Roots are the traitors of the hair dye world. A good dye job can fool people into thinking your genetics are responsible for your hue instead of your stylist, but in six weeks those no good, double-crossing roots peek out from your scalp to let the world know your true colors, so to speak.
Color Wow Root Cover Up ($34.50, amazon.com), created by John Frieda co-founder Gail Federici, is the most recent and arguably one of the easiest fixes to hide roots that pop up between touch-ups. It’s a cosmetic-style compact with colored powder to brush into and color hair. To test it out, I enlisted the help of my roommate, a naturally darker blond who’s ventured into lighter territory and is perpetually plagued by too-dark roots.
Color Wow claims that the powder sticks even during swimming, sweating, sleeping, and even shampooing — ensuring your roots stay your dirty little secret. But does this covert cover-up really camouflage roots as well as it says it does? And does it last?
Mica coated in iron oxides is a crucial component of the coloring capabilities of this product — it also balances out the dullness of the oil-absorbers with some added luminescence. Mica is a flaky phyllosilicate or silica-containing mineral that’s often used to add shimmer to makeup.
Formulators can change it’s color based on what they coat it with (SPC). In this case, the iron oxides provide earth tones that look natural in hair. And surface-treating agent triethoxycaprylylsilane is able to chemically bond to metal oxides for higher pigment loading and better dispersal (KOBO). The combination of color and glisten help to give hair depth in this product.
[Read More: What Does Mica Do in Makeup?]
If a hair powder is going to stay in place, it’s got to be able to stand up to sebum. Color Wow’s solution is a number of oil-absorbing ingredients including (but not limited to) talc, mica, corn starch, and kaolin. The other benefit of these ingredients is that they can reduce the appearance of oil in your hair in general, for those days when you didn’t catch a shower.
[Read More: Is Talc Bad for Your Skin?]
Talc (hydrated magnesium silicate) is the softest mineral and gets used frequently in cosmetics, particularly those to control oil. It’s a covering pigment, but it also absorbs oil, reduces shine, and is a good, lightweight base for cosmetics. And if you’ve heard bad things, forget them, since researchers have found that talc is NOT carcinogenic and does NOT clog pores (Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).
Corn starch (zea mays) is well-known for its super absorbent properties. In fact, I’ve seen it recommended as a home remedy for greasy hair days. It also lends a silky feel to cosmetics.
Kaolin is a hydrated silicate of aluminum that has been used for hundreds of years as an absorbent ingredient. It’s used to treat skin erythema, eczema, and inflammatory skin disorders (The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics).
If you’re suspicious of how a powder could stick around, one of the answers is zinc stearate. The oil absorbers and occlusives (like octyldodecyl stearoyl stearate) that soak up sebum and form a barrier are definitely a big part of the longevity equation, but zinc stearate is really known for sticking around. It’s the fatty acid of a metal salt, namely, the zinc salt of stearic acid (Cosmetic Materials; CDC). One of the reasons it’s got staying power is because it’s hydrophobic, meaning it repels the water that would otherwise rinse this product away lickety-split.
Because it’s insoluble in water, imparts a smoothness, and works well for adhesion, zinc stearate is often used in cosmetic and baby powders (New Cosmetic Science). In addition to this, it keeps the layers of products from sticking together, so you avoid that caked-on look (The National Standard Dispensatory).
Color Wow Root Cover Up was a really easy to use and a lot of fun to apply — it feels a little like painting hair. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to get even coverage, so I kept finding dark patches whenever my roommate shifted her hair. The color change wasn’t super dramatic, but her roots definition were a better match to her dyed hair after use. (I’d recommend doing a little blending to make sure there isn’t a line.) Since there are few color options, this probably won’t work for everyone. My roommate said she wished the blond was a little lighter.
We were both surprised that the powder stayed on during a particularly humid (read: sweaty) summer day, but it wasn’t quite as pigmented as when we first applied it. I’m skeptical about how well it would stay on for swimming, and this definitely didn’t last from shampoo to shampoo for my roommate, as the company suggests — but it’s a good short-term solution.
The most obvious downside to this product is that Color Wow Root Cover Up is more tedious to apply than something like a colored dry shampoo. That said, it offers more control and precise coverage if you have the time for it, and it’s much more handy to carry on hand in case of emergencies.
Ingredients: Talc, Mica, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Zinc Stearate, Silica, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Kaolin, Methylparaben, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Propylparaben (CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77491 (Iron Oxides), CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77266 (Carbon Black, Black 2), CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), Tin Oxide (CI 77861)).