What You Need to Know Before Dyeing Your Hair for the First Time

We all think about ~dramatic~ transformations sometimes, and adopting a new color can seem like the perfect way to make that change. But if you’ve never dyed your hair before, it can be an overwhelming process to figure out which color to try, what type of dye job to request and where to go to get your money’s worth. Luckily, we’re here to help! We’ve listed out the five things you need to know before booking your appointment so that you can feel confident and empowered in whatever decision you make!

1. Consult a professional before you get your heart set on a color

Top stylist and New York City salon owner Riccardo Maggiore says it’s important to meet with a colorist before treatment. “It is more about science and color theory and less about the color you like,” he says. “Your colorist can analyze your skin tone and find the color that best compliments and highlights your best features.” World-renowned colorist Angelo David Pisacreta agrees, adding that “eye color, bone structure and hair texture…play a role in determining the perfect hair color for an individual.” Of course, if you have a general idea of what you want, feel free to take some sample photos with you to your appointment to help guide the process. Just don't get too attached—your stylist's recommendations might be better than anything you could've dreamed up on your own!

2. Cut your hair before you color

It’s always a good idea to get your hair cut exactly the way you want it before applying color, in order to make sure the overall end result is on par with expectations. A cut will also have an impact on the color application. “Hair type, texture [and] porosity” all influence how the final color will turn out, says Pisacreta, and a haircut can alter some of these qualities.

If you’re aiming to save money, try getting a basic haircut at an inexpensive salon first and then going somewhere more specialized for your color. And while you don’t need to drop your entire paycheck on a dye job, you definitely want to put your trust in someplace reputable for your first go-around.

Related: 5 Hairstyling Hacks to Make Your Life Easier

3. Know all of your options before committing

When it comes to hair dyeing, there are lots of options beyond a total color transformation. If you’re nervous about a drastic change, consider a less-serious switch. Pisacreta recommends highlights if “the client wants a more natural look,” while ombré is a good first step for someone worried about the upkeep and commitment of all-over color. Ombré “will brighten up their hair and create the effect of a natural, sun-lightened look,” says Pisacreta. Maggiore also suggests another first-timer option: bayalage. This technique involves the application of color just on the surface of the hair with more saturation at the tips. “The principle idea behind this technique is of ‘less is more’ giving natural-looking color,” he says. “With very little maintenance hair colored with this technique grows out beautifully and more naturally so you don’t get an obvious re-growth line of demarcation and can go longer between appointments.” Demi-permanent color is another option, which Maggiore says “lasts up to 24 shampoos, contains no ammonia and gently deposits only color on the hair.” In contrast, a typical “permanent” hair dye will start to fade after four to six weeks, so consider your commitment level before choosing which process is best for you.

4. Beware of damaging products

One of the best reasons to consult a professional colorist is to figure out what products are the safest and healthiest for your hair type. This is especially important because, as Pisacreta points out, some people may even be allergic to coloring agents. “This is why salon professionals perform a strand test,” he says. “The condition of the hair and its texture are key…we always perform a complete analysis before coloring in order to maintain the hair’s health.” This is also why you should think twice before reaching for a box of drugstore-brand hair color unless you’re 100 percent certain that there are no chemicals in it that might react badly with your hair type!

5. Don’t forget the post-color care

Once you color your hair, it's natural that you'll want to preserve the investment as long as possible! That's why you should aim to choose products specifically designed for color-treated hair. Maggiore recommends products from “Kérastase Réflection because they are designed to be gentle and protective and help prevent color fade.” The brand's three-step regimen includes items intended to cleanse, treat and prime, and you can find their products at your local salon, Amazon or even Target. But if you're on a stricter budget, John Freida and Redken offer some less expensive options as well—just be sure you choose products that are approved for color-treated hair!

All in all, it never hurts to have your colorist recommend color care products, but don’t feel like you have to spend an extravagant amount. Stick with a couple of basic items (like a good, color-protecting shampoo and conditioner) and then continue using whatever styling products you’ve already got!

Changing up your hair color is an easy way to feel refreshed and renewed, and with the semester soon ending, there’s no better time to shake up your look. But if you're thinking about a dye job, be sure to invest in the proper amount of preparation to decide what color, treatment and level of permanence is right for you. We’ve all heard horror stories about botched coloring, so save yourself some stress and anxiety by planning ahead!

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