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How to care for dyed hair

Whether you like to experiment with all colours of the rainbow or simply enhance what your mother gave you, coloured hair can be high-maintenance. Here's the lowdown on delivering TLC and getting the results you want.

First, what does a dye do to your hair?

Understanding how chemical dyes affect your locks is the first step to finding the best products and keeping them in great condition. Your hair is formed of three layers: the outer cuticle, a middle layer called the cortex, and the inner medulla. These layers protect your hair and determine strength and colour.

When it comes to synthetic dye, it is the cortex that we are particularly interested in. This layer contains a natural pigment called melanin, which determines your hair’s natural colour. In order to alter this shade, synthetic dyes must open the cuticle a little to penetrate the cortex and change the pigment. As your hair’s natural oil, sebum, then struggles to travel down the coarser cuticle, this process can leave your hair feeling more dry and brittle than usual.

What about a nice, effective hair treatment for starters?

Whether naked or potted, Lush’s hair treatments are to be applied on dry hair and left for twenty minutes or more for the best results. Then, you can jump in a shower and rinse it with your shampoo. Treat yourself to a hair pampering once a week for plenty of haircare brownie points - you deserve a pamper after all.

When your coloured hair feels a bit tired and needs some va va voom, H.O.T. hot oil treatment is your saviour. Containing three hair-nourishing oils capable of enhancing shine and improving the hair’s elasticity without weighing it down, H.O.T. is a wonderfully strengthening treatment. Olive oil is especially clever as it increases the tensile strength of the hair, giving each strand a little more stretch when you brush. This naked product is free of unnecessary packaging and synthetic preservatives, and it’s as easy to make as a cup of tea! Just add boiled water and stir until it melts and cools down.

If you aren’t a fan of DIY, we also have potted, already blended hair treatments for coloured hair such as H’Suan Wen Hua. It is made with organic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh banana and avocado to strengthen damaged hair and deliver moisture to dehydrated ends. Bay and cinnamon leaves boost your roots and revive the overall condition of your scalp.

When your hair is singing ‘I’m all dried out’, wine and dine it with Jasmine and Henna hair treatment. Red henna infusion protects colour and delivers a glossy shine while a great deal of natural oils such as Brazil nut provides moisture and strength. In short, this lavish treatment protects and conditions your hair without adding any colour.

Cleanse your hair with care

In order to counteract brittleness, try using a hydrating shampoo and picking ingredients that will care for your scalp too - an essential step in maintaining healthy coloured hair from root to tip. Daniel Campbell, cosmetic scientist and product inventor, says: ‘If you begin to learn which ingredients give certain effects, then you can start to choose a full hair menu to give you the effects you want’.

A perfect ally for that venture would be Fairly Traded Honey shampoo. The beeswax and honey it contains give the shiniest gloss to the hair, while hydrating, restoring and gently cleansing the hair and scalp. Solid shampoo bars also offer a vast array of choices, with super gentle ingredients such as Fair Trade cocoa and shea butter in Godiva, aquafaba and rose water in Angel Hair or organic coconut milk in Coconut Rice Cake

Solid shampoos are a great packaging-free alternative to their traditional liquid counterparts. Product inventor and Lush co-founder Helen Ambrosen explains: "Shampoo bars grew out of trying to make a pressed soap but instead we realised that we’d created a beautiful solid shampoo that didn’t require packaging, was equal to about 80 washes, and also didn’t need a synthetic preservative." Also solid, Avocado will please co-washing lovers with its sweet, exotic scent. Co-washes reside on the idea that a conditioner very gently cleanses the hair (it contains a little amount of surfactant) while protecting it with oils - a softer option that suits afro and coloured hair really well.

Your hair mission? Incredible condition

Once your hair has been gently cleansed, give it back moisture and shine with your chosen colour-friendly conditioner. Conditioners work by coating the hair strands in an anti-static charge, pushing the cuticles of the hair down and locking in moisture. The cuticles on chemically-dyed hair can sometimes become disjointed, making it difficult for sebum (the oil produced by your scalp) to reach the ends of the hair. Conditioners counteract this by delivering moisture to the ends of the hair where it is needed most.

When it comes to choosing the best conditioner, consider how your hair feels and the style you want to achieve. You may choose to deliver some serious thirst aid, or opt for a lighter formula to maintain body.

  • For light-touch days, Happy Happy Joy Joy moisturises porous hair to leave it stronger, healthier and smelling divine. With grapefruit and orange blossom for lustrous shine, this lightweight tonic leaves your hair soft and silky. As an added boost, neroli oil is said to lift spirits with its cheerful, floral scent.
  • For hair that needs a little more loving, American Cream is here to help. A thick conditioner for those who want reels of satiny, flowing hair, American Cream has an enticing strawberries and cream scent and a squeeze of orange juice to add gloss.
  • For a happy balance between body and hydration, Retread is your match. With a light agar agar base and some avocado oil, this midweight conditioner hydrates split ends and prevents further damage. Light enough that it won’t saturate the hair, but rich enough to give a much-needed hit of hydration, this lovely conditioner helps return to balance.

Or perhaps you would rather butter up your hair with a leave-in conditioner, full of seriously hydrating oils? Revive hair moisturiser is rich in protecting and moisturising cocoa, avocado and cupuaçu butter, plus some olive oil for increased elasticity. A little goes a long way with this product and each strand will thank you afterwards.

A heads up on henna

As discussed, there are plenty of effective ways to care for synthetically dyed hair, but, if you are searching for an alternative, plant-derived dye, henna delivers permanent, natural colour. 

Originating from the Middle East, this natural dye works as a varnish which protects rather than penetrates the hair cortex, in contrast to a chemical dye. As Mark Constantine, trichologist and co-founder of Lush, explains in his book Herbal Hair Colouring: "Henna adds red shining colour to the body colour of the hair. If the body colour is black, then after an hour or so henna gives a shine and red tones. If brown, the hair becomes auburn and if blonde, an orange-red."

Mixed into a rich cocoa butter base and blended with stunning ingredients like indigo herb and fresh fruit juices to create different shades from foxy Rouge to raven Noir, you can build colour by hennaing your hair as many times as you like. It will only improve your hair gloss and condition!

Learn more about this type of natural dye here.

If you are dye-hard about colour, there’s a whole host of products to help defend your locks against damage. Why not take your pick? Or, if you like it blonde, take a look at how to treat fair hair with care here.

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