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  • Writer's pictureEmmi

The Effect of Fast Fashion on the Hair Industry

For those that have been living under a rock without any social media, the term fast fashion refers to the mass production of affordable replicas of high fashion pieces. It gives regular people the opportunity to wear versions of clothing seen on the catwalk at a realistic price point. In layman’s words, trendy and “cheap” clothing. While the harmfulness of fast fashion is a topic of contentious debate for many reasons, this article aims to shed light on a facet of fast fashion culture that is solemnly mentioned: the effect of fast fashion on the hair industry.

Influencer culture has allowed us to experience so many things that were never possible in the past. We are given an intimate look into the daily lives of our favorite celebrities and content creators, often spanning from their meals, fitness, and especially hair and makeup routines. This hyper saturation of content juxtaposes the early 2000’s tabloid culture, as we now do not have to wait for the occasional interview or paparazzi photos to find out what is happening in pop culture. The media is officially omnipresent. I literally know what Negin Mirsalehi eats for breakfast. Do you think I’m proud of that? Whatever, my baked oatmeal is amazing.

This constant attention has given a special appreciation to hair and makeup talent. The term Glam Squad has become common practice, and the consistent drastic changes being made (think Kylie Jenner’s rapid color changes) have everyday men and women rightfully thinking the same is possible for their own tresses. The Kardashian/Jenner family (our fearless influencer leaders, tbh) provide my favorite examples of exactly this. Kim Kardashian can have bubblegum pink hair on Monday, and a sleek black bob by Friday. This has a direct impact on the consumer, who believes this is not only realistic, but quickly achievable. After all, we have all heard this classic hair stylist comedy: a client with black hair walks in and requests platinum blonde, in 3 hours, on the cheap.

While the intensified appreciation of hair brought on by our culture’s infatuation with celebrity glamour has undoubtedly done amazing things for the industry, the lack of knowledge on the severity of such major color transformations has left many living in a fantasy world of affordable luxury hair services. To achieve these looks takes an incredible amount of knowledge from your stylist, as well as time and of course ultimately money. The effect these changes will have on the integrity of your strand are long lasting --much longer lasting than your feigning interest in the trend, or your boyfriend. The influencers we see sporting such trendy colors have access to not only the best of the best in talent and product, but the ability to explore avenues not seen as such common practice by the general public. Case and point: wigs have become a major component of Kardashian/Jenner glam. I love this, and I am so here for wigs making a comeback; however, there needs to be a greater understanding that this is often not even the celebrities' real hair we are seeing. It is well done editing and quality hair pieces. If you want a greater frequency of major color changes (think going from dark to light, and back again) talk with your stylist about the reality of the situation from all aforementioned perspectives BEFORE you invest all of your time and money into a color that will leave your hair compromised, with little opportunity for further change.

Of course, these drastic changes can be very possible. Going lighter is a marathon, not a race, and thanks to the introduction of products like Olaplex and similar bond builders, your hair can maintain its integrity and continue to grow happy and healthy lengths. That being said, no matter how much time or money is put into your blonde, damage is inevitable to some degree. Pigment is literally being removed from the strand from openings in the hair cuticle raised through the lightening process (think the shingles on a roof). While the cuticle should always be sealed after your lightening service if done properly, residual porosity is inevitable after such an abrasive chemical reaction. This is why our toners fade away gradually, and brunettes see themselves fading to a much warmer, red base over time. My favorite recent example of the lasting impact of going blonde and the importance of quality hair products is the almost offensively flawless Emily Ratajkowski.

Emily’s major transformation was undoubtedly well done, with great attention paid to the condition of the strand and quality of the service overall. To bring her back to her natural shade of brown, the strand had to be filled once again with the pigment that was previously removed. And so, over time the pigments slipped out of the cuticle, exposing the underlying warmth used to fill the hollows of the strand and create a foundation for her desired tone (think when a Zamboni has to re-smooth the ice after a Hockey game). If she wishes to avoid seeing so much red Emily will have to continue to gloss her strands every six weeks with a gentle demi permanent color. For someone with previously low maintenance hair color, that is a lot of long term commitment, especially after having only kept her golden blonde for less than a month.

In long winded conclusion, even with access to the best of the best, hair color requires upkeep. I mean this in no way as a deterrent to having fun with your hair color --I wholeheartedly celebrate color changes! I simply think the lack of information out there on the long term effects of color services on the integrity of the hair has left too many with unrealistic expectations for themselves and their colorist. Education is key. Talk with your stylist about what path is best for you! And hey, maybe you DON'T want those pops of vivid color that you saw on TikTok after all. Take it from the amount of money I spent on sherpa last year, you might not want these things long term and it may not be worth the lasting impact it has on your bank account or hair condition.

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