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Curly Hair & Haircolor - Secrets You Must Know


If you have naturally curly hair you probably already know that you possess the most fragile hair type. Which means your hair is more prone to damage from the application of chemicals such as bleach, straighteners, perms or hair color.

Note: For more details on Curly Hair & Hair Color Secrets read: Curly Hair: Coloring FAQ's.

Does that mean you can't color your hair? No. What it does mean is that you must understand how to minimize any potential damage to your natural curls while achieving the desired color results.

There are several secrets to having healthy curly hair and having great hair color.

These secrets are listed below:

Find a hair colorist who also understands curly hair

No two heads of curly hair are exactly the same since each curl pattern is unique and forms its own distinctive profile. Therefore, applying any type of bleach, color, highlights or lowlights requires that the hair colorist understand how the curls will flow and absorb the final hues.

If the hair colorist you choose to color your hair understands your specific curl profile and patterns, they can create a color map which works best for your curls.

Depending on the density and type of curls, you may benefit more from perimeter highlights and lowlight than full color coverage. Also, if your hair is fragile, prone to breaking or naturally dry, you would do well to avoid any color products that contain a strong bleach.

Colors that utilize other forms of providing color (without bleach) like the Matrix SoColor line might be a better option for you. Since semi-perm colors tend to be more gentle, they also offer a better alternative, especially for fried strands.

Will the average hair colorist understand curly hair? In many cases they may not. Therefore, it is important that you take the time, do your research and find a hair color expert who either has naturally curly hair or has a book of satisfied color clients with curly hair.

Should you trust your regular curl expert with your hair color? Maybe, if you are sure they understand color, which all stylists don't. Or if they have had success with other curly heads.

The key is to think all of this through very carefully.

Note: To talk about Hair Color visit's HairTalk Forum on Hair Color.

Avoid coloring your hair at home

Yes I know it looks easy. But in reality, at-home hair color works best for hair consumers that have already had their hair colored, who have less fragile tresses (not natural curls) or who work with their hair color experts to stretch their maintenance by using home color for root touchups.

If your budget does not allow for expensive hair color maintenance trips to keep your color fresh, explain this to your color expert and ask them to suggest a color program that requires minimal upkeep.

Or possibly your colorist might suggest a form of color maintenance that you can do at home between salon visits.

Avoid a colorist that suggests using a cap for highlights or lowlights

Although a former hairdresser I went to meant well, she would only apply highlights to my naturally wavy/curly tresses with a cap. Yes, that plastic cap that ties under your chin and makes you feel like the circulation to your brain is challenged.

Even worse, once the highlights have been painted onto the cap, removing it from your hair is slow, somewhat painful (if you are tender headed) and can pull out strands.

Most hair color experts would never dream of using a plastic highlighting cap on naturally wavy or curly hair because of the difficulty in getting the cap off at the shampoo bowl. However, some hairdressers might suggest a cap because they understand that using foils is not a good option for naturally curly tresses.

Avoid a colorist that only will consider doing foils and will not do baliage or free form hair painting

Why? Because of the shape of curls, it is hard to get foils properly positioned against the root or placed into the spirals. Color may bleed or come out looking blotchy or stripped.

What's the best answer for highlighting curly tresses? Baliage (pronounced Ba-lee-auge) also known as the bayliage or similar technique which is a form of free-form hair coloring.

There are many different techniques for free form hair painting which can be done with a brush, a knife, plastic spoons, make-up brushes or even the fingers.

The key is to pick up individual sections of spirals, analyze its pattern and how it lays against the rest of the curls and then paint specific curls which will stand out.

It is important to make sure if you have a hair colorist skilled in hair painting that they have a very clear understanding of how you wear your hair. You may wish to go for a pre-color consultation to make sure that the hair colorist can see your curls in their natural day-to-day form.

Also, make sure you have your hair freshly trimmed, washed and dry when you go for the hand painting session. This will net the best results.

Note: To read more about Baliage or bayliage check out How Do You Morph Hair Color For A T-X Terminatrix

Color shampoos and products can dry out curly tresses - use carefully

Although color enhancing shampoos will help to maintain colored hair, it may be extremely drying on any type of hair, more so on naturally curly hair that is naturally dry.

Should you use color enhancing or maintenance shampoos? They should be used on a case by case basis only. If you opt for color infused products, consider either diluting them, using them only every other time your shampoo or on limited sections of your hair would be a good plan.

I personally adore the Paul Mitchell (PM) color shampoos (maybe because we used them in my cosmetology college classes which was at a PM affiliate). I have learned that the shampoo for platinum blonde works wonders on my fringe and top of my hair. However, the shampoo tends to be drying.

Therefore, I only use the Paul Mitchell color shampoo in a diluted form, only every other time I shampoo and only on the fringe and top parts of my hair. The rest of my hair I cleanse with a diluted form of either Phytojoba or Phytocitrus, which is designed to help maintain color treated hair.

Note: There are several things you can do to prolong your color from one treatment to the next. This article gives you some helpful hints. Making Your Haircolor Last.

Another option is to try a rinse-out color booster like Ken Paves Healthy Hair Boost UpColor Drops to instantly amp up hair color naturally. The Boost UpColor Drops are easy to use. Use 1-2 pumps with your daily rinse out or leave-in conditioning rinse. Select from six different Color Drops hues including Platinum, Beige, Honey, Brown, Black and Red. If you prefer, you can mix the Color Drops with your favorite styling products.

Do not shampoo for at least 3 days after color treatment

Yes, I know this sounds crazy but trust me, it works. Not only does it allow the color, highlights or lowlights to really set deeply for the longest wear, but it allows your fragile strands to recover from the stress of having chemicals (even friendly non-bleach chemicals) added to your hair.

I actually try to stretch my new highlights for one week. The way I deal with oiliness on my fringe or the top is to spritz a bit of Rene Furterer Naturia dry shampoo on the oily, dirty of flat sections. Naturia is amazing. I would take this product with me on a desert island.

The longer I can wait before having my newly highlighted hair washed, the longer the colors last.

Avoid volumizing shampoo or styling products

Taylor Swift 2008 Grammy Awards Arrivals 02-10-08

Think about it. Volumiziers are designed to blow open the cuticle to make it appear fuller. When the cuticle opens it makes it easier for all that added color to wash right out. I was horrified at one salon to watch the hairdresser shampoo newly highlighted hair with a well-known volumizing shampoo.

When asked the hairdresser admitted that the color work she did didn't seem to last as long as her clients might like. When I mentioned the impact of volumizing products on color she was shocked but promised to not use them on newly colored hair.

At least she didn't on my hair.

Once curly hair is colored kick up the TLC

Curly tresses are fragile and tend to be dry. Once they have been colored, highlighted or lowlighted, they are even more fragile. Be sure to crank up the Tender Loving Care on your colored curls.

Listed below are some common TLC habits to adopt:

  • Avoid hot water on your hair. Use only lukewarm or cool.

  • Wait as long as possible in-between shampoo sessions to give hair time to build up natural oils. Spot clean with dry shampoo products to remove oil from fringes or top of hair.

  • If you decide to use color infused shampoo products consider diluting them or use only every other time.

  • Avoid volumizing products designed to blow open the hair's cuticles and encourage color loss.

  • Allow hair to air-dry when possible. Hot blow dryers will speed up color fading.

  • Apply a good leave-in conditioning product and "plopp" hair to allow a beautiful curl pattern without damage to the color.

  • Skip hot oil treatments which also open the cuticle and encourage color loss. Instead use oil treatments that are not heated or cream conditioners for restoring moisture.

And of course don't forget to cover up that beautiful color job when out in the sun.


Naturally curly hair is naturally fragile and even without added hair color or chemicals requires special treatment. If you decide to take the color plunge, be sure to do your homework to find a hair color expert who also understands how to work with naturally curly hair.

Follow some of the suggestions in this article and you are sure to have beautiful color without sacrificing the health of your gorgeous ringlets.

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- Revised Publication Date: 01/01/11

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