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Metallic Dyes and Perming

Q: I am a stylist and I did have a question on something when it comes to perming hair. Although I am pretty sure I have correct information already, I’d rather be safe than sorry. So, my question is: I know that there are color lines (mostly from over the counter at the grocery store) that have metallic dyes in them. I know with these you are not "supposed" to lighten over these, and I would assume the same with a perm, but is there a certain perm that I can use over these colors that my clients have used to still give them the service that are wanting, or are they pretty much S.O.L.? Anyhow, let me know. It would be greatly appreciated.
 
A: As much as I hate to say it, there is no way to safely perm hair that has been colored using a progressive hair dye (one using metallic salts).
 
      Metallic, or progressive, dyes use metallic salts to gradually color the hair through reactions with the sulfur in the keratinized proteins that make up the hair and through oxidation on the surface of the hair. Many people like these products because of their gradual progression, which allows for a subtle change over time in the hair color, and the natural-looking results. However, these dyes leave metallic deposits in the hair which can then cause undesired chemical reactions when exposed to certain ingredients in other common chemical services.
 
      The developer used in the most common haircolor formulas, hydrogen peroxide, and the chemicals used to break and reform the disulfide bonds in a perming service, ammonium-thioglycolate and hydrogen peroxide, react with these metallic deposits and in some cases literally destroy the integrity of the hair. In the best case scenario, the hair will suffer traumatic amounts of damage.
 
      In my days of schooling for cosmetology, one of our instructors decided to give us a demonstration of exactly what would happen in these situations. We were divided into groups and assigned a blonde manikin to work with. We were to use a progressive dye on the manikin for a week to darken the color, and the following week performed a ‘lift and color’ service on one-half of the manikin’s hair and a perm service on the other half.
 
      In my group, we opted for a relatively low-lift color (using 20-volume peroxide) for the color side, and found that the hair was left in terrible shape. It was completely fried, and once dry would literally crumble at the slightest touch. The side on which we performed the perm service however was even more dramatic. The hair was wound on perm rods, and the waving lotion was applied. The hair was so badly damaged that fewer than half of the perm rods (and the hair wrapped around them) remained attached to the head by the time the neutralizer was finished processing.
 
      For your clients who have used metallic salt dyes, your best (and pretty much only) solution is to help them style their hair using conventional, non-chemical styling techniques until the metallic dyes have grown out, at which point the hair can be permed and recolored using more standard hair dyes.
 
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