How to dye your hair at home (without messing it up)


An arrangement of hair supplies sits on a bathroom counter. (Photo courtesy of Mallory Shouse)

What’s the deal with people dyeing their hair unnatural colors lately? Many students at Northwest flaunt colorful locks in favor of having a normal hair color. As spring approaches, it may be fun to try a new hair color for yourself. Here are some tips on how to spice up your look if you’re considering sporting a temporary pop of color without the salon cost.

Pick up supplies.

Firstly, you’re guaranteed to need certain supplies in order to pull off a DIY hair job. Although convenience stores like CVS, Walgreens, Target or Walmart can be easily accessible and inexpensive, you’re likely to find only box dyes and colors with poorer quality. I highly recommend going to Sally Beauty or a professional hair supply store if possible, to buy the dye and bleach you’ll need.

A variety of box hair dyes in CVS. (Photo courtesy of Mallory Shouse)

What you’ll want to have:

  • Shower cap/Plastic grocery bag: Seals in the moisture from dye and allows it to sink in.
  • Old towels/t-shirts: Use them to cover surfaces and your clothing in case dye or bleach get on them in order to prevent messes and stains.
  • Gloves: Prevents dye from staining hands and nails, or skin irritation from bleach contact on skin.
  • Vaseline: Keeps dye from staining your neck, ears, and hairline.
  • Bowl: Rather than working out of the tube or container, pour dye into a bowl to guarantee even consistency. Make sure this bowl isn’t expensive or special, as the dye or bleach will leave a surface stain.
  • Hair dye brush: Rather than using your hands to distribute dye or bleach, a brush will minimize the mess.
  • Hair ties/clips and a regular hairbrush: Always use a hairbrush and hair ties or hair clips to section hair before dyeing.

Plan ahead and research.

Research is paramount before dyeing your hair. YouTube has a variety of tutorials available for any hair color on any hair texture. Aka Aislinn, Brad Mondo and NaturalReign are some of my favorite channels that post content about haircare and have tutorials that are easy to follow.  Reading about the science behind hair dye is key to understanding the process and avoiding frying your hair. By researching online, you’ll be able to predict the outcome more easily.

Decide whether you want to use bleach or not.

If your natural hair color is brown or black, there’s a good chance you’ll need to bleach your hair before you go in with dye. Lightening your hair can cause damage if hair has been previously dyed, especially if the color used before was a box dye. If you have hair that has never been dyed before, it’s least likely to experience severe damage from bleach.

Bleach kits are widely available at convenience stores and include everything needed to lighten small sections of hair. If you plan on doing your whole head, it’s best to buy bleach powder and 20 or 30 volume developer from a salon store like Sally Beauty. Remember to start bleaching away from the roots, and to do plenty of research before deciding to jump into lightening. For those who are wary of bleach, brands like Overtone, Lime Crime and Splat offer options for dark hair that are still vivid. Remember to give your hair a couple of days to adjust for the best results before going straight in with the dye, though you don’t have to wait if you really don’t want to.

Add that color!

After bleaching (or not!) it’s time to add that color! I’ve tried several brands and narrowed down my top 4 favorites.

  • Iroiro: This brand is my absolute favorite. It is only sold at Sally Beauty and Walmart but can be ordered online as well. The color stays after several washes and doesn’t stain surfaces beyond repair which is convenient. The colors also fade beautifully, especially their pink.
  • Arctic Fox: This brand has been a staple in the hair dye stashes of many, and for good reason. This brand offers a huge variety of colors that stay vibrant through several washes, and almost always applies and fades nicely. You can get Arctic Fox at Ulta Beauty, Hot Topic or order it online.
  • Ion: This dye is for professional use, so you can expect it to impress consistently. They have a more limited color selection but also offer great lasting permanent bright colors. These dyes must also be mixed with a developer for best results, and their crème bleach and developer are my favorites. These dyes are a bit pricey for their size but offer amazing and long-lasting results.
  • Manic Panic: This brand is also a go-to for any veteran hair dyer. They have a variety of colors as well as a Pastel-izer that gets the perfect pastel shade. Manic Panic does tend to wash out faster than most dyes in my experience, so if you want something more temporary, this is the best option. Manic Panic can be bought at Target, Walmart, Ulta or Sally’s, which makes it quite easy to find in store. This dye can also be ordered online.

Time for aftercare!

After dyeing your hair, you’ll want to use a deep conditioning treatment to restore its softness and shine. Olaplex has the best bond-sustaining treatment for dyed hair, though Shea Moisture’s Strengthen & Restore Masque is my favorite for my wavy hair. Over time, you’ll want to wash your hair with cold water to maintain the color. Sulfate-free or color safe shampoo and conditioner will be the best option to maintain the color. If you need to get the color out fast, using a dandruff shampoo mixed with crushed vitamin C tablets will do the trick in a pinch.

Now that you know all the steps and precautionary measures to take, go forth and express yourself with a new look!