Whether you’re dreaming of a soft and natural ombre, or find yourself lusting after adventurous rainbow locks, it’s definitely safe to say that dyeing your hair has become a major form of self expression. But while the dream of achieving your flawless color goals is nothing short of exciting, things can be a bit tricky when dyeing your hair for the very first time.
Unlike hair that’s already been lightened or color-treated, dyeing virgin hair can be a delicate task that requires both dedication and care. But while the process may seem intimidating and complicated to do on your own, it’s important to know that dyeing virgin hair for the first time is possible (even if you plan on going from dark to light) without completely ruining your strands. I promise, there's not reason to be afraid of a little color!
To successfully dye your hair both at home and in the salon, I asked a few coloring experts to break down some helpful and necessary tips to know before you go ahead grab that mixing bowl or book that appointment. So, in case you were thinking you embarking on any sort of coloring journey, here are eight things to keep in mind.
1. Do Your Research
By reading this article, you're already on the right track. No matter if you color at home or in the salon, it’s best not to dive right into it without any sort of prep. Finding the right tools or the right colorist for your particular head of hair is crucial.
“If you are coloring at the salon, it’s important to find the right person, preferably someone who specializes in color,” explains Mario Russo, owner of Salon Mario Russo via email. “Make sure the colorist you are going to is experienced; and also be sure to view their work.”
While you research, consider what kind of color change you are exactly going for. Some drastic dye jobs require a few salon visits, so keeping cost and upkeep in mind always important before making any coloring decisions.
“Always consider what color change you are going for,” says Jackie Ferrara, expert colorist at Pierre Michel Salon through email. “Ask yourself if this is something you will have to maintain often, and if so, are you willing to do so?”
2. Book A Consultation
If you decide to take the salon route, experts like Salon SCK hair stylist Devin Toth recommend booking a consultation first, as it will help you and your colorist come to an understanding of what you are going for. Toth also states that consultations open up good flow of dialogue between you and your stylist, allowing you to better understand coloring terminology.
“Communication is key if you haven't colored your hair before," says Toth. "In scheduling a consultation, you can better understand some basic hair coloring terminology. Some terms to know include dimension, highlights, lowlights, foils, and balayage single process.”
But to help your consultation go even more smoothly, Toth recommends bringing in some pictures to help further illustrate your desired look. This can properly convey to your stylist what kind of work needs to be done on your hair.
“I always suggest that you have some hair color inspiration pictures available to reference, as it's typically a safe bet to remind your colorist what you are going for,” says Toth.
3. Tell Your Colorist Exactly What You Want
Saying you want "red hair" or "some blonde streaks" can mean all sorts of things — so be specific. If you want something more effortless and natural-looking, Devin Toth recommends asking for a gloss, or a partial highlight.
“A colorist will most likely start you off with either a gloss (to add richness, depth and tone that will slightly darken your hair color) or a partial highlight (to slightly brighten your hair and to add soft dimension — without committing to a complete color change),” says Toth.
But if bold looks are more up your alley, Toth recommends opting for single process or double process color, as both coloring techniques are required to lift hair, and will guarantee that high impact finish.
“A colorist could give you anything from a single process, double process, or even a full head of highlights depending on what your vision is,” Toth says.
4. Know That You Might Need Several Appointments
Keep in mind that some dye jobs require a lot of upkeep, which can mean coming into the salon every month. In addition, dramatic hair looks (going brunette to blonde for example) can take more than one salon visit to even get the shade you're hoping for.
“Sometimes you are not able to get to your desired color in the first appointment,” says stylist Bailey from Depasquale Salon & Spa. “This pertains mostly to guests who are brown and want to achieve a light blonde.”
You should also keep in mind that once you dye, growing it out is really the only way to go completely back to your natural color.
“If you hate it, it is always a bit complicated to get back to the same color as before, especially if it is permanent color,” says eSalon color director Estelle Baumhauer, via email. “If your color is too dark for your liking, a specific process will be done to remove the darkness on the hair but you will still see some of the original shade come through.”
5. Stay Away From DIY Permanent Dyes
While you'll almost always get the best results by going to a pro, coloring your hair at home is possible if you take the proper precautions. Meaghan Scarlett, founder of oVertone Haircare recommends starting the process by selecting safe dyes that won’t damage your hair. Boxed dyes in particular can be really harsh, causing unwanted chemical damage you won’t want to deal with.
“Stay away from permanent dyes or box dyes (which contain ammonia) or bleach of any kind. Anything that claims to lift or lighten your hair also falls into the category of chemical damage,” says Scarlett through email. “Instead, choose a semi-permanent dye like Manic Panic or a semi-permanent color conditioner, like oVertone. These products won't wreck your hair if you leave them on too long or need to apply them twice to fix a mishap.”
6. Get The Right Tools For At-Home Application
Dyeing your hair at home properly also is about selecting the right tools, so you’ll want to be extra careful in what gear you actually select. To get the job done correctly, Meaghan Scarlett recommends picking up tools like dye brush, bowl, and latex gloves to help you out.
“The easiest way to apply color to your hair is with a dye brush, a bowl, and some latex gloves on your hands (unless you don't mind having candy colored nail beds),” explains Scarlett. “All of these items can be picked up at beauty supply stores for a few dollars.”
Scarlett also advises to remember that at-home application can be a bit messy, so it’s best to wear old clothes to ensure things don’t get stained.
“Wear a shirt you don't mind staining and put a towel or two below you to catch any of the drips,” adds Scarlett. “You may spill some of your dye, and hair color pigments will stain pretty much anything they come in contact with.”
7. But Color With Caution When You're On Your Own
To avoid any horrific at-home hair dye mistakes, oVertone's Meaghan Scarlett stresses the importance of using non-damaging products, as bleach can damage your hair, forcing you to possibly it cut it.
"If you screw up with semi-permanent color, you've just got uneven color that you can re apply right over," says Scarlett. "If you decide you don't like the color you ended up with, try choosing a shade right next to it on the color wheel and applying that on top for something different. Don't choose anything too far from where you started, though, as opposite colors equal grey-brown. If your color is too deep or too dark, just use a clarifying shampoo and a good colorless moisturizing conditioner to help it fade to a lighter tone."
But if you do mess up at home, Heather Cie, celebrity colorist and co-owner of the Malibu based Cie Sparks Salon recommends using a clarifying shampoo and moisturizing conditioner to help fade your color to a lighter tone, and keep it in good standing until you can get in the salon.
"The best thing you can do to help fix the issue before heading to the salon is to use a clarifying shampoo and a moisturizing conditioner," says Cie. "Depending on how bad the damage is, this can help to soothe the integrity of your hair."
8. No Matter How You Color, Remember The Aftercare
Whether you dye your hair at home or go to the salon, the most important thing anyone can do post-coloring is take care of their new color at home. Investing in color preserving tools is crucial, especially since essentials like shampoos and masks can help beat color fade and damage.
“No matter what color your hair is, when you have color in your hair, you need to use hair products to maintain the color, the texture and the shine,” says eSalon’s Estelle Baumhauer. “Color safe shampoos, nourishing masks and pigmented shampoos will help your hair look and feel better while keeping your color looking as fresh as possible.” Happy dyeing!