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Dear Color Crew: Why Are Men’s Hair Color Products Different Than Women’s?

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Dear Color Crew is a recurring blog post where we answer hair-related questions—no matter how hairy they may be—from readers like you. Got a question? Email our team of professional colorists at ColorCrew@Madison-Reed.com.
 

Dear Color Crew,
I’ve always wondered...why are there different hair color products for men than there are for women? Is there really a difference?

 
This is a very timely question with the increased awareness of gender-specific marketing. What is the difference between men’s and women’s hair dye? Can a man use so-called women’s hair color (and vice versa)? Is the structure of hair really that different for men than it is for women?

Chemically speaking, there is no difference between the color a man would put on his hair and the color a woman would, as there is no difference in the structure of hair based on gender. That is, in comparing women’s permanent hair color to men’s permanent hair color, there is no difference. So can a woman use “men’s” hair color? Can a man use “women’s” hair color? The short answer is yes, but as with most questions, there is more to the answer…

To clarify, we are addressing the hair on your head—not beard or facial hair. The reality is that men tend to use hair color differently than women because they want a different outcome than women. 

Let’s start with the length of hair. To make a huge generalization, most men have shorter hair than most women. This difference means that because men get their hair cut more often, they are probably going to color it more often, as well. That is, if your hair is only 1-2” long, a ¼” of hair growth is a much bigger deal than if your hair is shoulder-length or longer. For this reason, men who color their hair usually color more often than women. However, it also means that men don’t require as much product as a longer-haired woman might. This is why hair color that is marketed to men tends to not contain as much product as hair color that is marketed to women.

Another difference is the reason why men color versus women. Generally men do not color simply because they want their hair to be slightly redder or cooler, darker or even lighter. Men usually color their hair for gray coverage. However, men generally don’t want the same amount of full coverage that a woman usually expects and wants. Most men want the color combed into their hair for a blended look (rather than full saturation). Some men even opt for coloring some of their hair, but not the gray at the temples. (Another caveat—this does not include men and women who color their hair bright, trendy colors such as blue or pink.)

Because men’s hair is usually shorter and they generally prefer less than full coverage, most men use demi-permanent hair color rather than permanent (meaning it washes out over time). Demi-permanent color creates a more subtle, blended look that slowly fades as hair grows, leaving no harsh line of demarcated regrowth. There is no retouching necessary, just repeated use. Demi-permanent color also tends to look more natural as it blends away gray rather than covering it up 100%.

So while permanent to permanent color is not different across gender, and demi-permanent to demi-permanent, etc., what IS different is the way men and women use hair color. What we will leave you with is this: whether you’re using permanent, semi-permanent, or demi-permanent hair color, what matters is that you feel confident with the results.

If you have further questions, reach out to us on the Color Crew.  We have decades of combined experience and are here to help you choose your perfect shade and apply it like a pro so that, as one of my former male clients would say “Wayne Newton has left the building.”

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