Brief description of metallic dyes in coloring hair

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Gradual Hair Coloring
Gradual hair coloring is a procedure to darken brown or black hair. The dyes used in these coloring procedures offer a limited range of shades. Gradual coloring hair is more often used by men who wish to achieve subtle darkening of their (usually gray) hair.

Unlike other synthetic dyes, these gradual coloring hair dyes are generally safe as they minimize the risks of contact dermatitis, a severe scalp infection. Also, these inexpensive, user friendly dyes are very active and fast acting - the whole coloring process is completed within a few minutes of time.

Mechanism of metallic dyes in coloring hair
Also known as metallic dyes, the gradual coloring dyes fall under the category of permanent hair coloring dyes, and they usually contain salts of lead, bismuth, or silver. These metal particles interact with cysteine which is the main amino acid component of the hair protein. The cysteine amino acids are present in the cuticle layer and are linked to each other by sulfur atoms.

The chemical reaction of cysteine and sulfur with the metallic dyes results in a characteristic smell. Also, the reaction leaves out some residues which are gradually accumulated on the hair shafts. After a few applications of the metallic dyes the hair changes from gray to yellow-brown to brown-black.

Effects of metallic dyes
In coloring hair

The color quality of metallic dyes on hair can be poor and unpredictable. Also the hair fibers can become stiff, dull, and brittle after the application of these dyes. It may also prevent you from applying trendy hair styles that involve chemical treatments like perming because the trace metals of metallic dyes gets deposited on the shafts and these can interfere with chemical interactions in the hair fiber. As a result, the outcome of the hair treatment after hair coloring with metallic dyes can be poor and may even be disastrous.

Professional products are available to remove the residues of metallic dyes from hair shafts, but the procedure can be very damaging to the hair.

In health

Other than hair breakage and scalp irritation, metallic dyes do not usually have severe effects on health. However, some people can have adverse responses to the hair dyes which include terrible headaches, face swelling, and other complications of allergic reactions.

Because these hair coloring dyes involve metals, there has been some concern expressed recently by government regulatory bodies over whether they are safe for long term use. So far there is little actual evidence that there is a problem with long term use of these dyes. However, the gradual coloring dyes are less popular these days because of the reasons explained above. New products with advanced ingredients, like semi-permanent dyes, are replacing these metallic dyes for the advantages they offer.

Apart from metallic dyes and semi-permanent dyes there are a myriad of hair color products available in retail stores. These products are formulated keeping in mind the variations in hair fiber and also the scalp skin types. Also, some of them are quite flexible and can give you the desired look within a few minutes of time.

So go ahead and try out the appropriate hair dye that suits your hair and needs.

Chantal Bolduc, Jerry Shapiro, “Hair care products: Waving, Straightening, Conditioning, and Coloring, 2001, Clinics in dermatology;19:431–436
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