Working With Vibrant colour...

As a #hairdresser some of the most exciting work we get to do is working with #vibrant hair colours. Although this can also be daunting as a Technician when you have minimal experience with Direct dyes.


What scares you as a technician when it comes to applying and working with Directs?

Have you ever applied a direct hair colour rinsed and the colours came out in the sink or after one wash?


Lets see why this could be happening to you and hopefully you have a better understanding of direct colours after you have read this.


So what are direct colours and where do they 'live' in the hair?

Direct or temporary colours, as they are sometimes called, work by staining the hair cuticle/outer cortex layers of hair. They have no penetrative power at all. This is why they work best on pre-lightened hair or colour treated hair as the hair cuticle has been lifted allowing the stain to get into the hair. If you apply a direct colour onto virgin hair you may at most get a hue of colour or a slight stain due to hair being slightly dry from free radicals, Sometimes the ends of virgin hair will 'take' the colour a little better as older hair tends to be more porous. On virgin hair the cuticle is tightly packed and never been lifted, This means the stain cant get into the hair shaft at all.

Because of this I would always reccomend some sort of lightening process before you apply your direct colour onto the hair.




Why do direct colours fade thought if it stains the hair?

Temporary colours work by staining the hair cuticle and outer layers of the cortex. Think of the hair as a fabric. If you were to drop say red wine on a white cotton tshirt, Its going to stain but as you wash this tshirt in hot water and soap the colour molecules are slowly but surely washed away with every wash. It works pretty much the same with direct hair colour. So when educating your clients about caring for their vibrant hair tell them to limit any thing super oxidating... hot water, heated tools and super suddy shampooes will be the biggest reason their vibrant colour is fading. Cool water rinses and a decent colour safe shampoo that is free from SLS (the 'bad' sulphate) are they best ways to keep their colour fresh and lasting.


Why are my direct colours I'm applying coming out different to colour in the bowl?

Colour Theory!! We all know when you lighten the hair you reveal the undertone. Usually with most Vibrant colours you want to get to at least a yellow base so they are bright and vibrant. When mixing your potion of Vibrant colour imagine you were about to paint a wall... lets say we have a nice blue paint to paint our brilliant white wall, Once painted it is gonna look blue and true to tone like it is in the mixing pot, a bit lighter as its mixed with white now and may need a few coats but same tone none the less. Now think if you had a magnolia wall and painted with the blue paint from your mixing bowl, its going to look muddy green, dull and probably a bit different from the colour in the bowl. The reason for this is colour theory. Blue + Yellow = green. Its that simple. Never underestimate simple colour theory when using vibrants.

You can use the undertone to your advantage when mixing also. Want a peach finish? Peach is essentially a pastelised orange, what makes orange? Yellow + red. If you have lifted the hair to a true yellow you would only have to add a diluted red onto the hair to acheive your peach. If applying cool side colours of the colour wheel I would always pre tone to rid the hair of yellow to acheive a true tone.





If you feel you could brush up on your colour theory my colour theory booklet is available from my store for download. :)


What is the best way to apply vibrants to hair?

I would always advise apply your vibrant of choice to freshly shampooed fully dried hair. Some stylists choose to apply to damp hair, that is there choice and if it is working for them then amazing, nothing is wrong we all just have our own preferences.

My reason for applying to dried hair is this...Think back to when we described the hair as a sponge, If a sponge was full of cold water and you dipped it in hot water the center would still be cold? Yes. This is because the sponge is already full of moisture the same as hair would be when wet/ damp. When applying a direct colour to the hair when damp there is still some water molecules in parts of the hair leading to patchy uneven and diluted colour. If you apply to dry hair you are working on an even canvas and the hair is able to 'suck' up as much of the direct colour it is capable of. Shampooing the hair before applying opens the cuticle enabling the direct dye to penetrate into the hair and stain resulting in more vibrant longer lasting colours. Applying to damp hair may save time in the salon but you are compromising vibrancy and longevity of your colour.


Educating your client on looking after their Vibrants.

I always over in the consultation what it takes to upkeep a vibrant colour, What they can hope it will fade to and cost. As we previously discussed vibrant colours are stains on the hair. Things that get out stains as in soapy suds and hot water are a big no when it comes to getting the most out of their vibrant colour. If a clients tells me in the consultation the are using a supermarket brand shampoo I know will effect their hair I simply tell them they will be washing their money down the sink. Most of the over the counter shampoo brands contain Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) or Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). SLS can be derived from Petroleum, coconut oil or palm oil. Petroleum based SLS can be super drying on the hair and effect your colours. Some supermarket brands use petroleum derived sulphate as it is cheaper. Brands such as #Aveda as an example use sulphates derived from brazil nut and coconut which are gentler on the hair.

Educating your client to watch out for these ingredients can be a big help to keeping their colour fresh and vibrant. Curly hair/co-wash shampoos are usually my go to for vibrant clients as they dont lather which means no suds resulting in longer lasting colours. Advise on cooler hairwashes, no heated tool and good products.


Does Lightening powders "push" direct colour deeper into the hair?

Simple answer is no. No way. If you apply a lightener to direct colour treated hair and it seems to be getting brighter its because the undertone is being lifted. Due to where the Direct colour lives on the hair shaft it is virtually impossible to "push" it into the hair shaft. This is a myth.



The best advice I can give to someone when learning to use direct dyes is take these things into consideration first -

  1. Hair porosity - This is important as porous hair acts like a sponge, think if the holes in a sponge as lifted hair cuticles, the more damaged and overprocessed the hair is the more 'holes'. Porous hair will suck up colour quickly which can be great when using direct dyes but also will effect the longevity of your vibrant colour. If hair is super porous make sure you are using a acid conditioner or low ph conditioner to seal down that cuticle afterwards. Leaving the hair for 48 hours before shampooing after a direct dye will help longevity also. As always advising on using professional, colour safe shampoo and conditioner is a must.

  2. Working with your colour wheel when formulating your Vibrant mix to ensure you are enhancing and netralising properly. Remember pretoning is advised when using cooler violets and blues.

  3. Make sure your application is spot on. Dont scrimp on product and massage into the hair to ensure you are getting it into ALL the hair.

  4. Make a print out at home care advise card to cover yourself for when fade happens. If they follow your rules this should be limited. Covering yourself and honestly explaining always works best for me


So after all that spraffing does Vibrant colour work seem a but less daunting?


Comment below on anything you want to discuss about vibrants and how they work. Do you agree or disagree?






#brighthaircolour #vibranthaircolour #haircolourtheory #haircoloureducation