Great Hair 2010: Healthier Hair Color

How to lighten grays without hurting your hair

By: Leslie Milk

The new mantra of hair color? Less is more.

Many professional colorists are using formulas that replace harsh ammonia with chemicals that are gentler to hair and scalp but still promise to cover gray and lighten or darken hair.

Colorist Jacqui Davis, at PR at Partners near DC’s Metro Center, has been using L’Oréal’s ammonia-free permanent color, Inoa, on clients for several months. Instead of ammonia, the product uses oil to push color into the hair cuticle, reducing the chance that hair will be damaged. She says there’s no odor, hair ends up shiny, and the color lasts as long as it does with ammonia-based formulas.

The drawbacks: The price is higher (it’s $20 more at PR at Partners); the number of shades is limited (currently to about 50); and without ammonia, these formulas can’t do the heavy lifting required to get light-blond hair, says Davis.

Uri Kandero at Zin Hair & Colour in Bethesda is another ammonia-free-color convert. Three years ago, Kandero turned 40 and started studying yoga and exploring healthy living. While no permanent hair color is chemical-free, he discovered that a British company had developed an ammonia-free color line, and he tried it on clients who volunteered to be testers. He also tested it on his own gray.

The Organic Color System that Kandero now uses has more than 60 colors and covers gray. Unlike Inoa, it can create very light shades.

“Demi-permanent” color—which covers gray before gradually fading as hair is washed—is another ammonia-free option. Home hair colorists have ammonia-free choices, too. Garnier HerbaShine, Revlon Color Silk, and Clairol Natural Instincts contain no ammonia.

Other over-the-counter products are designed to stretch the interval between coloring, thus saving money. Root-touchup kits—some look like mascara wands, others like felt-tip markers—color new growth along the part and hairline.

The best way to extend the life of hair color? Color-enhancing shampoos that deposit color as they clean can prolong the vibrancy of the shade, says Davis. Stylists also report that clients are using pigmented dry shampoos to cover roots.

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