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Let's talk about the CANVAS

There are so many amazingly talented artists in the world, each with their own canvas they work on.

For our industry, the canvas we work on is universally the same...well kind of.

YES, we all typically work on HAIR however, as we all know hair isn't just hair.

Hair is incredibly nuanced and there are SO MANY VARIABLES to the canvas we work on every day that no two heads are the same.

Heck, even on the same head of hair, there are different colors and issues.

I want to spend just a little bit of time today to remind you how nuanced hair CAN be.

See, typically, a lot of colorists operate with the mentality that hair + hair color are one size fits all.

This is why "6N" is the #1 sold color in the hair color manufacturing world.

I would like to take it back to beauty school for a minute and re-visit this CANVAS and talk about some of the things that make it so nuanced.

Let's go way back to this image here:

Did you just experience some beauty school nostalgia? I KNOW I DID! sheeeshh!

In all reality thought, lets just take a stroll down memory lane:

1. The Cuticle Layers.

Yes, LAYERS. These layers are the hairs protective barrier/shield that ensures the hairs more fragile layers are intact.

Scientifically speaking, theNational Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) defines a hair cuticle as a layer of dead cells that form a protective layer around the strand. Cuticles are made up of scaly-looking cells that overlap and protect the other layers that make up a single hair strand.

Cuticle layers don't open and close, there are no hinges, no swings. They swell and expand when an alkaline product is applied to them which is what allows the hair color action to happen. (it's important to know what the working pH of your products are so that you know what you're putting the hair through)

The cuticle layers are also translucent, not transparent. You can see all the pigment and melanin that are found in the cortical fibers THROUGH the cuticle layers.

These cuticle layers are the "make or break" for hair to look healthy.

The more intact your cuticle layers are, the shinier and healthier the hair will look.

The more damaged and porous these cuticle layers are...well...the more "like hay" the hair will look.

Lets take a look here at a little photo shoot:

healthy cuticle on the left....not so healthy on the right.

This happens for many reasons:

1- Too much alkalinity over and over again

2- Using heat with bleach

3- Tools too hot and no heat protection

along with many other's not pretty and no amount of bond builder can help the cuticle layers.

(I go in depth on how to formulate for different textures on my FUNdamentals workshop to avoid situations like this from occurring... check it out below)

2. The Cortical Fibers

AKA the cortex. We all assume that the cortex is a solid mass of....stuff. The truth is, the cortex is actually fiberous, almost rope like with chains of polypeptides, amino acids, bonds and the CMC which holds it all together.

The cortex is where ALL permanent color occurs and each client has a different amount of cortical fibers and melanin in their hair. The terminating factors are texture and...DNA.

It's in the cortex where:

- Permanent color occurs

- Lightening hair occurs

- Bond builders work

- SOME products can actually get into the cortex to help "repair". This can only happen if the cuticle layers are really damaged...that's where you have an "open door" to the cortex.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, semi permanent color will actually last LONGER on damaged and porous hair? That's because the semi permanent acts like a demi on hair that has damaged cuticle layers. The semi stains the cuticle layers and also gets into the cortex and "fills" the gaps..allowing it to last longer than a demi could. (plus dyes in semi color are larger and don't need oxidation)

Check out the cortical fibers:


3. Lastly the Medulla. This is still a topic of discussion in the industry. Fine hair typically doesn't have a medulla, whereas coarse hair does. It has been said that the medulla is a pigment reservoir or that is absolutely pointless. More research needs to be done on this.

Understanding the canvas you are working on, FULLY, is the first step in becoming a master. There is more to understanding the canvas besides the cuticle, cortex and medulla. Next week, I'll write more about the variables in the different canvas' we work on and how to identify them to make sure you get the best possible outcomes in hair color.

Until next time,

Happy Hair Coloring

xo Araz

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