Faced with the life-altering circumstances of Covid-19, people are switching things up. That can mean a lot of terrible things, like losing a job or having a loved one get sick. For those fortunate enough to still be employed (and healthy), you may be learning to work from home baking lots of bread, or getting an overwhelming urge to change your hair color.
The desire to change your hair may be about taking back some control, says Suzanne Degges-White, a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University. “There’s so little right now that any of us can control, but our appearance is one thing that’s still within our power.”
Whatever your reason, I’m here to help. I’ve been dyeing my hair wild colors at home for more than a decade, and this guide is my best advice on how to recolor your hair in temporary and more permanent ways.
First, Consider Temporary Options
Feeling impulsive, but not professional? Consider a temporary color change. These methods are cheaper and less invasive than attempting to dye your whole head. You’ll reap the benefits of fun hair color without the scalp sensitivity or regret.
Consider Extensions: You don’t have to get crazy with your own hair. You can add a streak of color to your locks with dyed extensions. (These have great reviews.) It can be tricky to match them to your natural hair texture, but if you’re willing to do some styling or flat-ironing, they will work fine.
Try a Wig: Amazon and other stores sell passable wigs, ranging from curly bobs to extra-long ombré options. For something more durable, try Insert Name Hair. The company offers clip-in ponytails, bright wigs, full-head extension sets, clip-in bangs, candy-colored space buns, and loose strands for feed-in braids. The hairpieces are pretty foolproof. I like everything I’ve tried from INH.
Try Temporary Hair Dye: These come in the form of sprays and styling products. They’re like makeup for your hair, so you can add color and wash it away in the shower. A temporary dye job won’t feel or look as sleek as one from the salon, but it’ll do job well enough. I recommend a few practice rounds to get used to the products. They’re typically better suited for small sections (like your roots, bangs, or ends) rather than full-head coverage. If you have long, curly, or dry hair, you might encounter some textural road bumps, particularly with products like waxes. Manic Panic Amplified Color Spray ($13) is easy to use, but if your hair is long, you might need a couple of canisters. Good Dye Young Poser Paste ($18) is a waxy styling pomade that’s incredibly pigmented and has a pleasant citrus smell. Use it in small sections of your hair for a bright pop of color.
Ready to Dye? Keep These Tips in Mind
Your current hair color matters: The lighter your hair is, the more options you have. If your hair is light blonde, you can get away with using nearly any color, and the result will be bright. If your hair is black or brown, it’ll be difficult to get any color to show up brightly at home. The result will be more of a subtle “wash” of color that shows up better under direct sunlight. The dye you use will likely have swatches on its product page to give you an idea of what color you can anticipate based on the color of your hair.
Do not try to lighten your hair at home: You will damage it; it will turn orange; and whatever color you put on top of it is going to look nothing like what you imagined. Bleach is very tricky to get right, and can melt off your hair! We advise against attempting this on your own.
Brace yourself for mistakes: Don’t dye your own hair unless you’re willing to risk it looking funky for a while. Over the years, I’ve done everything from permanently dyeing my hair pink by accident to burning my scalp by using an extra-strong developer. If something goes awry, it may take more time and money to undo your mistakes than if you had just waited to see your regular hairstylist.
Avoid box dye: According to salon owner and stylist Kenzie Veurink, the box kits you buy at the drugstore aren’t on par with the dyes that professional hairstylists use. Drugstore box kits are heavy on chemicals and may not play well with the products your salon uses.
Use a direct dye: For home coloring, opt for a “direct dye,” which is a semipermanent dye that doesn’t use a developer. During the process of coloring hair with a permanent dye, your stylist opens up the cuticle of your hair shaft, deposits pigments, and seals the cuticle. Temporary dyes don’t open up the cuticle of your hair, so they slide off after a wash or two. Direct dyes fall somewhere in the middle. They partially open up the cuticle, so the color sticks around for longer than a temporary one would, but since the dye doesn’t fully penetrate your hair shaft, it won’t last as long as permanent dyes. The color will fade gradually with regular washes, and if you had light hair before you colored it, some staining might occur. Head here for more information on different types of hair dyes and how they all work.
How to Dye Your Hair
First, make sure to complete a strand test. Don’t skip this step! Shampoo your hair, but don’t condition it. Let it dry fully. If the strand test result is satisfactory, then protect your bathroom with old towels, wear gloves, and protect the skin near your hairline with petroleum jelly.
Apply the dye to dry hair. Fully saturate your hair, and work the dye in until it gets frothy. Make sure to soak every strand. Cover your head using a shower cap and let the color sit for as long as the instructions advise. You can use heat from a hairdryer or wrap your plastic-covered noggin in an insulating layer to make the color more intense.
When you’re done processing, rinse your head in water that’s as cold as you can stand—hot water will make the color fade faster. Direct dyes act like conditioner, so you don’t need to do anything else after rinsing. In fact, you shouldn’t use shampoo for at least a few days. The longer you can wait to wash your hair, the more your color has a chance to lock in.
To keep your new hair color vibrant, consider using color-depositing hair treatments, like Overtone Daily Conditioner or Celeb Luxury Viral Colorditioner. These shampoos and conditioners contain pigments that will prevent your color from fading as quickly.
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