With the influx of rainbow, white bleach blonde, and other crazy hair colors hitting Instagram and real life recently, I think we've all been wondering the same thing: How can celebrities change their hair color so often without it getting totally fried? Well, it's all about what you add to your color mixture.
The first thing I learned in beauty school, before I was ever allowed to touch a single strand of hair, is the anatomy of hair and the scalp. Lest all of the stories and products mislead you, hair is dead as dirt, and made of the same stuff as our nails: Keratin protein.
Hair strands are tubular structures that vary in diameter, curl pattern, and color. The structure is comprised of bonds that provide hair with it’s strength and memory. These bonds are what's at stake every time you subject your hair to a chemical service such as bleaching or coloring. If you dye your hair constantly and without taking any precautions to protect those bonds, you'll end up with a dried, fried mess. Luckily, hair products like Continuum and Olaplex that help protect your hair from totally frying with each process.
Hair’s main strength comes from disulfide bonds, which cross link protein strands to form the strand. Hair color chemicals are formulated to open up hair’s outer cuticle layer and fiddle with pigment in the cortex. The cuticle is very easy to damage, water, pH, and temperature can all affect it, but chemicals are the easiest (and fastest) way to damage hair. This class of products is exactly why more and more people are able to go platinum and switch hair colors every week (cough Kylie Jenner cough) without the hardcore damage normally associated with the process.
Olaplex is a wonderful product that was accidentally created during the pursuit of a synthetic substitute for argan oil. It’s become extremely popular, and when I tried it last year with my colorist friend Drew Calloway at Laicale, I was really surprised how light we were able to go in one session. When Calloway began working with DS Laboratories' product, Continuum Ro:Maxx and Ro:Zen, I had to see it for myself.
These products are very new to the hair world, and they have cannonballed all over Instagram and the hair color world, leaving no salon untouched. This is the power of social media, within 18 months, these products are bonafide bestsellers. The absolute hair kween of social media, Jen Atkin, is an endorser of Continuum, and stylist to the Kardashian-Jenner-Wests, who she blondes (and more) on the regular.
If it was good enough for the Kardashians, I figured it was good enough for me. I let Calloway foil me up with his signature #PaintedbyDrew blonding technique to put Continuum's bond preserving skills to the gauntlet. I have had some form of ombre hair for the past eight years, so I was ready to go a bit lighter, for science, to properly test the abilities of the system. My hair can take some damage, but because it grows very slowly I usually color one or two times a year max to keep it pristine. If Continuum leaves my hair in better shape, I won’t be as conservative with my hair color, that’s for sure.
Products like this are added to the mixing bowl by the stylist, but can also be used as standalone treatments. They typically focus on protecting the disulfide bonds of the hair, which are most threatened by coloring and especially bleaching. Though Olaplex works brilliantly, the effect isn’t permanent. I would say that it’s still a vital service for those who are bleaching, but it’s really not rebuilding the bonds — more giving them some spackle, that requires maintenance in the long run. It’s a great additive to color, and gives people who's hair normally could never survive a bleaching process a chance to enjoy the fun.
The big difference in Continuum is that it not only protects the integrity of disulfide bonds in a similar way to Olaplex, it actually chemically tightens the cuticle, which in turn extends that protection to the other bonds of the hair strand, salt and acid bonds. This is the absolutely crucial benefit. Continuum also doesn’t require a second shampoo in between the toning process and color process, which is great since Calloway and many other stylists advocating as little shampooing as possible for color longevity.
More Continuum pros: Hair is processed with the same chemical power and the same amount of time as if you never added it. Olaplex requires you to use more power, as the product slightly dilutes your formula. It also add processing time, and sometimes double an already lengthy service.
I can see why Jen Atkin uses the faster and more comprehensive version! Calloway gave me the blondest hair I’ve had in years and I adore it. The greatest part is that I don’t feel like my hair is brittle, broken, or compromised at all. True to it’s description, my hair looked shiny, voluminous, and healthy. Frankly it looked healthier after coloring than before, and it was mostly virgin hair to start!
As my hair begins to gray, instead of trapping myself in an endless cycle of single processing every four to six weeks for the rest of all eternity, I feel like I have an alternative plan that’s not going to cost me healthy hair. I can allow my hair to grow in as grey as it wants, highlighting on occasion to blend and blur it, without being concerned about destroying my hard-to-grow hair!
If you have been dying to go platinum, pastel, or even just want healthier hair with what you’ve got, find a salon or stylist using the Continuum system and try it for yourself!