Hair neutralizers are an important part of the hair coloring process. They help remove unwanted tones and prepare the hair for the next step in coloring. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about hair neutralizers.
What is Hair Neutralization?
Hair neutralization is the process of removing artificial pigments from the hair to return it to a neutral or natural base. When you color hair, you are depositing artificial pigments onto the hair shaft. To remove these pigments, a neutralizer is applied after coloring which breaks the artificial hair color molecules.
This removes the previous color, be it artificial pigments from hair dye or brassiness and warmth from lightening and bleaching. It leaves the hair neutral and ready for the next color application.
Why is Hair Neutralization Important?
Neutralizing is a critical step between stages of the hair coloring process. Here are some of the key reasons it’s important:
- Removes artificial pigments from previous hair color
- Eliminates brassiness and warmth from lightening/bleaching
- Prepares hair for next color by creating a neutral base
- Allows you to easily switch hair colors
- Enables precise color control and consistency
Without properly neutralizing between color stages, the final result would be unpredictable. Unwanted warm, brassy tones may linger, preventing the next shade from taking evenly.
When is Hair Neutralization Used?
There are several points during the hair coloring process when neutralizers come into play:
- Between stages of fashion colors: When switching fashion hair colors like pink, blue or purple, a neutralizer must be used first to remove the previous shades.
- Before toning: Toners deposit color pigments to offset brassiness. Neutralizing first ensures a blank canvas for even toning.
- After lightening/bleaching: These processes remove depth and create warmth. A neutralizer takes hair back to level 1 neutral before coloring.
- Color correction: To precisely correct color issues, neutralizing prepares the hair.
- Before a gloss: A neutralizer can be used before a clear gloss for optimal shine and seal.
Types of Hair Neutralizers
There are a few different types and forms of neutralizing products:
- Shampoo neutralizers: These have a lower pH and are applied like a normal shampoo. They’re quick and easy but less potent.
- Dedicated neutralizer solutions: These concentrated liquids rapidly break artificial pigments and brassiness.
- Neutralizing glosses: These combine neutralizing action with conditioning elements and shine.
- Anti-yellow shampoos: While not true neutralizers, these help fight brassiness between washes.
Standalone neutralizer solutions tend to be the most powerful option for a thorough clean slate.
How Does Hair Neutralization Work?
The neutralization process relies on the chemical interaction between the products and the hair:
- They contain acids like citric, glycolic, or ascorbic acid which lower the pH.
- The acidic pH breaks the artificial color molecules that adhere to the hair.
- This lifts out and removes the previous shade from the hair.
- Hair is left neutral rather than warm or cool-toned.
In addition to acids, some neutralizers contain chelating agents or anti-oxidants to further remove metallic salts and pigments.
How to Use Hair Neutralizers
It’s important to use your neutralizing product properly to get the full benefits. Here are some tips:
- Start with clean hair: shampoo hair before neutralizing to remove product buildup.
- Apply thoroughly: saturated hair from roots to ends to reach all artificial pigments.
- Evenly distribute: use a wide-tooth comb to spread through hair for complete neutralization.
- Don’t mix with conditioner: for maximum effectiveness, apply neutralizer alone.
- Leave on for optimal time: follow directions for time, usually 5-15 minutes.
- Rinse thoroughly: rinse with cool water until water runs clear.
- Shampoo after: use a clarifying shampoo to remove all traces.
It’s critical to not skip the shampooing step after neutralizing – any residue left can affect the next color.
What to Look for in a Hair Neutralizer
With an array of neutralizing products available, here are the key things to look for:
- Acidic pH: needs a pH between 3 and 5 to effectively neutralize.
- Potent acid blend: citric, glycolic, ascorbic acids to break pigments.
- Chelators and anti-oxidants: remove metallic salts left from coloring.
- Easy application: spray bottle or squeeze tube for quick saturation.
- Quick processing time: works in as little as 5 minutes.
- Thorough rinsing: all product residue is easily removed.
- Protective ingredients: nourishing elements that don’t damage hair.
Avoid neutralizers with harsh ingredients like sulfate shampoos which can dry out the hair and scalp. Products with vitamins and oils protect hair during the process.
DIY Home Hair Neutralizer Options
While store-bought options are strongest, you can make some DIY neutralizing solutions at home with a few simple ingredients:
|Mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water. Saturate hair, leave on 15 mins, shampoo out.
|Ascorbic acid vitamin C powder
|Mix 1 tbsp powder to 2 cups warm water until dissolved. Apply through hair, leave 5-10 mins.
|Lather through hair, leave on 5 mins. The zinc in these lowers pH to aid removal of color.
|Mix 1 tbsp Epsom salts with warm water until dissolved. Saturate hair, leave on 10 mins.
While beneficial in a pinch, these home remedies may not neutralize as effectively as a formulated neutralizing treatment.
Can I Skip Neutralizing My Hair?
It’s possible but not recommended to skip neutralizing between color applications. Here’s what happens if you do:
- Previous color pigments may not lift fully, causing muddiness.
- Brassy tones can linger, skewing the next shade result.
- The next color won’t grab evenly over un-neutralized hair.
- It prevents achieving vibrant fashion shades.
- The color may rapidly fade without proper neutralizing.
Taking the time to neutralize leads to true-to-tone, long-lasting color results.
Common Mistakes When Neutralizing Hair
It’s easy to make missteps when using neutralizing products. Here are some of the common mistakes:
- Not shampooing hair clean before neutralizing
- Mixing neutralizer with conditioner, diluting its effects
- Failing to evenly saturate all of the hair
- Not leaving on for the full recommended processing time
- Not thoroughly rinsing out the neutralizer
- Not shampooing after to remove residue
- Over-neutralizing which can damage the hair
Carefully following directions for application, processing, and removal helps avoid these errors.
Hair neutralizers provide a critical step in prepping hair for vivid colors and ideal results. By removing previous artificial pigments and brassiness, they allow the next shade to grab true and even.
Using the proper type of neutralizer, applying thoroughly, and rinsing completely clears the canvas for dye. While neutralizing adds an extra step, it leads to hair color perfection.
With this comprehensive guide, you now understand the ins and outs of hair neutralization. By incorporating this technique into your coloring routine, you’ll notice much more vibrant, true-to-tone, longer-lasting hair color.