Color Your World: Hair Dying 101 With Irene

Whether you are getting a new look for the fall or just feeling adventurous, adding a sweep of color in your hair is always a fun way to brighten up your style. However, for many of us, there's a price that comes with hair dying and that is:
  1. The $$ in a professional salon 
  2. More $$ and time for maintenance
  3. The unexpected lifelong cost of damaged hair
  4. All of the above. 
Today, our friend Irene, who started experimenting with DIY hair dying since she was 12, is going to share her insights and secrets.

The very first time I dyed my hair was when I was in 6th grade. My rationale for coloring my hair has always been the same: I wanted a change. There’s just something incredibly refreshing about reinventing your hair color and, since it’s not very permanent, the act can give off the illusion of being in a different “stage” in your life.

Looking back, I can’t recall how many times I’ve dyed my hair (as well as others') in these 11 years. The styles have ranged from very even foil highlights to the more free formed ombre. I’ve tried colors like pink, purple, red, and just about every other shade of brown there is. My hair has never been its natural shade for more than 6 months at one time. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep my hair pretty healthy through all of this.

The following are a few basic coloring techniques (three of which I’ve tried and loved). Dip dying is something I can’t bring myself to do at the moment because of the damage my ends have already endured.
Balayage: Natural Highlights
Balayage is a technique that creates natural looking highlights

Balayage, meaning “to sweep” in French, is a technique that creates natural looking highlights that appear as if they’ve swept out of nowhere (imagine a world where your hair is always being lit by sunlight. Magical, right?). This effect is created by hand painting the color on without foils. Free-form application allows for chunkier highlights typically painted on the strands in a triangular or “V” shape.

Maintenance: Low.
Regrowth is barely noticeable and the highlights blend in with your natural hair color. The upkeep is as simple as can be; just shampoo and condition as you normally do. This color is permanent so you don’t have to worry much about it fading over time.

Ombre: Gradual Change of Color from Dark to Light

Ombre in French means “graduation of color”.
Ombre in French means “graduation of color” and, in the context of hair, this means a graduation of color that is darker at the roots but lighter at the ends. This is definitely one of my favorite techniques because it’s easy to maintain, and you can typically use any color of your liking. For a simple ombre, color is applied from the bottom up. In order to effectively erase the line of divide you want to apply more color at the ends and less closer to the roots.

Maintenance: Low
Regrowth is hardly noticeable. However, post-dye care varies depending on what color you choose. If you don’t have to bleach it, just shampoo and condition as you normally do. If your ombre uses a bright color like pink or blue, you want to refrain from washing it every day. Washing your hair once every week would be good, as well as concentrating more shampooing the roots. On days you don’t shampoo you can also condition the ends to keep them looking soft.

Dip Dye: Ends Dipped in Bright Colors
Dip dying is a technique that makes the ends of your hair look as if they were dipped in paint.
Dip dying is a technique that makes the ends of your hair look as if they were dipped in paint. This effect is created by bleaching the ends of your hair, then applying color on the bleached ends.

Maintenance: Low-Medium.

Regrowth is not noticeable, but the color is semi-permanent and should be reapplied about once a month. Try to wash your hair about once a week if you can. If not, focus the shampoo above your dyed ends. This will prevent the color from washing out too quickly. Remember to condition! Always condition.
Foil: Highlights, Lowlights, All-over Color
Foiling is a common technique used to apply highlights, lowlights, and all-over color.
Foiling is a very common technique used to apply highlights, lowlights, and all-over color. Using foils prevents color from bleeding from one section to another, giving you more even coverage. This is done by brushing color onto a section of hair that is placed atop a strip of aluminum foil (usually 2-3 inches wide). After applying color, you fold the section up, ending at the roots.

Maintenance: Medium-high.
Regrowth is noticeable. Roots need to be retouched. Shampoo and condition as your normally do. Deep condition once a week.

  • Try to be mindful of your skin tone when deciding on colors for your hair (there are charts on the ‘net that can help you out with this) 
  • Condition every time you shampoo. (You should already be doing this.) 
  • Bright colors are awesome, but only if you’re able to maintain them. (Root touch ups once a month - or two if you’re lazy like me. ;) 
  • Remember that your hair is not invincible. There may come a time when you have to let it grow out rather than lathering more color on. Damaged hair isn’t going to look better in a different shade. 
  • Sometimes going from one color to the next is a long process. For example: I wanted to go from pink to aqua, but in order to do that right away I had to bleach my entire head of hair again. I’m pretty sure my hair would have fallen out if I had done that. So instead of going straight to aqua I decided to wait for my virgin hair to grow out long enough to bleach. This will probably take another year. Patience, my friends. It will bring you awesome hair. 
  • Trimming your ends regularly is generally good practice. Just one to two inches cuts out the damaged parts and welcomes the new growth with open arms. :)

Damage Control

Dying your hair, especially bleaching it, strips your hair from its natural oils and adds some harsh chemicals to it. No matter how you look at it, there is no 100% safe way to dye your hair. There are only less damaging ways, but you still need to replenish and moisturize.

Immediately after dying my hair I like to use a protein treatment such as Evo’s Mane Prescription Protein Treatment (pictured) to keep my hair strong and healthy after such an intense procedure. When washing my hair, I use a gentle moisturizing shampoo by LA Biosthetique (pictured) and a vegan deep conditioner (similar pictured). I’ve been told to wash my hair only once a week, but this has proven to be extremely difficult so I’ll wash my hair probably every other day, but even then, my bangs get pretty oily. To combat this, I use baby powder or volume powder to keep those unruly strands dry.

Whichever style you choose to color your hair, just remember that damage control is the most important part of the process. You still want your hair to look healthy and beautiful!

About Our Friend

"Ohai! I'm a front-end developer originally from Seattle and currently live in SF. I've been dying my my hair since I was about 12 and recently went pink. It's been a long journey to get my hair where it is now. Maybe you'll find out what I do with my hair next on Twitter. "

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