Tube hair color vs. Hair color in a bottle

Q. Dr. Said, I hear so many different opinions about color in a tube and color in a bottle. Some say tube color is better because it has calibrated ammonia (whatever that means). Others say color in a bottle gives you better coverage. Please explain to me the difference between the two products and which one is less damaging to the hair. Ryan, Chesterfield, MO.

A. There is absolutely no difference between the two products in terms of the kinds of dyestuff they use. The difference is in the base holding the dyes. Tube colors have higher viscosity cream or gel base than the bottled liquid colors. They are perceived to contain more conditioning ingredients that leave the hair feeling better after the hair coloring service. However, most of the new bottled liquid colors are enhanced with conditioners as well. The real advantage of tube colors lies mainly in their ability to stay put in place and resist dripping especially when processed under heat. Another advantage is that a hairdresser can use half a tube of color and store the rest without fear of color loss due to oxidation. On the other hand, once a bottle of color is opened it must be used within a short period of time or the color gets spoiled because the headspace generated in the bottle after first use will contain enough air to oxidize and deactivate most of the unused color.

Most ammonia-based hair colorants, whether in a tube or in a bottle, have “calibrated” levels of ammonia.  This means that low-numbered shade (darker shades) contain low levels of ammonia because they are designed mostly for deposit. As the shades get lighter (levels 5 through 10) ammonia levels are increased to achieve additional lift that would help in achieving even hair color. High-lift shades (level 10-12) contain the highest level of ammonia.

Whether it is bottle color or tube color, the hair colorist will make the difference between a superb result and an average one. Application, timing, and choice of the right shade can make a huge difference in color deposit and in the condition of the hair. For superior coverage, never be stingy in applying enough color mixture, and never allow the mixture to dry up. The same amount of damage can be generated with the misuse of either tube or bottle color. In reality there is always some degree of damage to hair with any color, but a skilled hair colorist is that who knows how to minimize that damage.