DIY Hair Dye - What to Know Before You Start

College is a time for experimenting and having fun. What better (and safer) way to experiment than dyeing your hair? The changes can be fixed, they wear off with time and it doesn’t affect your health. Here’s the thing. I’m a college kid now. I have no money, and I don’t really have a lot of free time either. How am I going to dye my hair?

My roommate really wanted to dye her hair, having never done anything like it before. I knew that you could buy some cheap hair dye at stores like CVS, Big Y or Rite-Aid. Her and I took a trip (which also resulted in some snacks) to pick up the color dye she wanted. The aisle for hair color is quite large. There are several different brands and colors all around, no two the same.

Picking the color, I think, is the hardest part. On each box it shows you an idea of what your new hair color will look like based on the color you have now. Usually it lists three possible ideas, from darkest to lightest. There are certain hair dyes made for lighter natural colors and some made for darker. Remember that it won’t look exactly as it does in the picture, but I feel as though it does come out pretty close.

Once you decide on a color, bring it home and get ready to start it. I had helped my mom dye her hair at home a few times before, so naturally I thought I was a pro! Okay, not really, but I did feel more comfortable than my roommate with the hair dyeing process. Remember to read the instructions and you should be fine.  

Before you get to the bathroom and realize there are some things you wish you had, here is a list my roommate and I decided on as necessities. Gloves are thankfully included—each box always includes a pair for you to wear. However, there are a few things you’ll need to find for yourself. A pair of scissors is important because it makes opening your supplies easier. A plastic bag you can drape over the sink so that, if you get dye all over, the sink doesn’t get stained in the communal bathroom. Music is always a plus, it helps you feel less stressed and passes the time easier. You will want a timer of some sort as well, to keep track of the process. If you have a hairbrush that you wouldn’t mind getting dye on it, I recommend using it. It can help you evenly spread the dye through your hair, and it also helps to remove the tangles once you get going.

The kits that my roommate and I bought came with four different bottles. The instructions will tell you to combine these bottles, but there will also be shampoo and/or conditioner for you to use later in the shower. Don’t add that to the mix.

Each person will advise you differently on the procedure of coloring hair. The directions will tend to tell you to take very small sections using the tip of the bottle to help separate them. However, one of the girls on our floor who has dyed hair several times told us to go crazy with the dye. I prefer to squeeze out color the same way I put ketchup on a hotdog and then use my fingers to spread the color throughout the strands I’m working with. There is one thing everyone will tell you, though: don’t stop until you’ve used all the hair dye, even if you think you’ve covered all your hair.

When you’re done putting the dye on, set the timer and clean up. I pull my hair back and up with a large clip to keep it off my shoulders. Our floormate likes to wrap a plastic bag around her hair to keep it contained. Whichever you prefer, go for it. Don’t worry if you leave your hair for a little longer than the instructions say. When I did mine, I left the dye in for an extra 20-30 minutes, and my roommate left hers in for a little less. The longer it sits, the stronger the color will be. You should be able to see it start turning color before you wash out the dye. Be careful with letting it sit for longer, especially if your head starts to sting or burn. In that case, wash it out immediately.

When washing out the dye, use lukewarm water. The hotter the water is, the more color will rinse out of your hair. The heat opens up the pores in the hair strands which allows for the dye to be released. Rinse your hair until the water runs clear. Then you can finish like normal, using the shampoo and/or conditioner that was provided to you, at least the first time.

If you can, use a towel that you don’t care about or that you are okay with getting colored. Even though you’ll have rinsed out all the dye, there will still be some when you go to towel dry your hair.

Make sure to spend at least five minutes (or more) admiring your new hair in the mirror! If you don’t love it right off the bat, remember that it will start to change ever so slightly as time goes on. After dyeing my roommate’s hair, it wasn’t as light as she had hoped. But even just the next day and the day after, it looked a little different to me and we both thought it was slightly lighter.

Don’t forget this, though: You are beautiful in every way, natural hair color or not. Dyeing your hair is for you, not for anyone else. If you think it would make you feel more attractive, then go for it. The more beautiful you feel, the more you will radiate and glow. Be proud to be you, whatever color hair you have!