12 Things To Know Before You Dye Your Hair

Full disclosure: I’ve never gone to a salon to dye my hair. It's just too expensive and too time consuming. But I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert either. Crouching over the bathroom sink with a towel around my shoulders means saving myself the pricey trip to the salon. However, my experiences with boxes of hair dye haven’t been quite so bad. If you’re in the camp of people who would rather shave their heads than dye their own hair, here is a list of twelve things I wish I had known before I dyed my hair. 

  1. 1. Don’t Trust The Model On The Box

    The woman with her perfectly colored hair smiling at you from the front of the box looks beautiful. and her hair color is just to die for, but the color of her hair isn’t what yours will turn out to be. The color of her hair is more likely the result of a professional dye job. To judge the color that your hair will most likely become, you should look at the chart located on the top of the box, which gives you a variety of outcomes from a range of different before hair-colors.  

  2. 2. Buy Two Boxes

    If your hair is longer (past your shoulders) or extremely thick, you should use two boxes of the same color to ensure that you’ll have enough dye to cover all of your hair. Just make sure to mix the dyes together in a plastic or glass bowl; a metal bowl will cause the dye to change color.

  3. 3. Check the “Before” Shades on the Box Labels When Shopping

    To get the exact color you’re looking for, make sure to carefully examine the “before” shades on the box labels when you go shopping for your new color. Lots of brands have large ranges of colors with many colors appearing very similar on the boxes. Make sure to check the charts against your own starting hair color for a match and see if the final result appears to be what you’re looking for.  

  4. 4. If You’re Going For A Dramatic Transformation, Leave It To A Professional

    Whether you’re going to bleach your hair platinum blonde or dye it jet black, you should always make sure to follow the directions on the dye box to a T. Not following the directions could cause you to end up in the salon for a pricey fix or hair damaged beyond repair. So help yourself and make sure to read the back of the box as carefully as possible before you begin, and follow each step carefully. If you’re planning on changing your hair color more than a couple shades in either direction or doing more than subtle highlights, you should go to a salon for better results. There’s a reason they charge so much—dyeing your hair is a difficult process!

  5. 5. Buy Shampoo For Colored Hair

    Treat your hair the way you treat your skin!  If you have seven different skincare products for each part of your face, you can have a specialized shampoo and conditioner for your new ‘do. Use a sulfate-free, color-preserving shampoo and conditioner, and alcohol-free stylers that would not dry hair out. Make sure your haircare products say they are color-safe before you use them. If you haven’t yet dyed your hair, odds are your shampoo and conditioner aren’t up to par. Any and all clarifying shampoos are much too harsh for your color-treated hair and will pull out the color. Unless that’s your intention, you should avoid clarifying shampoos after you dye your hair.

  6. 6. Protect Your Hair Against UV Rays

    This one’s pretty easy! After you dye your hair, it’s more sensitive to UV rays. Exposure to the sun will bleach the color and cause your hair to naturally lighten. It’s best to wear a hat or a scarf over your hair to prevent the sun from bleaching the color. If that’s not possible, you can spray your hair with a UV protectant 30 minutes before you’re out in the sun (the same way you apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your trip to the beach).  

  7. 7. Consider Your Hair Texture

    Hair texture matters just as much when you dye your hair as it does when you cut your hair. Coarse, curly hair takes much more color in and tends to color in cooler tones. Fine and medium hair textures absorb less color in and tend to color in warmer tones. If your hair is frizzy or curly, you should pick a warmer color, but if your hair is fine and straight, you should choose cooler shades.

  8. 8. Touch Up Your Roots And ONLY Your Roots

    The ends of your hair easily suck up hair color, so when you go to touch up your roots, you should be careful of runoff from rinsing out the color from the top. To help avoid staining the ends of your hair, you should apply conditioner to the ends directly before you rinse out the color from the roots.

  9. 9. Section Your Hair

    To avoid patches in your color or skipping over parts of your hair, section your hair into four parts. Split the hair in half down the center and then each half into two sections, a front half and a back half. Apply the dye to the back sections first so that the dye sits on the back of your hair longer, which causes it to absorb more color and appear darker. This follows the natural pattern of the hair in the back being darker than the front hairs.

  10. 10. Leave It Down

    While commercial models often tie their hair up into buns or wrap towels around their heads as the dye sits, you should leave your hair down until the timer rings and you rinse the dye out. Pulling your hair up into a bun causes the color to unevenly soak into your hair and twisting your hair into a towel leads to the same results. For an even finish, you should let your hair fall around your shoulders naturally with a towel between you and your hair to prevent the dye from staining your clothes. 

  11. 11. Condition When You’re Finished

    Conditioning your hair after your rinse out the dye is a crucial last step. There’s a reason many dye packages come with a tube of conditioner! If you skip this last step, it leaves the hair follicle open and allows the dye to keep working. This can cause the color to end up much darker than you expected, so make sure you use the conditioner from the dye kit or use a deep conditioner in the shower if you already tossed it.

  12. 12. If It’s Too Dark or Too Light

    If your hair color comes out too dark, wash it immediately to try to get some of the remaining dye out. If your hair is way too dark, mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a clarifying shampoo and leave it in your hair for a few minutes. Follow with a regular washing to get as much color out as possible. If your hair comes out too light, you’ll have to add more dye to your hair. If it’s just a little too light, choose a shade darker than the original shade you chose to dye your hair and apply the color only on the parts of your hair that are too light. Leave the color in for no more than half of the listed time and periodically check strands of your hair to make sure the color doesn’t go too far in the other direction. If it’s much too light, you should see a professional.

Last summer, I dyed my own hair for the first time. Well, actually, I bleached it. Over my own bathroom sink, I took the bleach in my gloved hands, mixed it in a bowl and carefully applied it to the ends of my hair, back to front. I purposefully dyed my hair a week before I had a haircut scheduled, so if worse came to worst, I could’ve chopped off the truly awful color. However, I (luckily) was not horrified by my hair color. I do wish I had known how damaged my hair would be after the bleach and how to better take care of it directly after the treatment. If you’re looking to color your hair, I hope you find your perfect shade as we transition from darker winter colors into lighter spring colors. Good luck and happy coloring!