Corrective Color Facts
The Culture Conversation
Natural Hair Color and Culture
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. Colorists are the scientists of hair so it’s important to know a conversation about culture may come up. 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 so I can keep hair as healthy as possible. This is done by choosing the least aggressive color formula, yet still achieve the hair color my client wants. 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 rising demand of extreme color requests. Creating vivid tones is a prime example of how we push boundaries of “color laws” in our industry. Culture and hair color is a logical and relative conversation as color trends require us to lighten hair with higher volume bleach. It’s necessary to reflect vivid colors but creates more risk to compromising the health of the hair. This is another example of testing color boundaries. Though it may seem obvious, often people don’t connect biology and color performance, 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 we color hair it’s important to know two people who have the same hair color may not have the same color results because of traits within our culture.
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 “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 which gives a better salon experience.
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.
Genes and Culture
I have less melanin which is why I easily get sun burnt. 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 tones like a 10. 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.
As humankind evolves and merges, lighter shades of hair and skin become less prevalent. My parents are both blue eyed blondes so genetically the odds were high for me to have the same traits. My son’s dad 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 and darkened to a medium brown around age 6. Since his dad and I have light eyes, his eyes are light, but the combination of his dad’s black hair and my blonde hair is why his hair is brown. Our culture combined created his features that I love so much.
Changing a feature like hair color means knowing cultural features can affect that. My son is an example why a level 6 or 7 is only about 15% of the population and will drop below 10% in the next 10 years. As lighter natural hair fades, demand for hair color increases requiring blonding techniques increase. .If it’s possible in the world of color, we can do it-but a great colorist factors biology when formulating hair color. ❤