Monday, July 8, 2013

Important Facts About Coloring Your Own Hair

My dear readers, I love to dye my hair. I love the slight burning tingling sensation on my scalp. I love the distinctive smell of the dye. I love to spend a full 10 minutes choosing between 3 boxes of pretty much exactly the same shade of red. I love to use the deep conditioner after I've rinsed out the dye. I'm being completely serious here - I love it.

Since I have been dying my hair for a million years (approximately), I thought I would impart some of the wisdom I've gained. Ready? Great, because this is ACTUAL ADVICE. But quick, important note: I pretty much only have experience coloring white girl hair and dying it darker. Please be advised, I am only an expert about my own head.

Choosing Hair Color

* Brands are important and differ from hair type to hair type in effectiveness. You might have to experiment a little to find what works for you. My baby fine hair loves Garnier Nutrisse and Feria. My roommate's baby fine hair loves ColorSilk. Play around. There are a TON of options.

* COUPONS. Look for coupons. Hair color can get pricey.

* Really look at the color on the box. Many boxes will have some sort of grid that shows what happens when you apply that color on brunette or blonde hair. It's not terribly accurate or helpful but it's a start.

* Remember that it will most definitely fade. That means that if you end up with a color you don't like, give it a week because it might settle into something you DO like.

* Really look at the color on the box, part 2. If you want to dye your hair black, make sure you know the difference between jet black and blue black. Turns out, blue black might dye your hair dark indigo if you have light hair. Just ask my friend Mike whose hair I once accidentally dyed dark indigo. Sorry, Mike.

* A word about dying your hair black: this is a commitment. It's like the unforgivable curses, you have to MEAN IT. Because I am here to tell you that if you get sick of your hair being dyed black, you only have two options: let it grow out or buzz your head. Once, when my dyed black hair was in the process of growing out, I decided I had had ENOUGH so I dyed it red. I thought that probably the red would meld with the black and I'd have a black cherry effect. Very wrong. The dye only took on my roots, so I looked like I was bleeding from the scalp.

* But! If you really hate it? Just dye it again something closer to your natural color. CAVEAT: If you have gone darker or redder than your natural blonde, you might not actually want to do this because you might end up with hair the color of processed cheese product.

* I'd give it three days before dying it for the second time, if you can handle the wait. And if you DO dye it twice in a short amount of time, get a really good deep conditioner and apply that every day for a week. Aussie makes a super nice 3 minute remedy.

* Look, sometimes you're going to use the same box, same brand, same color and it's going to come out slightly differently. That's just how it goes.

Prepping for Application

* Have a clear workspace/sink/counter.

* If you're doing your own, have a mirror available in addition to the bathroom mirror.

* Dress for success. I wash my hair dye out in the shower (nope, doesn't dye your body when you wash it out), but you can also rinse in a sink or in the tub if you have a tub. If you are planning to get in the shower, wear clothes that you don't mind ruining that can come off in a way that does not go over your head. I have dyed my hair shirtless before, but that's just asking for dye stains on your boobs.

* Before you even mix the ingredients together, apply vaseline or conditioner to your forehead, ears, behind the ears, just below your hairline all around. This helps keep the dye from staining your face, which it definitely will. Vaseline works best but I understand that it's a concern for people with oily skin to put petroleum jelly on their face. Conditioner works too.

* Don't use the conditioner that comes in the box to prep your face. That is precious and you need every bit of it.

* Have long hair? Have a plastic claw clip ready so you don't have to worry about the wet dyed hair flying into your face while you let it set.

* Follow the directions on how to mix the ingredients. Even if you've done this a hundred times, you never know - something might be different.

* So you're shaking up the bottle of stuff to get the color activated. Definitely shake away from your face. Also, I like to discard the first little spurt out of the bottle because it is never fully mixed.

And Then You Dye Your Hair

* Make sure all of your hair is saturated.

* Use your double mirrors to make sure you got the nape of your neck completely without also dying your entire neck and back.

* The clock starts as soon as you are finished, not as soon as you start.

* Once the dye is on and the clock has started go ahead and secure long hair on top of your head with that claw clip.

* Absolutely as soon as you have started the clock, take off those gloves and get rid of them. NOW take a cotton ball or similar, put some shampoo on it and clean up your face, neck, ears, etc. This is the time to wipe the vaseline or conditioner off your face. If you see some dye starting to stain your skin, scrub away with the shampoo.

But It's So Boring!

* UGH. Now you have to wait 25 minutes until you can do anything. You can't lean against anything because you have a head full of paint, and you can't do anything interesting because you have a head full of paint.

* Make a cup of tea or a pour a glass of wine.

* Since you HAVE to sit still for 25 minutes, now is a great time to paint your nails.

* Also, maybe pluck your eyebrows.

* Or watch an episode of Strangers With Candy.

* Or be like me and multi-task with a nose strip and nail polish.

and a muumuu without a bra

Let's Wash It Out!

* Rinse completely. For real, this is going to take way longer than you think.

* Slather as much of that glorious conditioner on your head as you can and leave it on as long as you can.

* Rinse the conditioner completely. 

* Make sure you clean up any dye splotches or spills as soon as possible, especially from tile. 

* If you dye your hair red and rinse it in the shower, it may or may not look like the end of Fatal Attraction in there when you're done. Be nice and rinse it off.

Congratulations! It's the new you!


  1. These are great tips, but there are some platinum only things I don't see here. For one, my muumuu would be WHITE because that lovely smoke grey would be ruined if I wore it during dye time!

  2. Excellent point, my platinum friend! Please do fill in the blanks!

  3. Prell is THE product to use to wash/fade out too-dark dye. Trust me, I know.

  4. And if you bleach before coloring, be prepared for color that may resist changing, ever again...or at least until you grow it out and cut that part off...Also, very little covers pink dye. Ever.

  5. I wear one of my husband's old button down shirts when I dye my hair. I don't care if it gets all stained (and it is) and I don't have to pull it off my head or step out of it. (I also cut the collar off because it was getting in my way and would get dye on it and then the dye would get on my neck).

  6. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on at-home dyeing vs. salon dyeing, if you've had the latter done.

  7. Annie - I have done both! I love getting my hair professionally dyed but it's very expensive and takes a long time. It lasts a little longer and the color is more precise from the salon.

    1. Meg, I have never had any problems with fading, and I believe this is because, as we have established, I am a filthier person than you and wash my hair way less. Washing every day will take that color out right quick. And sulfate-free shampoo, always!