shampoo or a light conditioner instead of a harsher shampoo, you can stretch demi-color to last a lot longer than predicted by the color manufacturer.

Demi-Permanent Color

The demi-permanent family of hair colors is designed to have a much shorter lifespan than the semi-perm colors.

Most of the demi perms are designed to shampoo out after 6-8 washes. This category is also known as a vegetable color.

Mandy Moore TV Guide & Inside TV Emmy Awards After Party 09-18-05

Basically the color, which is usually has a natural base with minimal if any chemicals, will simply coat the outer layer of the hair. It is not henna, although it does coat like henna does.

Demi is designed to add shine and shimmer to pre-existing color or highlights.

Hair Coloring Rules

The reason there are different types of hair color is because no one method works best for all types of people and their hair.

Any type of chemical product you apply to your hair may cause unexpected problems. While those circumstances are the exception, rather than the rule, they need to be considered before adopting any hair coloring actions.

Complications occur more frequently on hair which is genetically weak, already damaged, or prone to being overly porous. Damage is more likely to occur with permanent hair colors or any color combined with harsh lifting agents.

Even through hair color is designed to slowly wash out over time, in some rare cases it may actually seep deeply into the cortex and permanently stain it. Even when the hair color is advertised as semi or demi-perm it becomes permanent.

Mandy Moore Chasing Liberty Premiere 01-07-04

Hair color professionals generally agree on the following rules:

-Consider skin and eye coloring when selecting hair color hues. It's generally suggested you stay within two shades of your natural hair color. Extremes in hair color may drain natural color from the eyes and skin.

-Always weigh the cost and time factors for ongoing maintenance such as keeping root regrowth lines touched up.

-Evaluate how complicated the actual color process may be and how long it should take.

Listed below are the most common hair color questions and challenges:

What's better for my hair, semi-permanent or permanent color?

Semi-permanent color generally gives your hair a higher shine while generally enhancing the condition. Semi-perm color won't lift natural hair color by itself. Lifting can only occur when a lifting agent is utilized.

Mandy Moore 2003 Billboard Music Awards - Arrivals 12-10-03

A semi-permanent tint, in most cases, also won't cover large amounts of grey hair (more than 50% grey).

When a permanent color is used correctly, you'll always achieve a beautiful effect. Semi-permanent tints can be used to extend the life of permanent treatments while pumping up conditioning benefits.

Can hair be damaged by hair coloring?

There's always a risk of hair damage whenever any type of chemical is applied.

The risk of hair color damage is highest when the wrong level of peroxide is used.

Other risks occur if the hair is over-processed, too many permanent hair colors are applied at the same time or the base hair is already damaged.

If you constantly change your hair color or adopt very drastic color changes you must regularly use deep conditioning treatments to maintain the integrity of the hair.

Mandy Moore InStyle Golden Globes Party 01-19-03

Why does colored hair sometimes lack shine and look dull?

Over-processing is the biggest reason hair can start to look dull or drab. If your hair is starting to look shine challenged, use semi-permanent colors.

Semi-perm colors add lots of tone and shine because the color pigment floats on top of the cuticle.


If you would love to go blonde, talk the process through with your professional colorist before you throw caution to the wind.

Transitioning to blonde should be relatively easy on virgin dark brown hair. If your hair has been permanently colored then the process will become a long saga.

Mandy Moore A Walk To Remember Premiere 01-23-02

Never attempt this kind of hair color processing on your own for the very first time.

Ruby Red Tresses

Red is the ultimate sexy shade. It's a color which cries out for attention.

Hair holds on to red-toned pigments well, so going copper-top can be easy for most people.

Be warned - if you're blonde you will usually have to go two or three shades darker than your natural color to achieve a rich red. Once you achieve a deep ruby it's not easy to reverse it.


Brunette is always a safe choice because it suits almost every age, race, sex, skin and eye tone.

Varying brunette hues with highlights can achieve a huge range of looks.

Mandy Moore Seventeen Magazine VIP Pary 06-14-2001

From chocolate brown and bronze shades to honey or dark blonde, combinations of natural tones gives incredible shine as darker-pigmented tints add condition to your hair.

Blue Black

This is by far the easiest color to accomplish because the molecules in black tints are larger and will cover all hair types very effectively.

Caution is needed when using black as it only tends to look good on people with darker and olive skin tones. it's great for getting the goth look, but definitely not for your granny.

The bad news about going raven black is that once you adopt the hue it's hard to remove or reverse.


Like any other chemical hair treatment, hair color has it's advantages and disadvantages.

Before taking on any new hair color be sure you do your homework, talk to a professional colorist and understand all your options and long term maintenance requirements.

- Revised Publication Date: 12/04/11

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