Spectrophotometric Color Analysis is Essential for Creating Natural-Looking At-Home Hair Dye

color analysis hair dye
Today’s at-home hair dye kits are capable of creating natural, multi-dimensional color. Image Source: IS MODE

Hair dye has come a long way since its invention in Ancient Egypt, where people would use henna to cover up their greys.1. Now, people who want to change their color have a plethora of options in front of them and many turn to at-home hair dye kits for affordable transformations. Of course, at-home hair dye wasn’t always popular. In the past, the process was much more complex and, often, the results were not ideal. Today, however, manufacturers of these kits have the ability to calibrate their formulas to ensure that any resulting color will be natural and flattering. The creation of these natural tones is made possible through extensive research into the specific chemical combinations create the ideal shade, with the person’s existing hair color considered.  This is where hair dye manufacturers can leverage spectrophotometric technology to improve results of at-home hair dye kits for consumers.

color analysis hair dye
The color of hair dye during processing isn’t always a good indication of what the end result will be. Image Source: Shutterstock user seiki14

Challenges in Creating Natural-Looking Hair Dyes

Hair dye is a complex item for manufacturers to test as these manufacturers don’t see the end result of the color on the factory floor; any consumer who has used hair dye at home knows that the color of the dye in the bottle is no indication at all of what the end will be and the consumer’s own natural hair color is going to have a major impact on that formula. When a formula has not been properly tested, however, that consumer may get a result that’s artificial, flat and unappealing.

Additionally, dyes may not wear as well over time. There’s the obvious issue of hair dye fading, but there are also other concerns that compromise the look of dyed hair and are often a dead giveaway of artificial color. For example, brassiness—unwanted red, yellow, or orange shades— is a common problem in poorly formulated hair dyes and make the dye job look fake. On the opposite end of the spectrum, dyes can create a green, blue, or violet cast when there is a dearth of warm tones in the formulation. Unfortunately, these unnatural effects can take days, or even weeks to show up.

To combat these phenomena, manufacturers must have a strict quality control process in place, as hair dye must be verified to be not only safe but consistent and high performing. A strong quality control program requires not just extensive laboratory testing of hair dye samples, but testing of the product in use at various stages of wear via swatch hair color testing. Spectrophotometers can play a key role in this process.

color analysis hair dye
Consumers who want a more natural look are often troubled by brassy tones, which make the dye job look artificial. Image Source: Shutterstock user Bartek Zyczynski

Color Analysis at the Development Stage and Beyond

Testing hair dye begins in the lab, where manufacturers evaluate formulas for colorfastness, safety, and consistency. Spectrophotometers can be used to take this testing a step further than simply doing a visual inspection of the test swatches of the product in use by providing objective color data that can detect even the most subtle color shifts. This allows manufacturers to pinpoint the exact color of swatches over time, so they can identify issues like premature fading or an excess of red, green, or blue tones apparent immediately after dyeing or over time. Additionally, batches of dye can be analyzed at critical production stages to ensure accuracy and consistency.

There’s another, less obvious reason to use spectrophotometers in the development of hair dye: the ability to offer consumers meaningful advice. Often, an artificial-looking result is not the fault of the manufacturer themselves but arises when a consumer selects a shade that either does not suit them or is not applied correctly.  This is such a common problem that several major hair dye brands offer color correction hotlines, allowing consumers can call in for advice on how to correct a poor color result. Typically, these corrections are made by using a different dye shade with alternate tones to neutralize the issue.

Spectrophotometers can play an integral role in formulating these color correction tips. For example, during the in-house testing phase of a shade of red hair dye, a manufacturer might notice that those with light hair will have an orange result. They can note on the box that the color may work best with darker hair colors, but they cannot depend on consumers to follow those instructions exactly. Thus, when a light-haired person contacts the company complaining that the red hair dye turned their hair orange, that brand will have a solution ready; via spectrophotometric testing, manufacturers can find the ideal color to neutralize the orange tones in the initial test swatch and that will allow them to pass on that advice to the consumer

While the value of spectrophotometric color measurement is undeniable, its practical application can present challenges. A common issue that hair color manufacturers often run into when trying to test color of hair clips is how difficult the samples can be to handle. Hair cuttings are made up of hundreds of little strands of hair that can slip and bend when you’re trying to measure their color. To eliminate issues with this, manufacturers should opt for spectrophotometers that offer special port plates designed specifically for holding small hair samples. This is an attribute found in HunterLab’s CMR2971, which allows hair tresses to be “locked-in” for simplified measurement using HunterLab ColorQuest XE, UltraScan VIS and Ultra Scan PRO instruments.

HunterLab Spectrophotometers for Hair Dye Manufacturers

HunterLab has been a pioneer in color measurement technologies for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and on-line spectrophotometers designed with the diverse needs of our customers in mind. Combined with our innovative color measurement software, hair dye manufacturers can gain greater insight into their products than ever before at every stage of testing. Contact us to learn more about our renowned instruments and let us help you select the right tools for your needs.

  1. “From 1500 BC to 2015 AD: The Extraordinary History of Hair Color”, December  9, 2015. http://www.byrdie.com/hair-color-history/