A Valentine’s Day Present for Your Hair plus: The Science of Hair Dye

The Science of Hair Dye - Cosmetic Composition.JPG

I know you’ve all been on the search for what to get your hair for Valentine’s day – no? Oh, just me then. Last month celebrity hairstylist, Kristin Ess’s namesake line, released a “Rose Gold Temporary Tint” that I never knew I needed until I saw the Instagrams. Her massive following contains pictures of girls with blonde hair spraying this light pink tint into their hair for #content and obviously I had to jump on the opportunity.


The packaging and color scheme of her product is extremely chic and functional with the instructions printed right on the bottle. The instructions are pretty simple – shampoo hair, spray pink, let sit for a few minutes, rinse out and finish up with conditioner. The level of rose gold coloring comes from how much water is in the hair. As Ess states in her instructions “less water there is on the hair, the more tone the hair will soak up. Think of your hair as a sponge! If it’s full of water it can only absorb a little color“. This makes sense right? Well, I’m still going to explain the full science of why temporary tint works.

Kristin Ess Temporary Rose Gold Tint - Cosmetic Composition


Water, C11-15 Pareth-12, Fragrance, Propylene Glycol, Panthenol, Gelidiella Acerosa Extract, Litchi Chinensis Pericarp Extract, Hypnea Musciformis Extract, Sargassum Filipendula Extract, Salvia Hispanica Seed Oil, Algin, Carrageenan, Coco-Glucoside, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Chitosan, Cetearamidoethyldiethonium Succinoyl Hydrolyzed Pea Protein, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetrimonium Chloride, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Xanthan Gum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Quaternium-80, PVP, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Basic Red 51

This list contains a tonnnn of great hair ingredients, a lovely fragrance, extracts and proteins to keep your hair in top condition during the coloring. The colorant ingredient – Basic Red 51 is a semi-permanent hair dye. Basic Red 51, or 2-((4-(Dimethylamino)phenyl)azo)-1,3-dimethyl-1H-imidazolium chloride is an approved colorant for up to 1% concentration in semi-permanent hair dyes. The safety of this ingredient has been tested and is approved for human use (as long as you’re not breathing in the pure powder form or like eating this stuff).


Okay, so how does this temporary tint actually work? Temporary dyes do not penetrate past the hair cuticle. The colorant will cling to the hair, due to the hair’s porosity and other included ingredients until enough washes occur that the color loosens and leaves the hair. How is this different from permanent hair dye?


Hair is naturally acidic, around 4.5-5.5 (just like skin!) and with the use of conditioner, an acidic product, our hair cuticle is closed so an alkaline ingredient (usually ammonia) is used to alter our hair’s pH and open up the cuticle. Next, a developer a.k.a. hydrogen peroxide is used to bleach the hair (in certain cases and depending on the colors the stylist is using), and the color is painted on. Hair dye contains ingredients that help the color move into the cortex, and once this migration occurs the service is finished with an acidic conditioner the cuticles close up keeping the color in our hair shaft.

Got that all? Perfect. One more topic we need to touch on quickly is hair porosity. Hair is ~90% protein which can be diminished by heat, UV, chemicals, age, hormones, etc.   Healthy hair is non-porous, meaning there are no “holes” in the cuticle that allows moisture or protein gaps. However, we all have a degree of porosity to our hair so using protein heavy and hydrating ingredients is the best way to maintain healthy appearing hair. Going back to the instructions I pulled from Ess’s product, temporary hair dye will appear more vibrant when applied to drier hair because there’s space in the cuticle for the colorant molecules to sit. For a more subtle color, you can apply in the shower when water is present and the cuticle is full! Got it? Yassss, we’re finally done and made a full circle back to those instructions.


Any questions? Have a random desire to dye pink now? Yeah me too. Leave any comments or questions below or drop into my inbox chemofcosmetics@gmail.com!


2 thoughts on “A Valentine’s Day Present for Your Hair plus: The Science of Hair Dye

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