Hair dye has been around for thousands of years. As trends shift, stylists are finding more uses for permanent coloring that go beyond the basic foils. Highlights, balayage, rooting and ecaille are just a few of the many coloring techniques offered both at salons and with do-it-yourself drugstore kits. Despite its widespread popularity, many people wonder if hair dye can cause thinning or shedding. For most, dying your hair a new shade does not directly cause follicle damage and hair loss.
When administered by a professional and experienced stylist, hair coloring is relatively safe. Regular treatments may cause some damage, particularly to your ends, but this can be easily resolved with routine trims.
Dyed hair holds different properties compared to natural hair and behaves differently depending on your level of care. The upkeep required to preserve shine and health on dyed or highlighted hair is more complex, which is why permanent hair coloring is regarded as a serious commitment and not a chance decision.
Hair dye works by penetrating the hair cuticle, first entering the cortex and then reacting with the melanin in your strands. Most formulas contain chemicals to facilitate this process, like ammonia and/or peroxide, depending on the desired shade. Ultimately, this chemical reaction causes a manipulation of the hair shaft.
Some people might experience hair loss after coloring simply due to the physical stress. In a typical hair coloring appointment, multiple stages are used to create the final look, including dying, rinsing, conditioning, and then rinsing again. The average person sheds anywhere between 50 to 100 telogen hairs per day, and an aggressive styling treatment might put you on the higher end of the scale. So, while it seems like you’ve shed more strands after coloring, you’re likely still within the normal (albeit elevated) range of hair loss. Telogen is the final stage of the hair growth cycle when follicles naturally release old shafts to make room for new growth.
Generally, follicles that fail to reproduce replacement shafts are afflicted with another hair loss condition, like male-pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia). In these cases, treatments like low-level laser therapy work to rejuvenate hair follicles, providing the nutrients and elements needed for healthy hair growth.
It’s important to note the distinction between hair breakage and hair loss. Hair loss is a condition in which the follicles are damaged or inactive, and any strands lost will feature an intact bulb. Hair breakage occurs further down the shaft. While breakage is not caused by follicle inactivity or damage, excessive damage may lead to an overall thin appearance.
Hair shafts are inherently weakened after coloring, most often when hydrogen peroxide is used to achieve a lighter shade. When hair is bleached or lightened with hydrogen peroxide, strands become more porous and susceptible to protein loss over time. The breakdown of hair proteins – or keratins – is often what causes hair to break.
However, safe levels of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia as used by professional stylists should not damage strands to the point where breakage is noticeable or embarrassing. Transitioning hair from dark to light will often require multiple appointments and is not something you should try at home without expert management and direction.