Madison Reed and
At Madison Reed, we focus on providing quality, healthy-looking hair color that is grounded in thoughtful research. When we make our products, we think about the science behind hair, including what determines hair color and how hair grows. We’re also proud to be more than a hair color company, offering hair care products that extend the life of your color, as well as tips on hair maintenance.
What Determines Hair Color
In order to design the best hair color products, it’s important to understand the natural hair color we were born with. Although there is a wide range of hair colors that occur naturally—platinum blond, jet black, auburn red—there are only two pigments that determine hair color. These pigments, eumelanin and pheomelanin, play a significant role in how hair colors are determined. Everyone has the pheomelanin pigment in his or her hair, which creates orange and red hair color. The levels of black or brown eumelanin determine how dark hair will be and what hair color is dominant. As one might expect, low concentrations of the eumelanin pigment will yield blonde hair, while high concentrations result in darker brown hair. People with natural red hair have much higher pheomelanin levels in their hair than people with more common hair colors like brown, blonde, and black.
As with a lot of things we’re born with—eye color for example—genetics are also an important part of understanding what determines hair color. Current genetic theories suggest that at least two gene pairs control human hair color. One of these explores the brown or blonde hair possibilities. Brown hair is dominant, and blonde hair is recessive. When a person has both brown and blonde alleles in their genes, he or she will have brown hair. If a person has no brown alleles, he or she will be blonde. Although there is a lower likelihood that a child with two brown-haired parents will be blonde, it is possible when the parents contain recessive alleles because they are passed to their offspring.
As with a lot of things we’re born with—eye color for example—genetics are also an important part of understanding what determines hair color.
The other gene pair that helps determine hair color is the non-red and red model. The non-red allele is dominant, while the red allele is recessive. Similar to how a person will have blonde or brown hair, if a person has a non-red allele, he or she will not have red hair. The absence of the non-red allele will yield red hair. Much like a blonde child with two brown-haired parents, it’s possible for a child to have red hair even if his or her parents do not. You might have heard that “red hair skips a generation.” While that’s not a precise genetic rule, it is often used as a way to explain where a child’s red hair came from—often from a grandparent.
Although this two-gene model helps to explain how we get the hair color that we are born with (brown, black, blonde, red), it doesn’t explain the varying shades of each hair color—take for example, the range of blonde hair from platinum to dark blonde, or how some people experience darkening hair color from childhood into adulthood. These shade differences are controlled by several different gene pairings, a person’s genotype, and environmental surroundings.
Understanding hair pigments and shade ranges helps us target hair color that communicates with one’s natural hair color, while enhancing it to look its best. Our color advisor is a great way to start your hair color journey, and will help you choose the shade that best compliments what you are already working with. Put simply, we know how hair color works, from the inside out.
How Hair Grows
Another important part of our work at Madison Reed is not only understanding how hair color works, but also how hair grows. All hair, not only just what comes from our scalps, grows out of small pockets in our skin called follicles. The process is explained below:
- Hair grows from a root at the base of the follicle. The root is made up of protein cells.
- The blood vessels in our scalp support the root, helping to create more cells that make the hair grow.
- As the hair grows from the root, it gets pushed up through the skin. When it does this, it passes an oil gland that adds oil to the hair to keep it shiny. But, this oil also leads to greasy hair if you go too long between shampoos.
- Once the hair pokes through the skin, it is no longer alive. The root, which continues to grow, is alive, while the hair that you see is actually dead.
Our hair grows quickly too—it’s the second fastest growing part of your body. Only bone marrow grows faster. Although there is some variance between each person, hair would grow approximately six inches per year if left untrimmed. This means that hair grows about a half inch per month, which helps to determine how frequently to color your roots, if you choose to color your hair.
You may notice some strands of hair on your brush or on the shower floor. Although this can be alarming, it’s important to remember that it’s normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair each day. This occurs because our follicles are not all working at the same time. Each follicle grows hair for a few years at a time and then takes a break, while other follicles resume growth. When the follicle stops working, the hair within it falls out. As we age, some follicles simply stop growing hair. This contributes to later-in-life hair loss or balding, often in men.
- Get into a regular wash and conditioner routine. Although it’s important to wash hair, over washing can strip hair and leave it dry. We recommend shampooing every other day to two times per week. Once a week, leave your conditioner on for 10-15 minutes to get a deeper conditioning treatment. Try some of our favorite hair products, like our Shampoo + Conditioner.
- Opt for the air dry, when you can. After washing and conditioning your hair, comb through with fingers or a wide-tooth comb (a brush is too harsh on wet hair). Dry in a cotton t-shirt or hair-specific towel, and let air dry. Heat is not good for hair, so limit your blow dryer use to once or twice weekly, always on the lowest temperature setting. We recommend using hair styling products that pamper, protect and prevent damage when using heat styling.
- Limit Hair Brushing. Brush your hair to take care of tangles and make hair look fresh, but don’t overdo it—it can lead to frizz. Whenever possible, use combs, which help eradicate snarls without damaging the hair shaft.
- Get regular trims. The best way to prevent split ends is to get frequent trims. Trimming your hair every 6-8 weeks ensures healthy ends and means you won’t have to end up cutting off more length down the road, when there is damage.
- Use hair color with ingredients you can feel good about. Crafted in Italy according to strict EU standards, Madison Reed is the first Smart 6-Free permanent hair color—free of: ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, PPD, phthalates, and gluten. In between permanent colorings, opt for a gloss treatment to help bring back color that has faded.
- A healthy lifestyle leads to healthy-looking hair. Eating well and exercising leads to healthier skin, nails, and hair. Our bodies work from the inside out, and making healthy choices with what we put into our bodies helps create a healthy look on the outside.
Ask Our Color Crew
Questions about color?
Ask our Licensed Colorists
Monday through Friday: 6am to 6pm PT
Weekends & Holidays: 8am to 5pm PT