Hair Color and Dye: No, They’re Not the Same Thing

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Visit any hair salon in Salt Lake City and ask to have your hair dyed; they will know what you are talking about. Yet there’s a secret within the hairdressing industry that most consumers don’t know: hair color and dye are not the same things. The stylist coloring your hair is not doing the same thing as a textile specialist dying fabric. Everything is different – from surface preparation to the actual chemicals used.

Prior to the mid-19th century, most dyes used for fabric, makeup, and other purposes consisted mainly of natural ingredients used as-is. For example, crushed berries provided a red dye for clothing. The problem with these natural dyes is that they lacked staying power. It wasn’t until chemist William Henry Perkin accidentally created the first mauve dye – while trying to create quinine to fight malaria – that the concept of permanent, synthesized dyes was born. We owe our modern hair coloring techniques and chemicals to the discoveries Mr. Perkin made nearly two centuries ago.


How They Work

The most obvious difference between a dye and hair coloring product is as follows: the dye is a chemical that already contains the color you are looking to add to fabric or makeup. How that chemical is applied to the product in question will determine the eventual outcome based on the color in the dye reacting with the natural color of whatever is being dyed. Hair color products are remarkably different.

Rather than already containing the desired color, a hair coloring product is two or more chemicals that are mixed during the application process. Most of the time the chemicals have no color at all as separate components. They only generate color when they are combined within the hair.

To dye fabric, you first boil it in a specialized solution designed to cause a slight breakdown of the fibers so that the dye can penetrate. We do something similar for hair coloring. Again, visit any salon in Salt Lake City where hair coloring takes place, and you will smell that distinctive odor that is the result of soaking hair in an ammonia solution. We do this in order to separate the protective proteins that cover hair strands and follicles. Separating these proteins allows for hair coloring chemicals to penetrate the various strands of hair.


Only when hair is ready to receive coloring do we add the appropriate chemicals. This is the fun part. A skilled colorist knows how much of each chemical to add to the mix in order to produce the kind of color the client is looking for. And it is not an exact science. It is not like going to the hardware store for a gallon of paint, punching numbers into a computer, and letting a mixing machine do its magic. Rather, a colorist must be able to utilize the chemicals in the correct proportion to accommodate the client’s natural hair color and the desired finished product.

Always Beautiful Results

The Curl Co. salon in Salt Lake City is pleased to provide our clients with world-class hair coloring. Our stylists take great pride in achieving beautiful results for our clients. And as you know, there is nothing that does more to your personal look and style than your hair. You are looking for beautiful results when you color your hair; we aim to provide those results every single time.

Hair coloring and fabric dyeing are not the same things. The differences between the two are what make hair coloring possible. Whether at a salon in Salt Lake City or New York, hair coloring done right produces beautiful results.

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