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Why Hydrogen Peroxide is added to hair colour

In order for permanent hair colour to work, it needs oxygen.  The harder you want the colour to work, the more oxygen you need. 

Hydrogen peroxide is an acid substance, pH 3.5 and is composed of 2 Hydrogen atoms (H) and 2 Oxygen atoms (O).  When the oxidising substance in the colour formula (i.e. ammonia) comes into contact with the Hydrogen peroxide, it releases the Oxygen from the compound. 

Hydrogen peroxide carries out the following functions:

Hydrogen peroxide balances the pH of the cosmetic colour

How much Hydrogen peroxide you need (the mixing ratio), depends on the pH of the colour formula.  Very alkaline substances damage the disulphide bonds in the hair structure causing damage and breakage.  The pH of the normal Inebrya tints are 9.5.  In order to balance the pH of the combination a mixing ratio of 1:1.5 is recommended.  This will lower the pH of the tint to an acceptable level to protect the integrity of the hair.  The Inebrya Superlighteners have a pH of 12 – thus more hydrogen peroxide is needed (a mixing ratio of 1:2) in order to bring down the pH of the mixture to within acceptable levels.

Hydrogen peroxide lifts the natural melanin from the hair

Hydrogen peroxide is labeled using either a %, a volume, or both.  Both measures indicate the concentration of oxygen available from the hydrogen peroxide contained in the bottle.

The % indicates the % of the content of the bottle that is pure Hydrogen peroxide.  The balance is water.  The Vol indicates the volume of oxygen that is released for every ml of contents.  For example, 1 ml of 20 Vol (6%) Hydrogen peroxide will release 20 ml of Oxygen. 

The concentration of oxygen in the Hydrogen peroxide will determine how much natural melanin will be removed from the hair.  Most hair colors require at least 1.5% peroxide to develop pigments contained in the color formulation.  Any remaining value in the peroxide creates the lift. 

Thus, the higher the volume or percentage, the more natural melanin will be removed and the lighter the hair will become.  Using too high of a volume developer can result in unnecessary lightening and major damage to the hair.  Too low a volume, and you may not get as light as you want.

Please keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide removes natural melanin and will not remove cosmetic colour.

Hydrogen peroxide oxidizes the pigments responsible for coloring the hair

When the Hydrogen peroxide is mixed with the colour formula, the oxidizing substance i.e. triggers the release of the oxygen that causes the colour molecules to polymerize and oxidise, getting trapped within the hair structure, thereby changing the colour of the hair.

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What to look for when choosing a permanent hair colour

Not all permanent cosmetic colour ranges are created equal.  But what criteria defines a high quality permanent hair colour?

  • The range should use ultrahigh-quality micro-pigments.  The smaller the size of the colour pigments, the better the penetration into the cortex prior to oxidation.
  • The colour pigments used should be free from mineral impurities to ensure excellent stability as well as colour duration.  You would not want any minerals effecting the end result that you are hoping to achieve.  Minerals, especially lead and aluminium, may furthermore causes allergic and chemical reactions.
  • All colour pigment molecules should be used during the colouring process, without waste, as any remaining pigments may alter the final result.  Most colour houses use actual weights of red, blue and yellow pigments in different ratios to obtain the nuances.  This, however, will lead to incorrect results as the pigments themselves are of different sizes and weights.  As a result, the weight of e.g. red pigments will lead to more molecules than required, as the red pigment molecule is smaller and lighter.  A Stoichiometric weighting system is more accurate.  This measures the actual number of molecules instead of the weight thereof, leading to more accurate ratios and more stable nuances.
  • All colours, especially fantasy colours, must already contain a component with a natural base.  This means that the colour does not have to be further mixed with a natural to obtain grey coverage.  It can be used as is.
  • It should have a delicate formula, free from p-Phenylenediamine (PpD) to ensure better scalp tolerance.  Look for brands that uses paratoluenediamine (PTD) instead of PpD, and for formulations with added Aloe Vera, to sooth scalp sensitivity.
  • If possible, look for brands that include natural oils and keratin in their permanent colour.  The oils maintain the moisture of the hair while the keratin protects the structure of the hair during the chemical process.  Good quality oils will also leave the hair with softness and shine.

Both the Inebrya and Bionic permanent colour ranges meet these criteria and is recommended to professional salons to ensure 100% grey coverage and colour durability.