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Blue, Red, & Yellow Molecules - Oh My!

A micro dose of chemistry coming your way today in the form of OXIDATIVE DYES.

Before I get into it though, let’s clarify the different types of colors we have to use, and more importantly the different DYES.

There are 2 main categories of DYES:


These dyes are already pre-formed, meaning, the color that you see is the color that you get. They are larger in size and do not need developer in order for them to WORK.

Non oxidative dyes are found in:

Temporary hair colors

Semi Permanent hair colors

And sometimes, in dual dye color systems


These are dyes that REQUIRE DEVELOPER in order for them to turn into the colors that we see. These dyes start out as small and colorless chemicals, and when mixed with developer, will DEVELOP into the color that we perceive.

Oxidative dyes are found in:

Alkaline demi hair color

Acidic demi hair color

Deposit only oxidative color

Permanent color

High lift color

So today, we are going to talk about oxidative dyes.

Hard pill to swallow + and unpopular truth:


I know I know, this is quite contrary to what you have been told, but hear me out.

If you read the internet hair groups for longer than 15 minutes, you will come across someone saying something like:

“BLUE is the smallest molecule which is wh

y it's the first to leave the hair”

“RED is the largest molecule which is why it’s the first to leave the hair”

“YELLOW is the smallest molecule which is why it stays in the hair so long”

And so on and so forth.

I think what’s happened is we’ve heard things along the way, usually out of context, and we’ve held them to be true.

While I will NEVER tell you what you should or shouldn't believe, or what you should and shouldn't do, I will offer some perspective based on what I have learned, in hopes to shed some light on this for you.

SO, today, we’re diving into OXIDATIVE dyes.

Reminder- oxidative dyes are used in any hair coloring product that requires a developer.

ALL OXIDATIVE colors use the SAME dyes...what differentiates an alkaline demi, an acidic demi, a permanent and a high lift is THE ALKALIZER used...the dyes are all the same.


There are only about 40 different DYES that

manufacturers use for oxidative hair color and they are broken down into 2 categories:

Primaries (aka dye intermediates or pre cursors)

Secondaries (aka couplers or modifiers)


Think of the primaries as what bring the BACKGROUND of a color- brown to tan, black to gray etc., they bring the BASE.

Primary dyes only produce a color when exposed to an oxidizing agent (Developer), and some examples are PPD, PTD and AMP


Think of secondaries as what bring the TONE to a color- the gold, red, violet, beige, ash etc.

Secondaries are also known as couplers which means that they COUPLE with the primaries and turn into the colors that we see.

It is the combination and ratios of these intermediates and couplers COMBINED WITH the undertone that the hair contributes that produce the colors that we see.

There are no blue red and yellow molecules in oxidative hair color.

Just primaries and couplers that react and combine together that produce the final result.

Here’s the kicker:

Although there are only about 40 dyes used in hair color manufacturing, no two manufacturers use the same dyes and ratios which is why EACH LINE is unique in and of itself.

This is why a 6N from one brand WILL NOT BE THE SAME as a 6N in another.

There’s so much chemistry involved in hair coloring, and if you’re interested in learning more about the science, chemistry and artistry of what we do behind the chair to BEST PREDICT how your formulas are going to turn out, you need to sign up for The FUNdamentals Course-Shop, HERE!

Hope this was helpful for you!

Happy Hair Coloring!


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