I’ve had my fringe dyed unnatural colours for over a decade. I used to get it done in salons, then just bleached in salons, but after a while I learned to do it myself. It’s not all that hard and it can be done safely at home, depending on your hair type.
I get constantly asked what dye, where and how I do it so
I thought Gen insisted that I write a tutorial on how to do it.
Step 1 – Ze Bleach
Many tremble in uncontrollable fear upon hearing its name, then threateningly relate horrible tales of Eternal Doom and Hairlessness (on par with the most horrifying urban myths) which, in truth, really did happen to their aunt’s dog’s sister’s niece’s neighbour.
B L E A C H
*Insert screams of ultimate terror*
Now that we’re all done rolling ourselves on the floor, flailing and screaming in interminable anguish, let’s talk about bleach.
In order to get your hair the most vibrant colour possible, you must make it a neutral base by stripping the natural pigment from it with bleach. Bleaching your hair as pale as it can safely go will make it absorb the dye better and less likely to adversely affect the colour of the dye. Just like dyeing/painting a pair of white jeans pop-blue is easier than trying to dye a pair of dark grey jeans the same shade.
Pharmacies sell boxed hair bleaching kits along with their hair dyes. Often these kits are meant to turn you blonde and not bleach your hair in preparation of dyeing so they contain yellow dyes. I recommend going to a beauty product store and get powdered bleach and developer separately.
Bleach powder is pretty much universal and any kind will do. Some come with tones to help neutralize a specific pigment in your hair, as do developers. Most people have a copper/red pigment. If it’s really strong, it’s best to neutralize it by using blue toned bleaching powder and developer.
Developer comes in different strengths called volumes. The higher the number the harsher the bleach will be. I recommend starting low and working your way up. However if you have already bleached your hair and are dissatisfied with the colour, it’s best not to re-bleach it right away or with stronger developer as its effects accumulate and will damage your hair.
Just like bleaching powder, developer can come tinted blue to counteract red/orange pigments in your hair, however it’s usually only available in Volume 30.
Bleaching Powder/Cream Developer Ratios
To bleach your hair you must mix both the powder and developer which then starts the chemical reaction. The right ratio for your hair is something that must be figured out through trial and error (you can test tiny strands of hair in an unnoticeable spot until you get the right mix). In any case the ratio must never have more powder than developer.
Little chart of possible powder/developer ratios
Your Bleaching Goal
Depending on your hair type it can be really easy or really hard to bleach. Personally, my hair bleaches like a dream and I can easily get it silvery white with no damage if I need to, but to dye it bright pink it only needs to be somewhere between pasta yellow and wheat coloured. Basically it needs to be yellow with no hint of orange.
For me it means about 1 part volume 30 developer, 1/2~1/3 part bleach powder for about 25~30 minutes with no heat.
It’s best to bleach on dirty hair. Your hair can be as dirty as you like (days, weeks, months!) but it’s best that it doesn’t have any styling products in it. The natural oil of your dirty hair will act as a natural barrier to protect it while bleaching.
Once you’ve mixed the powder and developer in a plastic or glass bowl, apply it at the root of a small strand of hair with a tint brush, making sure that it doesn’t touch your scalp and that every hair is covered. It’s best to wear plastic gloves while applying the bleach as it can irritate skin. To be sure not to miss any part of your hair, section it in small rows and apply bleach to both sides of the part. Make another part/row about 5 mm from the previous part and, again, apply bleach to both sides of the part. Repeat.
After the bleach is applied you can wrap the strands/your head in cling wrap to prevent the bleach from drying out all the while keeping it warm.
Leave the bleach in for 20 to 40 minutes. The harsher the bleach the less time you should leave it on. You can check on the bleach’s progress by taking a small part of hair and rubbing it to wipe some of the bleach.
Once you’re done, rinse your hair with cool water and shampoo twice. It’s important that you do not use conditioner at this point.
If you have difficulty getting your hair the right shade try applying heat (with a hairdryer) to your plastic wrap covered hair. Again, it’s better to use mild bleach but to leave it on longer and with heat than a harsher bleach for a shorter time.
Step 2 – Dyeing
It’s best to dye your hair right after bleaching it once it’s completely dry. Freshly bleached hair is at the perfect state to absorb the most dye. Think of it like pouring water on a dry sponge VS a moist one. The dry sponge (bleached hair) will absorb a lot more water before being full than the moist one (unbleached/dirty/conditioned hair).
Special Effects Dye
I’ve tried a few dyes (Manic Panic, Elumen) over the years, but since discovering Special Effects I haven’t looked back! It’s by far the best dye I know of for unnatural colours. It’s long lasting, vegan, doesn’t smell and is not tested on animals. It comes in a myriad of colours, all of which you can mix together to create new shades.
The best part is that it really lasts forever. No one believes me when I tell them how long it’s been since I last dyed my hair when they ask me about the colour. I dye my hair every month because the roots show but I only apply the dye to the roots. I only really need to reapply the dye to all of my hair every couple of months. The pinks and reds that I’ve tried fade really naturally. It goes from very bright to pastel over time so it never looks weird.
The shades that I use from Special Effects are a mix and depend on my mood, but it’s always one (or more) of these 3: Cupcake Pink, Atomic Pink and Cherry Bomb.
Cupcake Pink is a bright bubblegum pink, Atomic Pink is a bold, dark pink with mauve undertones and Cherry Bomb is a cherry red with orange undertones.
Dyeing Process AKA The Easy Part
When you are ready to dye your hair, all you have to do is mix up your dyes, put on a pair of latex gloves and apply it on dry, bleached hair with a tint brush or with your fingers. Make sure to rub each strand together to make sure the dye is on every hair from top to bottom.
If you’re worried about the dye staining your skin you can protect it by applying Vaseline or hair conditioner around your hairline and on your ears. However, any strand of hair that has Vaseline or conditioner on it will not be dyed so make sure to apply it precisely.
Once done, wrap your hair in plastic wrap or tin foil if you’re doing chunky highlights.
Special Effects recommends waiting at least 40 minutes before washing the dye off. Wash your hair in cold water, shampooing it twice or until the water runs clear when rinsing your hair and apply conditioner or a hair mask to help hydrate it. Shameless product placement: L’Oréal’s Colour Radiance Protecting Mask smells and works great!
To make the colour stay bright for as long as possible, it’s best not to wash your hair often, not to wash it with hot water and to use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for coloured hair.
After reading all this it must be pretty obvious that the complicated part of dyeing your hair is the bleaching process. If you’re lazy, worried or if your hair has never been bleached before, you can simply go to a hairdresser and ask them to bleach your hair for you. Make sure they know you will be applying dye on your hair afterwards so they don’t use blonde dyes. Once you get home (personal tip: bring a hat to the hairdresser so you don’t have to walk home with mismatched/partially bleached/dyed hair) apply the dye to your hair and voila!
The colour in your hair will run in the shower so be careful to wipe any stain right away or it will remain stained FOREVER… EVER… Everr…. ever.
The dye may also rub off on your pillowcase during your sleep so it’s best to put a towel on your pillow for the first week or so after dyeing your hair. If you sleep with damp or wet hair, your face or hands may also get stained if you sleep in a way that has hair touching your skin for a prolonged period of time (I get pink stains on my wrists ALL THE TIME). The stains can be washed off (for the most part) with soap or dish soap.