How To: Hairdye

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“I apply my personality in a paste” -Clementine Kruczynski, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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No one knows hair-dying like Clementine, however, you don’t necessarily have to take it to her extreme and change it every other minute. Hair dying is a fun way to express yourself whether you’re looking to go just a shade darker or want to transform your head into a rainbow explosion of colorful goodness.

First, let’s talk basics. Hair dying might seem really scary to those of you going, “I’ve never dyed my hair before!”, but changing the color of your hair doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. Dyes and hair-coloring products vary in their “life-spans”, meaning that not every dye you use will be SUPER-EXTRA -PERMANENT-OMG.

Temporary Dyes:

In this day and age there are great alternatives to actually dying your hair at all. Temporary dyes are easy to come by, and are great for those special occasions when you just want a random colorful streak in your hair.

  • Hair Chalk:

    hair chalk has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It’s a great and inexpensive way to try out different colors on some of your hair. MissVioletLace sells a bag of mixed colored hair chalk, which gives you the freedom to try out a little of every color in the rainbow! To apply, simply run the chalk from your roots down to your ends. I recommend wearing gloves during this process unless you’re trying to match your hands to your hair color. When the color is to your liking, spray with hairspray to reduce the risk of the color rubbing off on all your worldly possessions.

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Pros: Hair chalk is awesome for those looking for super temporary color and want the power to try a different color everyday, without damaging their hair or altering their natural color.

Cons: It’s super temporary, meaning that just about any contact with the elements will wash this color out in a second. Avoid laying chalked hair directly on fabric (especially white!) because it will make quite a mess. Also, dark-haired dames be warned: hair chalk is definitely a product for the lighter-haired ladies, and while it is possible to get some results from chalk (try dampening your hair before applying and stick to lighter more vibrant colors like white or yellow), the colors probably won’t give you that wow-factor you’re going for. Lastly, hair chalk can be really drying for the hair (it is chalk, after all) so make sure that you’re using a deep conditioner to counteract it’s drying effects.

  • Extensions:

    love the dip-dyed look but are unsure about the permanence of it all? Extensions are a super easy way to get that added pop of color without any risks at all. They are zero-commitment, wear-as-you-please accessories for your hair.

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Pros: hair extensions are versatile, and can help you achieve longer lengths and layers in your hair. Extensions are great because they offer a clip-in solution for day-to-day hair boredom. They can be dyed virtually any color, and more high-end extensions can be heated and styled just like your regular hair.

Cons: Quality extensions are expensive, and getting your extensions dyed is also quite pricey. Unless you’re willing to shell out a decent amount of dough for extensions that look and feel like real hair, this probably isn’t the right option for you.

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If you’re looking for a longer-lasting solution to your everyday hair-blues, semi-permanent and demi-permanent dyes are the perfect way to achieve vibrant hair color for just a few washes at a time. While semi-permanent dyes last a few weeks at best without major fading, a demi-permanent dye will last about a month without fading. Unlike chalks and extensions, semi-permanent dyes allow you to dye just a strip, or your whole head, if you want. Again, these dyes will show up better if you have lighter hair, but if you’re willing to pre-lighten your hair, they can be just the right option for you!

Semi/Demi-Permanent Dyes:

For those trying to go just a shade or two darker than your natural color, or trying to get some longevity from your favorite color, look no further than semi or demi-permanent dyes. Most boxed hair dyes that you get from your local drugstore fall under this category. These colors are not intended to last for a great deal of time, but are definitely a good way to change things up in terms of your hair color.

  • Natural shades:

    If you’re trying to keep your hair color in the realm of the believable, Clairol and L’Oreal make great natural colored boxed dyes that you can pick up at almost any drugstore. These dyes come with easy to follow instructions, and about enough dye to completely cover a head with shoulder-length medium-thick hair (I usually get 2 boxes just to be sure I get full coverage). Make sure to follow instructions completely, though—leaving the dye on for too long may actually lighten your hair and can be damaging.

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Pros: These dyes are great for those 3am-split-decision-complete-makeovers that we all need every once in a while. Many of the dyes they sell now are made with natural conditioning agents, so your hair will be softer and shinier after your dye it, and who wouldn’t want that? I suggest always trying to dye your hair darker than your natural color for the best results— for example, someone with black hair naturally shouldn’t buy a blonde boxed dye kit and expect to be Miley Cyrus blonde in a matter of minutes. Whenever you’re trying to go lighter, you should consult a professional first.

Cons: Like I said, if you’re looking to go lighter, this probably isn’t the option for you. Also, if your hair is really light naturally and you go too dark, there’s a chance that when the color fades out you won’t be able to get your exact natural color back. The first color I ever dyed my hair was called “Black Cherry” which was a really dark purple-red, and I swear that my hair has had a red tint to it ever since (not that I even remember what my natural color is after all these years). Not to mention, boxed dyes— though they are getting better— have a tendency to smell terrible.

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  • Henna:

    Henna is an all-natural dye that is great for your hair and will give you absolutely amazing natural color results. Lush sells henna dyes that will dye your hair rich shades of brown and red, while leaving it feeling healthy and looking shinier than it ever has before.

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Pros: Good for your hair, good for the environment… what’s not to love?

Cons: Applying henna is a very messy process, so set yourself up for success by preemptively defending against unwanted dye stains.

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  • Crazy colors:

    If you love to try new and completely insane colors (just like me!), there are tons of great hair dye options for you. Although you might have to search a little beyond the realms of your average drugstore, it’s totally worth it to have awesome hair that makes jaws drop.

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  • Manic Panic:

    Manic Panic has been around for a while now and is a totally vegan, cruelty-free vegetable dye. You can find it in most beauty supply shops and recently it’s been showing up in stores like Urban Outfitters as well. Manic Panic dyes come in almost every color you can imagine, and some of their dyes even glow under black light.

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Pros: It’s a vegetable dye, which means that no matter how long you leave it in, it will only intensify the color and condition your hair. That’s right. The longer you leave this stuff in, the better it actually is for your hair! Cool, right?

Cons: Unfortunately, as is the case with most DIY dyes, these colors won’t show up as well on dark hair. What’s neat about Manic Panic is that they actually sell an at-home bleaching kit, with step-by-step instructions on how to lighten your hair enough so that the dye will take. However, unless you know what you’re doing (and sometimes even if you do know what you’re doing), bleach can be a dangerous game. When you use bleach to lighten your hair, you run the risk of permanently damaging the hair itself, making it brittle and dry. These kits are usually fine for doing a strip of color, or just dying the ends of hair, but if you’re trying to lighten your whole head, I strongly recommend going to a salon and having a professional do it.

  • Punky Color by Jerome Russell:

    Honestly this is my go-to for all my hair-dying needs. I stumbled across it when a friend of mine suggested it and I’ve been utterly in love ever since. Like Manic Panic, Punky Color is a vegetable dye, so you don’t have to worry about watching the clock when you have it in (really, guys. I once kept a color in overnight and it looked freaking amazing the next day). It’s a bit harder to come by, but Ulta sells some select colors and you can usually find the cheapest prices on Amazon if you’re willing to wait a few days for it to ship.

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Pros: Did I mention that this stuff smells fruity and delicious? No more weird chemical fumes on your head and in your nose-- this smells absolutely amazing. I’ve also found it to be a stronger dye, which means that the colors are more vibrant and it lasts longer than any other semi-permanent dye I’ve used before.

Cons: This stuff does make a mess. Be extremely careful when applying this dye. The color selection compared to Manic Panic is also pretty sparse.

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Some Important Tips:

When using a boxed dye (or any dye for that matter), you should start by putting a layer of vaseline around your hair line and on your ears and neck. Sometimes the dyes can be very strong, and the last thing you want is a weirdly colored splotch on your forehead days after you’ve dyed. If you do get dye on your skin, wet a paper towel with some rubbing alcohol and gently rub the color off. By the same token, make sure you cover any surfaces in your house or apartment that could get stained with an old towel or newspaper, and when you’re rinsing, be wary of the fact that  some dyes can even stain your shower or sink. It’s also important to wear clothes you don’t mind staining, because this stuff gets pretty messy. If possible, have a friend or roommate lend a helping hand. Sometimes getting even coverage throughout your hair can be very difficult and having someone there to touch-up any spots you may have missed will ensure a successful color.

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Most importantly, have fun with it! You’re young, and if ever there was a time to mix things up in terms of your hair color, it’s now. Changing the color of your hair can be a great way to get a fresh-start, and if you’re careful about it, will have no harmful effects to your hair. With all hair dyes, make sure that you’re using a good conditioner to keep your hair silky soft, and try to wash it less frequently in order to preserve the color. This may sound gross, but just because you’re shampooing less in the shower doesn’t mean your hair has to be dirty. Dry shampoo is great for dyed hair, because it gets applied directly to the scalp so your hair feels fresh and clean, but you’re not washing any of your color out. You can purchase dry shampoo at most drug stores and at Sephora.

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Remember, your best resource when it comes to your hair, is your hair stylist. Ultimately they will know what you should or shouldn’t do to it. Be warned, dying your hair can be somewhat addictive. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t go more than a month or two with the same color without needing to change things up! Have an awesome hair color you want to share with us? Tweet @TrimMagazine or tag us in your Instagram picture!

Happy Hair-dying! xo

Hannah Gerber

Instagram: Han_nahg