Curly Hair Q & A with Melanie Fahey

Hair color has the power to brighten skin, highlight a gorgeous cut, boost shine and visually change the shape of the face. But curly hair has its own special needs when it comes to color. “The cuticles on curly hair differ greatly from straight hair. Because the strand forms a curve, the cuticle is always slightly raised,” says Melanie Fahey, Ouidad assistant vice president of creative education & new product development. “Securing moisture and color into the cortex can be challenging.” Here, Fahey unlocks the mysteries of coloring outside of straight lines.

Q: What type of hair color works best on curly hair?

Semi-permanent color is best for curls. The bends on a curl expose more of the hair’s structure, making the color absorb more easily. This type of pigment soaks into the middle of the hair strand, the same as permanent colors would for straight hair. 

Q: How do you prep curly hair for color?

Curly hair is always in need of extra moisture. It’s important to condition before coloring, so the hair doesn’t dry out. Suggest a deep conditioning treatment three days before coloring, and ten days after. That way, the color lies evenly and lasts longer.

Q: What special techniques do you use for coloring curly hair?

Color painting and peek-a-boo lightening techniques work beautifully on curly hair. The colorist can control exactly the right area to place the product based upon how the curl forms and falls.

Q: What role does curl type play when coloring hair?

 The tighter and stronger the curl type, the more hydration and moisture levels it requires. And, the thickness and volume of the curl type also plays a significant role. A curly girl with looser curls has more color visibility from every angle, and looser curls do not require as much color mix as tighter, kinkier curls. Curly girls with tighter, kinkier curls generally have a thicker density; therefore it’s crucial that the color placement is visible within the texture.

Q: What precautions should colorists take when coloring curly hair?

Curly hair can have varying degrees of porosity and sensitivity. If your client has had a chemical treatment—such as a relaxer or straightening service—you should deep treat the curl before coloring the hair. If your client comes to you with extreme porosity levels, and the hair is in a breakage state, discuss their service options, such as: treating, trimming and semi-glazing as opposed to permanent color and powder lighteners.