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Why Did My Hair Turn Green at the Salon?

Gainesville Pump owner, Steve Briel, shared an interesting story with us about the shocking affects of iron water on hair. On the day of his wedding his betrothed was preparing for the day's events, and went to the hair salon to have her hair styled for the ceremony. As the stylist began applying treatment she shrieked with dismay when she saw the bride-to-be's dark hair turn bright green! Naturally, panic ensued, and the stylist was at a loss for what action to take, as the reaction wasn't something that ever had happened before with dark hair and those particular treatment products.

Fortunately, there was another stylist at the salon who had experience with this issue. The stylist asked if she was on well water at home, the answer to which, of course, was yes. As we all know, or should by now, iron is the most common element found in the north florida aquifers, and the most common issue well owners have. There are special treatments required to deal with iron-saturated hair, so let this be a lesson to anyone on well water that care must be given to applying treatment chemicals to their hair. And, perhaps most importantly, if it happens: don't panic! It can be fixed!

What does iron do to hair?

Found usually in well water in areas that have concentrations of iron in the ground, concentrations of iron will slowly cause hair to tint darker, add weight to the hair, and prevent proper chemical processing whith strange results (like hair turning green). Heavy amounts of iron will tint light-colored hair orange and cause dark hair to become darker with red highlights. Oxidized iron actually functions as an oxidizer in hair in much the same way that mild peroxide attacks the hair. It may cause an excessive dry feeling in the hair and may actually change the textural appearance of the hair.[1]

Okay, but why does it happen?

When colored with a cool, ash-brown dye, the damaged hair only retains certain pigments. This preferential absorption of ashy tones creates a seaweed-green effect that worsens over time. Hair turns green after dyeing because of uneven pigment absorption or exposure to high levels of chlorine. This problem usually occurs in bleached blond hair as a reaction to a darker dye with cool undertones, but when iron-saturated water is involved the different chemical composition of the hair changes the game entirely. Fortunately, green hair is easily preventable but difficult to fix without professional help.[2]

Try using a clarifying shampoo before any color service. In fact, it would probably be helpful to use the clarifying shampoo at least once a week anyway to keep the mineral deposits in your hair to a minimum. You can also get a packaged water conditioner to add to bath water which will help to keep the minerals in the water from getting into your hair and skin as well.

If you can successfully neutralize the hard water effect from your hair, it will make your salon visits more successful. I recommend that you pass these tips on to your stylist and perhaps you can combine a pre-color shampoo service using the clarifying shampoo and hopefully get the hair color results you desire.

However, if you do get the brassy, yellow results again, you can use a "blueing" shampoo and conditioner to neutralize the yellow tones. These blueing shampoos are the types used by many gray haired women and blondes to avoid dull looking hair and brassy tones.

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Erica Bales