Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough -Going to the hairdresser every 4 to 8 weeks is a beauty routine many adhere to. Between highlights, coloring, straightening and/or perms, your hairstylist knows you won’t stay away for long. Besides the expense, dying and/or perming your hair has its pros and cons in terms of keeping your hair healthy. We have all heard horror stories of damage such as breakage, fall out, or bad cover up processing. For something that makes hair look so good, why do some experts say it is bad for us?
Our hair is made up of proteins in every single strand. Proteins are the protectors of the hair, guarding the inside of the strand. Things to guard against include heat and UV rays. Whenever the chemicals of dyes or perms are applied, the protein protection layer gets lifted. This means the chemicals will reach the inside of each strand. The dye changes the chemicals that make up the hair so the color will change. This chemical process can lead to the loss of your hair’s strength which leads to hair becoming thinner, your hair not being able to withstand heat, and the hair follicles becoming rougher. Repeating this process over time can lead to the accumulation of damage you might see in your hair.
There are particular chemicals to watch out for and to use sparingly. Bleach is one of the most
well-known and popularly used chemicals, but it can damage your hair depending on the pH
(acidity) of your hair. Bleach can affect hair’s strength, moisture, and ability to withstand heat.
Bleach colors hair because of the oxidation process that involves hydrogen peroxide. P-
phenylenediamine (PPD) is another chemical compound common in hair dyes that require an
oxidizer like hydrogen peroxide. Henna is a natural hair dye sometimes used, but it can still
cause damage by making hair more coarse and brittle. Overall, going to lighter hair is what
causes more damage versus darkening your hair.
Chemicals can also be applied to hair to perm or straighten it. A perm is a chemical treatment to
curl the hair and straightening your hair requires relaxing it with a chemical. A perm practically
reprograms the molecular structure of the hair so that it takes on the desired wave or curl.
Hydrogen attaches to the hair’s bonds and breaks them so that the new change can take place.
The perming process can damage hair especially if you color it too. When done correctly, the risk
of damage is less but sometimes the processing can be trial and error figuring out the timing and
amount of product needed to achieve the desired style. Some people have had their scalp burned
because of this trial and error.
The chemicals used to relax hair can cause fizziness and dryness. This is usually because of the
applied heat. Split ends are very common because relaxers wear down the outer, protective layer
of hair. Because the hair is weakened, breakage is also common. Considerable thinning of the
hair can also take place. Scalp burning can also take place.
Hairstylists are likely to follow safe practices. There are questions you can ask and steps you can
take to help keep your hair safe. Using a conditioning treatment or products that have a conditioner in them during the processing is recommended and minimizing heat can help reduce the risks of damage.
On your own you can use shampoos and conditioners that have moisture additives. Spacing out the time between hair appointments can help the damage on top of damage happening, giving the hair time to become healthier in between. Styling your own hair using less heat when you can is a good idea as well.
Hair is interrelated to our self-esteem. When it looks attractive to us and is the color or type we
like best on ourselves, our overall confidence improves. Having a bad hair day is bothersome to
anyone. Keeping those bad hair days away would be nice. Find a stylist you trust and be
proactive in your own hair health. Your head of hair wants to feel good too.