Style Icon Ayan

By Jc of The Nat­ur­al Haven

There is a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties with hair colour and nat­ur­al hair is the ide­al base for it giv­en there is no addi­tion­al chem­i­cal process (e.g relax­ing) which can great­ly weak­en hair. Here is your guide to what is in com­mer­cial hair colour.

There are three main ways to colour hair

*Editor’s Note: The British spelling of the world col­or is used through­out this arti­cle.

1. Bleaching

The colour of hair aris­es from melanin locat­ed inside the cor­tex. In order to per­ma­nent­ly change the colour of very dark hair to a lighter colour (for exam­ple going from black to dark brown or from dark brown to light brown or blonde), it is almost always nec­es­sary to first bleach it. Com­mer­cial bleach kits gen­er­al­ly con­tain either hydro­gen per­ox­ide or ammo­ni­um hydrox­ide as bleach­ing agents. These ingre­di­ents work at high pH (nor­mal­ly 8 or more) so that the cuti­cle can be lift­ed and allow pen­e­tra­tion of the bleach which then breaks down the melanin.

Bleach­ing in gen­er­al is not gen­tle to hair and affects the hair’s mechan­i­cal strength as well as dis­rupts the cuti­cle.

2. Permanent Hair Colour

Per­ma­nent hair colour is essen­tial­ly a way to replace the pig­ment inside the hair with a colour of choice. A broad spec­trum of colours can be achieved with per­ma­nent hair colour (from the nor­mal spec­trum — black, brown, blonde and red to the more adven­tur­ous spec­trum — pink,purple,green, yel­low etc). Nor­mal­ly per­ma­nent hair colour starts with a bleach­ing process as described above and then a pig­ment of choice is used to replace the colour inside the hair shaft. The ingre­di­ents in per­ma­nent hair colour usu­al­ly include an agent to cre­ate the high pH alka­line envi­ron­ment (e.g ammo­nia), a bleach to light­en colour (e.g per­ox­ide ) and pig­ment of var­i­ous inten­si­ties (e.g benzene/phenol com­pounds .A com­mon exam­ple is PPD)

Per­ma­nent hair colour pro­cess­ing is also in gen­er­al not gen­tle as it involves a bleach­ing process as well as high pH.

3. Semi permanent /Demi permanent

Semi per­ma­nent colour is dif­fer­ent from per­ma­nent hair colour because bleach­ing is not nor­mal­ly nec­es­sary to achieve the final colour. Many semi per­ma­nent colours use low lev­els of ammo­nia to cre­ate a high pH envi­ron­ment but oth­ers have no ammo­nia. The pig­ment is placed usu­al­ly under­neath the cuti­cle and some­times can pen­e­trate to the out­er regions of the cor­tex. Depend­ing on poros­i­ty (the more porous the hair, the fur­ther the colour can pen­e­trate) and how often hair is washed/wetted, the hair colour can last for a 2–3 weeks. It will even­tu­al­ly fade away and semi per­ma­nent colours can­not light­en hair. Very dark hair will not have a notice­able change with­out the use of bleach to ini­tial­ly light­en hair.

Demi per­ma­nent colour is gen­er­al­ly used to tem­porar­i­ly cov­er grey hair. It is sim­i­lar to semi per­ma­nent colour in many aspects  but the key dif­fer­ences are that nor­mal­ly the colour is nor­mal­ly just deposit­ed on the out­side of hair (so less cuti­cle dam­age) and while a high pH envi­ron­ment is also nor­mal­ly need­ed, often chem­i­cal­ly weak­er sub­sti­tutes for ammo­nia can be used. Demi per­ma­nent colours tend to be dark­er and have a ten­den­cy to build up eas­i­ly on hair. They nor­mal­ly last much longer than semi per­ma­nent hair colour — 1–2 months.  Not all com­pa­nies dis­tin­guish between ‘demi-per­ma­nent’ and ‘semi per­ma­nent’.

Semi and demi per­ma­nent colour process­es are both regard­ed as much gen­tler than per­ma­nent colour or bleach­ing (pro­vid­ed that hair is not bleached pri­or to the process).

Final Word

The process of get­ting per­ma­nent hair colour will almost always involve high pH (to lift the cuti­cle), bleach (to destroy melanin) and then the pig­ment added (to cre­ate the new colour).

Many nat­u­rals often ask me about Ave­da (were you about to ask?) because they state that their hair colour ingre­di­ents are 97% nat­u­ral­ly derived.  Many nat­u­rals there­fore think that the process is dif­fer­ent and more gen­tle. I did request the ingre­di­ents from Ave­da and the list­ing does show that some prod­ucts do have ammo­ni­um hydrox­ide (bleach) and even PPD was list­ed. (PPD is a com­mon hair dye which is known to pro­duce aller­gic reac­tions in some peo­ple. You may know it from the warn­ings about black henna/pico hen­na. Some coun­tries are look­ing to or have already banned it).

Does this mean that Ave­da colour is not nat­u­ral­ly derived — no in fact both of these ingre­di­ents can be made from nat­ur­al ingre­di­ents. The impor­tant thing is to know that the per­ma­nent hair colour­ing process is essen­tial­ly mak­ing a chem­i­cal change to hair regard­less of whether the dye is nat­u­ral­ly derived or not.

Choos­ing to per­ma­nent­ly colour your hair means mak­ing a choice to weak­en your hair, this does not mean your hair will break or fall off. If done cor­rect­ly, you can achieve good colour results and main­tain your hair. How­ev­er, not all hair will be able to be per­ma­nent­ly coloured with­out dam­age. Com­ing up next is the guide to the actu­al process of get­ting the colour in the salon.

Ladies, have you ever col­ored your hair? Have you ever con­sid­ered it? Share your expe­ri­ences below!

Jour­nal of the Soci­ety of Cos­met­ic Chemists, pp 347–371, 1993
Jour­nal of the Soci­ety of Cos­met­ic Chemists, pp 133–140, 1997
Jour­nal of Cos­met­ic Sci­ence, pp377-389, 2001

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55 Comments on "The Natural’s Guide to Bleaching and Hair Color, Part 1"

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[…] BGLH: The Natural’s Guide to Bleach­ing and Hair Colour: Part One […]

Casey Jones

Thanks for the hair col­or tips. I love yours! I wish my hair was as curly as yours is. It looks so great.

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I love your blog.. very nice col­ors & theme. Did you cre­ate this web­site your­self or did you hire some­one to do it for you?
Plz reply as I’m look­ing to con­struct my own blog and would like to find
out where u got this from. appre­ci­ate it


I heard hon­ey is a good and nat­ur­al hair dye. Lemon is good too. I’m going to try hon­ey on my dread­locks and see how it works out! #team nat­ur­al#


oooo. let me know how that works out. I have nat­ur­al hair and was think­ing about doing a semi per­ma­nent dye to col­or it blonde. But it looks like it won’t work. So la la. I’ve only col­ored my hair 3 X in my life. Always use semi. Maybe I’ll just stay dark and gray. LOL. I went nat­ur­al to move away from per­ox­ides and ammo­nia asso­ciate with relax­ers. Lov­ing it!

im Domini­can and have very full curly hair. i am pret­ty adven­tur­ous with my hair and have cut it short, cut it into a mohawk, relaxed it, as well as dyed and bleached it. cur­rent­ly im let­ting it grow out and have been bleach­ing it in order to get a plat­inum blonde. being that i relaxed about a year or 2 ago i was hes­i­tant to bleach bc it havent cut my hair and was afraid it would fur­ther dam­age my hair. i decid­ed to start con­di­tion­ing my hair and try­ing nat­ur­al hair masques in order to strength­en my hair… Read more »

I’m scared my tex­ture will change ;/


This is real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, You are a very pro­fes­sion­al blog­ger. I have joined your feed and stay up for in search of extra of your won­der­ful post. Addi­tion­al­ly, I have shared your web­site in my social net­works


Is devel­op­er the same thing as bleach??

Tamara South

I use hen­na on my hair and I love it. It changed my hair col­or and last­ed for months if you are inter­est­ed in the com­pa­ny I use let me know.


Dark & Love­ly Broke my hair off, Revlon broke my hair off and Feria broke my hair off. Clairol for black women hair dye is real­ly good and so is Gar­nier.. but I’ve noticed that dying my hair has changed the tex­ture of my hair and has loos­ened up my curls. I am cur­rent­ly tran­si­tion­ing from dying my and going back to the col­or Yah­weh gave me… but some­times that blonde be call­ing me to come back LoL

Candice Selby

I went to my styl­ist a few months ago to get col­or and he bleached my hair with­out me know­ing it. I was in tears when I looked at what my hair col­or was when I left there. It was hor­ri­ble! I did not have a lot of break­age but, my tex­ture was dif­fer­ent where I had the col­or. I will prob­a­bly col­or again but, I will NOT bleach.

I have recent­ly col­ored (Bleached) my nat­ur­al hair. I pur­pose­ly chose to have only the ends — about 3″ out of 8″ length — done just in case this was a dis­as­ter. It wasn’t. I like it, some days. I have now been there, done that. I’ll nev­er say nev­er but I think for the goals I have in mind for my hair this was not the smartest thing I could have done. And I prob­a­bly won’t be try­ing this again. I don’t see any hor­ren­dous dam­age, how­ev­er, I can feel the rough, dry ends and have had to alter… Read more »

I dyed my hair with Dark&Lovely’s Hon­ey Blonde about 2 months ago and I’ve indeed had to up the mois­ture in my dai­ly hair rou­tine. How­ev­er, before I even got the col­or I’d been doing week­ly deep con­di­tion­ing with hon­ey and olive oil. The bot­tom line is that if you’re con­sid­er­ing per­ma­nent hair color,you must have a strict hair reg­i­men.

cathy kaufman

If you are hav­ing wrin­kles on your face and you are look­ing for a nat­ur­al treat­ment then go for Hydro­derm Age Defy­ing Wrin­kle Serum. This helps adding glow to your skin but also hides your wrin­kles. So add charm and beau­ty to your face by using this prod­uct.

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Muqan Gpoma

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Hey All,

I’ve been bleach­ing my hair for the past 5 years & def­i­nite­ly don’t think it is for the faint of heart. Your hair must be in OPTIMAL con­di­tion before going through the chem­i­cal process. I’ve found that on my 3c/4a hair the most impor­tant thing is to deep con­di­tion with EVERY WASH, keep my hair mois­tur­ized and main­tain a good bal­ance of pro­tein.

I say test it out on a strand before div­ing in head first.


I recent­ly got my hair bleached and col­ored for the first time and it was the scari­est thing I’ve ever done!! Get­ting your hair bleached is very harsh, the chem­i­cal stinks and your hair becomes very very frag­ile. The first month was rough, but once I found the right leave in con­di­tion­er and oil I will nev­er look back! My nat­ur­al hair col­or is 1–1b and I got it dyed magen­ta and violet…sounds a but strange but I LLOOVVEE it. My advice is go to a pro­fes­sion­al, find a GREAT leave in and cut back on the flat iron
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I used to have relaxed hair back in June. For my prom I had my hair relaxed and the back of it col­ored (bleached then blued), despite what I’ve been pre­vi­ous­ly warned, I lis­tened to the hair­dress­er and did every­thing in one trip. I regret­ted so much the moment my hair fell out in the sink. The one bless­ing is that the inci­dent pushed me to grow out my perm, some­thing I’ve been want­ed to do for 3 years now but it just seemed to incon­ve­nient. I have box braids in now and my hair has grown 2 1/2 inch­es… Read more »

My hair is nat­ur­al and per­ma­nent­ly col­ored “nat­ur­al Black.” I want to col­or it a vibrant cop­per red. I’ve been told that I’ll have to “lift” the black first and then col­or imme­di­ate­ly. Sounds like alot­ta wear and tear on my hair, but, I real­ly wan­na go red. Any tips?


i’ve got­ten it high­light­ed. the first time was a sub­tle red. the 2nd time was a light brown. this time around it was more of a dark brown. it’s been awhile so now the col­or is start­ing to light­en up. i make sure to keep my hair mois­tur­ized and to deep con­di­tion every 2 weeks so that it wont dry up and break off.

Shani Drake

I’ve bleached my hair in the past at a salon but it’s been a few years and now I want to try it myself. My hair is black and I want it to be blonde, is it OK to do more than one bleach­ing in one day.


I would like to hear from any­one with dread­locks who have dyed them. I’m won­der­ing if it would be more dif­fi­cult espe­cial­ly if you can’t mois­tur­ize your hair with thick con­di­tion­ers like you would with loose strands.
I’ve been think­ing about bleach­ing my locs for a long time now. I feel like my hair has been at its health­i­est in this state so I def­i­nite­ly don’t want to reverse that. But I also think because it’s in this state my hair would deal with bleach­ing bet­ter.

Trainee Rapunzel

I bleached my locks when I had them and the hair stood strong, but it was much dri­er as a result…

Hi every­one! I’ve been colour­ing my hair most of my life and went gin­ger blonde (bleached) when I first went nat­ur­al near­ly two years ago. I colour my hair every 3–4 months using Creme of Nature Tex­tures and Tones Gin­ger Blonde. I have very thick, coarse and extreme­ly cozi­ly hair. To be hon­est I have suf­fered no dam­age at all. My curls do get dry some­times but only I drop off my regime for a cou­ple of days. Mois­ture mois­ture mois­ture is the key! I do a hot oil treat­ment on Sat­ur­days, steam and deep con­di­tion on Sun­days and wet… Read more »
I am so glad some­one final­ly broke the hair­col­or­ing thing down. So many nat­u­rals play around with the idea of col­or­ing their hair but don’t know where to begin. Thank you for this! There’s a huge stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with col­or­ing your hair — hair break­age, dry­ness, dam­age, etc. — but in my expe­ri­ence (both as a dyed nat­ur­al & an ex-hair­styl­ist) because nat­ur­al hair is vir­gin hair (mean­ing hair that’s not chem­i­cal­ly altered with a relax­er or tex­tur­iz­er), it can take much more than we think. (For the record: I HATE the term ‘vir­gin hair,’ but it’s a ter­mi­nol­o­gy that’s stuck… Read more »

I love the colour of your hair! I’m think­ing this is the colour I want my hair to be…lol the only catch is I have very dark skin, so I know it will look insane to some. I thought it would be fun and if its not as enter­tain­ing as I thought it would be I could just cov­er it with a dark rinse right? (I know lit­tle about colour­ing obviously…but I look for­ward to learn­ing!)


omg, that shade. I want.
And obvi­ous­ly, you’re beau­ti­ful.


love the col­or! looks great and pret­ty curls


I col­or my hair. I real­ize that it makes my hair more dry/ extreme­ly dry actu­al­ly. I just have to make sure to give it even more TLC than i usu­al­ly do. I wouldn’t tell some­one not to col­or their hair. It’s just that if you do; remem­ber that it strips your hair and can be dry­ing. My hair is nat­u­ral­ly dark brown and kind of dusty look­ing. Dying my hair black makes my face and hair look bet­ter. So…

i love dye. i would not bleach again, even though cur­rent­ly i do have bleached strands that are about 3 inch­es down from my roots. I’ve been grow­ing it out since jan­u­ary, and i’ll prob­ly opt for less dam­ag­ing process­es. my hair actu­al­ly looks very good because i deep con­di­tion a lot and con­di­tion­er is my best friend. bleach dries your hair a lot, so that’s the biggest detrac­tor from using bleach. I’ll more than like­ly choose dark­er col­ors than blonde in future to dye my hair, and may look into hen­na and indi­go. i think that if you know… Read more »

I just decid­ed the oth­er day that I want­ed to dye my hair. I’m think­ing of a dark brown/red col­or but I’m so unsure of how to go about dying it myself. I’ve only had high­lights in my hair once and I received them in a salon.

Any tips?


I used to dye my hair often, even a blondish col­or like the girl above. How­ev­er, since then, I have devel­oped a dye aller­gy (thank you, PPD, thank you stu­pid snail hen­na tat­too from Senior Week of High School). I use hen­na to achieve a dark­er black (my hair is nat­u­ral­ly a black-brown, I would pre­fer a brown or black), and I have recent­ly been con­sid­er­ing bleach­ing my hair, to then dye it red with hen­na… but that would require bleach, and I don’t wan­na put my hair through that deba­cle again!

Sapphic Seduction

I dye my hair jet black (dark n love­ly) about twice a year a few days after doing an aphogee pro­tein treat­metreat­ment. I’d love to bleach it white but I’ve done that before. It looked great but my hair broke off. I get coloured wigs if i fan­cy a change…

In about a year I had pink, blonde, brown, black AND red hair. I loved it! I’m think­ing about mix­ing my deep con­di­tion­er with the last of the pink so I can get a dark pink tint on my hair for sum­mer. Just to shake things up a bit :)  If you’ve nev­er used bleach, I would go to a pro­fes­sion­al or have some­one “with expe­ri­ence” do it for you. And remem­ber, if you’re aim­ing for an unnat­ur­al col­or (pink, blue, pur­ple, etc.) the whiter you go the more vivid the col­or will be. But get­ting to that white, espe­cial­ly if you’ve… Read more »

I’d love to see pic­tures :D I also dyed my hair pink this year!

I’ve bleached my hair as well as use box dyes in my hair before. A year ago I decid­ed I hat­ed the bleached out col­or sim­i­lar to Ayan’s and grabbed the near­est box dye (Bigen brand) and dyed my hair jet black, and that was work­ing for me but the crave for a red­dish col­or got the best of me and i’ve been mix­ing hen­na to get it but to no avail I walked into Ave­da to col­or my hair and only the roots got col­ored, my ends are still hold­ing on to the jet black. Sigh! I guess this… Read more »

I dyed my hair a blondish brown col­or about 9 years ago. Loved the col­or, but didn’t real­ly have a clue how to take care of my hair back then. So, it obvi­ous­ly broke off — it was a com­bi­na­tion of col­or­ing and poor hair tech­niques.

Although, I have no inten­tion of col­or­ing my hair in the future, I have won­dered about indi­go and hen­na.


I too thought about indi­go and hen­na as alter­na­tives, how­ev­er, from what I under­stand, indi­go will dark­en the hair and hen­na turns it shades of red…I want some­thing in the gold­ish brown fam­i­ly…

Thirties Gal

Thanks for putting this up now, was actu­al­ly just think­ing about colour­ing. Look­ing for­ward to the sec­ond part!


Me too!

My BFF is a styl­ist and she rec­om­mends that if I want to get a last­ing col­or, I bleach, but I’m not that into bleach­ing my hair, for fear of it becom­ing unhealthy :(
I’m think­ing I’ll have to do the Semi Per­ma­nent, and learn how to reap­ply it myself.


I real­ly want to get my hair to a whitish or pale blonde, any bleached nat­u­rals got any tips?

Tip 1# PATIENCE! Because you don’t want to bleach your hair in 1 time to get to that col­or or you hair will be dam­aged, you should dye it to every 3–6months to obtain that col­or. I great­ly rec­om­mend a hair-dress­er (if you can) but if you do it at home, have some­one with you to check how the col­or is, to put the same amount of hair dye, to make it a quick process so you will have an even col­or. Also be ready to DEEP CONDITION tip 2#, all the-freak­ing-time!! Beau­ti­ful healthy col­ored hair must be tak­en care… Read more »

Thank you! This is going to get some get­ting used to because I only wash my hair once every month and oil it every two weeks! How much will it cost for a good bleach­ing?


The cost in Europe is 9–15Euros.


If you wash/deep con­di­tion often, won’t you lose the col­or inten­si­ty?


by often i mean like once a week for DC and for co-wash, it depends on how you feel.



Hey guys! My hair is a chest­nut brown/red col­or I absolute­ly love, so I’ve nev­er dyed it but I did bleach it twice. The first time, I bleached my tips (while I was still get­ting perms) this caused my hair to become very bri­tle and dam­aged at the ends. It was extreme­ly dry as well. I end­ed up grad­u­al­ly cut­ting it off an it was gone with­in eight months. The Sec­ond time I bleached I expe­ri­enced sim­i­lar results. I bleached one strip of hair in the front of my head (imag­ine Wiz Khal­i­fa but long :D) and I am still… Read more »
Hey, i’ve dyed my hair count­less times and in feb­ru­ary I bleached it for the first time. Dying my hair was nev­er a prob­lem before, i nev­er need to pay extra care to besides for the two first weeks but then I would get lazy but my curls would always stay the same and wouldn’t be any dried. I don’t rec­om­mend bleach tough, it depends how your hair will react but mine didn’t quite well react. I had to cut quite a lot of ends and pay very extra-care to it for the last 4 months. Bleach­ing is great to change… Read more »

How much length did you retain if you had to trim every month? Or did you just trim for esthet­ics?


I trimmed quar­ter an inch.