Hair System Oxidation

Anytime you’re outside in the sun or otherwise expose your hair to UV light, chemicals or hair products, a natural process known as oxidation can slowly cause your hair to lighten and/or have reddish undertones.

To get scientific, this is a direct result of the loss of pigment – specifically green pigment – in the hair shafts, caused by exposure to the elements or chemicals. Oxidation causes the microscopic outer layer of hair follicles to peel back, releasing green color pigments and leaving behind red pigments, and thus producing a reddish undertone.

Oxidation damages the outer layer of the hair shaft. The processed hair used in hair systems is very vulnerable, because most of the protective cuticle layer has been removed. Therefore it is likely to fade faster than growing hair. Through a similar chemical process, synthetic hair also oxidizes.  

In order to prevent this, it's important to care for your system properly and protect the hair. By protecting the hair, your original color will last longer.

How to avoid oxidation

Color loss or change in your hair system isn’t something you should stress about. Here are a few tips to help you easily maintain color longer:

Sun protection

The sun is a major factor in color loss. We recommend using products that create a barrier against the sun's rays. Our store provides plenty of product choices that contain UV protection.

If you plan to spend long periods of time outdoors, you may want to consider wearing a hat or baseball cap. Whenever you protect your hair system from direct UV light, you delay oxidation.

Proper hair products

It’s important to wash and condition your hair with products that protect color and minimize oxidation. Try to use shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate-free or specifically designed for color protection; they will balance hair color and prolong vibrancy. Conditioning is very important to keep the hair soft and pliable, but it also helps prevent premature color oxidation. There are a wide range of specially-formulated color-correcting products available in our store.

Avoid the use of clarifying shampoos, as they strip hair color quicker.

Cool water

Rinse your hair with cool water rather than hot. This helps seal the hair shaft and delays the release of color.

Swim preparation

Salt water and chlorine are both very damaging and oxidizing to hair. This doesn’t mean you can’t go swimming! If you plan to go into a pool or ocean, wet your hair with filtered water and liberally apply a leave-in conditioner prior to swimming. The hair absorbs the conditioner and can better withstand the salt water and chlorine.

Avoid chlorine

As mentioned, the chlorine in water damages your system by drying and oxidizing the hair. When chlorine is not filtered out of water, the hair in your system gradually changes color and becomes prone to breakage, frizzing and tangling.

The water in an average home is more chlorinated than a swimming pool. Shower filters are an affordable way to filter out chlorine; they work well and are easy to install. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for your chosen product to properly maintain the filter throughout the year.

What to do if your hair oxidizes

If your hair system oxidizes and changes color, you have three options:

  1. Temporarily replace the color with color-depositing shampoos and conditioners
  2. Permanently color the hair with professional hair color
  3. Replace the hair system

Color-depositing shampoos and conditioners

There are some great color-depositing shampoos and conditioners available on the market. These products are a temporary solution that are gentle on hair and delay the need for a harsher, permanent hair color. It’s best to start using these products as soon as you notice oxidation beginning to occur. Once the hair color changes drastically, color-depositing products are less effective. Generally, the longer you leave the product on, the darker your color will get. With your first use, you can expect the hair color to darken by one to two shades. The color will deepen with repeated use.

Permanently coloring your hair system

The chemicals in permanent hair color make it much harsher on hair. Because of this, you can color your hair system with permanent color once or twice over the life of the system. More than that risks damage to your hair.

Professional color kits

Professional color, like what you’d find at a salon, can’t be purchased over the counter like at-home coloring kits. The peroxide and ammonia present in professional color makes it harsh and drying on hair. This is not something we recommend you do often, or at all, if possible. If you feel your long or short hair system has oxidized to the point of needing professional color, we recommend you call us to discuss a custom coloring kit made specifically for you. This is the best option because we have your color on file and can match it exactly. It’s also a safer option because we break down the peroxide in the product so that it’s mostly depositing color, rather than stripping and drying your hair. We cannot match all colors, such as systems with highlights or gray hair.

Non-professional color kits

Non-professional color kits purchased over the counter are okay to use if you feel comfortable doing so. However, you will be playing a bit of a guessing game. These color kits don’t have instructions specific to hair systems, and the color you see on the side of the box may not be your end result. More than likely, the final color will be darker than you anticipated. Like all permanent color, the product will be very drying to the hair system. Anytime you use a color kit, avoid getting color on the base of your system, because it will stain.

Color kit modifications for hair systems
When using a non-professional color kit at home, there are a couple modifications you can make so it’s less harsh on your system.
  • Add hot tap water to the color to lower the volume of peroxide.
  • Don’t leave color on as long as instructed. The hair in a system doesn’t have a cuticle, so color is absorbed very quickly.

Keeping your gray when coloring your hair

If a percentage of gray hair is requested in a hair system, we usually use synthetic gray. This could mean your system is primarily brunette human hair with 15% gray synthetic hair. One of the reasons we do this is so you can easily recolor only the human hair in your system without affecting the gray, because synthetic hair is resistant to color.

Be prepared

If you know your lifestyle includes a lot of time spent under the sun or in the pool or ocean, arrange to order more systems per year using the SOD — Standing Order Discount — which is an automatic, flexible, contract-free plan that makes ordering hair easy.

When you follow the tips on this page, as well as best practices to care for your system, you will help avoid oxidation and reduce or eliminate the need to recolor. You’ll avoid damage to your system and keep it looking vibrant.