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Hair Colour at Home : Step by Step

I have had quite a few people messaging me on the various social media platforms asking for tips and advice for hair colour. The questions range from the basic question of what products I use through to how I get it so vibrant, and how I keep it looking that way as long as I do.  The good news is that hair colour at home is far easier than you may already expect! In fact, I am going to break down my process step by step, including the products I use, to help get you started. 

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Note: I am NOT a professional, therefore while all the advice on this blog has worked beautifully for me over the years, I am unable to guarantee results. If you are attempting to correct or drastically change previously coloured hair I highly recommend consulting a professional prior to any attempts at home.

#1. Selecting Your Dye

To begin with there are a number of different types of hair dye. It is important that you take the time to do your research and decide which is best for you and your lifestyle. The Dermacosm clinic does a great job in explaining dyes in detail in their article The Different Types of Hair Dyes.  There are important factors to consider with the various types of dye that are available, including the longevity of your dye job, how hard the process may be on your hair, and more. I highly recommend you give their article a read, especially if you are new to colouring your hair. Remember – Knowledge is power! 

The dyes that I prefer are NOT permanent colour. There are both pros and cons to this decision. Opting not to go with a permanent colour gives me the opportunity to change my hair colour more often. This is a huge bonus for me as someone who often grows tired of a  hair colour quickly,  frequently looking for a change (my friends have started to refer to my hair as ‘mood hair’ with how often the colours change). On the negative side, there is much more upkeep required if you want to keep a specific colour longer. Unfortunately, a lot of the brighter hair colours are not offered in a permanent colour, so if you are looking to go a little wilder on the colour side, then be prepared for the upkeep!

#2. Gather Your Supplies

To begin with, you will need your hair dye (whichever you happen to select) and bleach if necessary, a tinting brush, gloves and a shower cap. If you select a brand of dye that is contained in a bottle (like Arctic Fox), you will also require a plastic bowl or container to put the dye in. However, other brands (like Manic Panic) are packaged in such a way that you can work directly out of the container. You will also need a brush to apply the hair dye. These are available at most drugstores in the hair dye aisle (many even offer a package set with the plastic hair dye bowl).

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Hair dye is known for its ability to stain the skin, so you want to take steps to protect yourself. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do so. Most dollar or value stores will carry gloves, usually among their cleaning products. To give yourself the best flexibility and use of your hands, you want to select thinner, disposable gloves like you would see at a doctor’s office as opposed to the bigger, heavy-duty rubber gloves. Many people also swear by the use of Vasoline when dying their hair to protect the hairline. This isn’t a step that I currently use, but I will include it as we move forward for those that may be concerned with your ability to keep the dye off of your face. 

You will want to wear older clothes, or ‘around-the-house’ clothing, in the event that you do happen to drop a little dye in the process. This is especially true for those that are newer to doing this themselves. As you gain experience, you’ll get better at carrying out the process without making a mess. That being said, I still have a set of ‘hair dye clothing’ that I have put aside in my closet specifically for this – it’s comfortable and I don’t stress at all about the risks of an ‘accident’ occurring. You can further protect your clothing (and your neck) by grabbing some old towels. Wrap a towel around your neck, pinning it or clipping it in the front, to catch any dye. Keep in mind that dye does stain fabrics, so you want to ensure these aren’t the good towels you plan on putting out for company! 

Finally, you will want to grab a shower cap for after you have the dye in place. There are two key reasons to include a shower cap in your plans – First, it will help to keep all of your dye safely away from the rest of the world if you decide to go about your day while the dye is doing its work (I will often get back to work writing an article like this). Second, it will help to keep the heat from your head in, raising the temperature around the dye. This actually helps the dye to work, as the heat will help to open up the hair cuticles, allowing the dye in. 

#3. Bleach (Optional)

Not everyone is going to require this step. Furthermore, this isn’t always a step that should be taken at home, as bleach has the potential to cause serious damage to your hair when it’s not done correctly. If you have never done any colouring or bleaching at home, this isn’t a step I recommend for a true beginner. You always have the option of having a professional bleach your hair, then returning home to do the rest of the dying process yourself afterward (cutting down significantly on the overall cost). However, if you are prepared to do a lot of research and approach this carefully, it is possible to bleach your hair at home. 

First, be careful not to fall for the myth that the stronger the bleach, the better. In fact, many DIY home bleachers purchase bleach that is far too strong, causing more damage than necessary. I personally don’t recommend anything stronger than a 20 vol developer. This may mean that it will take you a few rounds of bleaching to reach your target, but it’s better to go slow and steady and maintain the health of your hair! If you are doing multiple rounds of bleaching, always give your hair time off between. If you bleach twice in a row, or even 2 days in a row, you’re likely going to end up with dry, brittle and damaged hair. Conditioning treatments between bleaching can also help to replenish the moisture in your hair, returning it to normal. 

Not sure if you are going to need bleach or not? Most of the brands will offer a small colour chart showing you how that specific colour is expected to react based on your current hair colour. These certainly aren’t perfect, everyone’s hair reacts differently, but they are a great starting point. If you want to be certain of how your hair will respond, dying a small test strip of your hair is the only guaranteed answer. Many of the very bright, vibrant colours are going to require a blonde base. If you do have to bleach your hair, moving forward, proper maintenance will only require bleaching of the fresh growth on the roots. This will avoid rebleaching your hair causing unnecessary damage. 

#4. Dying Your Hair

Now it’s time to get down to the actual work. Make sure that your gloves are on throughout this process! If you do rip or damage your gloves, take the time to replace them. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this someday! 

I find it easiest to section off my hair using clips so I can work through one section at a time to ensure that I don’t miss anything. You don’t want to leave a patch of blonde in the middle of your nicely coloured hair! Using the tinting brush (ensure that you have cleaned it carefully if you are reusing the one from bleaching) apply the dye of your choice to your hair starting at the roots and working your way down the hair. At this stage, you don’t want to skimp out on the dye, apply it carefully and thoroughly ensuring every last piece of hair is covered. If you have someone around that can help it is always easier having someone else do the back. While I will do it alone some days, other days my husband will step up and take over for me (he’s good like that)!

hair dye, dye, coloured hair, hair
hair dye, dye, coloured hair, hair colour

If you are wanting to do an additional colour (such as adding streaks or doing a 50/50 colour pattern) you can do so at this stage using foil. To do this, you will dye your hair one section at a time, carefully wrapping it up in foil afterward, sealing the dye inside, before moving onto the next section. When you are finished, throw a shower cap over your hair (if possible, depending on your foiling work, this may not be an option). 

The next part is dependent on the dye that you are using. If you are using a dye with a developer, it’s important to pay careful attention to the recommended time to leave the dye on before you have to rinse your hair, as over developing your hair can cause damage. If, however, you are using a product like Arctic Fox or Manic Panic, the timeline stated is a recommendation as they are free of harmful chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.  Leaving these dyes in longer has been credited with brighter, more vibrant colour by many who have worked with the products. Personally, I will either dye my hair first thing in the morning, leaving it on all day in the shower cap or I will dye it just before bed, sleeping with the shower cap on. If you are going to sleep on it, make sure to put an old towel over your pillow in case the shower cap slips!  

#5. Cold Water Rinse 

I know, I know – No one WANTS to rinse their hair with cold water! Trust me, it’s not high on my list of fun things to do either, especially in the middle of winter. However, by using the coldest water you can handle during this step in the process you will help to lock the colour into your hair, helping it to last longer. It is for this same reason that you should wash your hair in cold water moving forward. This doesn’t mean give yourself a headache with ice cold water… simply go as cold as you can go handle. Make sure that you keep your gloves on throughout this process, as it still has the ability to stain your fingers. 

#6. Vinegar Rinse

I’m not going to get into a long scientific explanation, you are welcome to do your own research. To summarize it all quickly and easily, the pH balance of your hair plays an important role in the maintenance of your colour moving forward, much in the same way you’ve likely read that adding vinegar to your wash will keep your clothing looking bright longer. By applying a rinse of 50/50 vinegar and cold water at this stage you will help your hair colour to stay brighter and more vibrant. Don’t worry, once you rinse it out you don’t smell strongly like french fries from my experience.

Try to avoid washing your hair for 48-72 hours after dying (or longer if you can hold out) in order to allow the cuticles to close. Don’t forget, each time you wash it you are removing a little bit of the colour which means that washing frequently will fade your colour much faster.  Instead, dry shampoo has become a regular part of my routine allowing me to hold off even longer. 

Enjoy your gorgeous new look! Rock it!

What is your favourite hair colour to rock? Do you have a preferred hair dye brand? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below! 

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