The latest word on artificial hair color sounds like the talk of modern romance:
"There's no commitment."
"If it's not right, don't worry."
"It'll be gone before long."
But when experts, such as Phyllis Klein of the Clairol company, describe hair tinting this way, they mean it as the highest form of praise.
In what is known by industry insiders as the yuppie hair-care revolution, women and men over age 35 are looking for ways to add sparkle to graying hair without opting for permanent dyes. Their quest has created an outcrop of new hair color products.
Like the radical '60s politics that shaped their younger minds, this generation's answer to gray is not all that original. They're experimenting with updated forms of old- fashioned, semipermanent color.
Statistics show that this is a steadily growing trend. Of the estimated 35 million women (one woman in three) who use some type of hair color regularly, the fastest growing segment consists of at-home users who prefer semipermanent hair colors, according to market reports.
Since 1982, there has been a 6% annual increase in semipermanent hair color sales. Klein of Clairol says: "That's phenomenal. The usual is more like 2%."
She adds that beauty salon use of semipermanent color follows just behind home use and says: "In comparison, the growth in permanent hair color product sales is much less dramatic."
These days temporary colors have names, such as Celophanes, Pazzaz and Jazzing. When taken as a group, stylist/colorist Geri Cusenza of Sebastian hair-care products says: "I call them transparent colors." Her term has caught on.
In essence, it describes a treatment that is free of the peroxide and ammonia contained in permanent hair dyes. It does not cover or hide gray hair but shades it closer to the hair's natural color. It lasts about four weeks--half as long as permanent color. But it fades away without leaving a line of color demarcation. And while permanent hair colors that penetrate tend to give hair a dull finish, transparent colors that coat hair add a considerable shine.
James Viera, vice president of L'Oreal hair-care technical center, says transparent colors are best suited to people with less than 40% gray hair. And the highest concentration of them are from a group people love to hate.
"They're the young, upwardly mobile, yuppie generation getting their first gray hair but not wanting to make a commitment to permanent color yet," he says.
"For them a semipermanent color that washes out after five or six shampoos is an easy introduction to color. It takes away drabness, and it lessens the stark contrast between gray and natural hair. It makes hair look 10% gray. Not 40% gray."
Klein of Clairol says this gives consumers the impression that the product is "more natural," which gives it extra appeal to the '60s generation.
"If you're 35 now, you went to Woodstock, you wore no makeup and you've been reluctant to get into glitz and glamour," she says. "Semipermanent tints will highlight gray."
Most temporary hair colors are applied the old-fashioned way (pour them on, rinse them off after about 20 minutes). But the newest of the no-commitment color is as amenable as mousse.
Vidal Sassoon recently introduced a version of it called Colorific. It is a foam, applied right out of the can and unlike several color-mousse predecessors, it does not need to be rinsed out. The formula includes a semipermanent tint that can withstand up to three shampoos.
"We think of it as hair cosmetics," James Whittam, Sassoon's vice president of research and development, says. "It provides a hue more than it covers natural color. It's to make your hair match your outfit or your shoes."
At its most completely noncommittal, a color mousse will dissolve with the first shampoo and is categorized in the business as a one-night stand. It is made in such winsome shades as blue, purple and gold. Most users are under age 20.