Haircare Dirty Secrets #2

December 23, 2021

Haircare Dirty Secrets #2

Here we look at how marketeers play sleight of hand with our thinking and our emotions to sell us stuff. You’ll be better prepared for more conscious choices with a little knowledge.

Semi-Permanent Colour? Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? You’d think it means not lasting? But on long hair it could actually take four years between hello and goodbye. It’s a term abused mostly in retail aisles, but a lot of hairdressers misunderstand it too.

What does Semi-Permanent mean to you? Forty years ago, in professional circles it meant a vegetable colour/colour conditioner that lay on the surface of hair for 6-12 washes and then left no trace. The perfect product to overcome fears about commitment and maintenance, but allow experimentation or a general enriching of an existing colour.

But semi-permanent is a marketing term that’s been hijacked and reframed over the years to lure people in. Those that just want to dabble, thinking it’s low commitment. Nowadays the word semi-permanent is used to market weak permanent tints. So the benefit disappears after 6-12 washes but the hair now has the textural qualities of tinted hair. Some of the hair’s own molecules were replaced by the semi-permanent tint molecules.

Does that matter? Not if you are colouring your hair all the time anyway. But with long virgin hair where you just wanted to try something temporary, or if highlighting hair and keeping the natural base contrast in between, it matters a lot. The once virgin (not chemically processed) hair is then processed and so more susceptible to colour change in UV light. That natural long dark brown hair may start to throw up more red. You’ll need to colour again.

What irks me is misrepresenting the commitment some colours entail to clients that may just want a one-night stand. In which case, semi-permanent colour isn’t the right choice. These weak tints are a brilliant addition to a colourists repertoire and absolutely the right thing to choose in certain circumstances. For instance, where a gentler colour than full tint is required, or where the gradual fading of the colour is preferred to high contrast root regrowth.

So to recap – If you are buying a semi-permanent that asks you to mix two things together then that is a weak permanent tint, which will change the hair structure until it’s cut out. If it’s from a single tube or bottle, then this sits on the surface for 6-12 washes and will leave eventually without a trace.

In Lockdown, don’t rush to the chemist to buy semi-permanent hair dye straightaway. Try using a touch-up pencil for your roots - you can get different tones - and they are very good to tide people over. Otherwise, I’d recommend a vegetable colour, something you’ll apply direct without mixing. It’s gentler, but may still do the job. At least for now. Or email for a Zoom consultation and colour pack. Our colourists can talk you through the technique at home and/or watch a tutorial on our YouTube Channel.

I love using hair colour. And who wouldn’t benefit from hair colour in some form? Maybe Vin Diesel. And age-appropriate of course - I'm not talking babies or children. But whether a subtle whisper or full on drama. The palette of opportunities has never been so deep or wide. Age corrective/reducing, enhanced natural/believable, spirited light-hearted, or high fashion statement. Hair colour enhances, rejuvenates and can create the full entrance-making experience though it’s vibrancy and playfulness. Add colour tone and texture then catch yourself in the mirror to feel the sparkle of confident energy. Others will too.

But I always come from a standpoint of minimum colour necessary for maximum effect and minimum maintenance. Maximum bang for minimum buck. Where buck represents the cash and also, the often more valuable time commitment. Except for clients in the public eye daily, and with a full entourage jetting around the world with them, then we make it work full-on for every day.

We’re devoted to helping you look your very best for your own circles and fan club (or new term ‘social bubble’ coming through from the Covid lexicon). So it’s highly likely that we would use some colour from our palette of techniques and tints because we know what a tremendous difference this can make to how you look and feel. In the same way, a world of zero make-up would play havoc with our sense of self and individualism. But too many people end up with too much over-processed colour for less effect.

In order of commitment, from zero to platinum-blonde hero, these are six colour techniques

1. Colour shampoo
If you just want a bit of fun, or a boost for your existing colour. This gentle colour enhancement will just sit on the surface of the hair, and last you until your next shampoo. It cannot make the hair lighter than the natural base, and has minimal effect on white hair.

2. Vegetable colour/Colour conditioner
This is a single product (no mixing) that you apply directly from the tube/bottle which also sits on the surface, but goes that bit deeper. It will wash off entirely in about 6 to 12 washes. It cannot make the hair lighter than the natural base, but can tone white hairs to give a highlighted effect.

3. Semi-permanent
This is a great way to colour hair with less commitment than a permanent tint, or if you want the colour to fade away as it grows so as not to have a hard regrowth line. It can lift base colour marginally and give semi-opaque coverage to white hairs.

4. Permanent Colour/Tint
If you won’t accept anything less than full coverage of those white or dark hairs then it has to be a permanent tint. These can darken or lift natural colour all the way from jet black to pale blonde depending on base colour, and can fully cover white hairs.

Be very careful about buying some of the hair dyes available on the retail market. If we are colour-correcting in the salon, we'll be familiar with the ingredients in a professional product. Retail products can be harder to colour-correct in the salon afterwards. They’re often full of heavy metals and odd elements, which are more aggressive on the hair.

5. Highlights
The colour choice combination of highlights and lowlights with virgin hair gives unlimited creative freedom to the master colourist. Our own salon artists are not going to get the recognition of Van Gogh or Leonardo but their deft textural placement of lights is a work of living art and can create a shimmering dance of vitality as intense on detail as an Old Master canvas.


6. Bleach
Not for the faint hearted. Bleach can lift hair all the way to platinum blonde but it’s the most aggressive on hair condition. This is also the starting base for the purest blues, purples, pinks and pewters, if you are not naturally Nordic blonde.


My mother was bleaching her hair blonde continually from the age of 12. She followed the Hollywood stars of the day, like Veronica Lake and Lana Turner. I used to brush it on for her sometimes when I was younger before I had any idea about hairdressing. But she is also very religious and when a Greek priest told her 70 years later that God wouldn’t recognise her, she stopped instantly. Though she did go back to painting her nails a few years later.

When I first looked after Paula Yates’ hair in 1980 it was pretty wrecked from unprofessional bleaching. I reminded her many years later how it was so over-processed and disintegrating in handfuls on that first visit. She said that if we’d told her off about her hair that first time, she’d never have returned. But we took control of her hair so she could still be platinum blond but without clumps breaking off each day. Maximum effect minimum cost.


And if you want to make your colour last, nothing comes close to LifeSaver Prewash Treatment. LifeSaver will extend your colour and style by keeping the structure of the hair together. No other product we’ve come across gets close to this. Combine it with our Cashmere Protein UV Protective Shampoo and Conditioner to retain colour vibrancy and extend the life between tints.

 Michael Van Clarke

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