How to Dye Your Hair Crazy Colors + Keep It That Way: A Guide

As you can see, I have had nearly every color under the sun. Also a mohawk. And this collage doesn’t even cover it all! One of my favorite color schemes was during a camera-less period – when it was very short with bangs, neon orange in the back, purple in the front, and a skunk-stripe of green in the bangs. At any rate, here it is now:

I get questions and comments on my hair all the time. I’ve had unnatural hair colors for nearly three years now, with a few periods of normal-ish hair. I of course can’t say it’s something I’ll do until the day I die, but I LOVE having it this way and it’s sort of become my trademark (esp. in a town as small as this one!). When I had to have “normal” hair, it just didn’t make the day as great, silly as it sounds. At any rate – this post is for those who love the candy colored hair too, and want to know how to do it to themselves (or inflict it on their friends/family…muahahaha!), or are just curious about the process!

(obvious disclaimer: I am not a professional and cannot be held accountable for any bleach and/or dye related havoc!)

How do you get it that way?

With bleach and dye, of course! For a bleaching FAQ, check here. (the other memories are also great reading!) She covers most of the basics including the color theory you need to know to work with hair, and does it well. It’s pretty basic: bleach hair, rinse out, shampoo (and condition, probably just for ease of combing, but nothing too intense, see below!), put dye on (using the same method as the bleach, to make sure you get it everywhere!), leave on for a while, rinse, tada!

Re getting hair white: It is hard, and will probably damage your hair. The first time I got any part of my hair white it was a total accident and I just kept it that way; the second time (with the green and white, where I’m making that oh-so-attractive face) I was bleaching out from purple, which made things a lot easier as it was already toned! If you’re bleaching out anything that is red or orange based (which will be almost everything except for like, an ash blonde or light brown), you’ll want to pick up some toner or make your own – I used a tiny tiny TINY (like, less than pea sized probably) of RAW purple in a bunch of conditioner and it worked great for me.

What do you use?

Mostly, Special Effects dye. I’ve always had great luck with it and found it to be the longest lasting. Punky makes a great turqoisey color (the picture with purple and green-blue mohawk? that’s Punky Apple Green) which lasted a decent chunk of time too. I’ve also had good luck with the RAW Purple Passion and True Blue. I don’t use Manic Panic a lot myself, but I’ve heard good things about After Midnight Blue. To be fair though, everyone’s hair is different – I’ve seen friends have Manic Panic’d hair wash out in literally two shampoos, but when I used it (in one of the reddish pink shades, forget what it was) it lasted a while, and I keep a tub of Vampire Red around for mixing.

Speaking of mixing – yes, you can mix semipermanent dyes! Doesn’t matter what brand, or colors (although of course there are bad ideas, like say, red and green, which will just make poop-brown). I myself really like to mix colors any more, it seems to make the result a little more multidimensional. But I also have a pretty crazy dye collection from 2ish years of this, so I know mixing is not as feasible for beginners. A note about mixing though; I’m not sure why but when you mix several dyes, the result tends to be VERY dark for the first few days until it fades a bit. See the top picture with red and blue hair? The purple on the side was mixed, and it appeared near-black for several days until fading to a rich purple. My theory is that there’s so much pigment it just takes a while for the real color to show through. That might be poppycock though.

About “permanent” and/or “professional” brightly colored dyes: I’ve personally found them to be overpriced and only last as long as SFX anyways. I’ve only seen a few in action, but there you go.

Doesn’t that fry your hair?!

Repeat after me: CANDY COLORS DO NOT DAMAGE HAIR ANY MORE THAN NATURAL ONES! Very common misconception! In fact, bleach is the only part of the process that actually damages hair – pretty much all of the dyes the average consumer can get their hands on are vegetable based semipermanent dyes, which means that they’re sort of like very very pigmented conditioner. You’ll notice that you don’t need to mix the dye with developer, meaning it contains no hydrogen peroxide at all. This very fact is why it’s ok to leave semipermanent dyes on for hours; I usually leave it on for 2-3 for maximum saturation. Some people say there’s no noticeable difference after 45 minutes, but I’ve done a few experiments and I definitely noticed a difference.

It is, of course, a great idea to invest in a protein conditioner or treatment just to make sure your hair is in tiptop shape after the bleaching (but use this AFTER the dye – you want your hair as porous as possible so that the dye will soak in well!), but unless you were trying to say, bleach out black, or are already dealing with very damaged hair, your hair will probably be fine.

How do you keep it bright so long?

It’s a pain, I’ll tell you. The main thing is not shampooing my hair in every shower – which is easy enough for me, but might be harder for some hair types. I will say that when I first starting doing this, it made my hair a little gross for about a week until my scalp adjusted to it. A lot of times, people overshampoo without knowing it, which just makes the scalp dried out, which makes it produce more oil. So when the overshampooing is stopped, the scalp is like “MOAR OIL PLZ” anyways, and it takes a while to get used to the new routine. Shampooing with dye-friendly shampoo (no sulfates for you!) also helps.

The second thing, which is not as easy, is washing your hair in cold, or at the least, lukewarm water. Hot water drains the color out like crazy. It’s a pain, for sure, but if you want to extend the life of your color, there you go! These tips work for “normal” hair colors too, and I’ve heard stylists tell them to clients who are getting red dye jobs (red is one of the hardest colors to keep in, since the color molecules are so large).

Finding a job with colored hair:

This can be tricky. As far as short term (i.e., you’re a student and just want something part time), I really liked working at Hot Topic, despite the various things you hear (”OMG dude yer a sellout!!!”), it’s on the Forbes Best 100 list, and is a fun environment. There’s also Target and Spencer’s Gifts, off the top of my head – and it never hurts to ask, either! If you’re in a bigger city, you’ll have a LOT more luck with this, especially if you’re a creative-minded individual – jobs in the arts seem to be much more accepting of funky personal style (candy colored hair, piercings, tatts, etc.). There’s also these memories in the dyed_hair community that have some suggestions. However, sometimes, unfortunately, you just have to play by the rules before you can break them (great post by Birdie!).

But you’re so pretty, why would you dye your hair THAT color?!

Because it’s my hair and I wanted to. Eff off.

Just kidding, hope none of you were planning on asking that question! My answer in person is usually a slightly more tactful “I like the color” and a smile. Unless the person in question is being intentionally rude,  in which case they might get the above answer. Or my personal favorite – “Well, THAT was rude! You must be so embarrassed.”. That works in a variety of situations, by the way.

People will stare at your new hair. I tell myself it’s because they’re not used to seeing so much concentrated awesomeness in one spot. But sometimes they just think I look dumb, which really, happens even when normal hair is had. It doesn’t bother me at all and writing about it makes me think of a situation at Target – one of my coworkers told me they loved my hair but they would NEVER be brave enough to do it. Why not?! Especially if your employer doesn’t care! Have pink hair! The happy stares and “Look, mommy, she’s like a My Little Pony/Rainbow Brite!” from five year olds will more than make up for the crotchety people who are probably just pissed off about something else and taking it out on you.

In that vein, I will share a heartwarming story, possibly my best crazy-colored-hair related one. A friend and I were at the food court in the mall; at the time her hair was light pink and mine was dark blue. A relatively “normally” dressed woman came up to us and asked if she could speak with us for a minute – we exchanged “Oh great, here we go” looks but nodded anyways. She pulls us aside and says, “Well, girls, my daughter LOVES your hair” – this is where we notice the little girl, probably around four, hiding shyly behind her mom – “but she is too shy to say anything, so she told me ‘Mom! Those girls must be rock stars, with hair like that! Can you get their autograph for me?’ ” And the mom hands us a little pink sparkly notebook.

CUTEST THING EVER. Of course we agreed. And things like that, my friends, are why having crazy hair is beyond worth it – even if I didn’t love seeing it in the mirror every morning.

So! That covered everything I could think of. Any more questions? I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability, promises!

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15 Responses to “How to Dye Your Hair Crazy Colors + Keep It That Way: A Guide”

  • Wicked Halo says:

    This is a great post! I myself have been trying to get my hair into blue (my natural hair color is dark brown tipping on black), but so far I haven’t managed to, so these are excellent tips!
    Love the concentrated awesomeness concept :D and the little girl story is just priceless :) ))

    Wicked Halo’s last blog post..From heaven to hell and back

  • What an amazing post! It seems like dying your hair different colors is such a challenge; but your tips make it sound so simple! :)

    Cafe Fashionista’s last blog post..Smitten Saturday

  • Michelle says:

    @Wicked Halo – oh good luck! Blue is one of my favorites, and it was the first color I did all over!! Maybe try bleaching, then waiting a few week and bleaching again (with 20 volume?)? I bet a darker blue would cover any orangey tones pretty well…

    @Cafe Fashionista – I’m glad you liked it! :) Thanks!

  • Jill Vicious says:

    I worked in retail, and while I had pink hair (I believe a pink mohawk, even) a little girl said to her mother, “Mommy! She has special hair! I want special hair!”

  • Jill Vicious says:

    Actually, now that I think about it, it was “fancy hair”.

  • Michelle says:

    @Jill Little kids are definitely the best reactions ever!

  • lucy says:

    I have had lots of little kids ask me if i was born with (now blue) hair! Also o have found that RAW dye is good and smells like candy….weird and pretty awesome. But manic panic i think is by far the best.

  • Michelle says:

    Lucy, that is too cute! I’ve had ok luck with Manic Panic, but I know a lot of people who’ve had it just wash right out of their hair. I think it just depends on each person’s hair porosity and such…I really like the RAW True Blue though, it’s what my chunk of blue is right now :)

  • JillVicious says:

    I also think that for further references, I recommend everyone check out http://compunction.org/dyeing.txt

  • Estetik says:

    very good hair color I like it
    Estetik´s last blog ..Popo Şekillendirme Estetiği My ComLuv Profile

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