14 Things You Should Know Before Dyeing Your Hair At Home
Things You Should Know Before Dyeing Your Hair At Home

This weekend I attempted to dye my hair at home. It was the first time I’ve done a full DIY dye job since I don’t count the time I did ombré ends. Thanks to some very helpful comments, I successfully dyed my hair without making a mess out of it–or my bathroom. As promised, I will be posting photos of my transformation, but until then, take a look at Sam’s amazing salon dye job. From my experience, I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks (many thanks to readers’ advice) on how not to botch up your DIY hair color. These are the things you should know before you dye your hair at home:

1. Don’t attempt anything drastic yourself.

Even if you consider yourself to be a DIY dye professional, don’t do anything too extreme or complicated. If you have black hair and are attempting to go white blonde, that is the sort of thing that is best left to the professionals, or it is something you work on gradually over numerous applications. Highlights are another thing I’d be leery of trying. When it comes to hair dye my new motto is: “keep it simple stupid.”

2. Wear crappy clothes and protect your bathroom.

Duh, I know, but I have to say it. It is much easier to throw out some garbage bags than it is to spend an hour rubbing down your counter and floor, trying in vain to get dye out of the arty tile cracks. If you have an old sheet, use that and it can become your special hair dyeing sheet. Ditto for clothes.

3. Do a patch test.

Who actually bothers to do this? I reckon 95% of people don’t, but if you are the rare person who gets a severe reaction after you dye your hair, you’re going to wish you made the effort to test that bit of dye first. Just do it, okay?

4. Buy an extra box of dye, just in case.

If you have a pixie cut, you probably don’t have to worry about running out of product, but it is always helpful to have an extra box on hand, in case you accidentally spill half the other one, or you mix the conditioner with the developer. Trust me, it can happen. The good thing is, if you like the color, you already have another box for next time.

5. Open a window and don’t close the door.

Sorry roommates, but it is better to leave the door open and get a bit of non-toxic air in there. You don’t want to become high from all of the hair dye fumes because that will negatively impact how well you cover your roots. If your bathroom has a window in it, open it–even in the winter.

6. Remember the strand test.

This is worth the bit of extra effort because you will have a rough idea of what your hair color will turn out like, and if you need to leave the dye in more/less. If your patch test looks absolutely horrid, you can take comfort in the fact that you saved yourself the tears and frantic calls to your hairdresser to fix a head full of spray-painted color.

7. Lay out some provisions to keep you entertained and your appetite suppressed.

A clever reader gave me this tip and I recommend everyone follow it. If you don’t want to leave the bathroom, bring everything in there before you get going, and you won’t have to worry about tracking dye all over the floor. Just make sure you keep your food covered since hair dye does not enhance the flavor of anything. And don’t forget the water. I guzzled a whole bottle while I was waiting for my color to set. I think I got feverish from all of the excitement.

8. Prepare everything first.

You don’t want to remember after you’ve started that you forgot to put Vaseline around your hairline and have to rummage through the cupboards with hair dye dripping down your neck (like me). When you put down your floor protection, open the dye box and lay everything out. Then read the entire page of instructions. You want to know what the next step is. You can never be too prepared.

9. Protect your skin.

Slap a thick layer of Vaseline around your hairline so the dye won’t adhere to your skin. I also kept a bottle of rubbing alcohol handy to clean up messy parts, once I had finished my application.

10. Ensure everything is covered. Then check again. And again.

I think you should spend as long ensuring your hair is covered as you did when you initially applied the dye. One commenter said they spend 10 minutes just rubbing the dye so it coats every strand, and I agree. I rather get a bit of dye on my forehead than miss a spot by the side of my face. If you have a nice friend, get them to check the back of your head, or use a handheld mirror.

11. Set a timer.

I know that you’re smart enough to remember that your start time was 2:40, but if you’re watching a very good rerun of Breaking Bad, or reading about some celeb love triangle in a trashy gossip magazine, it is easy to lose track of time. Suddenly it is 3:25, and you have no idea if you should rinse your hair now.

12. Cover your head.

Pretend like you’re at the hair salon and wrap up your hair. It will stop dye leakage and help the color process. Shower caps and plastic wrap are both good options (or a combination of the two). Next time, I would pre-cut the plastic wrap because wrapping it around my head while it was still is the box wasn’t as effective as I thought it would be.

13. Clean up that spill NOW.

If you happen to spill a few drops or stain your skin (both are 100% likely), use your processing time to clean up any accidents. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to get off. Rubbing alcohol works for your skin while a damp cloth is good for counters and floors.

14. Rinse, rinse and rinse again.

When the dye is done processing, and you are happy with the color, it’s time to rinse. Whether you use a sink or shower, be prepared to wash until the water runs clear. It will take forever, and you will get worried that all of the dye is being washed out, but keep that tap running until there is no brown/blue/whatever color in the water. If you slack on this step, your nice white shirt could be in jeopardy.

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