A Culture Conversation.
Natural Hair Color
I always tell staff there’s no reason to skirt the topic of cultural background when explaining color. Knowing biological limitations is how we accurately formulate, so I wanted to share this info with readers and clients alike.
Colorists are the scientists of hair and our culture has a lot to do with hair color performance. An experienced colorist should address it, so knowing in advance this may come up helps. Biology is part of natural science. Understanding the natural science behind hair color is what separates a good hair colorist from an exceptional one.
Melanin’s role in hair color.
I have an entire post dedicated to melanin. Melanin is a protein pigment in our cells. Darker skin tones have more melanin, so naturally there will be more melanin in features like hair as well. That is why many dark-skinned people have brown eyes, and light skinned people have light eyes. When discussing features and how it relates to hair color, sometimes it’s an unavoidable chat.
It’s one I enjoy because I love learning new things by getting to know people. As a colorist, I also know warmth can live within skin tones, but it isn’t always visible. I can obviously see if hair is dark or light, but sometimes I ask about cultural background to keep hair as healthy as possible. This is done by choosing the least aggressive color formula, yet still achieve the desired results. Knowing if there are biological factors that make color resistant will help me create a safer, yet affective formula. Better results mean better service, which makes us all happy.
The Law of Color
When formulating hair color, colorists abide laws of theory and science called the “Laws of Color”. Humans don’t have natural green or purple hair, but it hasn’t stopped vivid and pastel colors from being popular. Salon color has had to evolve to meet the rising demand of extreme color requests. Creating vivid tones is a prime example of how we push the boundaries of “color laws” in our industry.
Culture and hair color is a logical and relative conversation as more color trends require lightening hair with high volume bleach. This is necessary to reflect vivid & pastel colors , but creates more risk to health of the hair. Yet is another example of us testing color limits. Though it may seem obvious, people often don’t connect biology and color results, but they’re very connected!
Stylists are born people pleasers. That’s why we’re trained, even conditioned, early in our career to avoid sensitive subjects. Culture might be perceived as one of these topics. To me, explaining color differences and culture is good practice because it directly affects hair color.
However, it can be an awkward conversation for some stylists.
We Celebrate Hair, Color and Culture
But when when coloring hair it’s important to know two people who have the same natural hair color may not have the same result because of cultural traits.
We love culture.
Culture is all around us. Like many businesses, the feeling inside of Studio 39 describes our culture. Different backgrounds are what make the phrase the “melting pot” of American culture. I am in the business of changing, shaping and maintaining human hair. To me, hair is hair. In all it’s beautiful glory, whether we trim, color or style hair, it’s still just hair. Changing hair color involves science. My experience is if I communicate expectation versus reality in a clear up front way, it avoids confusion and disappointment later. Good communication is everything, especially for a personal service.
Natural Levels and Cultural Descent
The natural color scale goes from 1-10 and was created from natural human hair colors. Level 1 is the beautiful blue-black color found in East Indian or Japanese hair. Color 10 is Swedish blonde of the Netherlands. Technically platinum isn’t even a color because it’s colorless! Our blonde and platinum page goes into greater detail on this.
Anglo (from Anglo Saxon descent) is the term I use to refer to hair with less melanin. Because of lower melanin in Caucasian Anglo skin, the hair naturally has less melanin versus hair of the same color in a person of Asian or Middle Eastern descent.
This is why I look at features like eye color and skin tone in a color consultation to determine the amount of natural occurring melanin. It affects how I create my formula and color plan because darker hair is more resistant to going lighter. Hair is more resistant in warmer olive skin tones, so culture is key when formulating.
Genetics and Hair Color
I have less melanin which is why I easily get sun burns. Vigilant sunscreen use has been part of my life since I was a kid. The low amount of melanin in my skin is also why my hair is a natural blonde. People with a hair color of light brown level 6 or higher can easily achieve lighter blonde tones like a 10 and up.
My natural color is a level 7 so I can get platinum hair without bleach because a higher natural starting point means a less aggressive hair color formula. Taking a level 7 to a 10 or 11 isn’t a big jump up. Factor in my light eye and skin tone, platinum levels at 11 or 12 are easily achieved because low melanin exists in my overall genetic make up.
Melting Pot Truth
As mankind evolved, we migrated and merged. Lighter shades of hair and skin become less prevalent because they are known as recessive genes. Every artist knows if you add a darker color to a lighter color, the darker shades deepen lighter hues. Humans are similar to art in that way.
My parents are both blue eyed blondes. Genetically the odds were high for me to have the same traits. My son’s father is Italian with black hair and green eyes. When my son was born his hair was jet black. He was so cute! His hair was so full and dark, it looked like a little baby wig.😍
As he became a toddler, he lost his newborn hair. It grew in blonde, then darkened to a medium dark brown around age 6. Since his dad and I both have lighter eye color, his eyes are light but his dad’s black hair and my blonde hair is why his hair is brown. Our 2 cultural traits combined created my sons features. Though he’s unique to me, we all carry traits from our heritage that make us uniquely individual.
Natural Decline of Natural Blonde
My son is an example of why a hair levels we consider natural blonde is only about 15% of the population. That will easily drop below 10% in the next decade. However, as lighter hair becomes less common, demand for lighter colors increase, forcing colorists to expand blonde techniques and further push the Laws of Color Theory.
If it’s possible in the world of color, we can do it- but a great colorist always factors biology when formulating. Changing a feature like hair color means knowing cultural features will affect that.❤