Women Today

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Prolong the life of your hair color

Men and women have been coloring their hair for centuries, experimenting with different materials and chemical combinations to achieve their desired looks. In the mid-1800s, chemists began to work with non-natural dyes for the textile industry. At least one of the chemicals used in a dye derived from coal tar formed a color when exposed to air. This molecule, called para-phenylenediamine, or PPD, eventually would go on to form the foundation for many permanent hair dyes.

Both men and women color their hair, but women tend to be more avid colorists. Many women stick to a strict schedule of color maintenance, returning to the salon every four to six weeks for touch-ups. At an average cost of between $50 and $80 for a single-process permanent color, according to polling by Angie's List members (foil treatments and balayage highlights can cost more), the price of keeping color looking fresh and vibrant can add up. It's understandable that women would be interested in prolonging the life of their color to help stretch out their budgets. Explore the different ways to extend the life of hair color and enjoy healthier-looking locks.

• Understand the difference between products. Hair color can come in different formulations. Semi- and demi-permanent colors deposit color without lightening and will wash out gradually after a certain number of shampoos. Permanent hair colors use a combination of components to open up the hair cuticle so that natural hair color can be lightened and color deposited as well. Someone unsure of a color may want to try a semi-permanent formulation and then look to the permanent equivalent when satisfied so that the color will last longer.

• Wash with cooler water. Keep color longer by turning down the thermostat in the shower. Hot water can cause the hair shaft to expand and lead to more dissolution of hair color molecules. Washing and rinsing with cool water can lock in the color longer.

• Skip the sulfates. Sulfates are detergents used in shampoos that produce those lush suds many people equate with cleanliness. Sulfates can strip dyes from the hair and lead to premature fading.

• Use a color-extending product. Color-extending products come in two varieties: those that deposit small amounts of color to help keep the overall shade fresh, and others that don't add color but help seal the cuticle so that existing color will not fade away. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested nine brands, including 24 products, and found most of the products, such as color shampoos, helped dyes last longer than regular shampoos.

• Protect against the sun. Your skin is not the only part of the body that needs to be shielded from the sun. Ultraviolet light can cause premature fading of hair color. Look for a product that defends against UV damage, and wear hats when out in strong sun.

• Head back to the salon. Some salons offer free or inexpensive glossing treatments. This 10-minute service can extend the life of your hair color.

By following some easy hair care tips, anyone can keep their color lasting longer. Clients should speak with their stylists if they need more direction and advice about hair color.