Few hair horror stories are scarier than those involving hair dye. From burnt-off ends to accidentally neon roots, a lot can go wrong in the dying process. What else would you expect from putting harsh chemicals on your hair?
If you’ve ever dyed your hair with some level of frequency, then you likely have a hair horror story (or two). Life experience is a great teacher, but having to learn via irreparably damaged hair is pretty unappealing.
So, we reached out to the hair experts to find solutions to these horrors before they happen. These hairstylists collectively have decades of experience under their aprons, and they’re here to give you the low-down on hair dye.
1. When You Wash Is Critical
Unless you know you’re about to get a wash at the salon, it can be tempting to freshen up before visiting your hairdresser. However, Monica Davis, professional hairstylist and founder of MyStraightener, suggests otherwise.
“You shouldn’t wash your hair for one to two days before the procedure,” Davis explains. This provides “a natural protective layer of oil on your scalp.” This protective layer shields the sensitive skin on your scalp from the harsh chemicals in the hair dye.
Of course, that doesn’t mean going straight to the salon after a five-day hike. “Your hair shouldn’t be excessively dirty, though, as dirty hair doesn’t grab the color better,” Davis says. “That’s just a popular myth.”
Similarly, when you wash post-dye is important. “Wait a full 72 hours before shampooing after having your hair colored to let the cuticle close fully and conserve the pigment inside.”
Allyson Carter, hairstylist and EIC at Hair Spies, adds to only use lukewarm or cool water. “Steaming hot water can dry out the strands,” Carter explains, increasing the risk of color bleeding and fading.
2. Be Prepared To Commit (Or Risk The Consequences)
Almost every single hairstylist we spoke to mentioned that they wished customers understood what kind of commitment is involved with hair dye. Jay Small, a professional hairstylist and co-founder of Arey, has actually spent a considerable amount of their career advising against dye.
“Once you color your hair, you will need to come in on average every four weeks. The only way to get rid of the color is to grow it out,” Small warns. Plus, all those benefits of dying your hair? Small suggests they’re not all they seem, either.
“If you are coloring your hair to hide gray, using hair color on the scalp can increase the percentage of gray with every color application,” Small says. This is “due to the oxidative stress,” which studies have shown can play a major role in the aging process of hair.
If you don’t consider your long-term plan, then you run the risk of being stuck in a cycle of salon visits (and bills) you didn’t anticipate. Moreover, if you don’t take the time to use quality products with professional guidance, you are bound to have a more unpleasant hair dye experience overall.
3. Different Colors Require Different Approaches
From alabaster white to jet black, the sky’s the limit when it comes to hair color. But not all colors are cared for equally. It’s important to tailor your hair dye and haircare to the needs of your specific color.
If you prefer to go light, then you might want to opt for a different dying technique, suggests Lina Waled, haircutting specialist. “For blondes, traditional highlights are high maintenance because they have to be touched up as the roots grow in. Balayage is a technique that is soft and allows for a beautiful and seamless grow-out.”
Conversely, Waled advises brunettes to “go with a demi-permanent color, also known as toner.” This is especially important if you plan to change your hair color often as it’s very expensive and difficult to lift dark hair.
Just take it from Katya Bychkova, a beauty content creator with years of hair dye experience. “I dyed my hair black one day, and it took me years to regrow it,” she recalls. “I tried to change it to brunette, but it turned burgundy red. I tried highlights, and my hair looked too brassy and yellow.”
Bychkova ended up doing a full chop to revive her tired tresses. “The entire process took years, and I was unhappy with my in-between stages,” she says.
4. Your Products Are Going To Have To Change
Think again if you thought you could dye your hair and keep using the same old products for aftercare. Once you color treat your hair, it needs a different level of care than non-color-treated hair. NYC hairstylist Kali Ferrara has a few products she regularly recommends to her clients.
“I recommend a weekly hair mask. I like Oribe’s Gold Lust Transformative Mask and the Verb Hydrating Mask,” Ferrara says. She recommends using “either in conjunction with the Olaplex No. 3, which is a pre-shampoo treatment.”
“I also recommend a hair vitamin to help with hair growth and health. I like Vitafusion’s Gorgeous Hair, Skin, and Nails Gummies. It’s an easy, affordable, and effective way to work on your hair health from the inside out.
You might also need to try dandruff or allergy-specific products. “Every time you dye your hair, you are drying out your scalp,” Bychkova says. After bleaching her hair, Bychkova uses a prescription-grade anti-dandruff shampoo to soothe the scalp.
Further, when you dye your hair, “you risk developing an allergic reaction,” Bychkova warns. “If you are allergies-prone and are planning to dye your hair for the first time in your life, consider [getting] an allergy test before an actual treatment. It could save your life.”
5. Permanent Is Not The Only Option
Another important option to consider is whether permanent is right for you. “I wish people were more into temporary cream colors,” says Ghanima Abdullah of TheRightHairstyles.com. “There are so many colors available as temporary dye that can actually enhance the health of your air instead of destroying it.”
Alternatively, Abdullah suggests, you could make your hair temporary—not the dye itself. “If you love color, consider wearing your hair short. So, each time you change it, you can just cut off the ends and go for a completely new look, whether it’s darker or lighter.”
6. Mixing Different Products Can Be Dangerous
Whether mixing brands, permanence levels, or the dye itself, hairstylists across the board all agree: don’t do it.
“Don’t mix brands,” Ferrara warns. “You don’t know what is in each particular brand’s box. Therefore, it could result in a chemical reaction that could ruin your hair or turn it a funny color. Don’t try to dramatically change your hair color. There are reasons we have gone to school, apprenticed for years, and continue our education. Hair color isn’t as easy as it looks.”
That includes highlights, by the way. “It’s not worth it,” Ferrara says. “The chemicals are harsh and can easily break your hair off. Any damage your hair incurs cannot be fixed without cutting it off. Don’t go too dark or too light. Don’t put color all over thinking you’ll get any result other than dark or green ends. Be realistic.”
Abdullah adds, “don’t mix semi-permanent and temporary dyes on one head. Each of these dyes does a different thing to the hair shaft. If you put a temporary dye on top of another type of dye, it’s going to seep a little into the hair shaft, which is already so porous. You might get a color or effect you didn’t expect.”
Davis wraps it up best: “Leave it to the professionals. Value your strands more.”