Do Hair Dyes Damage Your Hair And Scalp?

Reviewed by Madison Dufour, Barber & Cosmetologist
Written by Arshiya Syeda

Gone are the days when people colored their hair in a bid to cover their grays. Now hair colors are more of a fashion statement. But as fun as they may look, the truth is that hair dyes damage your hair.

Whether you paint your hair in a natural balayage or play around with pastel or bright colors, the chemicals in hair dyes cause more harm than good. You probably observed your hair feeling weaker after you’ve colored it. This article is an exposé on how hair dyes actually damage your hair. Keep reading.

How Does Dye Affect Your Hair?

Hair dyes consist of a cocktail of chemicals – developer or oxidizing agent, ammonia, and coloring agent.

Ammonia opens the hair cuticles, and hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used oxidizing agent, penetrates the hair shaft to strip its natural pigment. When your natural hair color is gone, the coloring agents get to work and dye your hair (2).

Thus, hair dyes can alter your hair color permanently. But can dyeing your hair damage it in any way? Check out the next section for your answer. 

Does Dyeing Your Hair Damage It?

Yes, hair coloring makes your locks prone to damage. A dye does not merely stain your hair but penetrates the shaft to alter the natural hair pigment. Thus, frequent hair dyeing can strip the protective lipid layer from your hair, called the cuticle, leading to roughness and damage.

Moreover, a hair dye’s damage extends beyond your tresses. The chemicals present in hair dyes can cause allergies, dryness, scalp itchiness, and redness.

What can cause more damage to your locks – dying them a lighter color or a darker one? Scroll down for more information.

Light Vs. Dark Hair Colors: Which Is More Damaging?

Both light and dark hair colors use hydrogen peroxide that oxidizes your natural hair color, increasing the risk of hair damage. The developer (hydrogen peroxide) opens the cuticle and removes as much of the natural pigments from your hair as necessary to dye it permanently. Although it should be targeting melanin, the developer also interacts with keratin molecules, making your hair weak and prone to damage. 

When depositing color, you are putting color into the hair strand, where the artificial color molecules will cling to the original color molecules. When lightening the hair, the hydrogen peroxide lifts the cuticle and pulls the original color pigment out of the hair instead of depositing color to cling to it. Once these pigments have been removed from a hair strand, you cannot get them back.

Hence, choose a shade close to your original hair color while dyeing it permanently. This can be less damaging than darkening or lightening your hair beyond the range of its natural shades.

Is a semi-permanent hair dye just as damaging for your hair? Find out below.

Does Semi-permanent Color Damage Your Hair?

No, a semi-permanent dye is not as damaging as a permanent hair dye since it merely coats the hair with colors. It is free of peroxide and ammonia and does not bleach the natural pigments of your hair.

However, semi-permanent hair dye has its cons. You will only be able to darken the hair color and not lighten it with semi-permanent hair dyes. The color will fade after a few shampoo washes and requires frequent reapplication.

Dyeing your hair changes its structure, especially if you are using permanent hair color. But can the condition of your hair determine the severity of hair dye damage? Let us find out in the next section.

Hair Dye Damage: How Your Hair’s Condition Makes A Difference

Your hair changes the way it feels and behaves after dyeing. But the state of your hair at the time of your dye job also makes a difference.

Weak and fragile hair (means you have damaged cuticles) might not be able to hold the color. Also, coloring your weak hair can lead to breakage, hair fall, frizz, and broken cuticles. Ideally, you should stop dyeing your hair if it is already fragile to prevent any further damage.

You cannot just apply hair color anytime. Your hair should be clean and free of any buildup for the color to stick to your hair. Hence, wash your hair 24-48 hours before dyeing it for effective results.

If you want to color your hair, first, test its condition – how healthy or damaged it is. Understand the impact hair color will have on your hair and choose your options wisely.

Here are a few tricks to repair your damaged hair after dyeing. Read on!

What Can You Do To Repair Hair Dye Damage?

  • Use Deep Hydrating Products

Hair dyes can deplete the natural moisture levels of your hair. Choose deeply hydrating products, such as conditioners and hair masks, that seal the natural hair moisture and help combat hair color damage. Moisturized hair can retain the color better, making it last longer. Also, a hair spa treatment every 15 days can help keep your colored hair strong and healthy.

  • Opt For Color-Safe Products

Products meant specially for dyed hair prevent the hair color from fading and help prolong its life. They are usually sulfate-free and do not strip the essential moisture from your hair. Special shampoos, conditioners, serums, and hairsprays are available on the market for different types of hair dyes and shades. Choose one that matches your hair type and color for the best results.

  • Go For Hair Gloss Treatment

Hair gloss treatments help prolong the life of your colored hair. They moisturize and smoothen your locks and reduce frizz. These treatments prevent dullness and add shine to your colored hair. 

If you are in between coloring sessions and want to refresh your look, hair gloss treatments can come to your rescue. Indulge in this treatment if you want to tone your hair color and get rid of unwanted brassiness.

  • Apply Heat Protectants

Heat styling can severely dry out your hair, especially if you have dyed it. Use heat protectants every time you grab your styling tools. This will prevent any thermal damage and keep your colored hair soft and healthy.

Key Takeaways

  • Hair dyes may damage your hair as the chemicals in them open up hair cuticles and strip away the natural pigment from your tresses.
  • The damage caused by a semi-permanent hair dye is minimal compared to permanent hair dye.
  • The damage caused by dyeing can be managed using hydrating products, color-safe products, and heat protectants.

To Conclude

Dyeing your hair gives you a beautiful new look. While hair dyes damage your hair, it is not a cause of concern if you follow the above recommendations. The chemicals present in your hair dye may lead to hair breakage and damage. Thus, you need to combat this damage by using the right mix of hair care products. All you need is a little additional upkeep and maintenance, and you can achieve flawlessly hued flowing locks. Make sure you limit your overindulgence in permanent hair dyes and adequately nourish your tresses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does dying your hair damage it forever?

Yes, frequent use of permanent hair colors can have long-lasting detrimental effects on your hair.

Does dying your hair without bleach damage it?

Yes. The developer (hydrogen peroxide) chemically lifts the cuticle and will lightly damage the hair. If the hair is colored frequently and the developer lifts the cuticle often, more chemical damage is done to the hair.


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Madison Dufour

(Barber & Cosmetologist)
Madison Dufour is a licensed and practicing barber and cosmetologist as well as an entrepreneur running several hair businesses, including... more