Hair 101

So do you think you have what it takes to do hair? In beauty school, I learned about everything from the business aspect of a salon, to chemistry, to anatomy, to the structure of hair. I would like to share with you some basic knowledge of hair. I call it Hair 101.
Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

The Basics of Hair 101

Hair is a filamentous biomaterial (long chains of proteins and interacts with biological systems), that grows from follicles found in the dermis (middle layer) of the skin. It is mostly made of keratin, which is a fibrous structural protein.

The entire human body except for the palms of hands and soles of feet is covered in hair follicles.

Hair Structure 101

Each strand of hair contains three layers: the cuticle, medulla, and cortex.

Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

The cuticle is the outermost layer. It contains hard, shingle-like cells that form from dead cells that overlap each other. Its purpose is to protect the inner layers and give the hair strength. The shape the cuticle is in determines how healthy your hair is. Healthy, shiny hair has a smooth cuticle, but damaged hair has scales that are raised. You can smooth the cuticle down by using mild heat (like a towel wrapped around your head after you get out of the shower) or acidic based hair products (which is why a lot of hair products contain citric acid, etc.) Products high in alkaline do completely the opposite; they raise the cuticle.

The next layer, in the middle of the hair shaft, is the cortex, which makes up most of the actual hair. Melanins, which are color pigments, are located here in the cortex. They determine the color of the fiber of the hair, based on how many melanins there are and what types they are.

The shape of the hair follicle determines the shape of the cortex, which therefore determines if hair is straight, wavy, or curly. The cortex also holds water and is packed with keratin protein. The process of coloring, perm/straighteners or other styling all takes place in the cortex.

The innermost layer of hair is called the “medulla,” although some people (with fine hair) don’t have a medulla. Its purpose is still unknown.

Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

Hair Color 101

Hair color is generally classified by numbers 1-10. Level 1 is generally black, while level 10 is a blonde.

Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

All natural occurring hair colors are combined of percentages of the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.

How Hair Color Works:

The two main chemicals found in permanent hair color are hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia (this is why the color is damaging to your hair). Ammonia works by separating the cuticle scales. Peroxide helps oxidize pigments. When the hair color is penetrating into the cortex, it creates new pigment molecules, which are too big to come out of the cortex. This is why it is hard to take color out, once you put it in.

Bleaching your hair is a similar process. The peroxide softens and lifts the cuticle and then the bleach disperses the color molecules that are in the cortex.

There are different levels of developer. 5V and 10V (V=volume) are deposit only. You would use them to deposit a darker color (like black) and they work by only lifting the cuticle a tiny bit. 20V lifts up to 2 levels and deposits some color. This is the most common level of peroxide used. 30V lifts up to 3 levels and 40V lifts up to 4 levels. You won’t see 40V being used often. It is usually only used with high-lift blondes and bleach, but it is very damaging to your hair and can burn the scalp if used incorrectly.

Now, back to primary colors…

Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

Color Theory 101

The three primary colors, like I said before, are red, blue and yellow. The three secondary colors are orange (red+yellow), green (blue+yellow) and violet (blue+red). The color wheel is specifically set up to show you how colors work together. The color directly across from a color is its complimentary color. Complimentary colors can either intensify or neutralize each other. For instance, when you bleach your hair, it usually ends up a pale yellow tone. To take away the yellow, you tone your hair with a violet based toner to turn it platinum-blonde. This is why a lot of “blonde” shampoos are purple. If your hair is orange, you’ll have to tone it with a blue-based (ash) toner.

Color Correction 101

Toners are basically products that deposit pigment back in your hair to change the tone after it was bleached. I highly recommend toning hair after bleaching it, because it gives a more finished look. There are so many different varieties of toners. You can tone blonde hair to be an ash blonde, platinum blonde, neutral, strawberry blonde, etc.

Let’s say you have platinum blonde hair but want to color it brown. You are going to have to re-pigment hair first. If you don’t, the color will turn out really ashy/greyish and faded looking. To re-pigment (fill) the hair, you want to use reddish/goldish colors that are one level lighter than the desired color. I used Paul Mitchell color and there are different formulas you can use depending on your target level. For PM, you would mix equal parts of the formula with 10V developer, and apply to damp hair. You process for 10 minutes and then apply the target color over the re-pigmentation formula (unless the target formula is cool/neutral, you would wipe off the re-pigmentation formula). Process the whole thing for 35 additional minutes, and bam! Re-pigmented hair.

Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

Types of Color:

Next, I will get into the different types of colors:

  • Permanent colors will generally lift your hair up to 3 levels and should last a while.
  • High-lift colors will lift the hair about 4 levels.
  • Demi-permanent colors last about 4-6 weeks and will wash out eventually without a line of demarcation.
  • Temporary colors coat the hair shaft, without penetrating into the cortex. When applied properly, these should last a few weeks.

Remember that color will never lift previously colored hair. This basically means that if your hair was previously colored dark brown, and you want to lift it to a lighter color, you will have to bleach your hair before you can color it. Color correction experts make a lot of money from this. Consider everything I have taught you so far… If your hair already has dark color molecules in the cortex, and you put another color on top of it, all you are doing is depositing more color molecules into your cortex, hence the reason it is darker. Color will lift virgin hair, but not hair that has already been colored.

Hair 101: An interesting compilation of hair facts you would learn in beauty school.

Perms / Straighteners 101

Last, but not least, I want to teach you how perms and straighteners work. You should always clarify hair before doing a perm to rid the hair of build-up and medication. When the hair is damp, wrap it with perm rods (use the same width as the resulting curl will be). Then apply perm solution to each perm rod and let it process (follow the timing directions on the box).

Perm solution is typically made from ammonium thioglycolate. The solution breaks down the disulfide bonds in your hair (which are the proteins that give your hair shape.) After you have fully processed the hair, you rinse the perm solution out and then apply neutralizer. Neutralizer rebuilds the disulfide bonds in the new shape of the perm rod. Voila! Now you have curly hair! Straighteners typically do the same thing, except they make your hair straight instead of curly.

Your Turn: Did you learn anything cool from Hair 101? Do you have anything to contribute? I’d love to read your feedback in the comments section below…

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