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Does Hair Color Damage Hair Texture?

Question - Does Hair Color Damage Hair Texture?

Pure & Simple Collection By Paul Mitchell® Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe - Carol DeLange Grandaw
Photography by Robert Williams

Dear Karen,

I've been visiting since 1997 and have found so many great answers to my questions about my naturally curly hair.  However, I have natural texture which would be classified mostly as 3c with a mixture of 4a in the naturally curly world.

Recently I was encouraged by my guy to put highlights in my very dark black hair.  I bought a highlighting kit at the drugstore and figured it would be easy to do.

It was, but my color turned orange instead of the beautiful cinnamon I was thinking about in my head.  My hair looks horrible, fried and frizzy where the highlights are now located.

Even worse, the highlights changed my hair's natural texture and it started falling out much more than normal.

I've heard so many bad stories of what can happen when you highlight naturally textured hair.  Now I'm afraid my natural texture, which I love, will fall out and never return.  Does hair color damage hair texture?  If so, is the damage permanent?

I love the idea of highlights, but not orange ones.  Also, I don't want to lose my curls and overall texture forever.  What should I do at this point?

Alicia In Philly


Pure & Simple Collection By Paul Mitchell® Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe - Carol DeLange Grandaw
Photography by Robert Williams

Hi Alicia,

Does hair color damage hair texture? While highlights are a fabulous way to add a pop of new color, shine and shimmer, they come with their own set of rules.  Highlights, especially those with a bleach base, may be harsh for textured hair, which tends to be naturally dry and fragile.

The good news is that it's unlikely you've permanently lost your beautiful texture.  While chemical processing like bleach, color and other treatments may temporarily alter your natural curl profile, once the chemicals have either completely grown out or been snipped off, the natural coil and spring should return.

To speed up the return of your texture visit your favorite curl friendly stylist and ask them to trim the ends and/or the damaged sections of your hair to encourage your hair to snap back more quickly into shape.

Amping up the hydration to your hair will also help.  You might want to consider adding hot oil or deep conditioning treatment masques to your normal rotation.

When any type of hair is damaged from chemicals the best plan is to turn up the Tender Loving Care (TLC).   Make sure to cleanse only as frequently as needed in lukewarm water. Utilize only the most gentle products designed for your hair type, texture and current treatment needs.

Pure & Simple Collection By Paul Mitchell® Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe - Carol DeLange Grandaw
Photography by Robert Williams

If you decide to try highlights again you may wish to visit your professional stylist for just a few highlights which are much less expensive than a full head of highlights.  Discuss the damage you experienced with your own highlights and ask if a non-bleach form of color might be a better alternative.

The advantages of going to a professional hair colorist (rather than a hair stylist who just happens to do color) is that they can completely evaluate your hair texture and select a chemical highlighting formula which will work best with your hair.

Note:  Our favorite professional hair colorist in Dallas, Texas who is also a natural texture expert is Rose Zuniga.

To achieve the burst of color you might ask your colorist to apply highlights only to the hairline area.  Start slowly with just a few very fine highlights adjacent to your face.

This allows you to enjoy the brightness of color without the potential damage to the rest of your texture.

If your hair does well with just a few highlights you can add more later.  Even if your hair becomes more dry or frizzy with the partial highlights, it's much easier to rehydrate those areas then to try and deal with your entire head of hair.

Good luck to you and your hair for the future.

Best wishes,


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