Everything You Need to Know About Colouring Hair

When it comes to hair styling, colour plays a huge part. Here at Rush, we know just what a great dye job can do; it can lift your cut and boost your confidence tenfold. So, whether you’re refreshing your roots, switching up your existing shade or going for a complete colour change, get the low-down […]

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When it comes to hair styling, colour plays a huge part. Here at Rush, we know just what a great dye job can do; it can lift your cut and boost your confidence tenfold. So, whether you’re refreshing your roots, switching up your existing shade or going for a complete colour change, get the low-down on hair dyeing with our expert 101.


A Brief History of Hair Colour

Hair dyeing isn’t a modern-day phenomenon; since time immemorial, people have been tampering with their natural colour to match the trends of the day. Admittedly, they had a lot less to play with back then (alas, ancient man never got to enjoy mermaid hair), but that didn’t stop anyone from slathering DIY dyes on their scalps regardless. Yep, hair colouring goes way back.

Ancient Hair Dyeing Techniques

Ancient Egyptians used to camouflage greys using henna; the ancient Greeks and Romans used plant extracts to dye their tresses. In fact, the Greeks – finding inspiration in golden-haired idols like Aphrodite – formulated harsh, bleach-like soaps to lighten their hair. And the Romans were one of the earliest civilisations to create a permanent black dye; it was just too toxic to use, so they switched to a formula made with fermented leeches instead – nice.

In fact, the development of chemical dye didn’t happen until much later. It can be traced back to a chance moment in the late 1800s, when English chemist William Henry Perkin created the first synthesised dye whilst trying to find a cure for malaria (fun fact). The colour it created was a purplish mauve, so Perkins called it mauveine. His chemistry professor August Hoffman then produced a colour-changing molecule from the mauveine called para-phenylenediamine or PPD – a chemical that’s still widely used in the industry today.

The Invention of Synthetic Hair Dyes

Having said that, a good few years passed before synthetic hair dyes began to emerge on the market. It wasn’t until 1907, when French chemist (and L’Oréal founder) Eugène Schueller first began producing chemical hair dyes – which he called Auréole – for commercial use. After initially selling his product to Parisian salons, Schueller founded his own company in 1909 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout the 1900s, hair colours became more advanced with better staying power; home hair dye kits were developed and sold all over the world. In 1956, Clairol introduced the first one-step colour that lightened hair without bleaching it. And, because it was an at-home hair dye, women could colour their hair more discreetly; Clairol’s product was a huge hit, and it arguably helped to change attitudes towards hair dye too.

The initial stigma (or rather, secrecy) that circled hair colouring did start to dissipate. At the beginning of the century, hair dyeing was, as Victoria Sherrow says in her book Encyclopaedia of Hair: A Cultural History, ‘regarded as immodest, daring and somewhat “low class.”’ By the 1970s, attitudes towards hair had completely shifted; by the 1980s, everyone – even Hollywood A-listers – championed hair colour. With celebrity endorsements, full-page advertisements and a wider range of colours available, hair dye had become a cosmetic staple for men and women everywhere.

Today, hair colouring products still make up a huge percentage of the beauty industry’s revenue. As new products and trends continue to develop, there’s even more room for colourists to get creative. Yes, our lasting love affair with hair colour is here to stay!

What to Know Before Colouring Your Hair

Ever had a hair dyeing disaster? Hey, everyone’s entitled to a few in their lifetime; you just don’t want to hear the words ‘colour correction’ past teenhood! So, before you reach for the nearest bottle of DIY dye, listen up: here are our top tips for colouring hair.

Book a Professional Consultation with a Colourist

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with at-home colouring kits, there’s more risk involved once you take professionals out of the equation. And if you’re looking to completely change your colour, you should definitely leave it to a qualified colourist! If you do choose to get your hair dyed at the salon, make use of your free consultation. It’s important that you and your colourist are on the same page; be honest about what you want – the process may take longer than you think. If you’re going from brunette to blonde, for example, it’s unlikely that you’ll achieve it in one sitting. Talking to your colourist about what you want beforehand will help to manage your expectations; a 15-minute consultation is the perfect time to decide on a look, shade and technique together – it means you’ll leave with the hair colour you’re after.

Consider Maintenance & Upkeep

Sadly, all hair dyes fade. There are things you can do to make colour-treated hair stay salon-fresh for longer, but at some stage, you’re going to have to freshen it up. The important thing to remember is this: not all hair colours are created equal. In other words, some colours are more high-maintenance than others.

Generally speaking, blonde hair is a little more difficult to maintain – especially if you’re a brunette. If you want to keep on top of your platinum blonde, you should expect to book more regular salon visits; depending on how blonde you want to be and how dark you are naturally, expect to go for root touch-ups every 4-12 weeks.

The bleaching process takes it out of hair too, so be prepared to spend a bit of time nourishing your bleached (and thirsty) locks with masks or conditioning treatments. Think about how much time you’re prepared to dedicate to the upkeep of your colour. If you’re the ‘get up and go’ type, you might want to choose something that’s easier to look after.

Think About What’s Going to Suit You

When perusing Pinterest, it’s easy to get carried away. In an ideal world, we’d all suit every colour out there; unfortunately, there’s a bit more to it than that. Colour is all about complexion; choose a shade that’s not going to compliment it and you’ll be left looking washed out. Find out which colours are going to suit your skin tone or speak to your stylist before anything touches your scalp.

You should also think about how your personal style is reflected in your cut and colour, and whether your desired colour is going to suit your lifestyle (could you get away with rocking a bold blue at the office, for example) and commitments. Being a bridesmaid for your bestie? Maybe check how well seafoam green will go down with her colour scheme (and your dress) first!

Do Your Research (and Take Pictures!)

Ash grey, marshmallow, espresso, ruby fusion – the world of hair colouring can be a complicated one. Colour lingo can mean different things from one stylist to the next; make sure you leave the salon with the shade you really want by swotting up beforehand. Get inspired by looking online; curate a Pinterest board or save some Insta snaps onto your phone to give your colourist some visual cues once you’re at the salon. You could even save some pictures of something you really don’t want as well (this is especially useful if you’re totally changing your colour but aren’t exactly sure about the shade).

Apply a Hair Mask the Day Before

To hydrate your hair and properly prepare it for the colouring process, you should apply a hair mask the day before. It’s better to use masks and deep conditioning treatments at this stage; using one straight afterwards could cause your colour to fade. In fact, you should avoid using heavy treatments for a couple of weeks after your hair is dyed to extend the colour.