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NOTES on MEA - Ammonia Substitute in Some Hair Color Products

Mono Ethanol Amine (MEA) is an ammonia substitute. It works to open the hair's cuticle by

swelling the hair. It is not efficient in penetrating into the hair's cortex, so is a good ingredient

for use in some "no lift", demipermanent hair coloring products, and does not create "lift"

of the pigmented hair. Demipermanent shades were designed to match, enhance, tone

and deepen hair. They can very effectively "cover" gray in cases where the hair is fine,

thin and not particularly resistant, and when no "lift" of the still-pigmented hair is desired.


The molecular weight of MEA is 61.. a large molecule. Ammonia's molecular weight is 17,

so ammonia penetrates most easily into the hair's cortex and allows for both lift and

deposit, and very distinct coverage of gray.


When colorists use an MEA-based product, Very Thorough Rinsing, and Shampooing are

essential. WHY? Because MEA, (unlike ammonia which leaves the hair as a gas when

color is developing), is not volatile. MEA can remain active in the hair if not completely and

professionally removed from the hair via an excellent shampoo treatment! A quick and lousy

shampooing can leave residual MEA in the hair! So, during the next 24 hours after coloring,

the hair can become darker. Scalp irritation is also possible.


My observation: MEA is a fine 'mild" alkalizer for use in demipermanent hair color. Some

color brands have removed ammonia from their permanent hair color lines, and have, instead, used MEA as the alkalizer. If you enjoy using these, this is, of course, your

professional choice Ammonia was replaced for one key reason: Odor! MEA lacks

the odor of ammonia-based hair color. However, because it does not penetrate deeply

into the cortex, the lift and deposit are not as effective or long-lasting as results obtained when a permanent hair color shade contains Ammonia. Whatever you choose, remember

that your professional attention at the sink.. when color is being removed from the hair, is

more important than you might ever have thought before! So, rinse that hair until the water

runs clear. Use a top quality shampoo and lather well.. be sure to wash hair at the nape, the back of the head and behind the ears! If required, perform a second shampoo. Then, again, rinse FOREVER before conditioning the hair and rinsing again! You and your client will benefit! See you this coming Monday at Trilogy Salon in Chagrin Falls, Ohio! Next stop:

Palm Beach, January, 2023! B


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