Home Hair Dyeing Tips From A DIY Loyalist

by James Hale

These days, Instagram is teeming 24/7 with photos of incredible hair dye jobs. But if you're like me, it's hard to look at those amazing color combos without the fiscally responsible part of you screaming in pain. Between the cost of cut, color, upkeep to prevent bad fading, and a well-deserved tip for your mane Michelangelo, multicolored hairstyles can be a serious blow to your bank account.

It's tempting to save the cash and dye at home, unless you're easily scared off by the thousands of readily available hair dye horror stories. Luckily, it's not all bad news: Take it from someone who has done it for a long time. Young adult author Tristina Wright has been self-dyeing her hair in wild, beautiful patterns for years.

"I've always dyed my brunette hair in some capacity since college, when I cut it all off to a mangled pixie cut and dyed it bright red," Wright tells Bustle in an email. "After I graduated college, I worked a job that gave me the ability to go to a salon on a regular basis to have it professionally dyed."

Despite her formative years going to salons, Wright now dyes her hair exclusively at home, and does so at least once every three months. Here are her tips for doing it right.

1. Protect Your Space

"Cover your dye space with towels. I have learned the hard way to cover the bathroom vanity and the floor with towels or else I end up with streaks of stained porcelain."

2. Use Makeup Wipes

NYX Be Gone! Makeup Remover Wipes, $5, Charlotte Russe

"Makeup wipes are your friend for the inevitable dye on your face, neck, arms, hands, ears, eyebrow, etc. I use NYX Cosmetics Be Gone! Makeup Remover Wipes," Wright says.

3. Choose A Dye You Love

Arctic Fox Girls Night Hair Dye, $11, Amazon

It's all about personal preference, but you should make sure you love the dye you're using. Wright uses Arctic Fox dye, a semi-permanent dyes that's cruelty-free and vegan.

"I've tried most box dyes for reds and whatnots," she tells me. "I used Manic Panic for a while when I first started out, but it transfers to my pillow so easily. I switched to Adore by Creative Image and used that for about a year. They have a huge range of colors, but, again, I had issues with pillow transfer when I slept."

As for Arctic Fox, Wright says, "First off, the dye smells awesome. It's fruity and light. No chemical smell whatsoever. It spreads really easily (but isn't runny, if that makes sense). A little goes a long way through my hair."

4. Make Sure You're Protecting Against Damage

Dyeing so thoroughly and frequently can have a range of damaging effects on your locks, but Wright says both her use of Arctic Fox and her use of other haircare products help mitigate the effects of stripping and re-dyeing.

"Arctic Fox is packed with conditioners, which is amazing and so necessary when I'm bleaching so much to get the different colors to show up," she explains. "Out of all the dyes I've tried, Arctic Fox definitely lasts the longest and restores my hair's health the best."

5. Customize Your Hair Care Routine

"Well, every hair routine should be customized to your hair type so what works for me may or may not work for someone else," she writes. "That said, I highly recommend leave-in conditioners, dry shampoo, a color-safe shampoo, and a hair oil. You also want to make sure any hair product you use is free of parabens or sulphates. Those are murder on your hair, especially if you have any sort of curl."

6. Get Creative

"Sometimes [color combinations] just pop into my head—I love how blues look on me so most of my ideas start there and evolve that way," she says. "Sometimes I see a book cover or a picture online and am inspired by the color scheme (like the time I dyed my hair to look like Roshani Chokshi's upcoming book A Crown of Wishes ). Sometimes I'm inspired by an upcoming holiday or season (pastels in spring, etc). Just recently I dyed my hair colors inspired by outer space and nebulae!"

7. Consider Your Budget

"It's definitely cheaper to dye it at home," she writes. "You can buy gloves 100 to a box and they last months. A large bottle of Arctic Fox dye is $14 and, depending on if I'm mixing it with other colors or lightening it, it will last me several dye jobs (which can span months and months)."

She adds, "I bleach my own hair and can get a tub of lightening powder and a huge bottle of developer for cheap. When I was dyeing my hair in the salon, it was easily well over $100 plus tip. I was also going back every 6-8 weeks so that adds up."

8. Visit The Salon First

For those who feel comfortable dyeing at home but don't want to go in blind, Wright does suggest a preliminary salon visit — especially for those using bleach.

"Do not bleach existing color," she warns. "You can go to a salon and have them lighten it for you. They can also recommend products for your hair type to help repair the damage bleaching does. My routine is one that I developed over years of dyeing and have only recently discovered the right combination of products to help keep my hair healthy in spite of all I put it through."

Whether you're a bona fide dye pro or a total noob, hopefully Wright's words of wisdom have soothed your self-dyeing anxieties, and her gorgeous hairstyles have inspired your next look.

Images: Courtesy Interviewee; Courtesy Brands