Hair oxidation is a chemical process that results from your dyed hair being exposed to sunlight or UV (ultraviolet) light for long periods of time. It is typically characterized in dyed hair by a fading of the dye color. Oxidation is natural for dyed hair, and also results from chemicals and products. This results in the loss of hair pigment, especially in dyed hair, as well as a change in tone. Commonly, the loss of pigment causes damage to each individual hair shaft, which is why UV/sunlight affects hairpieces more as the hair shafts are already damaged due to processing.

With dyed hair, oxidation occurs by reacting with the pigments that make up the dye. They react in such a way that the outermost layer of the hair shaft is damaged, resulting in the loss of green pigments. This makes red-toned pigments more prominent. These unwanted tones show up more prominently on lighter hair. You have to take extra measures with dyed hair as bleach and hair dye have already caused damage to the hair shafts. A list of measures you can take to protect your hair in the sunlight is given below.

Ways you can lessen/prevent hair oxidation

This is an obvious one. Spend less time in the sun with your hair exposed to protect it from the UV rays. You can remedy this by wearing a hat/scarf/cap.  

Invest in color depositing hair conditioners. These are specific for dyed hair and can be bought specifically depending on what color you have dyed your hair. These conditioners work by putting pigments back into your dyed hair, neutralizing any unwanted tones, and rejuvenating faded hair.

Use products meant for color-treated hair. These will help you maintain the condition of your hair for longer. Such products include serums, masks & oils. It is worth investing in a hair management routine for extra protection.

Do not wash your hair with shampoo too frequently. Many shampoos contain sulfates, chemicals that strip the hair and will contribute to faster oxidation. This can be remedied by looking for sulfate-free shampoos.

Be gentle with your hair! Re-dying your hair is an option if it has oxidized too much, however, do consider preventative measures before going straight to this option.

Protecting your hair from sun damage

Usually, we talk about wearing sunscreen and how sun rays can harm the skin. What’s less discussed, is the harmful sun rays cause to your hair. Your hair can become thinner, frizzier & dryer as a result of excess sunlight. If your hair is already fine or a naturally lighter color, it lacks pigment/thickness and will already be less protected compared to naturally thicker, darker hair. If you have dyed/bleached hair, where melanin is unnaturally removed, your hair is extra susceptible to the sun and to hair oxidation.

Products specifically for hair oxidation

When looking for products, look for those that specify the removal of ‘brassy’ tones. One such example is the Natural Instincts Brass Free line by CLAIROL. Brassy tones refer to red/orange tones which can come about as a result of oxidation. Look for products that transfer pigment or neutralize tones. When using these products, make sure to follow the instructions on the label as they do tend to be stronger than everyday products.

Look for purple shampoos meant to neutralize unwanted tones, specifically for lighter hair colors, such as silver, blonde or grey. Brassy tones show up more prominently on these colors, in comparison to darker colors such as shades of brown.

Although it is important to keep your dyed hair maintained, the dye will not last forever. Sometimes, protective measures are not enough, you know deep down when it is time for a trip to the hair salon. Remember to always consult a professional before making any decisions, paying just a bit extra will be worth it in the long run when you have the exact hair you dreamed of.

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