A few years ago, after a lifetime of playing it safe with my hair, I started thinking about how I wanted to play around with color more. Pastel hair dyes were becoming more and more mainstream, and I wanted in — specifically, I wanted pink hair. Not the hot pink that might make you think of your emo pop-punk phase (which was, honestly, such a good phase) or the bright and bubbly pink that brings a Barbie doll to mind. I wanted pretty and light pastel pink. But I was skeptical, because I knew how tough it was to make this color actually last longer than a few short weeks (or even days). I struggled with the problem of how to make pink hair dye last longer, but I think — and I don't want to jinx anything! — I might have figured out some foolproof tips.
After a brief stint with very temporary pink dye (as in, lasted-less-than-48-hours-even-without-shampooing temporary) that helped me realize I loved the rosy hue, an opportunity fell into my lap: I was invited to do a color session with celebrity hairstylist and Matrix hair guru George Papanikolas. How could I say no? I took a deep breath, picked the brighter pink as opposed to the peachy one, and let him work his magic. The result was a much more intense shade, and I was scared I would hate it, but... I loved it. The only problem was figuring out how to make this pink hair dye last longer than the last one.
I'm happy to report that the color, which is semi-permanent and supposed to last about 20 shampoos, has stuck around for a little over a month. It survived a round of blonde highlights, a lot of lengthy trips to the beach, and many shampoos. It faded beautifully, it is still in my hair as I speak, and it gets me compliments all the time. I seem to have stumbled upon a way to make pink hair dye last, and I feel the need to share it with everyone who wants this beautiful color in their strands. Check out these tips to make your own pink hair live forever (or, you know, a few weeks).
1. Start With Healthy Hair
As with any other hair dye, it's essential to start off with healthy hair. Damaged hair doesn't hold color as well as healthy hair does, so if your hair is very dry, processed, and weak, the shade will wash out faster. Papanikolas (who dyed my hair) suggests "regular trims," which will keep hair healthier as well as get rid of the super damaged bits, and hair masks for moisture. Specifically, Papanikolas recommends "Matrix Biolage Hydrasource Mask, which helps even out the porosity. Dry, porous ends will fade very quickly if they aren't trimmed and nourished." So, for a few weeks before your dye job, focus on keeping your hair hydrated and healthy with deep conditioning masks and deeply hydrating oils.
2. Bleach It First
If it sounds kind of crazy for me to advise you to keep your hair as healthy as possible, but also to bleach it, that's because it kind of is. Unfortunately for us natural brunettes, light dye colors (like pink) look best on lighter hair. On bleaching beforehand, Papanikolas says, "It's not mandatory, but pink hair works best on lighter hair as the visibility is more difficult on darker hair."
Bleaching gets a really bad rep, but it is possible to keep your hair healthy while doing it. If your hair is very dark, be patient and bleach slowly, giving yourself a few weeks between sessions. You should also make sure you're hydrating your hair with deep conditioning masks and treatments the whole time. Papanikolas recommends "Matrix Light Master, a great lightener that has conditioning Pantenhnol within, which aids in moisture when lightening the hair."
3. Pick The Right Formula
When it comes to hair dye, especially bright colors, the formula, brand, and quality definitely matter. You might be tempted to go with the more inexpensive drugstore brand you found on sale (I get it, hair dye can get pricey!), but it's worth it to go for something that ultimately works better, even if it costs more. You can do a little research to find something that works for you, but I highly recommend Matrix Color Sync Watercolors (I got Quartz Pink). As Papanikolas points out, "it is an ammonia-free demi-color, which is great for a subtle, but fun pink color." The perfect dye is good for your hair (this one is very conditioning) and gives a lovely shade.
4. Start Off With A Darker Shade
One of the best ways to ensure that your color lasts longer is to start it darker than you might have intended. If you start off with light color, it's obviously going to fade faster, because it probably wasn't kept on as long. A darker color will hang on longer, and it will fade faster than you might think. Plus, you might like it more than you anticipated! My intense shade of pink lasted only a few days before starting to fade really nicely. It eventually made its way to a gorgeous shade of rose gold that I'm completely obsessed with.
5. Get It Done Professionally
Not to sound bougie, but getting a hair color like this one done at a salon rather than DIYing it in your own bathroom is probably your best bet. Your trained colorist can get a much better pink color for you than you can at home. Not only will the product used most likely be better quality (and possibly stronger), but they can do the requisite prep as well. When asked if the salon is a better idea than a box dye, Papanikolas says, "Definitely. It usually requires pre-lightening for best results." If you're serious about your pink, save up some money, and make an appointment!
6. Let The Dye Sit For A While
Although your stylist more than likely knows what they're doing, make sure they're leaving your hair dye on for the maximum amount of time. Papanikolas says, "When processing the color, it's suggested to have the dye sit on the hair from five to 20 minutes. In order to maximize the deposit, leave it on for the full amount of time." When Papanikolas dyed my hair, he set the timer for 20 minutes, and then it ended up sitting a little bit longer.
7. Don't Shampoo Every Day
It shouldn't be too surprising that shampoo is pink hair dye's worst enemy. Papanikolas advises "spacing out your shampoo schedule," as washing can strip your hair of color, literally making it fade faster. Alcohol and sulfate based shampoos are the worst offenders, but even some of the supposed color-safe shampoos are bad too. Once you dye your hair pink, try to go two to three days without using shampoo, using dry shampoo instead.
If you can't imagine cutting back on shampoo, Papanikolas recommends using "a color safe shampoo like Matrix Total Results Color Obsessed Shampoo, which gently cleanses without stripping the hair."
8. Rinse With Cold Water
If your goal is to keep your pink hair for as long as possible, then make sure you're washing and rinsing with cold water. Warm water feels amazing, but it opens up the hair cuticles, which allows color to escape. Cold water doesn't do this, so your dye will stay longer. You don't need to start taking icy showers (although that might actually feel good in the summer), but you should at least go for a cooler wash for as long as you can stand it.
9. Avoid Heat Styling
Drybar Hot Toddy Heat and UV Protectant, $30, Sephora
We already know that heat opens up your hair cuticles, allowing color to escape faster. Heat styling does this, and it also damages and fries your hair. I truly believe that one of the reasons my pink color has stayed for so long is because I rarely heat style. I haven't blow dried my hair in weeks, and I only use a curling wand once or twice a week. If you have to use some sort of heat styling to get the look that you want, make sure you use a heat protectant spray beforehand.
10. Try To Stay Out Of The Sun
The sun isn't only damaging to your skin, it's also hurting your hair. Too much time in the sun leads to damage and dry strands. This is particularly true for bleached hair, which is already more delicate and fragile. Going outside in the summer seems inevitable, so at least use a sun protectant spray. I've been going to the beach on a fairly regular basis since getting my pink hair, and I've been using this Alterna Haircare Shine Spray religiously.
May your rosy strands stay vibrant and bright!
Images: Jessica Booth; Courtesy Brands