Friday, October 29, 2010




Picture it. 1989. Trinidad. It was a hot day in the tropics and my first day working in a salon with one of my first instructors, Anthony Medina. It was a busy day – color appointment after color appointment. Because Trinidad is so multicultural, every hair texture imaginable was waiting to be processed – Afro Caribbean (a term I don’t particularly care for), Asian, Caucasian, East Indian and a hodgepodge of others. Even some chemically relaxed hair was thrown into the mix. Meanwhile, these women had two things in common. Apart from being born in sweet Trinidad, they were all aware of the chemicals in hair color and weren’t overly concerned about a few gray strands. They were agreeable to having a semi-permanent hair color that did not give gray coverage yet accentuated their own hair adding shine and tone, possibly staining a few grays. Sure it would only last a good two to four weeks (8-12 shampoos), but shiny hair was more important.

The other ladies with a serious case of gray roots were there for a permanent solution. They needed full coverage and truly did not have a healthier alternative (and still don’t for that matter).


Today, women of all ages with a few gray hairs no longer embrace the healthier choice; the thought of a few gray strands has become … well … taboo. Even if they are not using permanent hair color, they’re opting for demi-permanent color (glosses) which have peroxide and possible traces of ammonia (depending on the brand). This brings me to the heart of the “gray” matter. At what point did the dependency on stronger chemicals in hair color with more coverage outweigh a healthier solution (no ammonia or peroxide)?

At what point did women shy away from a more natural look (accepting the early stages of graying)?


I believe, along with leading colorists in the industry, that a “gloss” is merely a demi-permanent color application with little peroxide and little to no ammonia. Yes. These are a healthier alternative to permanent hair color, but they still have peroxide. Did you get that? They have peroxide! So why do hairstylists insist on using them daily as a “healthy approach” to coloring hair?

You’ve heard it before, right? “Let’s just throw a quick gloss on your hair at the sink for shine”. That translates to “let’s just use a product that adds color and gives some shine using peroxide which will aggravate your cuticle causing some dryness (when used too often)”. A good rule of thumb – “GLOSS” is just the word “LOSS” with a ‘G’ in front of it. Cut your losses short!

It’s a fact that when we do highlights with bleach, we’re aiming for a color we have in mind – be it a muted wheat beige blond or a sparkling golden blond. Glosses can assist in tweaking traces of unwanted tones, but they are also used to correct problems that could have been avoided altogether. Examples of these are as follows:

Not lightening hair enough …

Scenario 1

If the desired color is a beautiful light beige and the bleach is not left on long enough, the result is hair that is too gold. At this point, glosses with stronger peroxide added are used to help rectify the problem by lifting the unwanted tones on already dry lightened hair and depositing beige tones instead. It doesn’t sound like a big deal at first, but what happens two to three weeks later?

The unwanted tones start peering through and eventually require more highlights which results in dry hair.

In this case, the possible solution could have been a high lift tint with the necessary tones to give you your desired color. High lift tints are permanent hair colors used with 40 volume peroxide that possess the ability to lift your natural hair color (if it’s not too dark) giving you the desired tone all-in-one. This takes longer and requires some serious color knowledge, but it’s not as light and bright as bleach.

If bleach is needed, then it could be left on while being watched closely as it lifts. Keep in mind that bleach will lift once it’s moist so patience is needed.

Scenario 2

If the desired color is a pretty light golden blond and the bleach is left on far too long or with too much heat, the result is hair that is too white with no gold tones which were needed to yield the expected outcome. What now happens is that a gloss is used in hopes of replacing all of the gold tones that were removed. A gloss is left on longer than necessary (on the already lightened hair) causing further dryness.

In this case, a high lift tint could have been used as well (provided the natural hair color is not too dark). Also, one could substitute the bleach with a weaker volume peroxide and no heat on the highlights.

So why this dependency you may ask? Well … I’ve seen it over and over again in magazines, online and in salons. Glosses are a big part of the problem when used too often or incorrectly.


As a hairstylist I feel responsible for this dependence on chemicals and I propose to stop this lunacy one article at a time! Don’t get me wrong. I do love permanent and semi-permanent hair color and believe that we need it. However, I will modify the outlook of my blog by adding entries that welcome natural hair color, informing both men and women of the healthier options available.


Let us agree that a few gray strands do not classify someone as “old”. Your hair should not define you in any way. It is nothing more than an accessory. If you want more from your hair, use hair products that promote healthy hair, blow-dry less and color only if you must. Say no to chemical pushing dealers! The second solution is glazes, glazes, glazes.

A glaze is a semi-permanent hair color with no peroxide and no ammonia that deposits pigment and shine. I personally like Cellophane's by Sebastian. It’s applied to towel dried hair, covered with a plastic cap and placed under the dryer. The heat is what causes this color to stain the hair. It does not cover gray, but enhances your natural hair color staining grays just a bit. To somehow convey what a glaze is, I would suggest one think of the glaze on a cake – shiny, translucent and temporary. A gloss, however, is more like the gloss coating on a car – more permanent with shine.

I look forward to writing more about this topic and getting your feedback on these issues.


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