some of the colours I've had in my hair over the years.
some of the colours I’ve had in my hair over the years.

Some of the different colours I’ve had in my hair over the years.

I haven’t seen my natural hair colour since I was 15 – you can check out a partial timeline of my hair dye adventures here.  So if you want advice on how to dye your hair, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether this is your first solo dye adventure, or you just want to read more about how to do a good job, hopefully this blog post will be useful.  This guide is a how-to for permanent vibrant hair – for semi-permanent or tinting, you can skip step 1 and go from there.  Here was my hair when I started:

can’t do selfies.

Let’s do it!

You will need:

1. Bleach for pre-dying and roots (optional)
2. The hair dye of your choice
3. An old black t-shirt
4. A crappy old towel you don’t mind ruining
5. Vaseline
6. Hair ties and grips
7. Plastic bag or clingfilm
8. Mixing bowl and dye brush (optional)
9. Surgical gloves

Step 1: pre-lighten and bleach roots

after bleach application – too orangey for crows!

The brighter your base colour is, the brighter the end result will be.  Depending on your budget, you can either get your hair bleached at a salon, which is easier and safer (but very pricey), or do it yourself with a home-bleach kit.  Here’s a good guide on home bleaching. Bleach to blonde for best results.  Make sure your roots are the same colour for even coverage – if you have long hair, do your lengths first, leave in for 15 mins, then do your roots.  Rinse out thoroughly with shampoo for bleached hair!

Step 2: apply dye

Apply a thin layer of vaseline around your hairline to prevent the colour from running into your face.  Apply dye using a pair of gloves (usually provided) and a dye brush.  Apply to dry hair. I like using a dye brush and mixing bowl because it’s easier to be neater and make sure everything’s covered, especially when it comes to your hairline, but you can just use your hands if you want.  Rub it in well, and make sure you cover every inch evenly, from root to tip, separating off sections of hair as you go.  Wear an old black t-shirt to stop dye getting on your back and shoulders.

Step 3: tie up hair

Tie your hair up in a knot, and pin any layers up with kirby grips.  Cover your hair with a plastic bag or clingfilm.  This helps lock the heat in to help the hair take up the colour, and means that you won’t run the risk of dripping dye everywhere  as you get along with your day!


I find these biodegradable bags perfect – they’re a good size, they’re soft so don’t scrunch every time you move, and we always have plenty lying around for our food bin.  Pin in place with more kirby grips around the hairline.

Step 4: wait!

The morning after having slept with dye in my hair.

Leave in for as long as you’re willing to, the longer the better!  Before I worked full-time, I used to leave the dye in overnight.  If you’re doing this, you need to wrap the hair in plastic, and then wrap the whole thing up with a towel.  This is to make sure that the dye doesn’t rub off onto your pillows when you move around at night.  NB: this only works for colour dyes that contain no peroxide or bleaching agents, so check the ingredients first!

Step 5: rinse and condition

Rinse well with lukewarm water.  The hair will be quite stiff or sticky if you’ve left it in for a while.  Apply a moisturising/colour-keep shampoo, rinse and repeat if some stiff dyed sections remain.  Apply conditioner, leave in for a minute or so, and rinse thoroughly.  Use a crappy old towel to towel-dry.   Most dying guides tell you to rinse until the water runs clear, but that’ll never happen with vibrant dyes! Just rinse until it feels soft and clean.

Et voila!

Good brands to use (UK):

Crazy Colour.  My brand of choice.  I find they last really well for semi-permanents, are very cheap (around £2.50 per bottle) and they leave your hair super silky and soft!  I used Crazy Colour Fire Red in the photos above.
Stargazer.  A wash-in-wash-out brand, which works well if you’re after something temporary, but not so well for anything longer than a week. Widely available in most goth/alt shops in lots of different colours – good for experimenting with what suits you.
Manic Panic. You can only order this online, but it’s good stuff, and comes in loads of beautiful colours.  Not as much staying power as other brands though.
Rusk Scream. Fucking AMAZING stuff, the best I’ve ever used – it left my hair super shiny and silky, and the colour lasted for such a long time! Unfortunately it’s now been discontinued, but you can still find them sometimes on eBay or Amazon.  Can’t recommend enough!
Schwarzkopf Live XXL.  These come in semi-permanent and permanent varieties, and are available in major UK supermarkets and cosmetic shops.  These can’t be left in for much longer than the recommended time though – optimum development time is around an hour.

On choosing a colour:

– Pink/red is the most long-lasting shade.  You will basically have to bleach this out, or dye dark brown over it!  Pink/red dye also is the most prone to staining, even if your hair is dry!  My whole bathroom has a pinky tint where I’ve flicked water off my hair in the shower.
– Blues are the hardest to keep in, but they are beautiful, and worth the effort).
– Green dyes of any kind will fade to a limey, halloween-witch shade of green if you don’t keep on top of them (though you may like this colour, of course!).
– If you want multiple colours at once, apply conditioner to the part of your hair that you don’t want to dye, in order to prevent the colour from running.
– Don’t want to bleach?  Try using the colour wheel.  I will admit that I have had very limited success with this, but others have been more lucky!

And finally, a note on Kool-Aid:

Kool-Aid makes a decent semi-permanent tint, so works best on light hair.  There are lots of great examples and tutorials online.  However, it doesn’t actually result in a particularly vibrant colour, especially if you already have a vibrant or dark colour in your hair. I used cherry Kool-Aid on my hair last month for the first time, and although it made my hair smell very nice, it barely changed the colour at all.  If you do use Kool-Aid, there are lots of different ways of treating it before slapping onto your head – I mixed it with colour-fast conditioner and it worked very well, with no stickiness.  Kool-Aid is probably a better option for my US readers who can get hold of Kool-Aid cheaply and easily; it’s good for a laugh, and smells so yummy!

p.s. If you liked this, then you might also like The Pros and Cons of Colourful Hair!

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